Emily Head will star in the world premiere of her self-penned sharp psychological thriller, The System, streamed live on stage in a single camera take at the New Wolsey Theatre on Friday 27 August 2021 at 7.30pm (BST).
This production is one of Original Theatre Company’s most ambitious and exciting undertakings yet. The System will push at the boundaries of what can be achieved in a theatre live broadcast as it will be filmed in one of the longest steadi-cam shots ever attempted. It promises an exciting feat of endurance, skill and synchronicity between the camera and performer.
The System, written by, and starring, Emily Head streams live on 27th August, tickets are on sale here.
Your new play, The System, will be live-streamed from New Wolsey Theatre, what can you tell us about the play?
The System is a one-person play, in which a group of characters are being interviewed about the murder of a man they all know. As the 10 characters fill in the gaps left by the others, we’re able to piece together the story of who the man was, what happened to him, and what part he played in the murder suspects becoming who they are today.
What inspired you to write it?
I wanted to write a one person play, in many ways, as a challenge for myself. I’ve written a few things over the years, most recently I wrote a film with my dad, but I hadn’t written a play since I was at school, and I’d never written something for just one person.
Part of the challenge was finding a way in which a one person play could be written, without relying on one character telling a story from their perspective. I wanted multiple characters to be able to speak for themselves, but I wanted there to be the opportunity for them to be stand-offish, for them to not want to be there – I wanted the story to unfold around them, whether they wanted it to or not.
So I started exploring the idea of having someone unseen and unheard interacting with them – one person who speaks to all of them. That soon lead to the idea of setting it in an interrogation room.
Why do you think the interrogation room makes the ideal setting for a play?
The more I explored the idea, the more interesting I found it – playing around with how the characters react completely differently, in the same situation. None of us really know how we’d react to being interrogated – there’s such a wide range of emotions it could bring up, and those emotions drastically change the way we present ourselves.
Also, stylistically, when the space around the characters is so stark, and unchanging, it forces you to listen to the words – to pay attention to the way they say something, or to try and figure out why they said it.
You’re also starring in The System, why did you also want to perform?
I originally wrote the play for myself to perform. It’s certainly ambitious, 10 roles, in an hour, and I don’t think it would be fair to ask another actor to do something I’m not prepared to do myself. I set out to challenge myself as a writer, and as a performer, and I definitely think I’ve achieved that with this.
Eventually I would love to see someone else take it on – I would love to see what they do with my words, but for the time being I’m really enjoying bringing the characters I created to life.
Tell us more about the livestream, and what is it that makes this one so ambitious?
Our camera operator Ben Eeley and director Guy Unsworth were exploring the idea of filming The System on steadi-cam in a single, one hour take – in itself, pretty ambitious – then Original Theatre Company asked if it would be possible to do it live.
Getting everything right from a technical perspective is going to be the biggest challenge – the choreography of me and Ben, moving around each other in the space, making sure that I’m in the shot in the way I’m supposed to be, when I’m supposed to be, is going to take a fair bit of work.
Added to that the live aspect, and we’re definitely pushing ourselves to the limits. There’s something so special about live performance though, whatever happens. It’s an amazing feeling as an audience member, knowing that you’re watching something that is only happening in that moment – that if you were to watch another performance on a different night, it could be totally different. It’s amazing that we have the ability to do that with a recorded piece.
What would you say to anyone thinking of watching The System?
It’s the feeling of watching live theatre, in the comfort of your own home, and because we’re shooting it in one continuous shot on steadi-cam, there’s the added bonus of the audience being able to feel as though they’re in the interrogation room with our characters. At times it will almost feel like they’re interrogating the suspects themselves. It’s a gripping crime drama that should keep you guessing from beginning to end.