Review: Frankenstein at the Jack Studio Theatre

It’s quite a feat to breathe new life into one of the world’s most popular and iconic novels – but there’s no doubt Arrows & Traps’ Ross McGregor has succeeded with his adaptation of Frankenstein. Like the novel, it tells both Frankenstein’s and the Creature’s story, but reframes these within a fascinating insight into the life of their creator, Mary Shelley. The result is thrilling, poignant, often surprisingly funny and – unsurprisingly – visually beautiful, and it allows us to consider the themes of the novel in a whole new way.

Photo credit: Davor Tovarlaza @ The Ocular Creative

In fact, this is much more Mary’s story than it is Frankenstein’s, and the always brilliant Cornelia Baumann leads the cast with a moving portrayal of the troubled writer, now older and suffering with ill health and bad memories. Drawn into a passionate romance with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley when she was still a teenager, despite the disapproval of society and the attempts of her father William Godwin to keep them apart, she went on to face the tragic loss of three of her four children, a near-fatal miscarriage and then the death of her husband in a shipwreck not long afterwards. In light of all this, it makes sense that the adaptation of her novel focuses primarily on the relationship between parent and child, and invites us to question what it is that makes someone a parent in the first place.

A real highlight of the show is seeing Will Pinchin – the Arrows’ Movement Director – take to the stage for the first time as the Creature. Having admired his work in many previous productions, it’s great to see it in the flesh, and his performance proves to be worth the wait. Unlike the classic Hollywood portrayal of Frankenstein’s Monster who was “born” evil, this Creature starts out as a gentle soul, a frightened, child-like figure eager to learn and play. It’s the rejection of those he loves that creates the monster, and Pinchin’s cold fury and sharp intellect in the play’s later scenes are far more chilling than any lumbering movie depiction. Christopher Tester’s Frankenstein, meanwhile, undergoes a similar transformation from a likeable, earnest young geek to an obsessive genius, capable of creating life but not appreciating its true worth.

With three interwoven stories, all taking place at different times and in different locations and a lot of historical information to digest, there are occasions when it becomes a little hard to follow; some knowledge of the novel is also probably an advantage to help pinpoint where we are in the chain of events. But the skill of the actors (and a few swift wardrobe changes) ensures that despite some significant multi-roling – particularly from Oliver Brassell, who plays no fewer than four major characters – we can always identify who we’re looking at.

Photo credit: Davor Tovarlaza @ The Ocular Creative

Another bonus is the presence of some strong female characters. Shelley’s novel is dominated by men, but here we have not only Mary herself but also her two sisters Fanny and Claire – as well as Agatha, the young blind woman who teaches the Creature to speak and read. Played by Zoe Dales, she’s enjoyably feisty and sarcastic, but also a rare source of compassion in a world that’s far too quick to reject them both just because they’re different.

As in all Arrows productions, there’s also a lot going on visually – from Odin Corie’s steampunk-inspired costumes to Ben Jacobs’ lighting design, which combined with sound from Alistair Lax creates some striking moments. Most impressive is the sequence in which the Creature first comes to life; it never fails to amaze how this company can create such drama on such a small stage.

Frankenstein is the first Arrows show written by artistic director Ross McGregor, who must be feeling a certain sympathy for Mary Shelley seeing his baby come to life on stage every night. But I don’t think this ingenious creation will be turning on its parent any time soon.

Frankenstein is at the Jack Studio Theatre until 21st October, then the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre from 2nd-4th November.

Interview: Ross McGregor, Frankenstein

Arrows & Traps were last seen at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre in February with their acclaimed production of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Now they’ve turned their attention to another classic novel: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

“It’s the 200 year anniversary of Mary Shelley’s original novel, so it seemed a great time to tackle the piece,” says director and writer Ross McGregor. “Frankenstein is so iconic as well, it’s ingrained in our literary and cinematic history, and there’s been over 100 different adaptations both on stage and screen. It’s such a flexible and deep piece of literature – I found the ideas that Shelley talks about in the novel to be fascinating and worthy of dramatic exploration. Plus, it’s just so much fun to do. There’s literally a scene when a monster made of dead people comes to life. You don’t get that in Alan Ayckbourn.”

