Here at Unmasked Theatre we’re preparing two productions for this year’s Brighton Fringe. It’s all pretty manic, with carpets covered in flyers, scripts piled precariously on most of our furniture and a growing collection of bizarre props accumulating in airing cupboards. The two shows we’ve chosen this year could scarcely be more different and we hope you humour us as we take a couple of posts to introduce you to them.
So, Luke (A well known Brighton Russophile) has been trying to get Pip to read Tolstoy for ages (since – like 2012). Let’s get one thing straight; Pip is not one to shy away from an epic sized novel. She has enjoyed dalliances with Russian literature before and has even struggled to the end of Ulysses. Busy lives however, have demanded something a little lighter and less commitment than Anna Karenina of late. Fortunately for Pip, Ivan is only 80 odd pages. Palatable, digestible and completely brutal, (What’s not to love?).
It’s a story, primarily about middle class-ness. Okay, we know that you’re thinking, another theatre production about the privileged… cry me a river, but wait! The Death of Ivan Ilyich explores what happens when the polite walls we build around ourselves are challenged, broken and scrutinised. It is a story that eloquently dissects the idea of the modern family with devastating precision. We hope to deliver this frankness with justice, ABBA, cupcakes and even some Yakult making an appearance.
Modernising this text has been great- It feels so incredibly relevant. Far be it from us to decide what Tolstoy’s idea of the ‘Russian Dream’ was, but we still live in a world that loves nothing more than to sell us an ideal life.
As Oscar Wilde once rather pithily said, “There are only two tragedies in life, one is not getting what one wants, the other is getting it”. From a nerdy dramaturgical perspective (sorry!) Ivan tells the dream relationship between want and need. Ivan and his family’s ‘want’ is the iconic middle class, the materialist dream.
This is an idea that we, in 2019, see perpetuated time and time again in literature, the media, fashion. We are at the epicentre of a ‘buy it now, face the consequences never’ culture, stuck in an exhausting, never ending cycle of ‘I will be happy when’. What an exciting challenge to stage a production, from a novella written over 150 years ago that feels so synonymous with the status quo of the modern person.
Luke and Pip started working together adapting classical texts for the stage. It all began in 2013, where they gave themselves the almost silly first task of taking The Great Gatsby. Since then, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland and Antony and Cleopatra have all received some kind of adaptation. In terms of the way Unmasked programme show’s like this, the questions that have to be answered are:
• ‘why this?’,
• ‘why here?’
• ‘why now?’
Our answers are:
• This is so relevant and challenging!
• The Brighton Fringe is a great platform to ambitious work, and we’re hopeful to take this further
• This is our third Fringe as a company, and we’ve learned an awful lot. We feel ready to have something that’s more personal, more crafted and more ambitious.
Keep following for rehearsal anecdotes/ antics, ridiculous cast interviews, various top ten lists (including how to survive a technical rehearsal) and for information on our second show Further Education and its development from The Brighton Scratch Night.
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