Although theatre has the wonderful ability to create an escape, we must remember the strength it also has in comforting an audience and bringing a show that is realistic. Being able to present a story that is relatable gives audience members the chance to see and feel their stories talking, reflecting and representing them, providing a safe soothing space. After talking to the co-directors of First Theatre Company’s The Shadow Box, Lauren Peach and Moritz Afridi, it is clear the two have aspired to create a show that captures the essence of what it means to comfort.
Before we got into the details of the show I asked Lauren and Moritz about their past directing experience. Lauren had directed a nativity play at school and Mortitz had directed a one-act small play as well taken on some assistant director roles so The Shadow Box for them is their first larger-scale project as a director. Having asked what has been the biggest change in directing this project, Lauren immediately said, “It’s been better than I could have ever dreamed of, like that sounds really cheesy… it’s been absolutely fantastic”. It is clear a lot of time, passion and love has been given to this production.
We then went on to speak about the play itself and the two did an incredibly good job at selling the show to me! Moritz summed up the plot for us, “it basically follows the lives, well not the lives, the end of lives of three terminally ill patients who have been sent to live in these nice little cottages for the rest of their lives with a couple of people who are [like] the closest to them”. This even includes one man who has to live with his ex-wife! Although dotted with comedic elements, the pair settle on describing the play as a drama, Moritz detailing the story as “a dark slice of life”. Moritz continued to explain how the play explores mental health problems that can come from deteriorating physical health, not just on the patients themselves but on those who surround them too, and how family members cope with what is going on.
As we spoke about the plot more, it was soon revealed the play has little injections of mystery! Not in the traditional sense, but in a manner, that seems to stimulate the minds of the audience to ask questions and so become drawn into the story more. One character writes letters to another, pretending to be a dead relative offering hope to the reader, who is clueless about the death. Moritz points out that “There are some things that sort of never get resolved”, which adds to this sense of realism to the play. When talking about how the audience would feel about this Lauren added, “I think it’s one of those where you’ve got questions at the start and then the more you think about it the more you just come to terms with it”. It is a true reflection of what life can be at times and Lauren finishes this with an absorbing thought and reminds us that “people die when things are left unsolved and I think that’s the beauty of it”.
Our conversation led to revealing a lot of information about one character in the play, the interviewer. Acting as a guide it seems, the interviewer sounds like a crucial and fascinating addition to the play. As a rather illusive individual, the interviewer’s motives are open for interpretation by the audience. Lauren mentioned she felt they were working undercover from the hospital! Moritz explains “You never see them, but you kind of just hear them and they ask questions and literally interview both the people who are ill and their counterparts”. A secretive element within the play, I was integrated by the mystery of the interviewer, which was fueled by Lauren’s comment that the interviewer is completely neutral, which furthers the ambiguity around their motives.
As our discussions came to a close the directors shared exactly why you should come and see the show. Lauren crucially states “it’s kind of gloomy and depressing but it holds a lot of significant messages about life”. Moritz reminds us of an inspiring line from the play that says, “They tell you you’re dying, and you say all right. But if I am dying… I must still be alive.” This line matches the directors’ hope for the message of the play, one that is realistic but also optimistic. This performance is hopeful, whilst also offering comfort and Lauren, Moritz and their team have worked incredibly hard. The Shadow Box is being performed in the Joachim Room in St Hild and Bede College on the 16th, 17th and 18th of November. Doors will open at 7:00pm and the performance starting at 7:30 pm. Tickets can be found here.
Image credit: First Theatre Company