Michael Frayn is a critically acclaimed playwright, novelist and journalist. His awards include a Tony Award for Best Play (1986) Laurence Olivier/BBC Award for Best New Play (1984) and lastly in 2011, a PEN/Ackerley Prize. Many of the angles of his writing is around the observation of humans and their ability for disorder and miscommunication. Frayn skilfully makes his observations through use of comedy. One such comedy, which is the source of our newest production is Alarms & Excursions. The premise is as follows:
Four old friends sit down for a quiet evening together. But they are harassed by various bells, sirens, buzzers, warbles, beepers and cheepers, all trying to warn them of something. What are these electronic voices so urgently trying to tell them? Can they understand the mysterious messages before disaster strikes? It’s a race against time — because there are seven more plays and twenty more characters still to come before the evening is through, plus more strange noises!
Our production stars Lauren Drennan, Shereener Browne, Dan Gaisford and David Hubball. During a much-deserved break, we spoke with Lauren about her time with us and her role in the play. What attracted Lauren to the Frayn script?
“Michael Frayn is one of our greatest playwrights, he has that ability to tap into the workings of the human brain whether it’s a comedy or a serious drama. The script is so well written and really does hold up a mirror to our weird little idiosyncrasies when it comes to how we deal with the world around us.”
“I was introduced to Michael’s work back in 2018 when I performed in ‘Here’ at Greenwich Theatre so when ‘Alarms and Excursions’ came along I was desperate to be on board. What’s different with this production is that it is made up of 8 short plays, which is another reason that attracted me. I was excited by the challenge of creating different characters and when I read the script it became clear that there would be lots of quick changes and frantic running about backstage. I reckon what goes on behind the set is nearly as funny to watch as what goes on in front of it!”
“I believe the main message contained within ‘Alarms and Excursions’ is how to handle relationships. Whether that’s our relationships with loved ones, friends, strangers or technology. A phrase which was mentioned a lot during rehearsals was ‘forced politeness’. A fundamentally British idea! We seem to be so afraid to hurt people’s feelings that we will go on and on being nice and polite even to the point where it can become maddening. I feel that the play will show you how not to behave in some situations and then in others there will certainly be moments of recognition.”
Ironically, in one of our evening’s performances, Alarms & Excursions came with its own…would you believe it, technical sound glitches! The play was delayed for a little while whilst our extremely talented technical crew, led by Caz Hampton, rallied to detect and solve the problem. It must have been a nerve-wracking time for Lauren; how on earth did she manage her own internal dialogue and/or nerves?!
“On our press night we were hampered by technical issues. We could not believe it! We had spent the past month rehearsing a play where many of the characters are tormented with badly behaved technology only to be scuppered by it for real. Talk about life imitating art… Naturally with the show being in its infancy and it also being press night we were all pretty nervous backstage but then to be told there will be a delay because of sound issues can cause added trepidation! Rather than succumb to the nerves I kept my focus and treated it like any other show and knowing that the brilliant tech team at Greenwich Theatre were on the case I could rest assured that we would be absolutely fine.”
The highest accolade in the acting world is coming up soon – yes the Academy Awards. We asked David about his favourite actor and what qualities did David think they brought to their roles?
“There are so many actors that I admire but my all-time favourite is Marlon Brando. He had a fearless quality which leapt off the screen and is definitely the godfather of modern acting (see what I did there?). Young Marlon was also exceptionally cool, I have tried in vain to emulate some of his coolness! My favourite performance of his is in ‘On the Waterfront’. An amazing film and it is his attention to detail and fierce performance which resonates even after all this time. ”
Alarms & Excursions returns from Wed 9th March, 7.30pm