A stage show is promising to bring an immersive theatrical venture complete with a moving auditorium to The Castle Theatre in Wellingborough.
Imagine a world that exists solely as a train. Imagine a woman who is given a job that she knows will put her life in jeopardy, one that takes her on a journey into her own heart of darkness.
Find yourself moving through carriages witnessing the strange encounters with people who would seem have much more information about what is happening than you do.
Imagine entering a terrible nightmare in which those who you assume are dead tell you what your future might bring you.
Imagine you are at a door and you look at the moving tracks and you jump. Again and again. Imagine this and you are in The Train.
The show entitled The Train takes place at various times between Friday February 19 and Sunday February 21. Tickets for the show cost between £10 and £12. To book call the box office on 01933 270007 or visit www.thecastle.org.uk
We also had a chat with the director and playwright Andrew Quick about the show.
Q: What were the starting points for The Train?
AQ: I think we were interested in creating a piece that really puts the audience at the centre of the action. And after A Farewell to Arms, which was large scale, we wanted to make a theatre piece that was intimate, that closely followed the journey of our protagonist. After Hemmingway’s sprawling narratives we wanted to stage something much tighter. Then we had an idea that was left over from an earlier show, The Zero Hour, which cited this notion of the world as a train and we thought, you know, there’s a show in this. And this is what we pursued.
Q: Having read the script, without giving too much away, it’s a kind of dream play as well.
AQ: Yes. Our heroine is talking to her psychiatrist, or psychotherapist, about the dream she keeps having about being on a train. And we fall into the world of the train as well follow her story of how she deals with the death of somebody she loved deeply. It’s a kind of detective story, a quest that we follow as she attempts to discover what happened to a child and those who were tasked to look after her. As the story progresses we discover that the child is imaginary and that she, indeed, might be the female escort. In short she is looking for herself.
Q: It sounds very cinematic.
AQ: Yes, it is. We cut from the psychotherapy to the action on the train repeatedly, moving from video projection to live performance and the whole experience is cinematic in that sense. I mean, the fiction, the actual story feels very cinematic. But the experience is also very theatrical in that you are so close the action, moving in a kind of motorized auditorium, following the events as our protagonist journeys up the train. One of our sources is Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and maybe you can sense this when you follow the main character’s journey as she discovers her own dark set of secrets by the end.
Q: Can you say a bit more about this character?
AQ: She’s called Amy. The main woman in all our shows is always called Amy and the man is always called Harry. Everywoman and Everyman names, I suppose. Amy means beloved, from the French I assume. I don’t know how significant that is, but it’s a great name. Anyhow, this woman is under some psychotherapeutic consultation and she is being asked about a dream she keeps having and as she describes the dream we find ourselves in the world of the dream. The story, in the dream, is that Amy is a kind of private detective and she is asked to find out, by some unnamed official, what happened to a child and the people who were looking after her. And we follow her journey as she moves up the train. Of course, she encounters a number of people who give her clues as to what has happened but we slowly realise that really the whole journey is kind of metaphor for her state of mind. We start off in a fully realised world where the train is materially really there and by the end it has sort of disintegrated into almost nothing. The solidity of the dream and all that it promises collapses by the final scenes. Under the questioning of the psychotherapist we find out that her husband has died and that they were hoping to have children and the dream is a sort of way to deal with this trauma of this loss and this absence. By the end she is left with a stark choice – abandon the dream and live her life once more or return to the dream. You have to see the piece to find out what decision she makes.
Q: Looking at the photos it looks a remarkable set.
AQ: Yes, it’s very beautiful. It was made in Italy – we opened the show in Ancona, so that’s why it was made out there. It is like we have cut a real train in half and the truck the audience sits in tracks along inside the interior of the train and then turns so we are able to see into the carriages at either side: end on, as it were. We project into the train’s interior and also back project behind the train’s windows. This really creates an extraordinary landscape. Laura Hopkin’s set is wonderful for this use of projection and Simon Wainwright’s imagery that is projected is incredible. I suppose what we were after was to really immerse the audience in this world and this is why the viewer also listens to story through headphones. Jeremy Peyton-Jones, who did the music for our last two shows, A Farewell to Arms and The Zero Hour, has produced a soundtrack that is very evocative of the emotional journey and Rory Howson’s overall sound design places this music into a very edgy and disturbing audio landscape.
Q: So is this immersive theatre?
AQ: In a way, I suppose it could be described as being immersive. I mean 12 people placed in a moving carriage acting a bit like the camera and being so near the action feels very immersive. But like all our work there is something very theatrical about this world as well. Maybe it’s the text. This piece looks at some themes that we are very close to and that our personal to us – the nature of grief and the love we have for children and the almost unbearable hope and fear this love generates in us. We want people to be moved, to reflect on the experience, not to just consume it. It’s a kind of fairground ride and it is fun and very different but it is also attempting to deal with something that concerns us deeply.
Q: It is forty minutes long.
AQ: Yes, but it does not feel like forty minutes. I think that’s something about the experience we set up where you lose track of linear time. It does not feel short at all. Audiences in Italy seemed to really like this piece; maybe it was different to what they were used to. We were playing at a big opera house, but I think it was the fact that for a while they found themselves getting lost in something, something they found exhilarating, which when they returned to the everyday world changed them a little. It will be interesting to see how home audiences react to this new piece. I am really looking forward to it.