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Proforça Creative presents a brand new comedy drama written by James Lewis - Lauren Gauge interviews director DAVID BRADY...

Proforça Creative presents a brand new comedy drama written by James Lewis and directed by David Brady about moving on, moving out, drifting apart and the people we can't bear to leave behind.

There are new theatre companies springing up across London every week it seems, and it’s an exciting time to be making theatre, especially on London’s Off West End where theatre takes more risks than the commercially loaded West End theatre ecology that has to create shows on mass, for the masses.

Proforça Creative is a new theatre company set up to take risks in a welcoming environment, champion new writing and create real stories through a collaborative process. I catch up with David Brady, Artistic Director the week before their inaugural production of If I Go opens at The Ye Olde Rose and Crown theatre in North London. He strikes me as incredibly calm and composed for a first time theatre maker – but then he’s been making this play, one way or another for two years, so it’s no wonder that he is sure of its place and confident in its calibre.

Without giving too much away, can you tell us a bit about what happens in the play? Where does the story take us?

Essentially If I Go is the story of two flat mates who have been friends since university. We want to tell the story of the millennial generation that came of age in the early 2000's and are now approaching thirty, struggling in London to try and buy a house, live on their own and make some big decisions. It's the story of Matt and Becky, who've known each other since university and lived together for ten years, then something changes, a change in job circumstance for one of them. Becky is a teacher. Matt works in an office; nobody knows what he does – it's a bit like the Chandler Bing scenario – no-one can really work out what his actual job is! He is due a big promotion, which will result in him moving out. It's the story of how those life changes affect friendships. Matt is in a relationship with Danny. So it's the story of how this decision that means he'll be paid more money and be able to afford a better life, will change his relationship with Danny and his friendship with Becky, who as a teacher perhaps cannot afford to live on her own. The play is about growing up, making big decisions and how over the course of the story, which takes place over a four month period, he interacts with his colleagues and makes decisions at work, but all the action is leading up to the biggest decision – does he stay, or does he go, which is the titular dilemma.

Stories about love, loss, growing up and drifting apart are often at the centre of dramas – what makes Proforça creative’s production of If I Go original?

There are a couple of things that make it different. When we talk about love there's a relationship that's core to the play but there's also a friendship – him and her, as well as his relationship with Danny. The script itself talks about those different types of love – best mates who really care about each other and in a way if you look at Matt and Becky they should really be married – they are like an old married couple. They’ve also got a friend called Will – they've been friends since university, and he's madly in love with Becky – such is life and this force of nature. One of the things that we ask ourselves in the play is – we have got these two friends who are expertly suited but not romantically in love with each other – how do the characters that are romantically in love with them interact with that relationship? Especially when the romantic relationships are dysfunctional. Becky has a habit of sleeping around and choosing the wrong men, and never the man that's going to be right for her, which is Will. Then you've got Danny, Matt’s boyfriend, who is wanting Matt to commit but while he's living with Becky with this impenetrable friendship, the two of them are never going to be able to get together fully. This decision that Matt has to make throws all of these issues up, so we have Will and Danny towards the end of the play talking about this fortress which is the friendship that stands between them. It poses the question how are Will and Danny ever going to get a look in whilst Becky and Matt are so tight together.

So in today’s society where there is so much choice in relationships not just sexuality, but a high rate of divorce and our attention spans are becoming shorter and shorter – is there any intention in your production to shed light on a society that’s becoming more flippant in its relationships and potentially increasingly open to polyamorous relationships?

The play is about making a commitment to a relationship – that’s the story we tell. It’s about your commitment to everything – your commitment to your job, to your friends, to your family. In this city in this circumstance Matt and Becky are committed to each other in terms of their friendship but actually the real dilemma is that if Matt wanted a committed relationship he could have one, likewise Becky with the friend Will – they spend a lot of time sleeping around but never commit to making anything meaningful together. Part of the transitional journey that they go through in the play is hopefully a realisation that they are in this society with all these distractions but really (we want to tell an optimistic story) that you can have a relationship if you want one and it’s probably just waiting around the corner. We make jokes about the Tinder generation – Becky’s forever swiping but the person that is right for her is tapping her on the shoulder telling her that it’s time to go to the pub.

What are the issues that you focus on in the play?

