Going up in the Barron at the end of the semester, The World Over is already looking like one of the most original pieces of theatre St Andrews has seen so far. This will be the UK premiere of the play, which was written by Keith Bunin and premiered in New York City in 2002. Bunin says of the play:
‘I wrote The World Over at an especially tumultuous time in my life, when it seemed like the sky was falling in everywhere I looked. So it seemed fun to imagine myself as an imaginary hero in a fantastic landscape, with floods and blizzards and wars raging all around. And it was a way to look at the world around me with a sense of wonder and excitement and awe. It was also a way for me to get back in touch with the kinds of stories I loved the most when I was a boy.’
I spoke to producer Cole Matson and director Andrew Illsley about their ambitious new project.
Cole: Man discovers a heroic destiny.
Andrew: A man’s journey to belong.
Eight actors playing 34 parts; I have only one question – how?
Cole: Plenty of doubling! (And tripling…quadrupling…quintupling…) Except for the actor who plays Adam, all the performers are playing multiple roles, and are almost constantly flowing on and off stage and moving between characters. We have some very brave, energetic, and dauntless actors, who are playing parts as varied as a prince, a common thief, and a monstrous gryphon – and that’s just within one of the eight character tracks!
Andrew: Would you believe me if I said, “With ease”…? Well, you shouldn’t. Simply put, all the actors play multiple parts. We have 8 confident actors who aren’t scared of a challenge. Oh, and probably some fast costume changes. It will be hard but worth it.
Is this your first production as a team?
Cole: Yes. Every other director I’ve pitched this show to has been scared off. Andrew was the only one fearless (or crazy) enough to tackle a show that involves multiple shipwrecks, three live births on stage, and a maiden being dangled over a pit of fire by a rope being eaten away by rats.
Andrew: Cole pitched the show to me the first time we met and there was no turning back – the story is too good a tale not to be told.
Why did you decide to produce The World Over?
Cole: I’ve wanted to produce this show for almost a decade, ever since I saw the world premiere in 2002 at Playwrights Horizons in New York City, while a fresher drama student at Playwrights Horizons Theatre School. During the last scene, I started weeping, and didn’t stop for half an hour. The lead actor and playwright were kind enough to let me bawl into their shirts. There’s a love that speaks powerfully through this play – the love of the playwright for his characters, and the kinds of stories he pays tribute to in this play. Even more, there’s a love for a dream that shines through the main character of Adam – a love which is transformed and deepened by the wisdom he learns through the journey of the play.
Andrew: The first time I read the play I thought it was a wonderful story – energetic, exciting, funny, and moving – but impossible. Impossible to perform, that is – 34 parts, pits of fire, shipwrecks, a crazy number of deaths, and war, to name just a few of the difficulties. But then I thought, if I was going to the theatre, would I want to see this show? There is only one answer – yes, unreservedly yes. So, the short answer is, I decided to put it on because I would want to see it – it’s brilliant.
What are you most looking forward to bringing to life in this production?
Cole: An unashamedly exciting heroic journey. This is a fairy tale told without irony, without apology, without winks to the audience hinting that of course you can’t take fairy tales seriously. This is serious fairy tale — a tribute to all the fairy tales, legends, and stories of Shakespearean proportions that made many of us who we are. One of the main character Adam’s lines in the play is, ‘We are all of us meant to be heroes.’ When you see this play, I think you’ll enjoy spending two hours in a world where that might be true – and then hopefully bringing something of that world back home with you.
Andrew: I’m looking forward to taking the audience through all the twists and turns of Adam’s inner journey to find what really matters, to find home – and hopefully having some laughs along the way as well! (That doesn’t really answer your question, but it answers a question!)
Okay, give me your best pitch: why should we come to see The World Over?
Cole: Pirates, sword fights, shipwrecks, live births, hand-to-hand combat, battles with mythical creatures, mistaken identity (?), intrigue, quests, riddles, comedy, tragedy, deaths, resurrections, monsters, villains, and heroes – and did I mention a maiden being dangled over a pit of fire by a rope being eaten away by rats? All taking place within the Barron’s intimate 60-seat black box! And should you be so moved, I’ll even let you bawl on my shirt.
Andrew: It’s fun! That’s what I keep saying to people: “You should come see it – it’s fun!”
The World Over will be going up in the Barron Theatre at 7.30pm from Tuesday 13th – Thursday 15th December.
Image credit – Cole Matson