Whale Music – Origins Theatre Company
An Interview With Kevin Wilson
It was a beautiful, bright day on the Isle of Wight. The sun was beaming down in the sky, the sea sparkled in its vast, serene nature, there was birdsong in the air and people happy everywhere! But me? I was in a hurry! For I had spent the day in the weird and wonderful realm of Blackgang Chine, doing Pirate jigs and trying to tell people my stories of the war from the confines of a dithering Dodo! As my kind friend, Olly Fry, and I, dashed towards his car after work to our next engagement (meaning meeting, of course. We weren’t just hopping between proposals all day!), I began to worry that, due to the rather tight, crazy schedule I had planned for myself that day, I was not going to be on top form for my first ever interview on behalf of IW Theatre with Director Kevin Wilson. The sun seemed overbearing and my head began to spin slightly as I tried to scribble down (And by that I mean type on my phone – I’m a new age cool kid don’tcha know!) some questions I could ask Mr Wilson when we arrived back in Ventnor to meet him. Olly and I had finished work at 3pm, and my interview with Kevin was scheduled for 3.30pm… Time was certainly of the essence! But never fear, Oliver Fry is here! He put his foot down and we began to speed (within the limit of course) along the small country road back to Ventnor from Blackgang!
“Question 1… Tell me a little bit about Whale Music… Does that sound alright?” I ask Olly, as he tries to focus on the temporary traffic lights as hard as he can to change their colour with his mind.
“Yeah, sure.” He says, still glaring at the lights, squinting with all his might, trying to use sheer willpower to change their colour!
And after a good few hours of Olly staring the red light down, it eventually changed! (that’s not true, but the image of somebody having a staring contest with temporary traffic lights for that long is rather amusing!)
So like Batman and Robin – although dressed in much more appropriate attire – we parked down in Ventnor, I got changed into my Beaver Scout uniform (This wasn’t required for the interview… I was going to hide Easter eggs for small children at Beavers straight afterwards! …Told you I had a busy day…), and we walked over to the Dudley Road car park to meet Kevin Wilson, who stood like an Admiral gazing over the sea, soaking up the sunshine with sunglasses on. We exchanged pleasantries, and then, like three true theatre lovers, got down to what had brought us all here: Origins Theatre Company’s version of Whale Music.
‘Whale Music is written the 1980’s by the Oscar winning screenwriter Anthony Minghella’, Kevin says with a smile on his face as he begins to describe the work of an inspiring Islander’s work. We sit on a bench overlooking the sea, chatting about theatre on a bright, beautiful day – its times like this that I really appreciate the rich creative culture and the beauty of the place I live in.
‘Its really interesting because its all about women and their relationships, so as you can imagine I hesitated to try and direct that because its er, almost entirely a female cast, but they all assured me that, because I was a man I was likely to be more objective in the direction.’ – good on ya girls! There shall be no ‘cat fights’ here as they say!
‘The story is of a young girl who gets pregnant, and comes back to live on the Isle of Wight, to have the baby. Without giving too much away its not a straightforward story, and she meets up with people that she used to know, here on the island, cause that’s where the play is set, because that’s where Anthony Minghella lived and worked in his early years.’
I love the fact that Kevin’s positive attitude and enthusiasm towards Minghella’s work seems to partly stem from the Writers Isle of Wight heritage! Anyone who views the Isle of Wight as ‘Amateur Island’ for the creative arts only needs to look at Anthony Minghella’s great career as one of many examples of why they are so very wrong.
‘So its all about her, and her relationships with the people that sort of gravitate around her, and their interaction with each other’, Kevin finishes.
The next thing that I’m curious about is what drew Mr Wilson to Whale Music.
‘First of all I wanted to do Anthony Minghella, because, pragmatically, I had the opportunity to put a play on at Quay Arts, where the theatre is called the Minghella Theatre! And I thought it would be really cool to do something that was like a tribute to him, because I do admire the stuff he does’, Kevin tells me, again with wonderful energy and vibrant enthusiasm as he talks of Anthony Minghella’s work.
‘Although this play is written in the 80s’, Kevin continues, ‘I took upon myself the challenge to try and sneakily update it without affecting what he’d written… So erm… I’ve made one or two tweaks along the way, to Anthony Minghella’s work…!’, and of course, being massively inspired by the great Island Writer, these changes will have been very carefully and delicately placed in Origins Theatre Company’s version of Whale Music, ‘But don’t tell anybody…’, Kevin laughs.
