With BoxedIn presenting ‘Lobes’ on the 13th, 14th and 15th March, we caught up with director, Oli Savage to chat about the production, his experience directing it so far and to find out why we should make sure to get our hands on tickets when they go sale on Wednesday, 21st February at 3pm.
What did you love most about the script that made you want to direct ‘Lobes’?
I think that ‘Lobes’ is genuinely a really clever and beautiful piece of work. But more than that, it’s totally unique. The way that is discusses and deals with mental health through the lens of memory, and the juxtaposition it creates between our different understanding of the way that mental health is something that quite frankly I’ve never seen before at any level, and it’s something that I think is important to talk about.
I had that gut reaction when I read the script for the first time – Henry and I were on tour last summer with WOOD, and we were on a slow train down to North Devon when we asked if I’d read the script. I read it and I remember thinking…just ‘wow, this needs to be put on.’
Of course, Henry Roberts (the writer) is immeasurably talented, and his passion for the script and connection to it also made it easy to get excited.
What’s been your favourite part about working on this production?
I have to admit it’s quite hard to choose. I think overall though, it’s been an absolute pleasure working on a two-hander – I’ve never worked with such a small cast before, and the opportunity to do so has been both very challenging and very rewarding. Usually, in a bigger cast you can kind of hide behind the actors if you need to, or at least rely on their talent and support to pull the whole show through particularly tough sections. When there are two actors, there’s nothing to hide behind, and you need to get through the whole thing just the three of you.
And as I say, that’s both really challenging and really rewarding. It’s helped by the fact that Bailey and Anouska are two of the most intelligent and talented actors I’ve ever worked with – between them, they have really managed to keep driving everything forward.
Have you encountered any logistical challenges in directing ‘Lobes’, and how have you overcome these?
Oh absolutely. I don’t know who had the idea of trying to put the show on in the medical building but that’s definitely been a big challenge.
It’s always logistically challenging to book alternative spaces – especially in St Andrews where space is limited as it is, people often have concerns about using their spaces for anything other than their intended purpose. But Henry Rae (the technician of the multi-purpose lab in the medical building) has been an absolute god send. He is so positive and helpful, and he has been enthused about this project from the word go.
I guess the way we overcame these was primarily with perseverance and research. We tried about seven or eight different spaces before we finally managed to book the multi-purpose lab, and it was getting very disheartening. But it did pay off in the end, and we’ve ended up with an absolutely perfect space!
Why should people come and see ‘Lobes’?
I think there are a few reasons, but mainly it all boils down to one idea – ‘Lobes’ is different. The way the script works, the themes it addresses, the way it addresses them, everything down to the very space that it’s being performed in. I’ve actually spoken to a few of the student papers this week about exactly how it’s going to be different, so keep your eyes peeled for those publications!
What kind of environment do you try to create in the rehearsal room?
For me, the rehearsal room should be two things – a positive space, and a collaborative space. I work really hard when I’m planning rehearsals to find ways of making this happen.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that everything everyone says has to be positive – if something is bad, we can talk about it being bad, and there’s always space for improvement and banter and that. But I think it’s super important that everyone feels that they’re improving on the script as it goes.
And similarly, I think it’s really important to make sure that everyone is pulling in the same direction – fundamentally, a show is a group endeavor, and it makes it so much easier if everyone shares some ownership of that.
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given as a director?
There’s this book called Notes on Directing by Frank Hauser and Russell Reich, which I think is fantastic. And in it there’s this tip that’s changed how I work in a big way – it says “Assume that everyone is in a permanent state of catatonic terror.” I think that’s great advice, and it’s something that I try to remember in all aspects of my work.
Thanks goes to Oli for sitting down and discussing ‘Lobes’ – we can’t wait to show you what we’ve working on when the play goes up at the multi-purpose lab in the School of Medicine next month.
Tickets will be available from 3pm next Wednesday, 21st February. Make sure to follow our social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to be among the first to snap up those tickets and to watch the show come together, rehearsal by rehearsal.