Next week at the ADC Theatre, 'Last Summer at Bluefish Cove' will be performing to a socially-distanced audience and as a livestream. We spoke to the show's Director, FLO WINKLEY, about why the show is something special you should see.
What makes Last Summer at Bluefish Cove a resonant play in this day and age?
The first mainstream lesbian play, Last Summer at Bluefish Cove is a love story in the shape of women loving other women, freely and unapologetically, broadcast from the main stage of the ADC. We need lesbian, feminist voices in the theatre – ‘queer’ narratives so often rely on gender-swapping already existing characters – and that is exactly what we see in this story of eight unique, multifaceted women.
Boasting an all-female cast and a predominantly female / non-binary production team, this new performance of Jane Chambers’ 1980 play celebrates the wealth of female / non-binary talent in the Cambridge Theatre scene. After many months out of the theatre, Chambers’ raw, emotive script offers the perfect opportunity to rediscover intimacy, affection, and friendship: celebrating lesbian existence and bringing women’s voices to the forefront of the stage.
What are your plans for recreating the setting of Bluefish Cove on-stage?
Our aim is to transport the audience to a dreamy ‘80s Long Island beach cabin, complete with its own private sandy beach area. Using real sand, and learning the intricacies of gutting fish, the ADC stage will be transformed into a lesbian beach haven, sporting patterned ‘80s deckchairs and a transistor radio to boot. We hope to evoke the nostalgia of ‘80s holiday romances in this distinctly realist setting, homing in on eight women’s experiences of summer. As a fixed set, our goal is to immerse the audience in the characters’ private space, surrounded by the remnants of the nights before: card games, campfires, and wine-smudged glasses. The cabin’s worn-in aesthetic will showcase the characters’ much-loved, secluded safe-space – separate from societal expectation – where they are able to fully embrace their sexuality through laid-back evenings of ‘music, food, booze, and dancing’ (to use Lil’s words).
How has the need to socially distance your performers affected the show?
An additional exciting element of the realities of 2020 theatre is the potential to livestream our production. Offering new opportunities to creatives that may not have previously engaged with theatre, we already have a team of budding directors who are spearheading the preparations for our livestream.
A particular challenge, however, has been communicating the degrees of intimacy that the play invites (across both the stage and the screen). The show contains many layers of intimacy – portraying love between friends, girlfriends, exes, the list goes on – the challenge is conveying these intimate relationships between characters without any of the actors ever coming into physical contact! We have worked with the actors on demonstrating emotional intimacy through verbal techniques and using physical distance between characters to create tension.
Further to this, the actors were only able to all meet each other as a group of eight two weeks into rehearsals, due to the rule of six. This created a unique rehearsal process; we began by focusing exclusively on verbal intonations and characters’ semantic intentions, using coffee shops as our rehearsal space until the ADC reopened. While coffee shops were physically limiting, they came with their own silver linings: coffee on the job and a free audience! That said, the cast did have to lower their voices for the cruder moments (which unfortunately we learnt the hard way after many heads were turned after a certain Kitty speech…).
Without spoiling too much, what is your favourite part of the show?
If I had to say, I would pick Eva’s arrival at the party. Eva is unaware that every woman in the cabin is a lesbian, and unbeknownst to her, her intrusion into their ‘secret isle of lesbos’ has made tensions run high. Chaos promptly ensues – hilarious miscommunications, dramatic clashes, and the spark of new love – in a night that shapes the rest of the play. The scene is laced with bittersweet humour, while also touching upon underlying social commentary that is discussed with heart-wrenching, yet amusing, sensitivity.