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online e-dition feb 6, 2013


adelaide festival: thursday, serious serendipities

gail priest: interview with chris drummond, brink productions


Thursday, Brink Productions & English Touring Theatre Thursday, Brink Productions & English Touring Theatre
image Slipperfish
ON JULY 7, 2005, GILL HICKS, AN ADELAIDIAN LIVING IN LONDON, MADE A SERIES OF DECISIONS. SOME OF THESE WERE QUITE SMALL.

As the trains were late she decided to deviate from her normal routine and go to Kings Cross Station. When she got there, pushed to the back of crowd, she decided not to barge her way onto the first train but wait for the next. When that next train came she decided to get into the first carriage. Then, after a suicide bomber in the first carriage of the second train from Kings Cross detonated his device, Hicks made a very big decision: to survive.

Artistic director of Brink Productions, Chris Drummond, had seen an interview with Gill Hicks on Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope in 2007. She was the last survivor to be pulled from the carnage and lost both legs below the knee. Drummond had the beginnings of an idea for a new work, but he was holding off because he thought “It was too focussed on a place like London for a small Adelaide company to do with any authenticity.” Then, serendipitously, at the 2008 Performing Arts Market in Adelaide, he met Rachel Tackley the director of English Touring Theatre who was seeking an Australian company for a co-production. Drummond says, “There was just a real connection between Rachel and myself and between the producers, Kay Jamieson [Brink] and Jane Claire [ETT]. The four of us really had a shared sense of the theatre we wanted to make…We had this wonderful thing of an Adelaide company and a London company talking about an Adelaide woman in London.”

Thursday is a true co-production, split 50/50 between the two companies including cast and production creatives. The first development took place in London and the final rehearsals and premiere will be in Adelaide with the production programmed for the 2013 Adelaide Festival. The creative development in London brought together a devising team to explore possible theatrical imagery. Drummond says, “We are a text-based company but what we are trying to achieve is a highly theatrical work coming out of the text, so we usually start with a group of [devising] artists in the room. We didn’t know with this one whether we would follow the events that Gill had experienced or if we might go in a completely abstract direction.”

Bryony Lavery, known for her award winning plays Frozen and Stockholm, attended these devising sessions and then took 12 months to create the final script. Drummond is impressed by the way Lavery “carried through the sensibility from the first creative development. Because writers deal in character and story we sometimes lose some of the more interesting theatricality in the writing process. Bryony works with Frantic Assembly and lots of other physical theatre companies in the UK and has a real interest in and the capacity to keep the theatrical poetry quite open.” Rather than telling Hicks’ story in documentary form the play follows the stories of the eight characters who come into contact with the fictionalised central female character and focuses on what Hicks describes as both the worst and best of humanity coming together in a single moment.

Chris Drummond, Gill HIcks, Thursday, Brink Productions and English Touring Theatre Chris Drummond, Gill HIcks, Thursday, Brink Productions and English Touring Theatre
photo Chris Herzfeld
Drummond continues: “What has resulted on the floor is not a traditional play. It tells a really big story and it tells it in a really deep way through the characters, but you never have two characters talking in a living room or that kind of thing. It doesn’t work like that. It works much more as a rolling, choreographic, image-based work.”

Gill Hicks was in London when the team first met for the creative development and attended the first day of rehearsals, sharing her story with them. Since then Drummond has kept her informed of the progress. In a nice turn of fate, Gill Hicks has not been substantially involved in the latter phases of the project as she has just given birth to a baby girl (and, with apt synchronicity given the play’s subject, two of the original devising performers also became pregnant at the same time).

Three weeks into the final rehearsals, Drummond is “thrilled with how it’s feeling. Much of it actually incredibly playful and but then it goes into some pretty harrowing territory.”

After the Adelaide Festival premiere, Thursday will be presented in Canberra as part of the centenary celebrations. In 2014 the work will tour to England and Drummond has plans for Australia’s eastern states as well.


Adelaide Festival: Brink Productions & English Touring Theatre, Thursday, writer Bryony Lavery, director Chris Drummond, designer Dan Potra, composer/musician Quentin Grant, lighting designer Colin Grenfell, producers Kay Jamieson (Aus) and Jane Claire (UK), performers Paul Blackwell, Emma Handy, Martin Hutson, Lena Kaur, Tom Mothersdale, Kate Mulvany, Nathan O'Keefe, Deidre Rubenstein, Rochenda Sandall; Norwood Concert Hall, Feb 28-March 6; http://adelaidefestival.com.au; http://brinkproductions.com; http://www.ett.org.uk/

RealTime issue #112 Dec-Jan 2012 pg. web

© Gail Priest; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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