Thursday, 16 July 2015

Christian Dramaturgy: Christopher Haydon @ Edfringe 2015

The Christians
By Lucas Hnath 
3– 30 August
Traverse Theatre

Director: Christopher Haydon; Designer: Oliver Townsend; Lighting Designer: Mark Howland; Sound Designer: Elena Peña; Video Designer: Iona Firouzabadi         

Cast: William Gaminara (Pastor), Jaye Griffiths (Pastor’s Wife), Stefan Adegbola (Associate Pastor), Lucy Ellinson (Congregant) and David Calvitto (Elder)       
For the last twenty years, Pastor Paul has been building his church.

Starting in a modest storefront, he now presides over a flock of thousands. Idolised by his followers, today should be a day for joy and celebration. But the sermon that Paul is about to preach will shake the very foundations of his followers’ beliefs. As fractures spread throughout his congregation, Paul must fight to prevent his church from tearing itself apart.

This is the UK première of Lucas Hnath’s remarkable exploration of faith and community in the modern world. Featuring a full-scale community choir, it asks profound questions about what we believe and why.

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a
script or an object?
Christopher Haydon: I have always been fascinated by religion – though I have no faith myself, my mother is a vicar and I studied Theology at university. So Lucas’ script appealed to me instantly. I think his depiction of faith is unique in its nuance and sophistication. 

Although the play is set within an American evangelical church – which is quite different from the kind of Christianity we have in the UK, the underlying issues – about faith, community and leadership will ring true for everyone, even hardcore athiests!

I was also drawn to the show because it has great roles for actors – and so we have put a brilliant cast together. Jaye Griffiths, Lucy Ellinson and David Calvitto have all been to the festival before in shows that have won all sorts of critical acclaim and I have been wanting to work with William Gaminara again ever since he starred in The Body of An American at the Gate last year – which was a big hit for us.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
I have always loved the festival – I initially came as a student, and my first ever professional theatre job was as an assistant director at the Traverse in 2005. I then came as a punter pretty much every year until 2013 when we brought Grounded to the Traverse. I can’t think of anywhere as vibrant as Edinburgh during the festival – there is a kind of hysteria that takes hold and becomes quite addictive! 

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
Alongside our extraordinary cast the show features a full-scale community choir – so it should be quite a spectacle! The play deals with some really challenging ideas but does so through the prism of a series of really compelling characters. I think the script is deeply moving and takes a series of very unexpected turns. It certainly doesn’t pan out in the way that you might initially expect. It appeals to both the head and the heart and does all of this in a really surprising theatrical way.

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