Frankenstein is the eleventh show from Arrows & Traps, known for their innovative adaptations of literary classics – and it could be their most ambitious project yet. “In many ways, it has all the hallmarks of an Arrows show: the tight ensemble work, the physical pieces, the fluid staging and the excitement of seeing a classic story told in a new, and hopefully interesting, way,” says Ross. “What makes Frankenstein different from anything we’ve done before is that we’re telling three stories at once. Victor’s, The Creature’s, but also Mary Shelley’s. It’s a triple narrative all being told simultaneously, which makes for some exciting viewing.

“Also, this is the first production that I’ve actually written myself, as well as directing it, so rehearsals have been a voyage of discovery in terms of staging the piece, finding what works, what needs clarifying, and how best to tell the stories we want to tell. It’s been a fascinating and gruelling process of vision and revision. I’m slowly learning the importance of being able to kill your darlings.

“There are moments when it is as though the ghosts in my head are literally manifesting in front of me, which is very moving and humbling, and there is always a great relief when a particular bit or a specific scene is rehearsed and it ‘works’. So often what might look acceptable on paper doesn’t then work in performance, so it’s always lovely to see something that translates and makes the leap. The cast is bringing an awful lot to the roles though, and I’m constantly surprised by all the new layers they’re discovering. It’s been a joy to be involved in.”

Ross explains that in his research for the show, he became fascinated by the story of Mary Shelley: “Her world was filled with characters such as Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, her father William Godwin, her mother Mary Wollstonecraft, her sisters Jane and Fanny, Shelley’s wife Harriet – all of these people would have made a great play in their own right – but what principally struck me was the notion of all the strange parallels in her own life to Frankenstein. Now Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was nineteen, and although there were definitely things in her childhood that inspired her to write the book, her subsequent life after the novel’s publication shared many strange links to the book, almost as though she cursed herself by writing it. The more I delved into the real story around Frankenstein, the more I wanted to include it in the play.

“So yes, Mary is a main character in the show. And not just as a narrator, she has a part to play in it. She’s older now, suffering from a terminal brain tumour in fact, and is tormented by something that happened in her youth. Something that ties directly into Frankenstein. And so as we see the story of Victor and his Creature unfold, we also see Mary relive her past, with the cast playing roles in both worlds, leaping from one timeline to the other. It’s something of a rollercoaster to watch. I’m very excited about it.”

In adapting the novel, Ross encountered various challenges – one of which was sidestepping the traditional Hollywood image of Frankenstein’s monster. “Initially, I was very faithful,” he explains. “I had always seen the Creature as this lumbering, bolts in the neck, flat-headed lummox that groaned at people, but in the novel, he’s very graceful and agile. The Creature in the novel is very eloquent and possibly as smart as his creator. I wanted to try and mimic that, because I hadn’t found a version where that had ever been attempted.

“In the novel also, there’s no motivation for Victor’s need to create this monster – he just does it because he can. So I knew I wanted to humanise Victor and make him more sympathetic, more flawed, more human, more understandably motivated. So it’s been about balancing those two things. Also, the novel itself isn’t very dramatic and doesn’t lend itself easily to being dramatised. The iconic bits that you probably think of when you think of ‘Frankenstein’ are not from the novel. There’s no ‘IT’S ALIVE!’, there’s no character called Igor, there’s not even any mention of the Creature being scarred or covered in stitches or bolts. All of that is from the films.

“The novel concerns itself with ideas of nature versus nurture, of the perils of parenthood and the isolation caused by abandonment. The hubris of genius. So in adapting it, I have tried to stay true to Mary Shelley’s vision, whilst constructing something that stands on its own two feet as a piece of theatre. And from being in rehearsal, I can certainly tell you we’re making something inherently theatrical.”

