Prism – Interview with Claire Wood

A tremendous thank you is extended to writer Claire Wood, who was courteous to answer questions and provide detail despite the regulations at the time limiting the way in which the interview could be held.

Prism runs from February 2nd – 5th at 8pm – Tickets can be found here.

Necessity being the mother of innovation, this turned Woods and Production Line’s heads into incorporating the audience presence deeper into the narrative – to change the stagnant view of digital theatre into an immersive experience than any live in-person event. And in deconstructing these barriers – Prism is formed:

prism was born from a desire to fully exploit the opportunity offered by making theatre for a digital environment. We were delighted by the extent of the audience interaction we experienced during live performances of roulette and wanted to see whether we could take this further. If we must be forced online as a consequence of the pandemic, how can we make sure we’re not just making theatre that should be performed in real life, but instead make something genuinely bespoke?

Taking from roulette, and to a lesser extent, 2020’s Shrapnel which delved into the pain of isolation and loneliness through the Pandemic – Wood’s latest piece Prism places the audience in the role of a panel in a child custody case. They will hear testimonies from three people – The father, the mother and Tzeporah, the mother’s European PA who regularly is left with the unfortunate child, Storm:

I’m really interested in the parent-child relationship. My partner has four pretty much grown-up girls and I’ve been lucky enough to get to know them over a few years now. I always stumble over defining our relationship and can’t presume that my feelings for them are anything like the feelings a parent would have for a child with matching DNA. But lots of people are in similar situations. We talk about ‘blended families’ now, don’t we? And lots of people foster children which is an incredible, important thing to do. In prism, the actors will be asking the audience to decide who should get custody of nearly five-year-old Storm. Through rehearsals, we’ve been having interesting debates about which character most ‘deserves’ the child – it isn’t clear cut. So we can’t wait to see what the audience decide from night to night.

Turning their hand to the avenues offered by digital theatre, last year Wood came to an (unexpected) realisation – in asking the audience to participate in a Valentine’s dating gameshow over Zoom, the blossoming interactions between audiences slightly bubbled over and took on an aspect of their own – turning roulette into a bouncing bundle of enjoyable chaos.

I got really cross when we did roulette and the audiences matched what I considered to be the wrong partners! I was left feeling vaguely cheated. I hope that, whatever the outcome, it will give our audiences lots of food for thought.

With a resilient and capable cast, Prism benefits from a team who are used to the art of innovative improv – and Wood’s has taken measures to ensure that structure remains throughout, taking on the advice of Suzy Glass – a creative consultant for the piece:

I’ve scripted each possible option at each stage. The audience will choose which versions of scenes they get to see. But there will still be an element of improv for the actors as we don’t know exactly how the audience are going to react. And that’s what makes it so exciting!

Her (Glass) advice has been really useful. She encouraged me to question some of the things I took for granted, that happened through luck and audience brilliance with roulette. And she’s made various suggestions about how we might reduce the element of chance this time around.

Supported by Creative Scotland’s Digital Pivot Scheme, prism unearths the unreliability of memory, and finds Wood’s script concocting various endings which audiences may never unearth. A testament to improving and building on ideas previously utilised, the continued removal of the concept of digital theatre being ‘lesser’ than its physical staging is something that sits at the heart of Production Line’s ethos:

“Part of this is a stubborn refusal to accept that online theatre should just be ‘regular’ theatre filmed and broadcast online. There’s clearly a role for that and it’s been brilliant throughout the pandemic to be able to watch shows online that I’d never had a chance to see in real life. But I’m also hopeful that by creating work online that’s as interesting and thought-provoking as anything you’d see in a building, we might attract new audiences to theatre.

And on the future of Production Line’s now that the door towards live in-person theatre, there is still an appetite both to draw audiences in through the doors – but also through their screens.

We’re hoping to get back into a real-life theatre in the Fringe this summer, crossing fingers and touching wood. And we’re looking forward to welcoming audience’s to Prism: This is a Choose Your Own Adventure book – in theatre form. It’s funny, surprising, thought-provoking hopefully and a total leap of faith for the actors and our technical team. We hope we’ll see you there!

Prism runs from February 2nd – 5th at 8pm – Tickets can be found here.

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