Oscar Toeman directs Actually, Anna Ziegler’s first play in London since Photograph 51. Oscar previously directed the multi Offie-nominated After October at the Finborough Theatre. He was Associate Director of the National Theatre’s production of Oslo. He was a recipient of an MGC futures bursary, a finalist for the RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award in 2018, and is the runner up of this year’s JMK Award.
Actually is at Trafalgar Studios 6th – 31st August 2019.
You’re directing Actually at Trafalgar Studios what can you tell us about it?
‘Actually’ is a play about two young people who hook up at college in America, and about the subsequent events of that night. I’m wary of saying too much because it really is one of those genius plays where everyone’s response will be unique to them, but I can say it dives into the grey areas of consent; and it’s complicated by the intersectionality of race, gender and religion. It explores the lens through which we see the world – conscious or not- and asks if there can ever be one objective truth.
The themes are ones that are getting a lot of attention right now, will this production’s approach be different to similar productions?
Do you remember ‘the dress’ meme that was either blue/ black or white/ gold, depending on the individual viewer’s neuroscience a couple years ago? ‘Actually’ does a very similar thing in its dramaturgy and structure, compelling audiences to determine their own minds up as to what they think they’re seeing, and that feels exciting. What I admire so much in this play is its quiet, brave empathy in asking people to really consider a particular human interaction, and weigh up what’s happened for oneself. I think the play’s compassion is one of the many great qualities it has.
How do you feel about directing Anna Ziegler’s first play in London since Photograph 51?
I’m just really honoured to be honest. There were a lot of companies interested, so I’m thrilled to be able to tell this story with my collaborators. I think Anna is a beautiful writer, who’s work speaks to what it means to be human- in all its vulnerability, complexity and contradictions – and I’m thrilled she’ll be over for rehearsals and see the U.K. premiere.
What do you think the biggest challenge will be in directing Actually?
It’s a difficult and important play, which tackles a myriad of knotty, complex themes. My job is to listen to the script, my actors and extraordinary collaborators to together create a rich and profound piece of art that fully reflects the ambiguities and nuances of the story. Like all great plays, the audience is the final piece in the puzzle for ‘Actually’, and we need to ensure the production remains firmly balanced on a knife-edge for them.
And what are you looking forward to most about getting in to the rehearsal room?
I feel very blessed to be working with actors of the calibre of Yasmin and Simon. They’re both extraordinary, intelligent and playful performers, with a wonderful facility for language. I’m excited to see the fireworks between them.
What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to see Actually?
I think that we live in an age when it’s super easy to judge; to make your mind up immediately, and that’s the end of it. ‘Actually’ asks you to do something deeper, more profound, more soulful, and more necessary.
Actually directed by Oscar Toeman is at Trafalgar Studios 6th – 31st August 2019.