In Conversation with Izzy Collie-Cousins, Director of 'The Last of the Haussmans'

Izzy Collie-Cousins (Director, 'The Last of the Haussmans') speaks to Mary Gompertz (Producer, 'The Last of the Haussmans') about what audiences can expect from this week's Corpus Playroom Mainshow.

So Izzy, could you give a quick over-view of what this play is about?

  Obviously the play is stunning. It’s all about family tension, digging up matters of the past and looking at the way relationships develop as people grow older and how those dynamics change. There are a lot of universal family truths in The Haussmans…I relate to it a worrying amount.

How have you found it as an 18 year-old directing a play about a grown-up family?

  That never crossed my mind as being an issue. Putting on a play is all about imagination. There is a point in the second act where Judy is deliriously high on her morphine and doesn’t know where she is or who she is; that’s clearly quite an alien experience for me but I suppose I have grandparents who have been in similar situations. As a director you are applying your experience to your production.

What have you done to bring something different to the play? What decisions have you made as a director?

  Well, fake grass of course! (The play is set on the Haussmans’ lawn). What I didn’t let myself do is watch clips of the National Theatre production on YouTube so I have no idea what that even looks like. I didn’t want to be influenced by it, I wanted to be honest to the text.

Have you drawn on the political aspects of the writing?

  Reviews mention the legacy of the baby boomers and the moment in the play when that legacy becomes really important is in the second act when Nick chastises his mother: “while you were wanking into a chrysanthemum, Margaret Thatcher was making her entrance. Did you see? Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan. Now that was a revolution”. So that is political, but that sense of the older generation failing you by indulging in a certain kind of lifestyle is universal and inter-generational. The 60s vibe is fun, but really what we wanted to focus on was those relationships and that frustration which transcends the time period.

Do you have a favourite character?

  Nick. Nick is the most detached from reality and I really enjoy his commentary on life…as if he is not really a part of it. I know Torquil’s (Assistant Director) favourite character is Daniel, the pool boy, because he really sympathises with him. Most of us think Daniel is really creepy but Torquil will say: “No, Daniel is just a good guy who’s doing his thing.”

What has been difficult about directing the play?

  Scheduling. I hate scheduling.

And surprising?

  I have been really impressed by how intuitively good everyone has been at their jobs: actors, set, costume, lighting.

How cool is the poster?

  The poster is so cool – Zoe (Matt-Williams) is a total Goddess.

How have you found working in the cosy Corpus Playroom?

  I like the way you said “cosy” because, intuitively, coming to a play about a family you might expect it to be “cosy” but it’s not, it’s deeply uncomfortable and that’s the cool subversion about the Haussmans.

  Making the audience feel really uncomfortable is going to be so much fun.

Anything else you want to say?

  It’s just so good. People have just put so much effort into it and in a way that I’m not really used to. And I don’t know if that’s something about Cambridge theatre or this play or this group of people, but everybody involved really cares.

  If people want to come for a really good time they should come and see the Haussmans because it’s going to be great.

'The Last of the Haussmans' is on at the Corpus Playroom, Tuesday 13th - Saturday 17th November 2018 at 7pm.