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Photo credit @ Anna Hawkes

Interview: A Simple Question? Or Maybe Not So Simple?

Who You Are and What You Do, Bread and Roses. 22 March – 2 April

It’s easy to miss the Bread and Roses Theatre if you aren’t looking for it, tucked away as it is off the busier roads around Clapham. But for anyone who has had the pleasure of going, it is an absolute treat. This pub theatre is another amazing place to find fresh new work, brilliant new ideas and quite possibly the stars of the future. So we are always more than pleased to find time to catch up with them and find out what they are up to next.

And right now, what they are up to is getting ready to bring us Who Are you and What You Do, a play that asks ‘are we defined by our actions, or the lessons we learn from them?’ Presented as a tableaux of interweaving stories about the social pressure to be happy all of the time, each night sees the play run in a different order.

We caught up with the play’s writer, Hugh Dichmont (HD), director Tom Ward (TW) and producer from the in-house team at Bread and Roses, Natalie Chan (NC) to find out more.

So what can you tell us about the play?

NC: Who You Are and What You Do presents a tableaux of interweaving stories about the social pressure to be happy all of the time. There are stories about love, family relationships, the jobs that we do and the joys and pressures it gives us, conflict, resolving conflict, and how those different elements of our life insect.

The play is made up of interweaving stories, which are played in a different order each night – doesn’t that risk affecting the flow of the whole evening?

HD: For sure the actors have a challenge on their hands! But I love writing plays that do that… and the performers seem to love it too. Even without knowing about the switching order, I think our audience will see a stage of actors pushing themselves, excited to be discovering the play scene by scene. Hopefully it will be magic. They’re doing an incredible job. They will bring the flow, with their energy.

We hope different audiences from different nights will take away different things, that all encourages reflection, empathy, and cohesion. 

And how will you be deciding the running order each evening?

TW: We have a system randomising it but still keeping it in order and one that the team can work with, come and join us for the show to find out more!

The play is about that pressure to always be seen as happy; is social media going to play a big part in some of the stories?

HD: This is a good question, come and see the show to find out!

The play very much talks of the different versions of self we present, consciously or otherwise, depending on situations. Twitter or Facebook aren’t named, but this absolutely can be interpreted as an interpretation of online discourse. A play about 21st century happiness… what would it be without exploring technology?! This isn’t limited to The Internet, though. Social media, to some extent, is just a magnifier of what humans have been doing since the dawn of time. Let’s just say the script presents a near-future take on present day problems.

The play was the winner of Bread and Roses Theatre’s 2019 Playwright Award, what was it that made it stand out?

NC: As far as we know, we’ve never seen a script where scenes are written in a way like this one, where we can run the scenes in a different order and it presents a different, but equally brilliant experience for the audiences. We thought this was incredibly clever and fun, hence it stood out to us.

Also the play was so different to the other winning plays and those from the previous playwriting awards.

Do you feel the play answers any questions about our search for continuous happiness, or is it a case of holding the mirror up to our lives and making us think deeper about it?

HD: The play definitely doesn’t offer solutions. It’s a piece full of characters who are simultaneously likeable and unlikeable; victims and complicit, a range of ages and backgrounds, from different walks of life. As ever with theatre, it is the grey stuff that powers the action- the messiness of being alive, relating to others, and coming to terms with your place in the world.

And what is it that makes you happy?

NC: For me, it’s the ability to find positives in most of the things we do that makes me happy. For example even if something (work or life) isn’t going so well, I remind myself what I’ve learnt from it. Of course – good theatre and making good theatre is definitely one.

HD: It’s a cliche, but the pandemic has changed everything- In the last year I became a parent for the first time, then my own dad died. I wouldn’t say these events have changed my perspective on things… more that every day I’m a bit sadder and a bit happier than I was 12 months ago. Seeing my play on, after a two-and-a-half year wait, is definitely powering me through grey days!

Thanks to Hugh, Tom and Natalie for their time to chat with us.

Who Are You and What You Do plays at the Bread and Roses Theatre from 22 March to 2 April. Further information and bookings via the below link.

About Everything Theatre

Everything Theatre is proud to support fringe theatre, not only in London but beyond. From reviews to interviews, articles and even a radio show, our work is at the heart of the industry, and we are official assessors for the Off West End OffComm awards. Founded in 2011 as a pokey blog run by two theatre enthusiasts, today we are staffed by diverse contributors - people who not only work in theatre, but also in law, medicine, marketing and even psychiatry! We are all united by our love for theatre.
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