This week’s Mermaids production is another student written piece: An Impromptu Performance, written and directed by Beatriz Azevado. Her team kindly let me sit in on one of their rehearsals, and afterwards, I had a few questions.
Owl Eyes: What is An Impromptu Performance? Give me the set up.
Beatriz Azevado: It’s a play about four middle-class, inexperienced people who decide, well, one of them decides, to rob a load of drug dealers of a load of money (two million pounds), and it goes really horribly wrong. It gets her, and her three friends, and this other guy who is their link to the drug dealers, locked in a basement. Most of the play takes place inside the basement. They talk about what got them there, and there’s a bit of existentialism, typical things like that.
OE: What was the writing process like? Where does this play come from?
BA: It comes from a song. There’s a piece of classical music in the play, that we use, and I actually came up with the idea for the play when I listened to the song. I envisioned the final scene, which is also the opening scene (there’s a bit of non-linearism in the script). I envisioned this scene of all these people trapped in a room and it grew from there. It actually started off as a screenplay, because the play is inspired by films. So I started writing it as a screenplay, and then I realized I had no money to make a film, so I rewrote it as a play.
OE: Then what’s it like directing your own work? Do you find that your vision is more particular or specific because this is your own idea?
BA: I found it quite difficult to transition from looking at the page, and spending all my time concentrating on dialogue, to then moving onto the stage and focusing on the more visual aspect. While I was writing it, it was all about the dialogue, and asking, “Does the dialogue sound good?” While in directing it, I have to take myself away from that, and focus more on the visuals, and that’s tough. And that’s one thing that the cast have really come in to helping, because they have really done a good job of taking their characters into more of a physical self.
OE: One thing I tend to ask is about those visual elements: what we can expect to see in terms of light, or staging, or costume?
BA: It’s mostly bare. The Barron sort of works for it. Lots of people complain that it’s a sort of dingy, poor-condition, blessed place, but it’s actually really, really good for this play. Because most of it is set in a basement. It’s not a really fancy basement, it’s a drug dealer’s basement, and it’s dank, it’s dingy, it’s horrible. So we’ve practically done no set for most of it. And when there is set, it’s sparse. We’re focusing on what the characters are doing. We’re not really interested in people coming in and saying, “Oh, wow, look at all the pretty lights, and all the pretty set.” It’s all about the story, that’s what’s important.
OE: There were some things I picked up on while watching you rehearse earlier. There seems to be a lot of talk about sexual politics, and about religion, and crime, at least from what I saw. Can you identify what is significant thematically and how those things play together?
BA: A lot of what the characters touch on in the play is not at the center of the play. This is not a play that wants you to change your opinions about things, or come out with some new, profound, view of the world. It’s more that we want people to come out saying, “I just had an hour and a half of thorough entertainment.” It’s supposed to be an entertaining play. Yes, it does touch on some more serious issues. There’s a lot of stuff in there about class, and there’s some stuff about religion. But that’s mostly that while I was writing, I thought, “Right. I want to talk about this, so I’m going to talk about it.” That was pretty much it.
OE: What’s your relationship like with your cast and your team?
BA: From the get go, everyone got along really well. We haven’t had any problems at all, between anyone. The only problem we have is that they joke a lot during rehearsal, and I want to join in but at the same time I have to be like, “No. Serious face, Bea, serious directorial face.” Everyone’s just got along so well; it’s a really nice group.
OE: Why should I, why should anyone else, come and see An Impromptu Performance?
BA: Because it’s entertaining.
Pretty good reason. An Impromptu Performance is showing November 6 and 7, 7:30 in the Barron Theatre.