It’s essentially looking at the Millennial generation within the most expensive city in the world, where rents are going up sky high and it examines what our parents told us – that you should have a house and you should have a good job – that becomes very difficult in London. The character of Becky is a teacher; the character of Will is a very unsuccessful estate agent for a very large estate agency; they have these jobs in order to be traditionally successful in London, but they still have to make sacrifices, which means living in a flat share for longer than you should. For example, Becky has a salary that doesn’t allow her to live on her own, whereas Matt with this job would be able to live on his own and have a fantastic life, but that would mean breaking up this life that the two of them have built together. The other thing we talk about is the family that you build for yourself when you move to London. Your actual family might be in another city a hundred miles away but when you come to London you surround yourself with a new one – it’s not made up of people that you’re biologically connected to but people you chose for yourself. We look at that familial culture – the outside circle of colleagues at work, friends and we try to give a sense of exes and people on the periphery that you don’t always see.

How important is it to include a comedic element to dramatic productions?

Very important. The dialogue is very naturalistic and it talks about the things that we find funny in real life – comedy relationships, pop culture references; we’ve tried to make it quite topical. There are conversations about the American election to make it bang up to date. There’s some physical comedy in there as well. We’ve tried to include that at points of dramatic tension. There’s a very funny character in the play called Camilla who is Matt’s PA, who is very well played by Harriet, the actress who plays her. We counterpoint the moments that get quite serious – not so serious that anyone’s going to die – I call it ‘a tornado in a tea cup’ – but there’s a very serious conversation about, ‘Where am I going? What am I doing?’, and then the door opens and something bonkers happens. The script draws on real life conversations and real life situations and we’ve thrown in a farcical element too. We hope to ground the characters in the fact that the big decisions that the characters have to make are something that everyone can relate to.

You’re one of the founding trustees who set up Proforça Creative and this is your inaugural production as Artistic Director – tell us more about your vision of the company?

We follow a non-professional theatre model. We all have day jobs 9 – 5 and this is our artistic release. We found some non-professional theatre companies quite cliquey and not very inclusive and they also stick to quite traditional theatre productions, which in some cases excludes people that want to try new writing or a non-traditional point of view. In terms of fringe amateur theatre – if someone is coming up with a script and saying I want to put a show on – we wanted to take advantage of that – we want to have our own creative outlet and find exciting new productions and new work; it’s always going to be our aim to try new writing. If someone wants to try directing for the first time they can. This is the collaborative first step into fringe theatre, which I love so much. There are brilliant companies and productions out there that are experimental and ambitious and we wanted to go down that route as opposed to producing a Shakespeare or a more established piece of work. We want to try something new, stage modern work and talk about our experiences in the world.

How do you decide what to direct and who to work with for the writing?

We surround ourselves with lots of creative people. There are so many ideas, experiences and stories – we did lots of talking to our friends and people in other theatre productions and companies, we’ve been very active on social media. We’ve got loads of ideas and people who have approached us to work with us, so what we’ve tried to do is come up with ideas and include their stories. Once we’ve done If I Go the next step will be to ask, ‘what stories we want to tell?’, and come up with new ideas.

What are you most excited to explore with this production, and in future productions?

In this production we’ve built a real family feel – we’re not a very large production company. I’ve been really excited to see the course of that story develop collaboratively and directing it through rehearsals, to see those characters that leapt off the page become fleshed out. I’m really looking forward to seeing what was originally in the script two years ago translate into real living people that are funny, that make the audience laugh and make you want to go on this journey with them. We’ve experienced that journey with them too. Part of the reason for us doing this was that so many people have so many ideas that sit in a drawer or on a shelf and never get seen – we really wanted to take this through to a full production, to have that full cycle.
For future productions we’ll explore what things are topical, what stories are out there and use the same process, taking them from inception and words on a page through to full productions.

What James our writer did, which is quite unusual, was he wrote the first scene of the play at the Arctic Circle – as far away from London as you can get and he talks about the fact that sometimes you have to travel a long distance away from home to look back at what you have. It was a very unusual way to start writing a play but the idea for the first scene came fully formed, tumbled out and became a real and interesting story. It beats being written in a coffee shop in London where I imagine so many other people get the start of their plays!

If I Go has a cast of eight, which is quite large for a straight play on the Off West End theatre scene – how do you navigate the commercial side effectively running a start-up company and the artistic side of being a theatre maker and director?

