Sepy Baghaei is the Artistic Director of Suitcase Civilians, and the writer/director behind April’s Wilde Tales. Following Pregnant Fish Theatre’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde Tales forms the second half of the Space’s mini-Wilde season #GETWILDE. We caught up with Sepy and the company for a quick interview before they open the show next week.
Let’s start with Oscar! What was your first experience with Wilde – or your first experience¬†that made you interested in his work?
It would have to be The Importance of Being Earnest – but actually for the fact that I really disliked the play! I knew that Wilde was this revered writer and so I couldn’t believe that he was just getting away with using a deus ex machina to just magically tie up the show into a neat bow at the end! So I think this annoyance spurred me to find out more about what Oscar Wilde was about, and I’m glad I did, because I found a lot more joy in his other works!
What made you want to adapt these particular stories for the stage?
I was drawn to the way that Oscar Wilde’s short stories appealed to both children and adults. When you hear the stories as a child, they’re full of magic and wonder. When you read them back as an adult, they still have that, but also an added darker layer which makes you think, “Wow! I don’t remember noticing that as a child!” They’re surprising, delightful, and full of the trademark wit that we’ve come to expect from Wilde’s work.
Although these are well known stories, this is your own brand-new adaptation. What makes your take special?
I would say the show’s¬†unique appeal lies in the way that we’ve staged it to be accessible for all-ages. We wanted it to be a show that both young people and adults could come to, so I think we’ve been quite sensitive to working the text in a way that contains just the right mixture of fun (for the young ones) and tongue-in-cheek humour (for the young at heart.)
I think everyone can relate to the quality of the stories: I use the stories of the Brothers Grimm as a comparison, because just like those stories, which are seemingly more well-known, Wilde’s stories have a saccharine coating which peels back to reveal something a lot darker.
We’ve been sharing some of the Space team’s¬†favourite Oscar Wilde words of wisdom¬†here¬†– do you have your own favourite quote or fact?
There’s a great quote in the short story The Happy Prince which gets me every time I hear it in rehearsal. “More marvellous than anything is the suffering of men and women. There is no mystery so great as misery… The living always think that can gold can make them happy.” I love the fact that it’s a simultaneously biting and heartbreaking summary of human nature.
What has been the most challenging part of the show?
It would have to be finding an effective way to bring to life a lot of non-human characters – Wilde Tales contains everything from birds to statues to butterflies, all of which speak! It’s been a great challenge though because it’s only pushed us to be more creative and resourceful.
And how about your favourite moment so far?
We’ve had a lot of great comic moments in rehearsal – I’ve somehow managed to assemble a cast who all have impeccable comic timing! There’s been a lot of noise, accents, and general silliness as we develop the huge number of characters in the show, so that’s been delightful to be a part of.
In our very first rehearsal, we were looking at a scene which required us to choreograph a solo dance. Ashley, the actor who had to do the dance, interrupted us all mid-conversation, asking us to just stop for a moment because he had suddenly devised a whole dance in his head. And oh, he did – seemingly out of nowhere he busted out these amazing moves in a perfect routine and had us all in stitches! I highly recommend keeping an eye out for his dancing during the show!
You’re the Artistic Director of Suitcase Civilians as well as the writer/director leading this show. What for you¬†is the most rewarding part of working on a¬†production?
It’s hard to choose! But I guess the most rewarding thing about this rehearsal process in particular has been the way that the cast clicked almost instantly from the very first read-through of the script. Finding a collection of actors who support, laugh and bounce off each other consistently is a rare but hugely rewarding thing – especially when you’re putting on a show where each actor is playing a multitude of characters!
What do you hope your audience takes away from Wilde Tales?
I’d love for the audience to experience something magical: to see how even the simplest resources can be used to the greatest effect when it comes to storytelling. I hope it gives hope: that with all the madness and hatred that seems to saturate the stories in the news, that the stories we tell each other and our future generations still have the power to inspire and enthrall us.
I think that overall, this is a show about outsiders: every short story seems to feature an outsider character who enters a foreign place and interacts – whether positively or to their detriment – with its people. To me the most important theme of the play is acceptance and tolerance – learning to love those who we may fear as a result of our previous prejudices.
And finally – what’s next for Suitcase Civilians?
We’ve got a couple of projects coming up right after Wilde Tales. We’re remounting a previous show of ours, a one-to-one show called Re: Memory, which will play as part of WROUGHT festival in Sheffield. In May we’ll be launching a brand new show, Click Caf√©, which is a virtual show that we’ll be doing for Anywhere Festival in Brisbane, Australia. It’s a busy couple of months!
Wilde Tales runs at the Space from Tuesday 5th – Sunday 10th April. For more information and to book tickets, click HERE.