Interview with director Josh Roche -
Josh Roche is the winner of the JMK Award 2017 for directing My Name is Rachel Corrie at the Young Vic Theatre. From 2011 - 2016 Josh was the Artistic Director of Fat Git Theatre and is currently Associate Director with Poleroid Theatre.
LPT: Would you describe PLASTIC as a coming of age play?
Josh: Plastic is a story about kids who are forced into adulthood. In that sense it’s a coming of age play, but really it’s a play about a different, tough, dangerous world - a world where you’re judged on a thousand arbitrary criteria before you walk into the classroom. I think the play suggests that the difficulties and traumas of school live with us, often longer than we like to admit. They grow into adult insecurities that can do mischief down the road.
Does the play actually contain some of the malleable stuff of its title?
It’s not a recycling drama, no. That masterpiece is yet to be written, perhaps it’ll be Ben Power's next opus. Does it contain any plastic? Well I don’t want to give anything away; it’s about children who have to live like adults and adults who can’t stop living like children. If that piques your interest then come and check it out.
With its extraordinary mix of drama and performance poetry, how do you as a director keep control of the story?
The mix actually offers you more control, provided you lean forward and try to understand the play. The metaphor we’re using in the room is that of a river; you can choose to step in or step out, but where the thing is going and at what pace, is entirely out of your control. You have to go with it - try to resist and you perish!
What are the specific challenges of this play for you as a director?
The space - pub theatres are utterly unique. They have extraordinary power as intimate theatres, places where you feel an acute sense of community with the people around you. However, they present a host of different quirks and niggles which a director ignores at their peril. I honestly believe it’s harder to direct actors in space at the Old Red Lion than it is at the Young Vic.
You’ve got a great cast to work with, who already have some impressive credits, what will they be bringing to the table?
They’re an extraordinary group and I can’t wait to see what they do with it. I work with what they provide so they’re bringing everything to the table, literally everything.
The play is set in an Essex school, which is very specific, how will this feature in the play?
It’s embedded right into the bones of the play. Kenny, who wrote it, grew up in Essex and has been writing from his roots for many years. His ear for the rhythms and delicacy of Essex language and slang is extraordinary and forms the basis of the spoken word aspect of the play.
Love the sound of urban folk law, is it anything like the book/film ‘The Beach’ which focuses on urban myth?
Sorry, no psychedelics and fewer sharks! No Leo either. It’s about young people and tribalism, but then so is Mulan.
The Old Red Lion is well known for impressive sets, is this something that will be important to your overall artistic vision of the play?
Sophie Thomas and I worked together on My Name is Rachel Corrie at the Young Vic recently, and we’ve taken a similar approach to this piece, creating a sort of physical system rather than a set. We’ve tried to create something abstract but specific which you sit inside. The set behaves differently at different times, unspooling and then reasserting itself at different points.
Old Red Lion is also known for its idiosyncrasy and offbeat energy, how will this be manifested in this play?
Idiosyncrasies and off-beats abound. And we’re proud to be honouring the tradition of the Old Red with that. It’s great to make work for a space with so much character, hopefully we can add to that.
And finally, what are you look forward to achieving with this play?
I’m looking forward to creating something moving, I hope. I want to move people to think about the way we treat young people, and how we belittle teenagers. Nothing is as difficult as growing up.
Plastic by Kenneth Emson
Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 St John Street, London EC1V 4NJ
Tuesday 3rd – Saturday 21st April 2018
Remember the moment you became an adult? Or did you miss it? Kev used to have a girlfriend called Lisa - she wore a fitted blazer and reebok classics and lit up the school yard. Kev used to be the captain of the school football team and he scored the winner in the All-Essex schools cup final. Ben used to get beaten up most days. He stole money from his mum’s purse to pay off ‘Wicksy’. Now he’s an accountant. But Ben always had Jack. His loyal, unbreakable mate Jack. Adults are the kids that survive school right? But what if some kids don’t?
Plastic is generously supported by Arts Council England, Royal Victoria Hall Foundation, Blyth Watson Charitable Trust and The Old Vic Theatre.