The show’s cast includes a mix of Arrows veterans and new recruits: “The brilliant Christopher Tester plays Victor Frankenstein; Arrows fans may recall his recent performance as Raskolnikov in our last production Crime and Punishment, for which he was nominated for an Off West End Award for Best Male. We have the incredibly talented Cornelia Baumann returning to play Mary Shelley, after her recent turn as Olivia and Emilia in our repertory Shakespeare season of Twelfth Night and Othello last year, and we are honoured to have our resident movement director genius Will Pinchin playing the Creature, which I’m so excited about as I’ve wanted to get Will on stage in one of our shows for years. 

“We have Philip Ridout, of this year’s festival circuit hit Dogged fame, playing William Godwin, and recent Oxford School of Drama graduate Victoria Llewellyn playing Elizabeth Lavenza. I recently had the honour of directing for Fourth Monkey Theatre Company as part of their One Year Actor Training program so we’ve got three of their very talented graduates involved: Zoe Dales playing Agatha, Beatrice Vincent playing Fanny Imlay and Oliver Brassell playing Henry Clerval. It is an honour to have all these guys involved and the benefit of knowing who the cast were when the script was still under construction was that I could write it with them in mind and tailor it to them.”

With Halloween just around the corner, theatregoers in search of something a bit scary are likely to have plenty of options – so why should we book to see Frankenstein? Over to the writer: “It’s a gothic steampunk horror set in two different timelines, playing just before Halloween, in one of London’s most iconic and welcoming fringe venues, by a company that cares greatly for the source material and has spent the last three years working to hone their skills and push fringe theatre to the limit of what it can do in terms of ensemble, spectacle and excitement. Frankenstein is quite scary, quite funny, quite sad, and very very exciting. I’d definitely go, and I’m rubbish with scary things.”

Frankenstein opens at the Brockley Jack on 26th September, continuing until 21st October, followed by a brief run at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford from 2nd-4th November.

Interview: Arrows & Traps, Twelfth Night and Othello

Over the past three years, Arrows & Traps have become well known for their unique adaptations of Shakespeare and other classic works – most recently Macbeth and Anna Karenina. But the company’s latest project is their most ambitious to date, as they prepare to perform Twelfth Night and Othello in repertory at Highgate’s Upstairs at the Gatehouse this November.

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The decision to take on two plays simultaneously stemmed from director Ross McGregor’s interest in exploring the duality in Shakespeare’s work. “Shakespeare’s comedies are not just simply throwaway funny things that end in orgiastic shotgun weddings. His tragedies are not just gloomy tear-stained stab fests. Iago, the antagonist in Othello, is darkly funny whilst he does unspeakable things to innocent people, and the comic treatment of Malvolio in Twelfth Night descends into dark cruelty and manipulation. The blending of light and dark seemed to be interesting to explore.

“But it was also a practical decision. If I was asking audiences to come back and see a second show, I wanted to provide a varied menu. Twelfth Night is an unrelenting carnival fun fair of laughter, love and lyricism – and it’s also a full blown musical – whereas Othello is a psychological thriller, set in a hyper-sexualised, racist and cut-throat world of politics and militia. So I thought people would enjoy seeing the same ten people navigate the different worlds and present two sides of the same coin: the birth and demise of love.”

Of course, performing two plays at once brings with it new challenges: “I’m currently running a sweepstake on which of the cast comes onstage in the wrong costume and says the wrong opening line,” says Ross. “It does impose more time constraints on us; we have to work faster, move on quicker, correct and evaluate with more brevity, there’s less room to devise and experiment. Choices are still being made, options are still being explored, but there is now a much more pressing sense of the need for producing work each day and drawing a line under it.

“The line-learning element doesn’t seem to be too much of an issue; I’ve structured the castings so that each actor has a main role in one of the shows, and a supporting part in the other, so no-one is drowning under a tidal wave of iambic pentameter. We use the same set for both, so I suppose that might challenge us to create different stage pictures across the two shows, but with the material being so different, and the characters each actor plays being so contrasting, I haven’t noticed any repetition. In fact, there’s some nice echoes in there across the shows, for instance the bed that Pearce Sampson (Orsino) woos Pippa Caddick (Viola) in is the same one where he (now as Iago) contrives her death (as Desdemona). So I’m enjoying that aspect of it.”

