Between the Lines: An Intervention
BETWEEN THE LINES – AN INTERVENTION: A weekly look at the creative process through a literary lens.
WHEN SHOULD WE INTERVENE?
Among other themes, An Intervention examines the lengths two friends are willing to go for one another. As director Lila Neugebauer led the charge on the production in Williamstown, WTF Literary Assistant Rachel Wiegardt-Egel caught up with playwright Mike Bartlett to get his thoughts on the origin of the piece, the rotating casts, and what he hopes American audiences will experience during the play.
[RACHEL WIEGARDT-EGEL] What was the inspiration for the play?
[MIKE BARTLETT] For a long time, I wanted to write a playful two-hander about friendship and the nature of responsibility. Then, when I realized the parallels with a wider political context—that’s when it became a play. I needed to find the relationship between the two of them—the power struggles, and their (platonic) love for each other.
[RW] It’s so rare that we see a play about platonic friendship—how did that come to be the central relationship?
[MB] Precisely because it’s a more rare thing to explore. That’s exactly what interests me. I’ve had wonderful, strange, enriching friendships with all sorts of people—I think most people have—and I wanted to write about that.
[RW] The personal and the political are so intertwined in the play, but the political situation is left unspecified and the characters can be played by actors of any age, gender, or ethnicity—did you know you wanted to leave it open-ended from the beginning or did that come to you at some point along the way?
[MB] It was always like that—to make us focus on the relationship, rather than the specifics of character, and similarly, to think about the theme of military intervention as a concept, rather than the detailed specifics of a particular situation. The actors need to know the specifics but for the play to work and focus on the right things, I don’t think the audience should.
[RW] How did casting work in the previous production? What’s most interesting or exciting to you about having two rotating casts?
[MB] The previous cast was quite simply one woman and one man. The casting is open so that the play can be refracted differently according to the age/gender/ethnicity of the people playing the roles. Having a rotating cast is fascinating, particularly in a festival context where it’s easier for audience members to see the two different versions.
[RW] How do you hope the play will impact an American audience?
[MB] I hope they’ll feel something and also think something. British and American audiences are (and should be) particularly concerned with ideas of interference versus responsibility—and it’s an unresolved debate that crosses political party lines and friendships equally. When should we intervene?
[Bottom Photos: Paul Fox]