The latest production from UEA’s own Minotaur Theatre Company is Enlightenment by acclaimed playwright Shelagh Stevenson, running at the UEA Drama Studio on the 9th,10th, and 11th of May. Enlightenment follows the life of Lia and Nick, the mother and stepfather to Adam, who has been missing for several months. A vague medium and an intrusive ITV producer fail to alleviate their concern, and complications grow when a young man appears at the airport, looking uncannily like Adam, with his passport and amnesia in tow. As this version of Adam comes to live with Lia and Nick, the play, at first a delicate study of the psychology of loss and grief, unravels into something dark and raw. The play has inspired the cast to collect donations at the performances for the charity Missing People. I had the opportunity to talk to some of the cast and crew about the upcoming production. Here is what Director Charlie Douglas, Assistant Director Georgia Crowe and cast members Tara O’Sullivan (Lia) and Fergus O’Loan (Nick) had to say.
What is the biggest challenge the rehearsal period has presented so far?
Charlie Douglas: Never having enough time! After each rehearsal I find myself coming away with a new interpretation on a scene I had never considered before, and I wish we had more time to really find all of those moments.
Georgia Crowe: Many of the characters in the play have trouble communicating their emotions and the challenge is finding the genuine moments when the character opens up and becomes vulnerable, as often in life it happens unexpectedly.
What are you most looking forward to?
Tara O’Sullivan: To the whole thing to be honest as it is my last show at UEA which is incredibly sad, so just rehearsing every day with such a great group of people and then being able to share the experience with them on stage will be emotional but extremely rewarding.
Fergus O’Loan: Speaking to people after the show; not just to ask them what they thought about the production, but also to ask them about what they reckon some of the events mean to them, and whether or not certain events are to be believed, without giving too much away.
So as all of you are coming up to the end of your time at UEA, how does it feel to close your experience here with this show?
CD: I feel like this process is going to be an amalgamation of all of our journey’s here at UEA. This play resonates with us, and one thing I’ve been hammering in rehearsals is that we don’t want to come out of this and have any regrets behind us. We’ve gained so much from our time studying at UEA, and we want to give something back to this wonderful University, degree, and Company. Also – we want to go out with a bang, and this play will definitely give us the chance to do that.
FO: I could not be more absolutely thrilled this is my last show here. That sounds awful, what I mean is, if there were any show to leave on, I’m glad it’s this. It’s a departure from my regular typecast, the cast is so tightly knit, and every single person involved has impressed me personally with their work ethic and sheer talent, and I could not think of a better note to end it on.
Charlie and Georgia, what has inspired your vision for the play?
CD: I’ve always felt like there is this surrealist undertone to this heavy naturalistic play. In that, I find that the imagery of water and the malleability of it is incredibly useful when thinking through the characters state of mind or the flow of the scene – it’s sometimes serene, sometimes chaotic, and can shift from one to the other with ease.
GC: When I first read Enlightenment, the main thing that stuck with me was how paralysing grief is and how time often loses meaning when you are going through trauma. Charlie and I really want to reflect this lucid feeling throughout the play via projections of water inspired by Bill Viola.
This is the second Shelagh Stephenson play seen at UEA this year, what makes her writing so compelling?
TO: Yeah this is also my second Shelagh Stephenson play I’ve acted in! I just love the way she writes because she has this brilliant ability to just capture raw human emotions that I think people can relate to even if they can’t relate to that specific event or situation. I also love how despite her plays often having very dark themes she still manages to find light and comic moments which I think is so needed.
GC: Every time i read a play by Stephenson I’m always in awe of her ability to write real dialogue that you could imagine saying yourself. Nothing ever feels sensationalised, her writing always feels deeply respectful and true to her subject.
Why should people see Enlightenment?
TO: People should come and watch it because it’s just such a clever and original exploration into loss and grief which is so tense and yet has some absolutely hilarious moments as well. It’s powerful, provoking and human.
FO: I haven’t seen a show Minotaur have done that has the psychological, “keeps you guessing” quality that Enlightenment has in spades in my time here, and that seems like an absolute age. It’s exciting just to see what else this company can do. It’s a challenging piece of theatre, that is going to raise some interesting discussion, but it also looks and sounds legitimately gorgeous so far. Charlie and Georgia have had a keen eye for aesthetic as much as they have character.
Enlightenment will be performed at the UEA Drama Studio 9th, 10th and 11th of May at 7:30pm. Cast and crew are hosting an open rehearsal on Friday 3 May at 7pm.