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Anna Karenina

Unusually, the cast for the two plays features only two new faces: “We usually have more, but this project seemed to represent the culmination of the last three years, so I wanted to show that in the casting. We have David Grace, playing the lusciously adorable and insipid Sir Andrew in Twelfth Night, and then the lovesick puppet Rodorigo in Othello, an altogether darker and more tragic role. I’ve been a fan of David for about two years, so it’s an honour to finally get to work with him. He brings an energy and dedication to his work, he’s one of the most specific actors I’ve ever heard in terms of his delivery and responses to the text; he’s flourishing as an Arrow and it’s a pleasure to support.

“Then we have Lloyd Warbey playing Feste in Twelfth Night – the lady’s fool and her “corrupter of words”, and Lodovico in Othello. You may be familiar with Lloyd from his work on Art Attack on the Disney Channel, and he’s worked all over the country, so it’s a privilege to have him involved. For Feste, you need a showman, an entertainer and a comedian, and yet there’s a melancholic sadness to him; he’s broken, lonely and jaded, and it’s great to see Lloyd switch in and out, hear him spin the language with a cheeky grin on his face.

“The other eight members of the cast are my core members, the people I would trust with any script, and the people that without them there would be no Arrows & Traps. There’s no greater gift for a director than having a cast like this. They’re a pleasure to see every day, and the amount of effort and energy they put into both shows is humbling.”

As always, the Arrows are keen to delve into the text and find something fresh and original: “I think the main element of Twelfth Night that feels new to me is the darker and melancholic elements. I’ve seen quite a lot of productions of the play that focus on the comedy but ignore the other elements. Shakespeare first staged Twelfth Night on the anniversary of the baptism of his own twin children, one of whom had drowned several years before. I think this was deliberate. On one of the days of the year where he perhaps thought of his son the most, Shakespeare put on a play where two twins find each other again after both nearly drowning. There’s a wish-fulfilment, a consoling father fantasy in that which is heartbreakingly sad. Twelfth Night to me is a dreamscape where your wildest dreams can come true, where gender and sexuality are fluid and transient, where chaos flies with majestic abandon.

“In terms of Othello, I wanted to examine what it means to be a Moor in modern times. So often, we take the word “Moor” to simply refer to someone’s race, to be black or North African, but it originally referred to their faith – that they were Muslim. We’re staging this in November, during the month where Donald Trump may or may not become leader of the most powerful nation in the world – a man who’s built a campaign on fear-mongering against Muslims, a man who campaigns for power on the promise that he will exclude, interrogate and remove people of a particular religion. Othello seems timely to me in that regard.

“I also wanted especially to show Desdemona in a better light. So often she’s portrayed as this weak, blonde willowy girl who meekly accepts her own murder, but to me she’s incredibly strong-willed and independent. She goes against her father for the man she loves, she rejects prejudice and society’s expectations of her and is unwilling to let it oppress or minimise her. She’s seduced by stories of battle and violence, tales of the unexpected and grotesque, which to me shows that this is an adventurous, outspoken, and vivacious young woman, and I wanted to show a Desdemona like that, which is something I’d never seen before.”

Macbeth
Macbeth

And now for the big question – to see just one play, or both? “I’ve directed the two shows to be able to stand on their own two feet independently of each other, but there’s something exciting about seeing both,” Ross suggests. “There are also five days in the run where you can see both in the same day, which would be something of a marathon, but since the Gatehouse is above a pub, you can have dinner in-between, have a drink and make a day of it.

“But if you could only see one of them, you have a choice between a clown-filled chaotic musical of love and passion and confusion, or a darkly thrilling study of the breakdown of a relationship in a violent and brutal society. They’re two hours each, so we’re not talking about a four-hour snore fest, but two fast-paced, visceral rollercoasters. Of course, the producer in me would like to add that if you book for both you get £2 off your second ticket…”

Book now for Twelfth Night and Othello from 1st-19th November.

