Mark Maughan directs the return of Tim Cowbury’s The Claim at Shoreditch Town Hall following its debut sell-out run in 2018.
The Claim stars Nick Blakeley (A), Tonderai Munyevu (Serge) and Indra Ové (B). The production runs until 7 March.
You’re directing The Claim at Shoreditch Town Hall, what can you tell us about it?
The Claim is a comically absurd and quietly shattering journey through one of the UK’s least known but most revealing official processes. If that sounds purposefully mysterious: it is supposed to! Most people who come along to see the show have an idea of what it is about, so it’s nice when people don’t. If this is the first time you’re hearing about the show, I’d advise not reading and trusting the great reviews we’ve received and word of mouth, so you can see it without any preconceived ideas as to what it is going to be.
How did you get involved in the production?
Tim Cowbury, the writer, and I started the project together back in 2015, which feels like a long time ago now. I had been a fan of Tim’s work with the company he co-runs, Made In China, for a while. So, after one of their shows, Gym Party, at Edinburgh Fringe, we started talking about making a show together. We got some seed funding from the Old Vic to start the show and the rest is history. Since then, we’ve built up a series of excellent teams around each of the show’s outings (third and counting) so it’s a project I feel very lucky to be part of.
How has your research helped you get a better understanding of the piece as director?
Without the extensive research process, there would be no show. It took us over two years of reading, meeting and workshopping before we had a draft of the script that could then go through a more traditional drafting process between Tim and I. We learnt a lot during the research process, working directly with asylum seekers and refugees, as well as with large migrant organisations. This included not just conversations in meeting rooms, but working things out together in the room with actors, tweaking and coming back with new ideas, until we reached a point when we knew that we could bring the material to the stage.
What do you think you’ve learnt most from the cast so far?
When we first started rehearsals, I wondered whether I was going to make any new discoveries with a text that I had directed twice before. But with Tonderai Munyevu and Indra Ové in the room, and Nick Blakeley who is one of the most playful performers I’ve met, I need not have worried. It was as if we were unlocking it all again afresh. There were a whole new range of discoveries that were made, which only goes to show that you can never know everything about one particular piece or production.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge for you as a director with this production?
That each time we do this show it is completely different. And that every actor’s need is specific to them and my job as director is to try and guide a process that takes every individual into account, whilst also being aware of what the show itself requires. Not always an easy balance to strike. This play requires discipline in its precision with words, but also the actors have to be available to play with one another, so managing that journey is something I constantly try to get right as director.
What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to see The Claim?
Come! It’s not going to be what you think it is going to be. Yes, it’s about something serious and important, but it doesn’t address that issue in the way you’d typically expect.
Main Image: Mark Maughan