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Interview: Jemima Levick

The director speaks with Across the Arts about the current tour of My Romantic History.

Across the Arts: What attracted you to the project of directing My Romantic History [MRH]?

Jemima Levick: I was attracted to the project for a number of reasons: I am a massive fan of Eddie Jackson and of Borderline, of what they do and why they do it. Borderline produce unpretentious, popular and meaningful theatre experiences that appeal to all kinds of audiences. The work they produce unashamedly aims to entertain people, and I think that's important.

Also, I think DC Jackson is a brilliant playwright and will undoubtedly write Scotland's most popular play, if he hasn't already. He has humour, wit and charm in his writing that is a joy to work on. I love working on his plays: they're fun and rewarding. Even though he makes audiences laugh for most of their time in the theatre he has the ability to break their hearts too. I think that's exactly what MRH does. It makes you laugh until your sides hurt, it's so beautifully observed (from both male and female perspectives) but at the end you find yourself caring immensely about the characters and their future together.

I loved the play when I saw [the original production], and even more when I read it. I knew it was a piece that I wanted to have a go at.

AtA: What is the appeal to the play? It's already seen life around the world, even though it's a recent play.

JL: As I said above - it makes you laugh until your face aches and then breaks your heart by reminding you why looking after each other is so important. What more could you want with winter round the corner and in a time of recession?

AtA: The original production was in Scotland fairly recently. Why do another production so soon?

JL: To be fair, it hasn't really been seen all over Scotland. It was at the Traverse in Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2010, which doesn't constitute the whole of Scotland. In fact I know a lot of very dedicated theatre goers who weren't able to see it. It was seen by a very limited audience both in terms of numbers and socio economic profile. This is what I mean about Borderline, their artistic policy and just how important their work is. Its continuing policy since its founding in the mid-seventies has been to make theatre accessible both in terms of style and content and through touring. No one else in Scotland would be brave enough to tackle MRH for a long time to come, and that means that audiences throughout Scotland would be deprived of the opportunity to see this brilliant play.

AtA: For yourself, what have the challenges been to staging the play?

JL: It's a deceptive piece in terms of perspective, which I don't think I had entirely grasped on first reading, but the process has revealed. In the first act we see everything from Tom's perspective, and then the second is from Amy's, and so it's very hard to trust what actually happened because they are telling it from their own particular view point, and what THEY understood to happen, not what ACTUALLY what happened. A scene that repeats itself between Act 1 and Act 2 can have almost entirely different events take place so you have to careful about what you understand to be true in the playing of it. It's easy for the audience, they can just go along with it, but the actors have a cautious journey and choices to make. When they get to Act 3, they almost have to begin again as it's hard to trust or to rely on what they 'said' before.

My Romantic History tours Scotland until Oct 15. For more information, check Borderline’s website.

Tags: theatre

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