Review: The Gospel According to Philip, Theatre N16

For Arrows & Traps, known for their popular adaptations of Shakespeare and other classic works of literature, The Gospel According to Philip is unfamiliar territory. A brand new comedy written by Richard Melchior and Heidi Svoboda, the play couldn’t be more different to the company’s last two shows: a bloody and politically charged Macbeth, preceded by a gripping adaptation of Tolstoy’s epic novel, Anna Karenina.

So, a bit of a gamble perhaps for Arrows director Ross McGregor, but did it pay off? Absolutely.

Photo credit: Davor Tovarlaza
Photo credit: Davor Tovarlaza
To be more exact, The Gospel According to Philip left me wondering why it took Arrows & Traps so long to tackle their first outright comedy. Not to mention giggling all the way home over the brilliantly bonkers dance routines. (If you need only one reason to see this show, make it the unforgettable sight of Jesus Irish dancing. You’re welcome.)

The play is an irreverent re-imagining of the story of Jesus and his disciples, leading up to the crucifixion, all set down in often quite unnecessary amounts of detail by Philip, the newest member of the gang. Will Mytum, who plays the eager apostle, is irresistible from the moment he steps on stage – even before he opens his mouth, he has us laughing with his earnest expression and childlike excitement… and he only gets more adorable as the play goes on.

As in previous Arrows productions, every member of the cast excels, with most of them taking on multiple roles, and all proving themselves to be gifted comedians. Adam Elliott is full of charisma as bad boy Judas, while Elle Banstead Salim is a whirlwind of energy as feisty chatterbox Mary Magdalene (and also puts in a couple of fantastic cameos as a bride upstaged by Jesus at her own wedding, and Pontius Pilate’s Catherine Tate-inspired receptionist). Alex Stevens has perhaps the most challenging role as Paul, whose wildly homophobic language only thinly veils his private confusion and vulnerability. And then there’s Jesus, played by Pearce Sampson, master of the beatific smile, albeit often through gritted teeth, who grows increasingly frustrated as the disciples persist in asking awkward questions he can’t answer.

Photo credit: Davor Tovarlaza
Photo credit: Davor Tovarlaza
Which brings us to the message at the heart of a play that’s undoubtedly very funny, but has a serious point to make as well. In a scene that even the script acknowledges is a bit preachy and makes everyone uncomfortable, a smiley, likeable Devil (Olivia Hanrahan-Barnes) paints a vivid picture for Jesus of the bleak future ahead, in which human beings will commit acts of horrifying violence in the name of their faith – but even this can’t deter him from the path laid out for him. Later, Jesus asks Matthew Harrison-James’ Geordie-accented God (who has a few issues of his own to work out) why he has to die in such a horrific way, and – while clearly dissatisfied with the response – goes ahead and does it anyway, because that’s The Plan.

Perhaps it sounds like Melchior and Svoboda’s play is anti-religion, or out to cause offence. It’s true that it plays fast and loose with the Bible as we know it – although I must admit I quite enjoy the idea that the Last Supper might have consisted of crisps and rum instead of bread and wine. But ultimately, the unexpectedly sombre final speech of an older, wiser Philip is one of acceptance. Some people have faith; some don’t, and ultimately it doesn’t really matter – as long as we exercise caution. Believing something just because “it is written”, without question, is just as dangerous as believing nothing at all – and that’s a rule that could be applied to all kinds of things, not just religion.

The Gospel According to Philip is witty, cheeky, sometimes very silly and ultimately pretty challenging. And it’s been brought to life for the very first time by a company who, it seems, can turn their hand to just about anything. Including Irish dancing, apparently.

The Gospel According to Philip is at Theatre N16 until 8th September.

Interview: Arrows & Traps, The Gospel According to Philip

“It’s a modern Life Of Brian, but with sharper knives,” explains Ross McGregor, Director of Arrows & Traps. Following their recent critically acclaimed production of Macbeth at New Wimbledon Studio, the company are turning their attention to something very different for their next project.

