We sat down with BoxedIn Theatre’s Artistic Director, Oli, and Executive Producer, Emily, to chat about their upcoming production of LOBES and creating theatre in St Andrews.
In terms of working with student writing, what’s it been like having Henry [Roberts, the playwright] on board?
OLI: He’s such a great guy. He’s the kind of the person who is incredibly talented but doesn’t quite know it yet, so it’s great to see his reaction when the stuff he’s worked on has come to life.
EMILY: Henry’s amazing. He likes to listen to what you have to say; he really does care about what you think about what he wrote.
What are the challenges of having a cast of just two?
OLI: It’s been hard! I like to work in groups because I like the energy of bouncing off each other and using that to drive stuff forward. If there are more people in the room, there are more ideas. Having said that, it’s also been a really exciting challenge. Bailey [Fear] and Anoushka [Kohli] are incredibly talented and they’ve committed everything they have to the piece.
EMILY: Yeah, they’re both really dedicated, and they’ve enjoyed putting a lot of themselves into it.
There’s already a lot of theatre out there about mental health. What is LOBES bringing that’s new?
OLI: I think with a lot of how we talk about mental health, the questions that are asked aren’t necessarily about how you feel, but about how you remember feeling. That’s something that Lobes gets its teeth into – that nothing you remember is really real, and how that distortion can change how you remember people. In some senses the play is quite uplifting – because our memory is fallible, we have the opportunity to be more lenient with ourselves than sometimes we are.
EMILY: There is a lot of student-written stuff about depression, but what I think is important and interesting and fun and new is the idea of memory. How does it create your idea of another person? It’s very cleverly done in the play.
OLI: I do genuinely believe that it’s very different.
Did you always have the idea of staging it in the Medical Sciences building? What led you to that decision?
OLI: I think as soon as you step into a space you have a reaction to it. When you step into the Medical Sciences building, you’re thinking clinically, you’re thinking about teaching science. From the get-go, we knew we wanted to do it in a lab.
EMILY: We ended up in the place we wanted but we had to jump through a lot of hoops.
Where does BoxedIn want to go next with site-specific theatre in St Andrews?
OLI: I want to do Hamlet in the Vic next year, with a female Hamlet and a female Horatio. Other than that, I’m interested in movable space – our production this summer takes place in tents.
What do you guys think you’ve taken from this process?
EMILY: The play itself is great, and I love the ideas of memory and the way we try to talk about them. Those aspects have made me think about it more in everyday life.
OLI: I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to work with a smaller cast from a creative perspective – the level of attention that’s required.
St Andrews is hugely active theatre-wise, but a lot of productions fall into the same vein. What do you think we’re starting to see more of here?
EMILY: I think in the last year and a bit, we’ve started to see more independent productions, and the more voices and more avenues you have, the more creative space you create. And there’s been more people trying to find fun spaces in which to do theatre.
OLI: There’s also been a big shift towards more collaborative work and more devised stuff… Ubu Roi, for example, going up in the Byre at the end of this semester. That shift towards group work is going to push the theatre scene here to the forefront of university theatre across the UK. I think the theatre we’re putting out is of a much higher calibre, and that people are seeing that now.
EMILY: I’ve seen more avenues and opportunities for people, and as soon as you have more room to speak, you speak more. It’s raised everybody’s game.
If you had to distil your experience into advice for a first-year interested in pursuing the avenues of theatre you guys do, what would you say?
EMILY: Experience is important, that’s key. Apart from that, just blind faith, and the knowledge that people are more inclined to help you than you think. You don’t get anything by not asking.
OLI: Be excited to pursue something challenging. Put your neck out.
Lastly, if you could describe LOBES in 5 emojis, what would they be?
LOBES goes up 13th-15th March in the Medical Science Building. Tickets must be purchased on-line (absolutely no tickets will be sold on the door) from this link: https://fixr.co/event/362021532