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26 March 2018

Florence Bell talks to Lights Over Tesco Carpark director Jack Bradfield about how to do sci-fi without using much technical skill

Florence Bell: What was the initial idea for the show?
Jack Bradfield: I think there were two elements. One was that we don’t see much sci-fi on stage so we wanted to do sci-fi in a not particularly technically skilled way, with not much budget, etc. I think it was about: can we do sci-fi? How can we do it so it feels grounded, smaller and a bit more human than what we’ve seen onstage before?

Then the other element was [...] to try and unpick why [verbatim] is good. We were all talking about verbatim and how we liked it but we also didn’t like it, and how there are problems with it and questions about how you exclude narratives and shape narratives from real people.

So it’s a sort of verbatim show?
We find verbatim a very tricky form, but we played with the conventions of it to understand why it’s good. It started as: can we do our own verbatim play without having done any interviews? And by doing that can we understand why it’s good?

If you had to pin one genre on to the show, like verbatim, what would you pick?
Oh my gosh. We call it a docu-comedy. For me, I think, it’s a show about listening.

A lot of the stories we look at, a lot of the historical narratives, what we try to do is trust them and really take them as truth in a way where people so often say, "Oh that’s so crazy." So for us, I’d much rather make a space where you can try to believe those stories and they can become real for an hour.

One final question. I have to ask this because in the summer we both did the Robert Icke directing workshop at the Almeida. That was mostly about the classics and Shakespeare, but did anything we did there impact on Lights Over Tesco Carpark?
I would say the thing I did take to rehearsal was an awareness of narrative, a sharper awareness of simple things, like what are the audience waiting for? They’re waiting for an alien. So just give them an alien in the first 30 seconds. And then you can talk about something else. Even though the show is quite sketchy in some ways, what we’ve thought about a lot is how to tie these images and ideas back to each other and the shape of the show.

Yeah. Because it is definitely episodic but it is absolutely knitted together. I hadn’t considered it before, but I feel like that final scene would feel so different if it was the first time you saw the mask.
Yes, and I feel you’d stop paying attention to everything else we were doing. And it becomes about the kitsch-ness of that.

And there were more to say than just showing an alien, even though that was still really well done.
Yeah, absolutely. And then it’s about teasing out onstage what becomes real. Theatre’s a weird place in that you let something be real for an hour, or an hour and a half. I think it’s just about creating space where we can all listen, believe together, play around with that, experiment with that and push it in different ways. That’s what we’re doing, that’s the project.

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Photo credit: Aenne Pallasca