“The Gospel According To Philip is the story of a young man, Philip, who decides to join the Apostles, a secret club of men, and follow a new messiah called Jesus. The story is told from his perspective as it charts Jesus’s final weeks on earth, running to his crucifixion.”

The production began with an approach from one of the writers, Richard Melchior. “I’ve known Richard for about 10 years; we worked together early in our careers doing regional tours in East Anglia. He brought this script to me just after his co-writer, Heidi Svoboda, tragically passed away, and asked me if there was any way to get this performed, as he was really proud of it. Initially I was just interested in it from a personal level, as I’ve always been a fan of Richard’s work, but when I started to actually read it, I was blown away. The satire is wonderfully drawn and subtle enough to make you think, and these iconic, almost mythical people are so recognisable but also feel completely fresh.

“You have the different character dynamics at work in terms of the apostles, and what Richard and Heidi have done, in a stroke of genius, is to transform Jesus and his disciples into a weary primary school teacher trope trying to control a group of unruly children, which gives it so much life. You have Peter as the teacher’s pet, the smart alec filled with impossible questions in Matthew, Judas as the cool kid smoking at the back of the classroom, the remedial dunce in James, the closeted gay man in Paul, and Philip as the new kid at school. It’s a fantastic re-imagining of how the Bible should have gone.

“I was so impressed with the quality of the writing and the machine-gun-like frequency of the punchlines. It’s one of the best comedies I’ve read in quite a while – but then when the ending comes, the poignancy and sense of loss is devastating. When I realised this ending reflected Richard’s loss of Heidi after she died, and that this might be the only chance of her work being performed now – I knew I had to take it on myself.”

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Offie-nominated Arrows & Traps are known for their productions of classics, particularly Shakespeare, so the new show marks quite a departure from tradition. “This isn’t an Arrows show in the expected sense – it isn’t Shakespeare, there are no extended movement pieces, we’re not subverting a classic or switching genders – but hopefully we will retain enough of what has made the last six shows so successful and bring you a recognisable Arrows-shaped piece of entertainment – which I think means that I want to take characters that you think you know, and show you their humanity and vulnerability in a new way, whilst entertaining you senseless.

“In Arrows shows we normally try to take an old story and tell it in a new way, but with this, that exact action has already been performed by the writers before we got our hands on it. They took the Bible, spun it on its head and created The Gospel According To Philip. So the Arrows spin is done without an Arrow having to lift a finger. All we have to do now is bring it to life in the most fair and honest way possible. And make sure it’s funny, of course. Has to be funny.”

Staging a piece of new writing for the first time brings with it a new kind of pressure: “I’m wary of doing this one justice, as it’s the first time the script has ever been performed, and whilst we don’t have the shadows of hundreds of other past productions looming over us like we usually do with Shakespeare, this one seems even more important to get right because I really want this little show to have a great future, and go from strength to strength in years to come, whatever shape that might take. It’s a great piece, and deserves a long life.

“On the other hand, there might be less pressure in terms of reviews and audiences, because with Shakespeare that’s always massive. On our last show, Macbeth, the vision and direction that the witches would take absolutely plagued me in the preparation stages, because they’re so iconic, everyone has their version of what they should be like… it was very hard to try to honour those views, honour the world of our play, serve the narratives that the text has, and also show something new with them. Lots of pressure. So Philip doesn’t have that. Or perhaps it does! I mean, doesn’t everyone kind of have a preconceived notion of what Jesus looks like? In the west, he’s a Brad Pitt-esque, blue-eyed, golden-haired white man. So I guess there’s always pressure.”

Arrows & Traps’ fanbase of “devoted trappers” will, as always, spot some familiar faces in the cast. “A massive part of what makes an Arrows & Traps show so special is the people in it. We are a repertory company in the sense that there’s a core base of people involved, but we always try to mix it up with new actors, so it stays fresh.

