Samuel Ward is the director of GRIMM, which tells the story of a woman in a dystopian psychiatric institute, whose memories are replaced with Brothers Grimm fairy tales. Alexander Woolley caught up with him to talk about watermelons, as well as the challenges involved in devising and marketing such a show.
The four weeks building up to the move to Edinburgh were really gruelling: we were working 10am – 6pm every day in the heat
Tell us about the show.
GRIMM is a devised play we've been developing for about four months. Devising means using a series of workshops and exercises to generate material which can then be turned into a script or physical action onstage. It means that the storyline and manifestations of ideas are conceived through the interaction of different ideas rather than just one.
Every night one of the actors has to smash a watermelon to pieces. How much of a logistical problem has this been?
The watermelon, whilst awesome to have as a tool, started off like an annoyingly fussy child. In our dress we slammed it into the bare floor, which meant it went everywhere. On our second night we slammed it into a bucket near the front so it went all over the audience. On our third night we slammed it into a bucket but further back and it nearly went on the lights. Finally we've found a way to push the watermelon down from a lower height so that it looks impressive but doesn't go anywhere!
You devised Grimm over the course of a month with the help of the cast and a writer, immediately before bringing it to Edinburgh. What were the challenges involved in that?
I think with any devised play the challenge is always the ending. We'd devised some really great material and had an idea of the overall storyline, but didn't know how to express the idea we wanted for the end. The four weeks building up to the move to Edinburgh were really gruelling: we were working 10am – 6pm every day in the heat, but I think in the end we found something that's coherent with the rest of the piece and continues the tonal quality that we love.
You, the cast, and the writer, continue to work on the play. How much has it changed since opening night?
The play has changed quite a bit since opening night, but only ever in terms of manifestations of the same ideas or themes. Sometimes we've altered the blocking dramatically in the [psychiatric] institute scenes, and sometimes we've altered the script to convey something in a better way.
Has it been difficult to market a quite adult play that is based around children's fairy tales?
Yes. Yes it has. Audiences vary from being very receptive to the notion of adult fairy tales, to violently rejecting the idea. We've come to learn that young adults are probably are target audience when we're flyering on the Mile; but often the people who love the show most are adult audiences!