Sam O’Rourke is co-writer and co-director of Much Ado About Zombies, a play coming to theSpace this August that... does exactly what it says on the tin. We sent Features Editor James T Harding to find out more about her company of Loughborough University graduates and get some tips on battening down the Broadway Baby office.
28 Days Later always reminds me that I don’t run enough.
The play was developed by myself and Steph Biggs (who plays Beatrice). We wanted to write something which would would have popular appeal despite being a piece of new writing - hence zombies and Shakespeare. It follows a theatre company performing Much Ado About Nothing at the Fringe during a zombie apocalypse. The crew secure the space and valiantly continue, despite depleting numbers. However, personal relationships within the cast soon prove distracting.
It was great to develop a script with specific actors in mind, as we were able to play to their strengths and have a clearer idea of the end product. Working with the original text, it was amazing how many lines seem to conjure up zombie like images - ‘taker runs presently mad’, 'how many hath he killed and eaten in these wars’ and we were particularly taken with Beatrice's ‘kill Claudio’.
Why do you think unorthodox takes on classic texts are so in right now?
I would say that it’s horror itself, and consequently the use of it to provide new contexts and conflict, that’s increasingly fashionable. Recent books and films such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Warm Bodies invite horror to interact with popular narratives. Apparently with every major recession you can see a rise in apocalyptic and horror themes, there are many theories as to why this is but personally I like the idea that it allows us to explore our own moral identity in a world becoming increasingly filled with uncertainties.
Do you prefer fast or slow zombies? Why?
In terms of personally fighting them off, slow every time. 28 Days Later always reminds me that I don’t run enough. Also in terms of story telling I prefer slow zombies, there is something eerier and less human about the way they move.
What is the most inspiring Shakespeare production you've ever seen? What was so great about it?
Oh gosh, tough question! I’d probably have to say Rupert Goold’s 2010 RSC production of Romeo and Juliet. There were so many things to love about it, it found so much humour amongst the tragedy and made me feel like I was hearing the lines for the first time. Mariah Gale and Sam Troughton were such great casting, passionate and impetuous, they didn’t shy away from being erratic and immature and yet you absolutely believed they were meant to be together. It also had an manically unforgettable Mercutio, played by the wonderful Jonjo O’Neill - complete with a pornographic Queen Mab mime.
This is your first time at the Fringe. What's the biggest challenge you've faced so far?
I think it was probably the script development itself. We are aware that, as a theatre-going audience, people will probably be very familiar with Shakespeare’s Much Ado and so we needed to make sure we did the play justice. The audience are invited to recognise Shakespeare’s text and characters, whilst also engaging with the meta theatrical ‘actor characters’ as they fight for survival. The last thing we wanted was for the audience to wish they were watching Much Ado without zombies!