“We have Pearce Sampson playing Jesus, a very talented funny actor whom people may recognise as our Porter and Lennox from Macbeth, and bright young star Alex Stevens playing Paul – he was our Malcolm in Macbeth and our Demetrius in Titus Andronicus. The deliciously watchable Adam Elliott plays Judas; audiences at the Jack will remember him as Karenin, the husband in our Anna Karenina, and in the title role of Philip we have Will Mytum, a great actor renowned on the Off West End circuit, who previously played Vronsky in our Anna Karenina, and Chiron in Titus Andronicus. We have Elle Banstead-Salim playing Mary Magdalene, coming hot off of finishing her brilliant turn as Lady Macduff and Witch in Macbeth, and Gareth Kearns playing Matthew. Gareth has been involved in every Arrows show so far, and recently it was my honour to watch his 100th performance with us. There’s no-one I’d rather have on this project than Gareth, as he’s perfectly suited for it.

“And then lastly we have three new actors, Tom Telford, Matthew Harrison-James, and Olivia Hanrahan-Barnes, all of whom I’ve auditioned in the past and was impressed by – it was just about getting the right role at the right time, which we’ve now found. I guess that’s a lesson in perseverance for any actor out there feeling like it’s too tough in the industry right now. We do listen, and we do remember, and we always come back to you when the time is right. So really, this amalgamation of both old and new faces is perhaps the thing about the show that I’m most looking forward to, because there is literally no weak link in these guys.”

Why should audiences come and see The Gospel According to Philip? “A brilliant tagline a friend used when I told her about the show was Passion Of The Christ With Jokes. If that doesn’t make you want to buy a ticket, then you’re dead inside. Also, supporting brilliant and passionate fringe venues like the Brockley Jack and Theatre N16 is so important if we want places like this to keep offering their communities such diverse and arresting art on their doorsteps.

“The play might make you think, but it will definitely make you laugh. It’s a great night out at the theatre. And the themes that it raises are exactly the things that we should be talking about right now. The world is a scary place, and terrible machinations are threatening to pull us apart as a human race. Faith is often held up as a banner or scapegoat for cruelty and hatred, and really, for things as old as religion, we need to go back to the start and look at what happened and learn from it. There’s something terrifying about the way that all the different religions have become so ingrained in our culture, our faiths, and yet really – every single one of them started as a flawed, wobbly cult, a series of men meeting in dark rooms telling stories and writing down rules for life. I think this play has a lot to say about our modern world, about those of us who are lost, and about where we should draw our strength from.

“Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a night of theological debate – there’s too many cock jokes in it for that. But as with the best of our satire, and I think Terry Pratchett may hold that crown for me, beneath the jokes and laughter there’s always a question, a poke in the ribs, something to argue about on the way home.”

Looking ahead, the rest of the season marks a return to more traditional fare, with the unique Arrows flavour that audiences have come to know and love. “The Broken Crown Season is epic. It’s massive. And it’s going to be the best work we’ve ever done. For me, the Broken Crown symbolises not just the fall of a king, but the breakdown and hollowness of responsibility, power and promise. It’s about ambition and the price that comes with it. It’s about kings, and gods, and leaders, but also relationships and trust. We’ve started things off with Macbeth, an obvious choice to get things rolling, now we’re tackling Jesus and the birth of Christianity, and after that we open our first true repertory double bill with Twelfth Night and Othello, performed simultaneously at Upstairs at the Gatehouse, on alternate nights over three weeks in November by the same cast. It’s going to be amazing fun, particularly on double show days where we do both texts.

“In the new year, we bring a modern horror-story vision of Frankenstein set in two different time periods, flicking in and out of a pair of narratives, and we finish with a thriller award-winning adaptation of Crime & Punishment, which has been boiled down into an action-packed, edge of your seat, 90-minute, three-hander, which I cannot wait to do, personally, as the script is electric. After that… watch this space.  The Arrows have plenty more stories to tell.”

Catch The Gospel According to Philip at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre from 30th August-3rd September, and Theatre N16 from 4th-8th September.