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Interview with director Ben Kidd

Director Ben Kidd
Ben Kidd during rehearsals for Spring Awakening by Headlong at Jerwood Studios. Photo by Tristram Kenton

Ben Kidd is directing the world premiere of In the Night Time (Before The Sun Rises) by Nina Segal at the Gate Theatre from 4th to 27th February 2016.

A baby cries. A bottle breaks. A window smashes.
Over the course of one night, a man and a woman try to still their screaming infant – but as the hours grow longer, the world becomes elastic around them, and the horrors that scar our planet crash in to the baby’s room.  Should they ever have brought this child into such a wounded world?

Ben recently took time out to answer a few questions about his career and In the Night Time (Before The Sun Rises).

You won the Young Vic Future Director Award in 2012. Did winning the award have an effect on you and your career?
Well, Chris Haydon from The Gate saw that show, so maybe it did, very directly. Although it took him 3 years to give me a job, so maybe not… who knows? No, it was a lovely opportunity to show my work to some interesting people, but there is only so far that prestige and awards can really help, to be honest. However, it furthered my relationship with the Young Vic, and that theatre is a living breathing mass of creativity and open, brilliant thinking, and they have helped me hugely, before and since. And the award offered the chance to work on an excellent play with some very high calibre actors, which was wonderful. And it allowed me to make a show without any commercial pressure: I was encouraged to experiment, to pursue what made me excited. And ultimately, developing your taste and creativity is the best way to ensure a career anyway, or a career that you care about. At least, that’s what I’m hoping…!

How does directing a production from a new playwright compare with something that has been done before?
Hmmm. Good question. I feel these days that I always want to be making something new. That needn’t mean a brand new script – but I want everything to start a brand new conversation with the culture and the world, if you know what I mean. Delivering a production of an old play, the main purpose of which is to remind everyone of how great it is, doesn’t thrill me that much. And I don’t think I have the precision and sensitivity to do it very well. And indeed, I’ve directed 50/50 new work and “old plays” but only 1 play that I had ever seen anyone else do, so effectively even an old play can and should carry the same sense of freedom and responsibility that a totally new one can.

But as a less facetious answer (!) I suppose the thrilling / nerve-wracking thing about new work is that there is absolutely no trace of this thing in the world at all, and so you are creating a new set of ideas, a new rhythm, a new gesture. You have complete control, and you might well fuck it up. There are no adults around, if you know what I mean – something that is very pertinent thematically with this play.

And the major difference, I guess, is that the writer is part of the process. That collaborative process is hugely welcome, and challenges you in ways that you perhaps aren’t when making another version of an old play. In other theatre cultures, I’m told, there is this thing called a dramaturg, who offers that kind of collaboration on old plays. And it’s interesting that our theatre culture, which lacks that role, seems particularly good at producing new plays: maybe it’s because this collaborative relationship is vital to making excellent work?

Do you try to collaborate with the writer when directing?
Yes, as much as possible. You’ll have to ask the writers in question if the answer to this is “too much!” I sometimes like to try to wade in, to be frank, and to rewrite stuff. Although I can’t actually write, so it often ends up hamfisted; but it’s the only way I really know to try and explain what I mean. The brilliant Anya Reiss introduced me to this Mitchell and Webb sketch, which summarises what I am talking about quite well, I think:

Ok… Not This…

What can you tell us about In the Night Time (Before The Sun Rises)?
Well, I can tell you is that it’s a remarkable, startling, truthful, daring and poetic piece of writing. But I would say that: I chose to work on it. It is “about” a couple who have a baby and trying to help her sleep at night. And Nina Segal uses this as a sort of lighting rod to explore and wander wondrously into an exploration of what it is like to be alive in the affluent west in the twenty-first century. It becomes about responsibility and anxiety and guilt and fear. And about growing up. It is about “where are all the adults?” And Nina – whose first play it is, sickeningly – also doesn’t take her form for granted – the way she tells her story is as important as “what it is about.” Which is very exciting. And it’s funny.

Are there any particular challenges for you with the production?
I don’t think there is anything in particular, but I have yet to make a play that wasn’t immensely challenging. I haven’t done enough things to be able to have a skillset to fall back on, I guess. They are all really hard.

What will you be working on when In the Night Time (Before The Sun Rises) concludes its run?
I co-run a company, based in Dublin, Dead Centre, and we will be touring a couple of our shows around Europe and beyond. We are also tentatively working on some new stuff. And before that, I’m going to Manchester to work with a company called Little Soldier, a pair of Spanish clowns who make wonderfully silly work.

Interview by Neil Cheesman

Ben Kidd directs Alex Waldmann as Man and Adelle Leonce as Woman. In the Night Time (Before The Sun Rises) opens at the Gate Theatre on 8th February, with previews from 4th, and runs until the 27th February.

Ben Kidd’s credits include Chekhov’s First Play (Dead Centre / Dublin Theatre Festival), Spring Awakening (Headlong), LIPPY (Dead Centre / Traverse / Young Vic), The Collision of Things (Pleasance), The Shawl (Young Vic), Souvenir (Dead Centre / Dublin Fringe), Anne and Zef (Company of Angels / Salisbury Playhouse) and Richard III (Riverside Studios). He is co-founder and joint Artistic Director of Dead Centre, based between Dublin and London. He is also an associate artist with Company of Angels, and was winner of their Young Angels award. He was the inaugural winner of the Genesis Future Director Award at the Young Vic in 2012.

In the Night Time (Before the Sun Rises)
4th – 27th February 2015
Gate Theatre
11 Pembridge Road
Notting Hill Gate
London W11 3HQ
http://www.gatetheatre.co.uk/

Author

  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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