The Adaptation Game with Sam Briggs and Maddie Gray
Those of you keeping up with what we are up to here at ET will have hopefully seen (and listened) to our recent podcast recording with the team at Chewboy Productions, where they told us all about the upcoming ChewFest. And you will have also seen the recent interview with Gutter Street, one of the companies putting on a night at the festival.
But in our continuing attempt to become the unofficial publication of choice for ChewFest, we didn’t want to stop at just those two interviews. Which led us to The Adaptation Game. A joint venture between Visability Film Festival and Yellow Hat Productions, it is described as an evening of transmedia storytelling, an integrayion of film and theatre, breathing new life into some of their favourite films of the past two years by adapting them for the stage!
No, we wasn’t too sure what transmedia storytelling was either, so what better way to find out more than by asking those behind it. It was our pleasure then to catch up with Sam Briggs, writer and co-director for Visability Film Festival, and Maddie Gray, DIrector and co-founder of Yellow Hat Productions.
What exactly can we expect from an evening of “integrated film and theatre”?
SB – The fantastic thing about an evening of integrated film and theatre is that you’ll be getting award winning short films and bold new theatre presented side by side. In the case of The Adaptation Game this means watching the short films Bulldog, Glaucon, and To The Dusty Sea, immediately followed by a new chapter in their stories presented as stage adaptations. A ‘remix’ of the stories, if you like, but told in a new medium, live in front of you.
MG – A night at The Adaptation Game aka an evening of integrated film and theatre will bring you an exciting and eclectic mix of the mediums of film and live performance. Visability Film Festival have chosen three award winning short films and together with multidisciplinary arts company Yellow Hat Theatre have adapted them for the stage.
So we’ll be watching the short film and then a theatre piece will follow on? Will it be taking just the theme or be almost as an extension of the short film?
MG – Each theatre piece will take a different approach to the process of adaptation and the theatre performances will be an expansion and further exploration of the themes and ideas in the films. They exist within the world of the films and as standalone works. We didn’t want to take a literal and formulaic approach to the adaptations but instead found ways to bring out the situations, ideas and characters exploring events post-films.
SB – For example, the play Caved In, will involve a character from the experimental film, Glaucon, watching his own death on screen and coming to terms with it. Buckle up.
Is this something you’ve done before, or something you’ve wanted to try out for a while now?
SB – We were really fortunate to be asked to be a part of Chewfest. Having had great success during the first two years of Visability Film Festival, the question instantly became ‘how can we do something different?’ for what would be our 3rd edition. I’ve been fascinated by Adaptation Theory since studying Adaptation and Transmedia Storytelling as a creative writing module at UEA some years ago. I instantly thought of Yellow Hat Productions and their theatre expertise to help me get this fresh new idea off the ground.
MG – We were very excited when Visability film festival came to us with this idea as it sounded right up our street. We’re buzzing to host a night alongside them as part of Chewfest. This is our first venture as a company, but as freelance creatives, working in the theatre industry adapting and devising work inspired by original material is very much something we’ve done before and something we love doing. Working across medias was an exciting prospect for us as our background lies mostly in theatre and we were intrigued to find out how we could explore the essence of these wonderful short films and transport them into a live theatrical space
And how have you selected the three short films that we’ll be seeing?
SB – Visability Film Festival has been blessed to have some truly outstanding films submitted over the past two years. Between them, the three films we’ve chosen have played at huge BAFTA-qualifying festivals, including Norwich Film Festival and Manchester International Film Festival, as well as winning several awards at our own festival. At Visability, we like to focus on films that have the potential to bring about meaningful social change. Through its re-evaluation of the stereotypes surrounding UK rough sleepers, the short film Bulldog was instantly high on our list of films to adapt.
We also share a passion for creating work for social change so choosing our first short Bulldog, an exploration around the stereotypes of rough sleepers seemed a no brainer. The style and the rhythm of the piece plays such an instrumental role in the overall effect and really makes an audience question their held beliefs and prejudices. We were excited to see where that would take us as we moulded these ideas for the stage.
To The Dusty Sea, an animated short exploring the relationships of a family in turmoil was also a very easy choice as it is both incredibly beautiful and moving and offers such rich material to work from.
Finally Glaucon, an experimental mask work piece inspired by Plato’s Republic and allegory of the cave was a clear choice as the style was so different to most of what we had seen before. It really creates an otherworldly atmosphere and brings an audience right down into the cave with it.
SB – Really we’re just grateful that each filmmaker agreed to hand over their babies to us so that we could tell the next chapter in the amazing stories they started.
Is the plan to enhance the original short films, or to make us view them in alternative ways?
SB – Both! It’s important for us as creatives that these new plays hold up on their own. But at the same time, by being performed alongside screenings of their original films, we actively want to encourage audiences to feel as though the pieces are in constant conversation and open for reinterpretation.
MG -Absolutely, both. We’ve taken the short films as starting blocks for our theatrical work so as to keep the essence of the short but freedom for us to play and explore with character, situation and idea. We hope that seeing these works side by side adds a whole extra dimension to each.
What made you want to take part in ChewFest? Is this type of event good for experimenting and putting your work in front of new audiences?
SB – Exactly that. We’ve been massively grateful for the success of Visability in its first two years but are constantly on the lookout for something new that we can do with it. Chewfest has given us that opportunity.
MG – This kind of platform is perfect for emerging creatives to test out new work and new ways of collaborating and experimenting. We are very grateful to Chewboy Productions and Visability Film Festival for providing the opportunity to do that. We’ve been fans of Chewboy for a while and having the opportunity to be a part of their next project is super exciting. We can’t wait to see what the other companies taking part bring to the table!
And do you see the short plays themselves ever taking on their own life away from the film, or do you imagine they would always need to play together?
SB – The hope is that by playing them together with the films we’re offering audiences something new and original. Each play definitely has the potential to stand alone and be developed further, but for me, the uniqueness of our interdisciplinary approach is what makes them so exciting.
MG – Each theatre piece, despite being able to stand alone is intrinsically tied to the short films they were inspired by. I think there is certainly potential for these pieces to develop further independently but I think watching them alongside the films will be so much more impactful and interesting.
What else do you have planned after your participation in ChewFest?
SB – This year it seems like Visability have been moving into unchartered waters at every turn. Recently we’ve been accepting applications for the VFF Short Film Fund. This is our way of giving back to filmmakers and supporting the emergence of new and exciting work that seeks to utilise film as a tool for positive societal change, by offering funding to filmmakers whose work we love. MG – Here at Yellow Hat Productions we are getting into the swing of things as we navigate the waters of company life. Our debut play Still Alive Mate by Theo Toksvig Stewart was due to premier at the Vault festival in January 2022, which was sadly postponed due to Covid 19. So we are busy working behind the scenes to bring back this much anticipated show. In the summer we are filming our first short film and are currently developing a podcast.
Our thanks to Sam and Maddie for the time to chat to us.
The Adaptation Game plays as part of ChewFest on Tuesday 24 May. The festival runs from 23 – 29 May at Lion and Unicorn Theatre.
Tickets and details of all the evenings can be found here.