Writer Tim Cook chats with us about his critically acclaimed drama ADAM & EVE and its transfer to The Hope theatre
LPTmag: How did you go about updating ADAM & EVE the genesis story, for today’s audience?
Tim: I've always been fascinated by the original biblical story of Adam & Eve, especially by the themes of the story. It's a tale that everyone knows to some degree and is quite familiar with. I think there's a really interesting modern relevance to the themes of truth, temptation and sin. I wanted to explore the essence of the biblical story by placing it in a rural modern day setting. I was born and raised in Sussex and I wanted to tell the story of a young couple who are forced to move out of the city (due to rising costs and just how ridiculously unaffordable it is) and start a new life in the countryside in search of their dreams. I didn't strictly follow the original narrative, but it was certainly the inspiration point. The character of Eve frames this version of the story. I definitely see it as her story, told with a specific feminist purpose. The two worlds come head to head - traditional values and beliefs matched against 21st century living.
What was the particular need that you were addressing?
I really wanted to explore what it means to live in a post-truth society, but from a domestic, everyday perspective (from the point of view of a relationship). We see the effects of living in a post-truth world on TV, especially in terms of politics and the media, but how does that trickle down and change our everyday lives? In the play Adam is a teacher who gets accused of sexual harassment by a student. Through the course of the play the audience is presented with several different versions of the truth and they have to decide who or what version of events they believe. In writing Adam & Eve I wanted to find out how important truth really is in modern society. Does truth still matter to us? Has what we say become more important than what we do? There's generally so much noise in the world (on the news and on social media), that everything feels like an opinion piece. The play definitely questions that mentality and a society where rhetoric holds more weight than meaningful conversation.
What kind of writer’s devices have you used in telling the story?
This is a tricky question, as I don't want to give too much away! However, I'm drawn to the idea that a play tells you what to expect in the opening scene or opening few scenes. That definitely doesn't mean that it gives away the whole story, but there's lots of little clues in there about how things will unfold - a bit like Agatha Christie, but without the murders. With Adam & Eve I wanted to go against the narrative grain and play with the audience's expectations of what will happen to this young couple. I dislike narratives that are signposted, so every time I had the choice of where to take the story, I tried to go with the least obvious, or should I say most surprising one. There's twists and turns and it keeps you guessing until the very end.
Matthew Parker, Artistic Director at The Hope insists that all the shows that make it into his programming have theatricality. What does that mean to you?
To me it means two things, especially in relation to this production. Firstly, although the play appears to be naturalistic on paper, it gives us the license to be very creative with the design elements of the show. We want to create a world that is quite eerie and atmospheric for the audience. It's absolutely not a kitchen sink drama, it's more like a modern day fable or a twisted fairytale. Secondly, it means using the space at the Hope theatrically, to heighten the drama and the tension in the script. It's such a wonderfully intimate playing space, so we can be deliberate about bringing the audience into the action of the play and by choosing what to show them and what not to show. The theatricality of the play comes from what's not being said by the characters; the tension and stakes are slowly raised to breaking point. Although this isn’t strictly a theatre related example, I'm a big fan of Mike Bartlett's Doctor Foster. It’s gripping and frequently terrifying, but you can't take your eyes away from it. If audiences respond in a similar way to Adam & Eve then I would be very happy.
The five-star reviews of the show’s last run (at the Jack Studio Theatre) say it all for this show. What are the challenges of bringing it to a different theatre?
The play will definitely change during this transfer, partly due to the different space at the Hope, but we also have a really exciting new team on board, including a fantastic new director in Jennifer Davis. The first version of the play was very much a case of learning about how Adam & Eve works as a piece of theatre and how we tell that story to an audience. The success of the first run was surprising and wonderful in equal measure, because we went in without too many expectations. Now we’ve got a new team in place, we'll be approaching the show with a new vision. I find that really exciting, because we're trying to create something new, as opposed to taking the previous version of the show and presenting it in exactly the same way. Theatre is about pushing boundaries, so as a team we've tried to embrace that.
What do you particularly want to achieve through your writing in general (and this play)?
I want to start interesting conversations, especially amongst audience members and my peers. Hopefully Adam & Eve sparks the imagination of those people and gets them talking about the issues raised in the play. Perhaps it might even get people creating their own work in response, either directly or indirectly. As a writer, it's a wonderful opportunity to get my work out there on a bigger scale and see how the audience respond. It's a different kind of excitement to writing plays, which is a very solitary process - this is the really enjoyable part and also the most nerve-wracking.
As a writer what’s next for you?
I try to write one full-length play per year, so writing a new play is next on my to do list, but finding the time to write it might be a challenge. I think there's a balance between waiting for the story to find you as a writer and going in search of it. I tried to actively seek out my next story earlier in the year, but found I was trying to force it too much. I had lots of ideas, but nothing I wanted to commit two months of my life for. I’ve got a few producing and directing projects coming up, so I'll wait until the time feels right. I don't want to rush the process. I don't believe in writing for the sake of it.
Where would you like to be in ten years time?
There's plenty I’d like to achieve in the industry. I’ve always wanted to run my own theatre, but I’m open to my goals changing and evolving over time. Ten years ago I never thought I’d be where I am now. Ultimately, as long as I’m still writing and making theatre with people who inspire me, then I’ll be happy. I’d like to keep supporting emerging writers too, that’s something I am very passionate about doing through my work as a dramaturg.
How important is it for you to develop your work on the pub theatre circuit?
It's so crucially important to my practice and my career, that I can't overstate it really. All of my plays have been staged at pub theatres in one version or another. Pub theatres are the lifeblood of the fringe theatre scene. It’s so important for this generation and the next generation of theatre makers that the pub theatre circuit continues to thrive.
Finally, what should we be particularly looking out for when we come to see ADAM & EVE?
Apart from watching our incredible cast, you should look out for Nutella. There’s lots of Nutella.
Adam & Eve
The Hope Theatre 22 May - 9 June 2018
Newlyweds Adam & Eve are moving to the countryside, leaving the city behind for good. But when Adam is suspended from work, they’re forced to question how well they really know each other. Adam & Eve is a startling new play about trust, feminism and the nature of accusations from award-winning Royal Court Young Writer Tim Cook.
I really wanted to explore what it means to live in a post-truth society"