Thursday, 6 January 2011
Spotlight on... Jethro Compton and The Boy James
Tell us about The Boy James – how did it go in Edinburgh?
I think we’d all agree that the show was a success at the Fringe. We were lucky enough to play to full houses for every performance and received some really positive reviews (as well as a couple of comically awful ones). It was the first time ‘The Boy James’ had been seen by anyone; we didn’t do previews prior to Edinburgh so we literally had no idea what to expect. For us the play was about so many things; we spent a lot of time in rehearsals trying to work out all its meaning and what lay beneath the surface. I think one of the most important things we missed was the emotional potential that the play holds. In our first public dress in Edinburgh we were shocked and delighted when half the audience left completely broken by the story. We hadn’t anticipated such a reaction. I’m glad to say that it was a reaction that continued throughout the month.
You played the Boy in Edinburgh. How does it feel coming back to a role after almost five months off?
I’ve loved every second of it. To be able to come back to the show after such a long time has given me the chance to look at it in a completely different way. I can’t just remember how I did it before; I’ve got to rediscover it. A lot of what existed in the Edinburgh production has returned but a lot more has been added. We’ve had the time to take what we already know and find more to build on top of what we have. The cast has changed slightly as well, so we’ve not simply been rerehearsing it. For Lucy as the Girl it’s been a case of starting afresh and I think that’s definitely challenged the rest of us to push ourselves even further.
You don’t sell yourself as an actor, rather a producer. Why do you want to take on and continue this role?
I’ve taken a break since the Fringe to give me more time to focus on producing but I always said that if the opportunity came up again I’d definitely want the chance to play the Boy again. I think part of the reason is that I felt in Edinburgh I didn’t get the chance to put everything into the character; as well as performing in two other shows, writing two shows and directing two, I also produced The House Above and the eight shows that were part of it. The amount of time available to me was so limited that I never even once had a chance to look at a script outside of rehearsals; working fifteen to twenty hour days for three weeks straight meant free time was such a rarity that I felt it should be used for sleep rather than anything else. Now there’s a chance to go back to the play and to the character with the time they deserve I couldn’t really say no.
It’s a very intimate piece. Is it difficult to create a relationship with the audience that is so seriously jeopardised, or changed, by the end of the play?
The first time an audience filed in for the show I was absolutely petrified. One of the real difficulties with any of our shows is that you can’t really rehearse until that moment. It says in the script to ‘play with the audience’, and until you have that audience you can only imagine what that moment’s go to be like. I was so relieved to discover that the audience seemed more than happy to oblige, they laughed and played along and offered everything they could. I think creating a relationship with any audience is hard, however, it’s the focus of such a large part of ‘The Boy James’ so I think it comes quite naturally. Once it’s there, jeopardising it or changing it is outside of the Boy’s control. For me as an actor I don’t feel it’s a difficult change, but maybe one that does leave me feeling a little guilty.
Is it worth watching, especially as you were only here two months ago?
Absolutely. ‘The Boy James’ is so different from the shows that featured in the Belt up Season in November. That’s why it sits alone. I think it’s a show that will appeal to all. There is something in ‘The Boy James’ that clearly has a truly emotional impact on its audience. I can’t say what it is, not because I’m not allowed but because I’m not able. There is something here that can only be felt when you make the journey and go along with the Boy’s adventure. I can’t encourage you enough.