For the Fallen is a brand new production commissioned by the Isle of Man Arts Council to commemorate the Island's involvement in World War One. This new play has been created to mark the 100th anniversary since the end of World War One and focuses on the lives of the people at home. Created by a professional team of theatre makers and performed by an all community cast this production will be staged in the round at Ballakermeen Studio Theatre.
Tickets are available here.
We spoke to the director, John Young who grew up on the island and from a young age was heavily involved in the amateur dramatic scene. John went to St. Ninian’s High School and outside school was a member of Broadway Theatre as well as being in numerous productions with all of the local societies.
Q. What first sparked your idea to do this play?
I knew the 100th anniversary was approaching and I was already thinking about a couple of projects to do with World War One. I was then having a conversation with John Skinner about the Isle of Man's involvement when he was mayor and had invited me for tea and we spoke about the opportunity for a production in more detail.
When I started researching it, I realised there was so much I didn’t know, it was fascinating! I then pitched the idea to the Arts Council and the rest is … well here we are. It has been in the pipeline for around two years, so it’s brilliant to now be able to bring it to life.
Q. The play concentrates on the stories of the people at home during the First World War rather than the trenches. Was that important to you to focus on that side?
Yeah, it really was. I know a lot of the stuff that I’ve seen that shines a light on the First World War focuses on the war itself. Dramatically, I was really interested in the impact the war had at home, on the Island, especially when the conscription rate was one of the highest. Polically and socially, there were also huge changes on the Island so it seemed like a good opportunity to touch on them.
It’s important to remember that this isn’t a documentary or a history lecture but a piece of theatre, so it was vital to look at the emotional turmoil that the war had on people themselves. Some streets on the Isle of Man lost so many of their men, they never came home. You can’t begin to imagine the impact that had on families and the community itself.
Q. The play will be performed by a community cast from the island – why was this an important factor to you?
I wanted everyone to have the opportunity to be involved. What’s brilliant about opening the door is you end up with a diverse group of people who are all bringing different skills and experiences to the table. Some of our cast have never been in a production before whilst others have a wealth of experience.
As a director I find that really inspiring. It’s proper commmunity theatre, a really wide range of different people from the Island bringing their own history to life.
Q. The play is going to be performed in the round – tell us a little more about how that will enhance the experience of the play.
I’m not sure what we’ve got planned for Ballakermeen Studio Theatre has been done before, at least not on this scale. We’ve got a fantatsic team of professional creatives working on the production to try and create the most interesting and original production possible.
I think being the round is very intimate, it’s a very different theatrical experience to sitting front on to the stage, but for us I hope this staging allows the audience to really access the world we’re trying to create.
Q. The opening night is in two weeks but you’ve been working on this project for the past two years or more. Which aspect of this project has been the most rewarding to see come together?
The research was really interesting, but what’s really tough is reminding myself that it can’t just be full of facts and references as that won’t make interesting theatre. So, I’ve had to take dramatic licence to try and create an engaging experience. I think what I’ve really enjoyed is working with the actors. They have all been so generous and committed and have all really invested in the piece. It’s so wonderful to walk into a rehearsal of an evening and know that most people have just come straight from work, but they’ve given up their evenings and weekends because they really want to, because they love it. That’s really special.
John trained on the National Theatre Directors Course, and is a former Resident Assistant Director at The Finborough Theatre. Prior to this, he was selected for the Emerging Trainee Director Scheme at Theatr Clwyd. Direction includes: To Dream Again (Polka Theatre and Theatr Clwyd), Scattered (Theatr Clwyd, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Good Chance Theatre), We Know Where You Live (Finborough Theatre), The Watchers (Southwark Playhouse), What the Walls Saw, The Thing Is and The Joy Show (Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre Young Company) and Soft Beats the Heart (Theatre503).
Assistant Director credits include: The Beggars Opera and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Storyhouse), Aladdin and Skyhawk the Musical (Theatr Clwyd), Chicken Dust and Our American Cousin (Finborough Theatre).
For The Fallen will be staged at Ballakermeen Studio Theatre beginning Tuesday 24th April and running until Saturday 28th April, nightly from 7:00pm.
Keep up to date with the For the Fallen event page on Facebook.