Olly tells him jokingly that we can edit this part out, but no Sir! Not in my article! This is the proper inside scoop you’re getting here ladies and gents!
Although he has made a few of his own tweaks to Whale Music in order to create a fresh piece of work, Kevin certainly drew an awful lot from the man himself, Mr Minghella, when crafting Origins version of this play:
‘I thought about him, and how he’d moved on from writing plays, to doing screenplays, and I thought: well if he was here, and he looked at that play – what might he think about doing it now…’, definitely a fitting homage to Anthony Minghella’s original work – sadly we cannot see how he would craft Whale Music differently today to fit a modern-day audience, so a man as inspired and passionate about Minghella’s work as Kevin, is the perfect director for the job!
‘So that led me to contact a guy called Paul Windridge’, Kevin continues, ‘he does a lot of moving image work, and composes original music. And the end result of that to cut a long story short, is that we’ve got some projected images.’
After debating the size of the screen at the Quay Arts (we got really into this – Kevin thinks its four by three, just in case you were wondering), and much laughter as Kevin jokes that he measured the exact size of it before deciding to use it, he goes on to explain the effect that their use of projection has on the performance:
‘It does quite dominate what is quite an intimate play, and I think it works really well. We had a tech run through at the theatre last night, and the images look stunning. They’re quite subtle, but they’re stunning. And they really lift the action – I think its going to work really well. The action is quite cosy – very small, basic set, very close to the audience – and yet behind you’ve got this big space! So there’s like that movie element to it.’
Next, to really get the ‘inside scoop’, I want to know what has been the most rewarding thing for Kevin about the rehearsal process:
‘The moment when, you see the actors actually becoming their characters during the rehearsal’, that is always a amazing thing I agree with Kevin, ‘They’re not… sort of trying to pretend to read it, and understand it, they become the person. And its a really difficult thing to put your finger on as to when it actually happens cause doesn’t always happen at the same time. Now that we’ve reached that point where they are those people, that’s the magic of it I think, and you just think: those words have just come to life and they belong to these people they’re not the words that are just on the page… I-I don’t know if you can explain how that happens cause I’ve done it as well and I just think its a really weird process…’
I try to explain a prevalent moment where I noticed it happen on TV in Doctor Who, but I was very aware that I may have sounded mad just saying: ‘Peter Capaldi is asleep on a bed and begins to whisper what a dinosaur stuck in the middle of Victorian London is feeling…’, so instead I edit out Victorian London and the dinosaur, and I think it made some sort of sense… Kevin smiled and laughed in agreement, but he probably thought, as I imagine you do reading this part of the article: ‘How did we end up talking about this?’
Time to talk about how the rehearsals ran!
‘I’ve taken quite a sort of laid back approach to the rehearsal, because its Minghella: its all about the characters. The play stands or falls by how they interact’, (no pressure ladies! I joke of course, you’re all brilliant!), ‘so I’ve tried not to be too heavy handed with them about what exactly I want, cause I just wanted them first to find out for themselves, and its only then that they’ve done that, that now its all starting to happen, its taking off and surprising me – which is fantastic! So I’m really looking forward to it now, just gotta sell some tickets, get an audience!’
‘I think its that combination of taking something that was written what… thirty-five years ago… and making it relevant now – stuff that I, well you write as well…’,
I do indeed! www.thewordsy-smith.com… (what… ad within an ad… I’m the writer, I’m totally allowed!),
‘stuff that I’ve written even like, ten years ago…’, Kevin goes on to say, ‘I’m looking at it now and I’m thinking: nah – haha you know. So I hope Anthony Minghella would be proud of what I’ve done, because I think he would’ve done the same, in making it come alive and speak to the audiences of now, here on the Isle of Wight. So its very very much, a closely observed portrayal of a group women, and the journeys each of them take, and I’m really pleased about the fact that we’ve brought out all of that, which was his original intention, but, made it feel contemporary.’
So there you go ladies and gents: a true Island tale, told on the Isle of Wight, originally written by a great Islander, directed by and starring a passionate group of people by the sounds of things! So get yourselves down to the Quay Arts Centre in Newport, Isle of Wight, for either of the ONLY two performance days: the 12th or 26th of April, to see what its all about! Tickets are £10, and the show begins at 7.30pm both nights.
I know Whale I’ll be! (this is an ‘inside scoop’ advertisement piece, I’m not ashamed of that pun. I shan’t take it back!).
Article by Andrew Butcher – Writer and Performer