Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Stigmatic Dramaturgy: William Frazer @ Red Lion

The Local Stigmatic

Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 St John Street, London EC1V 4NJ Tuesday 3rd – Saturday 28th May
The Local Stigmatic is a sinister, deeply disturbing study of psychosis, fame, obsession and envy. Darkly comical at times, it reveals society’s fascination with ‘celebrity’ and the resentment it can provoke. In our celebrity obsessed culture, The Local Stigmatic seems as relevant as ever as it foreshadows the ‘fan culture’ that is now omnipresent.

Powerful, highly provocative and profoundly shocking, The Local Stigmatic finally returns to the London stage to mark its 50th anniversary.

Graham and Ray are working class sociopaths who idly spend their days gambling on the dogs, debating, bickering and reading the newspaper gossip columns. A chance encounter with a somewhat famous actor reveals their true psychotic nature as the pair begin to play a cruel and manipulative game with this innocent man - stalking, harassing and goading him. 

Delighting in their new found source of entertainment, they progressively assert their power, determined to gain the upper hand over their intended prey.
Misfits - disturbed, damaged and broken by their social boundaries - Graham and Ray then choose to take their animosity towards this individual to the very brink, culminating in a truly horrific conclusion.

Director Michael Toumey, comments:
I first became aware of The Local Stigmatic in 1999 whilst working as an actor. I was blown away, not only by the play’s unique dark narrative but also by its two main protagonists. These two powerfully written individuals have continued to lurk on the fringes of my mind for nearly 20 years. I’ve always thought that it is a superb, innovative piece of writing and something that I passionately wanted to direct. 

The Local Stigmatic speaks volumes about a society that still exists today. Certain factions on the one hand relishing in celebrity culture, whilst, on the other, often resenting what they themselves will never have - fame, status, and privilege. This message resonates through the vitriolic, biting voices of Graham and Ray. For me, the best writing doesn’t give you answers, but asks the most interesting questions and this play does precisely that.
William Frazer

What is it that first attracted you to TLS?
When I initially received a few scenes for the audition I instantly said 'I need to be in
this play’ and ‘it's a play I would love to see’! It's sinister, thought provoking, dark, light and at times even potentially comical. It is funny because you almost look upon it as if it is a piece of 'new writing' because I had never seen or heard about it before and getting a copy of the text in England was virtually impossible. I thought, how can this play have all these themes, be so incredibly in depth with its characters, so relevant to modern society and yet not be a play everyone's heard and talking about?! Therefore, I thought it would be incredible if I could be one of those creatives to bring this almost forgotten play back to life.

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?
Yes and no. We have had some extremely dark moments in the rehearsal rooms accessing our deepest, darkest thoughts, more so than I ever have before, but you have to for this piece. However, for me, I felt for my own sanity I needed to leave 'Ray' in the rehearsal room and try as best as I could to go back to ‘Will’ when I went home. The challenge was finding the balance of how far do I go investigating all of these sinister and dark emotions in order to create a psychopath alongside the fact that I'm still an actor, it's a play and I don't want to get into a fight on my way home!

Do you feel that the characters you play reflect anything of your own personality or experiences?
In terms of actually reflecting in my own personality, when Ray is winding Graham up, it is a little reminiscent of how I used to wind my older sister up as a child, which is interesting because these guys are like two children that never grew up. The main comparison can be found in the emotions of the characters. Take anger as an example: we have all been angry but you’ll stop yourself from acting in a violent way. This is where we differ, Ray wouldn’t stop himself. But if you take that anger you’ve experienced and time it by 100, take away the rational side you have and that’s how Ray would feel, which explains why he’d be violent.

How do you deal with that?
That was half he challenge at the beginning of the rehearsal process, thinking - how on earth do I become someone who is SO far away from myself. I feel it’s vital to have empathy with your character. You have to, on stage, no matter how dark, how horrible it is, believe that what you are doing is simply, what ‘Ray’ would do!

What is it that you enjoy about performing, that keeps you coming back to it?
The play is like a drug. You just want to do it again and again; it makes you feel euphoric, especially at the end. It’s because there as so many different highs and lows and as three actors we go on such an emotional rollercoaster at the end we’re absolutely exhausted but we just want to do it again!

What role do you think theatre has in contemporary discussions of serious ideas?
That’s what’s great about this play, being 50 years old it is actually more relevant now then it was then! For me theatre is the only place where I truly feel immersed and invested in something. I feel I disassociate myself when something is on a screen, whereas in theatre, you’re there, you’re present and in such an intimate space like The Old Red Lion it’s so small I feel like you have no choice but to be affected by the work.

What experience do you think the audience will get from the show?

I’m not sure. That’s the beauty of it.  We hope that they’ll realise that there are people out there that do this sort of behavior 24/7, they do actually exist and people should be aware of this! I also hope the audience will pause for thought about this celebrity revolved culture we evolve around and ask questions like ‘why people follow it’ and ‘what actually makes it interesting’? Ultimately we want this show to make people talk, in a good, bad or indifferent way, as long as they start talk about their own interpretations of the play, it’s a job well done on our part because I can guarantee no-one will leave with the same opinion.

The Local Stigmatic was first staged at The
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh in 1966 before transferring to The Royal Court in the same year. The play was consequently made into a film in 1990 with Al Pacino both producing and playing the role of Graham.

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