Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tom Creed's Heights

"I like to call is "making up" rather than devising," says director, Tom Creed, of his latest show, The Heights, a brand new stage version of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights.

Or almost a version of Bronte's novel, because according to Creed, the play is as much a homage to movie version of the book, and even Kate Bush's hit single version of the story.

"I think a lot of people feel they know the story of Wuthering Heights, but they haven't actually read the book. Kate Bush, for instance, hadn't read the book when she wrote the song…and the idea for the play came from thinking about the Merle Oberon / Lawrence Olivier film version."
All the same, Creed and company did get the book off the shelf too, although leafing through it has not exactly produced a facsimile version. For a start, The Heights is set in a city…

"The characters in the book have the moors running through their veins. And for a 19th century audience, the moors will have represented something cool and romantic, the sort of place where you could go and just get lost. Today, it is the city that has that quality for me, this place where you can go and disappear..."

And then there is the little business of period. The Heights is set in the 1980s…
"The story is told by the decedents of Heathcliff and Cathy, who we imagine to be living today, so then we imagine that the love story happened more than twenty years ago, which leave us…in the 1980s."

It all makes perfect sense.

Wuthering Heights marks a departure for Creed and his Cork-based Playgroup theatre company. It is their first show to open in Dublin, though Creed himself, as a director with Rough Magic, has opened many shows in the capital.

"Playgroup has always tried to be an internationalised company, so it isn't such a strange thing that we don't always open shows first in Cork. Our last show, The Art of Swimming, opened in Glasgow. And after all, we will be working on the show more before it goes to Cork, so there is no question of anyone being short-changed…"
That period of extra development is something of great interest to Creed and his company. It is, he suggest, something that Irish theatre will need if it is to achieve the next level in development.

"We see it all the time at the Theatre Festival. Shows come in and we are wowed by the Hungarian show, or whatever. But they are shows that have been running for ages, improving.."

So how do they manage to do that, these great long running European shows?
"Well, if we knew that, we'd be doing it. But we're trying to find out…"

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