Friday, 25 February 2011

GUARDIAN CARDIFF: Preview: Fresh Apples (small bites)

Preview: Fresh Apples (small bites)

Fresh Apples is a new theatre production based on short stories from Rachel Tresize and will be previewed at two free shows this weekend. Susie Wild catches up with the Cardiff-based director Julie Barclay in this interview
Fresh Apples by Rachel Trezise won the inaugural Dylan Thomas Prize in 2006 and features themes of adultery, stalking and teenage sexual experience.
The 11 acerbic short stories are set in the Rhondda valleys with their characters on the brink of adulthood, the point where youth meets responsibilities. Five Years later, this award-winning, defiant collection is being adapted for the stage in Welsh and English.
julia barclayJulie Barclay Photograph: Claire Cousin
It's a labour of love for Cardiff-based actressJulie Barclay who loved the book so much she decided to adapt it for theatre, writing and directing for the first time ever, a long with Cardiff-based director and actor, Richard Tunley. The English version will be previewed at two free shows in Cardiff this weekend. I caught up with director and Cardiff-based actor Julie Barclay to find out more.
Q. What attracted you to Fresh Apples as a book to adapt for theatre?
A. Firstly, it was the language that compelled me to read it out loud, because of the expertly crafted characters within it, and the beautiful raw poetry in the writing. Secondly the universality of the characters.
Despite coming from the Rhondda Valleys, these stories also reflected some parts my own life growing up in London. Great writing like this has the power to transcend place and time. Finally, the book had an exciting defiant energy which I could see transferring directly to a new visceral piece of theatre.
Q. This is your first attempt at writing and directing isn't it? How has the process been for you?
Brilliant, chaotic and challenging. I spent along time writing a script which has almost completely changed and I have had to let go of any sense of ego about it. But it has been enjoyable, because the cast are genuinely creating work that inspires me to go back to the text and move the piece forward.
As the director, I started the process wanting to provide answers, but I've realised that when you get in a rehearsal room we find those together - it's not my sole responsibility, and that spirit of collaboration, the trial and error aspect, although chaotic,is the by far the most rewarding way to work.
Q. How true to the original text have you been?
A. Pretty close, and whenever I have felt myself moving too far away from it I go back to the book and ask myself why I wanted to create new connections and story lines. The nature of this piece of theatre is to capture the bigger picture of the book and we have, in this first stage of development, chosen three of the stories with aspects of others weaving their way into a new piece of theatre.
My co-director, Richard Tunley is working with improvisation leading to script to develop aspects of 'Fresh Apples', the title story, and I have been working with the script, mentioned earlier, combining the stories - 'But Not Really' and 'A Little Boy'.
Rachel has been very encouraging and supportive. Her outside eye on my scriptwriting has been so valuable. My instinct has been to overwrite a scene and her eye on the script has helped me to pare it back leaving more for the audience to think,feel and decide for themselves. I have learnt that I don't have to say it all in the writing, some of it is there in what the actors do and,of course,what they don't say.
The actors are all professionals and experienced at devising and working with new writing and include Jonny Owen (Shameless) and Shelley Rees (Pobol y Cym).
Q. What can we expect on the preview nights?
A. I'm so glad you asked this, because this is not a fully fledged production; ready for the red carpet and a huge press night. It is a piece of theatre in development. You can expect a tragicomic journey through the world of some of the characters. A heightened theatrical style, including aspects of projected imagery in a pretty derelict location. I have received a small amount of project funding from Arts Council Wales and National Theatre of Wales to pay the actors and production crew to provide a sense of what a bigger production could be like and to explore the potential of the book on stage. Sherman Cymru New Artists Development Initiative has also been supportive of the project by providing us with free rehearsal space in Cardiff and guidance as the piece is developed.'
This weekend we are staging Fresh Apples (small bites) in the exhibition space tactileBOSCH in Llandaff North – it is a 200-year-old Victorian laundry and provides just the right location for the spirit of the piece. We are also taking the piece to Penygraig in the Rhondda Valleys to perform Fresh Apples (small bites) at The Soar Centre in March. It has also been important to me that we take the piece to the people about whom these stories are written. We are hoping to tour the piece across south Wales if we can raise more funding. Hopefully the previews will promote interest in seeing a full production later this year perhaps or into next spring 2012.We are encouraging audience members to feedback their responses to the piece in order to keep developing the work and take it forward.
Q. What else in the pipeline?
A. In spring and summer this year I am acting in a Frank Vickery Comedy called 'Spanish Lies' which is touring south Wales. I am also a founder member of Be:spoken Theatre. I directed A Kind of Alaska by Harold Pinter for the company last year and we are looking to commission a new piece of work for 2012.
Fresh Apples (small bites) is at tactileBOSCH on Friday 25 and Saturday 26 February 2011 at 8pm. Entry is free.
Today's guest blogger Susie Wild is a writer, poet, journalist and editor.

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