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Behind The Scenes with Stevie Helps – Writer/Director
There is a large amount of people in the everyday world trying to be strong…
You have two different casts for Mind’s A Labyrinth, and one of the characters are pretty much polarised – in particular the actors playing Elliot. How are Actors Joey Laverton and Graham Atkin, who both play Elliot, different in the role?
I guess it kind of happened more naturally than I probably realised. We had lots of Elliots come to audition for the role, an overwhelming amount of talent too. I guess I couldn’t stop watching Joey Laverton’s audition. He just had something so vulnerable and I felt I could perhaps get a lot more sympathy for Elliot because he portrayed such a vulnerable and socially awkward side and I felt it would enhance his reveals in the last scene more interestingly, because by trying to save the girls in his life is he really saving himself? And is he as vulnerable as them himself? I guess Graham Atkin’s Elliot in the 27th September cast is a lot more confident and self assured too and in many ways that is the more complex side of Elliot.
Tell me more…
There is a large amount of people in the everyday world trying to be strong, trying to be a good person but getting attracted to the dark side or intrigued by it (aka Jane and Rachel) and Elliot, spots that vulnerability in them that he sees in himself and tries to nurture it. Like Rachel, Elliot has also lost his mother too soon, and his father walked out on her, so I believe there is abuse that scares him about Stuart and maybe he couldn’t save his mother in those times, but he can now, or at least try… ‘Elliot Lloyd to the rescue’.
The latest show is even darker than it’s predecessor ‘Borderline Electra’. This sounds exciting…
I felt if I am going for the farce type soap on stage-esque ending then I have to be a little bit more clever but more truthful too to the piece to make sure it works. It’s not an easy task to pull off but I feel with all the dialogue and what is said… lets get a little more real, lets go there – Lets not just talk about the events… Lets do it. I think that then made the dialogue a lot more powerful and the situation much more real. I guess I was trying to not let myself be a coward and tell the story with the messages that need to be said. The thing is, even though the ending is ‘awkwardly funny’ to me it kind of represents how we deal a lot with trauma – we hide from it, we cover it so we seem more happy and I guess we’re at a stage where people make jokes all the time about rape, particularly through social media and perhaps the younger generations, and everything else so here I am letting audiences experience the effects it has on Jane, and especially central character Rachel. I just did it the other way round. I aimed to get the serious message out first and then allow them to have the option to laugh, and I guess feel awkward about laughing, even though it’s okay to laugh at the play – because it is a play, and the ending really hammers it home that it is a play.
From feedback I’ve heard you have really pulled that off… people, and many young people, do seem to laugh and make jokes about the darkest of subjects.
They need to be aware that abuse happens and it’s not actually funny and a lot of people that do the laughing only know these serious situations from soaps, and that’s why the twists and the theatrics at the end were so important to represent that message. But at the heart of it, through Rachel, it has to be so real so that people believe and feel and experience her trauma for real, and learn.
Wow, Powerful stuff. So, Does the polarisation of the characters affect the chemistry of the relationships in the show?
Chemistry wise I decided Rachel never fancied Joey Laverton’s Elliot but loved his heart and loves what he says he can offer her. She respects him for standing up for her to her dad but notices he is also someone who she could manipulate and mould a little more from the outset. It was important for this Elliot not to be model good looks to make this happen but it is also why the sexual content was taken out much more, the sexual chemistry mustn’t be there because it isn’t there, if that makes any sense.
I am still taking the text to new places before someone else does it for me, when I give the play to a new director I want to know I’ve discovered everything in it first so I don’t feel I have been lazy or mistreated the play. I don’t want to be a Stuart to a Rachel to this play because it means so much to me, as do the people who been a part of it.
There has only been one character playing Stuart, we hear he is good…
David Lamont is incredible. I adore him. He has so much energy, commitment, and he is such a respectable actor to work with. He is someone who has been one of the biggest fans of the play. He is the only Stuart I have seen and worked with who has helped me nail the character and given consistent strong portrayal of him, he takes my notes on board and flies with them.
Apart from David then, what are the other actors like to work with?
Nadia Dilamy is a true professional, as are they all. She is so committed to not settling for anything less than pure truth. She is a diamond and I think she is just wonderful. I just get more and more every rehearsal from her, she is always respectful and full of energy – she really lights up the room. Graham Atkin is a pure perfectionist and I think that goes a long way as an actor, he puts hard work into his character. He works out, he rides on his bike to rehearsals and really looks after himself. I see a very dedicated actor in him and it’s lovely. Amanda Gee goes straight to my heart because she is adorable and she is loyal and she herself sees some similarites in Rachel and I think a bit like Nadia, they are really living this character. Amanda is someone I really route for. Joey Laverton was my wild card – the more socially awkward Elliot that I wanted to explore further than I had with previous Elliots, and I am glad I went with my gut because I feel it really worked. He really thought about Elliot away from the scenes, outside of the play, and that helped create such an interesting character. Linda Meacher is such a lovely person and so helpful behind the scenes too. It was really exciting that someone so nice could go to the dark side with her character Jane. She showed so much dedication and really was supportive of everyone and the play itself. She had the task of playing two characters and makes for a really amusing Waitress. Linda Edwards is absolutely hilarious. I love to laugh and having her there I am guaranteed to be laughing during rehearsals and also watching her character, the Detective, on stage. She is also playing two characters – the other being Jane. Linda has been so supportive and passionate about the play, and that really means so much to me – especially coming from her as she works in a similar role to myself in other projects, as does Nadia. Both have been amazing to work with.
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