As a non-professional company, people are giving their time for free, which has been a real help to that process. We put a grant in and gifted money to the company to get the project up running and through to completion. Commercially we rely on people to buy tickets and that’s our funding model. It’s been an interesting journey working out logistics when you’re working like this. It forces you to make creative decisions and you have to be really direct in the way that you do things. You have to edit mercilessly; you have to be creative with a set that tells a story – we’re not going to have a Les Miserables’ barricade appear halfway through the production, for example – but it means that you’re concise and that you have to edit carefully – what set you build, what venue you perform in and what rehearsal space you use. It is a challenge but it makes for a more judicious and well edited production.

What's your opinion of the Off West End theatre scene currently?

I love it! There are so many great fringe productions out there – that’s what we’ve been looking to create as a production team – because that’s what all of us love: the productions at The Bush, The Bread and Roses, and The Ye Olde Rose and Crown where we’re performing. In the last couple of years the productions that I’ve seen in those Off West End venues have been much more rewarding than the more commercial productions. They’ve got a real heart to them and because it’s such a small intimate venue you can really see the emotion of an actor performing. If you can see somebody sweating in front of you, you can see how much it means to them. Particularly with the ticket prices for the West End theatres – they are so scandalously expensive, in some cases, the productions can be great but the Off West End is the bread and butter of the theatre, you see people grow and become incredibly good at their jobs and really tell some great stories.

If If I Go could have a life after the Ye Olde Rose and Crown what would you like it to be?

Two things: it would be brilliant for it to be a production that gets taken somewhere else in the country, and James would love to see If I Go be performed by other companies. We are talking about it taking it to Edinburgh next year. It’s got a life – the characters are real enough that people can relate to them and that’s where we would like to see them grow in the future.
First though, we’re excited to make our debut at The Ye Olde Rose and Crown – it’s a great venue and they have been very good to us. Especially from a new start up perspective, we’ve been very fortunate and obviously the cast and crew have been fantastic and generous giving up their time for free. I think that generosity will show in the final production.

What has been the most rewarding part of the journey to date?

Building that community. We’ve built a community which isn’t just the cast and crew, it is the venues that we’ve worked with, it’s people in the industry and other people that are starting out. We did some work with the Actor Awareness campaign – that was great in terms of publicity and we’ve had some really good mentoring, which has certainly fed into the production. I’d love to thank our cast and crew. They’ve been so professional and I’ve learned so much from them. If our production is successful it will be because of the love and teamwork that’s gone into making If I Go.



If I Go premieres at The Ye Olde Rose and Crown theatre Wed 4 May 2016 – Sat 7 May 2016.
Follow Proforça on Twitter – @weareproforca
Facebook – www.facebook.com/proforacreative
Instagram – www.instagram.com/proforcacreative
Company website – http://www.proforca.co.uk/






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Interview with Michael Gieleta

Interview with director Rhys Thomas

Interview with writer James Graham

Theatre Student Patricia Low posts her Malaysia Blog

Sabina Arthur performs in Under The Veil

Fin Kennedy talks about UNSTATED

Interview with Andrew Keatley

Interview with Ben Hales

Interview with Ali Taylor

Interview with Matt Ball

Interview with Tim Fountain

Interview with Glyn Maxwell

Interview with writer Coda Quashie

Interview with Sarah Mann

Interview with Yolanda Mpele

Interview with Howard Barker

Interview with Brian Timoney

Interview with Laura Stevens

Interview with John Sandy

Interview with Philly Greenwood

Interview with Dean Stalham

Interview with Jack McNamara

Interview with Caroline Partridge

Meet People Show artist Gareth Brierley

Interview with George Mann

Meet Phillip Brook, star of Uncle Barry at the Blue Elephant

Interview with Fin Kennedy

Interview with James Graham

Marketers On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown V

Interview with Cath Whitefield, now appearing at The Gate

Interview with Lavern Archer

Royal Court Announces Autumn Season

Marketers On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown IV

Marketing Managers on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown III

Marketers On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown II

Marketers On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown

Arcola to Create World's First Carbon Neutral Theatre

Interview with Nell Leyshon, Writer of Glass Eels at the Hampstead Theatre

A New Start for the Southwark Playhouse

The Mark Shenton Show

Theatre has moved on - whatever we critics think

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