KH: What is Ghost Town about? Where is its beating heart for you?
KP: What do I like best? It’s a play about a young boy dealing with issues. He has difficult thoughts – as do we all – and he never calls them Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) because he doesn’t know that’s what he’s got. He runs away from himself and his thoughts but finds a connection, and a way through via a friend.
The heart of the play is the two young people with issues, discovering how they can help each other. Their friendship is what matters. We didn’t ever want this to be an ‘issues’ play where the audience feels issues are being rammed down their throats. It is affirming. We can all associate with misunderstandings, and people acting on wrong messages. This boy finds the courage to deal with his ‘issues’. So there’s hope!
KH: What drew you to this project? What was the Timescale of development? What was your involvement in the creative process?
KP: Ghost Town emerged as winner of a competition ‘Generation Z’ which was set up by Pilot Theatre to discover writers able to inspire younger audiences. It was an open competition pitching idea sketches with writing samples, which generated 50+ submissions. Jess won with her evocative images. Her work went into development with support from Katie and experienced writer Richard Hurford. The play which emerged was very different to her pitch, especially after an intense R&D process to strip away extraneous material. Establishing the crux of the story took time and loads of cutting. Richard’s experience was vital in honing down a strong story and script. When Pilot saw Lincolnshire One Venues (LOV) was looking to co-commission work for young people, it made sense to collaborate – and the result was this tour of Ghost Town two years on from the Generation Z competition.
KH: The play is set on the coast: why? Is the coast a threshold (transitional place) or a neutral space to explore a problem?
KP: The sea is a huge metaphorical connection in this piece. It can be frightening or reassuring. Both the main characters have a connection to the beach – so it has a plot function too.
KH: You’ve worked on pieces for younger audiences before – do you treat them differently?
KP: No, never a different approach. Just conscious of being truthful with young people’s voice. Jess Fisher has a very sensitive ear for young people. The competition criteria was for a pitch not a play. It was the images in that pitch that got the judging team thinking that resulted in our selection of Jess.
KH: Sound – seems like it’s going to be important in Ghost Town?
KP: We use a constant underscore. We need to have the ebb and flow of the sea. Anxiety is very like the sea – it can be wild and raging or calm and tranquil. That takes the pulse of the play. So many emotional moments which are assisted by sound. Amazing sound artist to work with: RJ McConnell.
Set is very minimal – driftwood, bit of sand. This is not a literal work in any sense. Sound is used as symbolically as the set and action.
Is sound always to key to my work? Depends on the play – but the world we live in is never silent and it is interesting to explore the difference sound makes to our experiences.
KH: Tell me what it’s like working with Jess.
KP: It’s great! We work together well. We’re both very definite about what we want for the play. I enjoy working with new writers – it’s exciting. Like classics too, of course, but the appeal of new writing is its connection to the world now.
KH: What does Pilot hope to get out of this production?
KP: Pilot does a lot of work with young people and is always wanting to work with new artists. This is very much part of the broader work we do.
KH: LOV venues – what is that about?
KP: Lincolnshire One Venues (LOV) is quite a new venture. It combines all the performing venues in Lincolnshire into a consortium. This play will go to four of these venues that are particularly keen to attract young audiences. Pilot and LOV have been working with a school close to each venue – since September and each school is presenting a curtain raiser before Ghost Town which deals with the same issues. This makes the tour more of a dialogue – and is a creative way to engage with younger audiences.
KH: Next plans for Katie Posner?
KP: Have a baby! (Congratulations).
Pilot is planning an adaptation of Antigone by Roy Williams (who successfully adapted The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner for Pilot in 2012).
Ghost Town, will be presented at the York Theatre Royal, from 12th to 19th February 2014.