The latest production from Glasgow-based Birds of Paradise Theatre Company is the first under its new artistic regime. Paul F Cockburn spoke with co-artistic director Robert Softley Gale about Wendy Hoose.
How would you describe Wendy Hoose?
It’s basically a sex comedy. We wanted to put on the kind of theatre people want to come and see. People like comedy; and, in my own work, I tend to go down the comedy route. Also, with it being the first production under the new directorship for Birds of Paradise, we had to make quite a big, bold statement about what we want it to be.
So this is yours and (fellow co-artistic director) Garry Robson’s calling card?
Completely. Obviously Gary is not involved with this one directly [he’s currently appearing in Graeae’s production of The Threepenny Opera–Ed] but we spoke for quite a while about how we have to make a big splash with this one; we have to put our cards on the table, to say that this is the sort of work we do.
And we wanted to co-produce it with (Scottish touring company) Random Accomplice; they are great at creating work that’s funny and accessible. I had a meeting with their Johnny McKnight about a week after I started at Birds of Paradise, a year and a half ago–that’s how long these things take!
I told him: “This is what I want to make, are you guys up for coming on board?” And he said yes right away. We both had a very clear idea of what we wanted to make; obviously not the detail of it, but we knew what we were going for, so it came together quite easily.
Most of your previous works–including for the National Theatre of Scotland–have been, by necessity, one-man shows. What’s it like directing other actors?
I love it! It’s funny, I wasn’t quite sure how it would be. I’m very used to being the one doing it; I know what I want to put out there, so I can just do it. When you’re directing someone else, you’re a bit more constrained because you have to get over to them what you want. But in Wendy Hoose there simply isn’t a part I can play, and maybe that’s not a bad thing.
We did joke that if the two actors get lost somewhere, then Johnny and I could play the two parts, but that would be a different show! We keep saying we should do a version of the film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Will this be the main production for Birds of Paradise Theatre Company this year?
We’re touring the show in March; it’s not a huge tour–seven or eight venues– but it’ll come back in the autumn of this year and probably go down to London and do a much wider tour. It’s a two-hander, so it’s quite easy to bring it back, so hopefully it will go round the place. The only worry is that, because it’s quite Scottish and quite Glasgow-based, I wonder how they’ll respond to it in other places? We’ll give it a go!