We met up with Theo Chen & Qawiiah Bisiriyu, the co-Directors behind our upcoming production of Fairview by Jackie Sibblies Drury to find out more about the play, their process, and what to expect when you sit down in your seat at the ADC Theatre.
What is the show about?
Theo: It’s funny because it’s a play where the less you know about it, the better, because if you let yourself experience its intelligence, wit, and daring without knowing anything about the play, you’re in for a real rollercoaster ride.
But, what we can say is that it is about a family, the Fraisers, who are getting ready for a birthday party. And nothing is going quite right. And then things get really eerie. Also, that the play speaks to our contemporary moment like nothing else we’ve seen or read, and that it questions the act of watching, and invites you to question that as well.
Qawiiah: If we could say what the show’s about without giving away too much, we would say it’s about the presence of an audience, and how being a part of one is incredibly powerful. We hope that everyone who comes to see the show recognises that power as well, and interrogates what it means to watch characters, to create their stories and to process them through the experience of theatre.
Why did you want to stage this show?
It was unlike anything we’d ever seen or read before (yes, it grips you just as much on the page as on the stage), in the way that it took everything we thought we knew about making and watching theatre and turned it on its head. Jackie Sibblies Drury’s script is so provocative in the sense that she is at the top of her game as a playwright - she plays with theatrical conventions like its play-doh - and creates something totally original using the same things about theatre we all know and love. It’s such a visceral challenge to stage her work, and that challenge is something we felt like Cambridge theatre was missing - something which makes the audience stay on the edge of their seats the whole time, and that you just have to spend hours talking about and dissecting after the show’s over!
What makes this show/production unique?
Theo: Almost everyone who’s seen the play when it has been done in other cities say that it’s unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. To us, the fact that it stirs up such a response from its audience makes it unique.
Qawiiah: In terms of this production, we’ve let the play speak for itself, in all its striking beauty. A lot of the script makes clear what the intended effect of the costumes, lighting, sound or set should be — we’ve been faithful to those instructions with our incredible crew and in doing so, have hopefully succeeded with making the uniqueness of the play shine through in all its glory.
What is your favourite part of the show?
We really love watching our cast relish their moments of comedy - they have all crafted such refined and lived-in performances which are so enjoyable to watch. The moments of movement and dance in the play are really gorgeous to watch too! There are also a few more surreal moments in the play which fuse comedy and movement - combining those with the distinct personalities of each character has made for many an energetic and dynamic rehearsal - we can’t wait to see the wonderful cast bring that to the stage!
Why should audiences come to see this show?
It’s a funny, moving, fascinating play that takes a frank look at the world around us today and lays out something that’s going wrong. But it leaves the “what’s next” part of the question to its audience to discuss, debate, and move towards. It’s very involving, and it’s very clever, and it’ll blow your mind!
The play does not try to give you all the answers — it opens you up to some and leaves the rest in your hands to try to think up more. It recognises how there’s so much to say and not enough time to say it in, but at the same time beckons the audience to include themselves in the process of learning about themselves and how that impacts the stories they consume. It’s delivered in such a fantastic way, and you’ll enjoy the entire journey it takes to get to that point!
What have you found to be the most rewarding and/or challenging part of the production process?
The play demands some very precise work when it comes to timing: working that out between all our actors and production team has been a challenge, but a fascinating one new to both of us when it comes to theatre-making!
Something very rewarding has been working with our phenomenally talented actors to bring out the best of their gifts. We’ve felt so blessed to work with such versatile and multi-faceted performers: finding ways to show everything they can offer has been really fun! Not least because we never tire of watching them!
We’ve also been so blessed to have an incredible production and technical team who have collaborated with us to bring an amazing script to life on the stage — coordinating all of this to cohesively achieve our vision has comprised of many meetings, emails and moving parts but we are so excited and faithful in the bounds of talent and dedication involved in this show to create a wonderful production and feat on the stage.
Something that’s both rewarding and a challenge has been the in-depth text work that we’ve embarked on with our performers - rewarding because of the richness of our conversations, and a challenge because of some of the difficult themes that the play broaches - sensitively handling those has been tricky, yet very necessary to do. It’s contributed to a key understanding of the script, informing the actors’ ability to do each character a lot of justice, and means the core of the play and its themes do not go unnoticed: they are on full display.
What should an audience expect when they come to see the show?
They can expect to be taken on a journey unlike anything they’ve seen before in the ADC. In essence - expect the unexpected. Strap in for the ride!
Don't miss 'Fairview', running Tuesday 13 through Saturday 17 February at the ADC Theatre.