Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Stigmatic Dramaturgy II: Wilson James

Wilson James

What was it about The Local Stigmatic that attracted you to it?
It was about a year ago, and our director Michael Toumey; who I’d worked with previously at the Guildford School of Acting, handed me this script and said, ‘you’ve got to read this play.’ From the first read, I was totally sold. Not only by the themes within the story, but just by the sheer detail and complexities of the characters. Here were two people that should not be able to exist together, and yet they cannot live without one another. It is testament to Heathcote for creating such diverse characters within a beautiful and almost poetic language. As an actor, it has been a real pleasure to speak these words. 

It deals with some heavy duty themes: how has the process of making

the show been for you? It is tough to deal with such intense ideas?
I think the beauty of this piece is that the themes that are rooted within the play are as relevant now as they were back then. If not more so. With the advances of technology in our modern era, themes such as celebrity obsession are seen constantly via social media and the press which, unfortunately, can provoke a sense of animosity. I suppose with regards to the heavier themes such as violence, anarchy and the rage stimulated by an unfair class system, I would say I have found it tough at times. The process has been an incredible journey. Especially in delving into a subculture so empowered by music and the sense freedom. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning about it, and listening to as many stories as my old man can remember! I guess the difficulty is constantly having to appreciate that their sense of empowerment is so strong, they are willing to do whatever it takes to tell this ‘system’ how they really feel. 

Do you feel that the characters you play reflect anything of your own personality or experiences?
I hope not! Haha! I suppose you’re constantly looking for ways to sympathise with your character. For me, playing a sociopath with nihilistic tendencies, I looked for the vulnerabilities in him. Harnessing onto the unfairness or loneliness we all feel at times, and then allowing that to influence the brutality and aggression that I feel is ingrained in all of us.
When dealing with the violence aspects, I used a piece of advice given to me by my screen acting tutor at G.S.A, Julia Carey. She said to me ‘Take the moment you squashed an ant as a child or swatted a wasp on the window, and put a magnifying glass over the situation.’ This stayed with me throughout this process, constantly helping me to intensify the rage within. 

How do you deal with that? 
I must admit, sometimes not too well. I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself. When you get offered the chance to perform in a piece like this, where the writing is so good, I feel a huge sense of responsibility. Every word or beat is golden. I like to throw myself in at the deep end with a character, and stay in that stream of consciousness for as long as I can, absorbing anything useful or insightful along the way. I suppose when you're dealing with someone like Graham who feels so much hate and isolation, it is very difficult to drop in and out of it. That has been the biggest challenge for me. Knowing when to let it go and not let it influence me. 

What is it that you enjoy about performing, that keeps you coming back to it?
I think it's a bit of an obsession with me. I honestly couldn't imagine doing anything else. It's not necessarily the performing aspect that makes me want to keep coming back, more the enjoyment of a story and bringing it to life. There's something incredibly fulfilling about working collaboratively with a group of people to create moments of real meaning that people can watch and allow it to have an effect on them. 

What role do you think theatre has in contemporary discussions of serious ideas?
What a question. One that I most definitely do not have enough experience to know the answer too. I suppose from what I have very briefly experienced I think theatre is completely subjective, everybody has their own opinion. Which in many cases is very similar to the serious ideas we look at throughout topics like education, politics and humanitarian issues.

I’ve always strongly believed that good theatre has the power to change you. Many times I have walked out of performances and it has made me question everything about myself and how I do it. Theatre has the potential to open up discussions and give them a platform in which to be debated on a higher level. It always comes back to a quote I love: ‘The earth without art is eh!?’

What experience do you think the audience will get from the show?
In all honesty, I'm not sure. I've never read anything like it. Our director Michael Toumey believes it's as good as any Pinter or Beckett he's read, and I totally agree with him. If I had to try and describe it to someone, I'd say it's a 'A Clockwork Orange' + 'Reservoir Dogs' x 'Dog Day Afternoon.' For me, regardless of whether they enjoy it or not, I think it will make them question. It lays our society bare for all to see, and that is something all generations can relate too. 


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