Rebecca Frecknall is the Artistic Director of new theatre company Seeitinyourhead and her latest project an adaptation of R.D. Laing’s Knots starring Kate Lamb and Jack Leonard, is heading to the King’s Head theatre from the 18th July 2011, and, judging by the quality of Rebecca’s previous work it will definitely be worth a visit. Last year Frecknall produced Tennesse Williams’ Summer and Smoke as a showcase piece, starring the aformentioned Kate Lamb as Alma, this was one of the best things I saw last year, gripping, heart-breaking and yet poigniantly optimistic the play was fantastically directed and Lamb’s central performance was simply stunning. I can only offer my advice based on the things I’ve seen and my advice is - buy a ticket to this! Rebecca took the time out of her pre-show preparations to kindly answer a few questions for us - Please have a read:
Good Answer… So, What can you tell us about Knots?
Knots is the name of a short book written in the 70s by a psychiatrist called R.D. Laing. It maps out the repeated and recurring patterns of relationship that he began to see demonstrated in his patients, and is written in diagrams, monologues and duologues between a couple called Jack and Jill.
We’ve devised a narrative that follows the relationship between Jack and Jill using only text from the book. Our version of Knots uses a strong movement language as well, and the whole piece was devised collaboratively with the actors. Because the text stems from relationship traits that Laing witnessed first-hand, the dialogue has moments where you really recognise these two characters within your own experience and therefore has the potential to be quite touching – and very funny at times!
How has the devising process been?
The devising process has had several stages to it really. The initial stage was over a year ago and was possibly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done! The text is so specific and has a real rhythm to it that you have to respect. We also had the challenge of making this extremely academic text accessible to an audience and I knew from early on that I wanted to find some kind of narrative for these two characters across the book.
I guess it was challenging because it could have gone in so many different directions as a piece. I knew I wanted to go down a physical route, mainly as a challenge to myself to see if I could integrate that into a piece. What was amazing about creating this piece was that the right people came on board at the right time. The actors (Kate Lamb and Jack Leonard) had never worked together before, or with me, and had never really devised in this way, but the way they worked together was such a gift to me during the process. They came up with brilliant ideas and were able to undertake really exhausting physical improvisations for ages and just let me watch what they came up with. That was how all of the choreography was made. Kate Mara (now producer at The King’s Head) then came on board as our Stage Manager and she was a really great influence towards the end of the process.
Since reworking the piece this year, Tracky Crombie (our producer/designer) came in after seeing the original piece. Tracky and I trained together and she’s always a great fresh pair of eyes and is always so bluntly honest when I come up with anything rubbish! The production has come a long way since the idea was first conceived. The process has always been very fluid and we’ve changed and added things each time we’ve revisited the work. I’ve loved it.
Is it harder to work with something more fluid or do you prefer a script with a more linear rehearsal process?
Good question… To be honest after studying at Goldsmiths most of what I had done there had been devised, I didn’t really realise how different it was working on a full-length script until I directed a Tennessee Williams play [Summer and Smoke] last year. I wouldn’t say I prefer one over the other but they both require different approaches and offer different things in return. I love stories and so working on a play where you know the narrative from the beginning is brilliant because you can really focus on how you’re going to tell that particular story. With a devised piece you might not know what the story is going to be and you have to remain open to anywhere it might take you - without getting so caught up that you don’t look at the whole. I do find creating new work really exciting and find that it’s easier to blur the boundaries between different genres within original pieces. However, I love plays and the rehearsal process that goes with that and there’s something really wonderful about working with an actor to approach an existing character. I think I will always have to do both. I am too greedy.
What made you/the company chose this project?
I found the book on my bookshelf at home and loved the front cover. I then flicked through it and saw all these diagrams and the way the text is laid out is really unusual with the odd line on a page, or endless lists of repeated text. I thought that the heightened text might allow for the heightened visual language that I was experimenting with and when I read it I found it really funny, incredibly astute, and thought – this is a play!
seeitinyourhead was formed late last year and we decided to develop Knots as our first production as a company. We’re beginning work on a new piece at The Junction this September which is really exciting!
What do you think of King’s Head Theatre?
When the theatre contacted me to see if we would be interested in bringing Knots to them I was really interested that they were wanting to expand their programing into more physical theatre. I think the space really lends itself to that and they are a company that seem to take risks, which I like.
Whats the best thing you’ve ever seen at the theatre?
I can never answer this! I think it’s really hard to differentiate between the best work you see and the most influential or important to you, as a person or an artist. I would say that one of the best things I’ve seen was Complicite’s Shun-kin and I really loved I am The Wind at The Young Vic. However, I think I saw things when I was younger (before I became a critical artist!) which probably had more of an influence. My dad directed an amateur production of Equus when I was about 15. That play blew me away and still does.
What made you want to become a director?
Again, tough one. I think it was sort of always where I was heading but I had to try and fail at lots of other things before working that out. I knew I wanted to work in theatre when I was something silly like 8, but always thought I wanted to perform. It wasn’t until I went to university and directed a piece in my first year when I realised that rehearsals were the best bit! I guess I’ve always had the brain for making things but didn’t really know what the director did until about five years ago. I guess it’s finding that thing that fits with your mind and for me that’s directing.
Whats your favourite film?
Top five? Labyrinth, Code Unknown, Little Women, Mulholland Drive, Closer.
If you could direct any play at any theatre what would it be and where?
I’m dying to direct The House of Bernarda Alba by Lorca, I’ve wanted to for a couple of years. I’ve just assisted on a production at The Gate in Notting Hill and think that’s one of my favorite spaces at the moment. So yeah, those two please!
For more information about the play or to book tickets (18 Jul, (19:15) 19 Jul (19:15), 24 Jul (15:00)) Please go to : https://kingsheadtheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/126517248/events
The Good Review would like to take the time to offer Rebecca, the production and the new theatre company Seeitinyourhead, all the very best in the future. We would also like to say a big thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.