Patrick Gibson stars in the European première of Clyde’s which reunites double Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage and director Lynette Linton as a follow up to their Donmar smash hit Sweat which transferred to the West End.
Linton directs Ronkẹ Adékọluẹ́jọ́ (Letitia), Patrick Gibson (Jason), Gbemisola Ikumelo (Clyde), Sebastian Orozco (Rafael) and Giles Terera (Montrellous).
The production opens at Donmar Warehouse on 19 October, with previews from 13 October and runs until 2 December.
You’re appearing in Lynn Nottage’s Clyde’s at Donmar Warehouse, what can you tell us about the production?
Clyde’s takes place in the kitchen of a truck stop diner. The formerly incarcerated, titular, ‘Clyde’ hires other formerly incarcerated members of society to work in the kitchen of this unassuming rest stop diner. However, under Montrellous’ guidance, the cooks begin to aspire to greater things, searching for liberation through creating the perfect sandwich and aspiring to put Clyde’s Diner on the map. However, Clyde, for reasons which gradually become apparent, simply wants food passed through the window quickly and for the cooks not to have lofty aspirations. Throughout this, we learn the journey each character has trodden that has led them to this point. Oh, and it’s very, very funny.
We’re coming back to the Donmar Warehouse with the whole creative team from Sweat, including our director Lynette Linton who I feel so lucky to be working with again. She embodies everything I hope for in a director and that one could dream of in a human being.
What was it about Lynn Nottage’s script that made you want to be part of this production?
Lynn has this ability to convey incredibly potent ideas and themes through fast paced, nuanced and conversational dialogue. She creates these epic plays with regular people in regular spaces.
Her characters are so real and alive, they’re a joy to read and perform. This play is laugh out loud funny and really captures a whit that can sometimes be found in people who have experienced or are experiencing tragic circumstances. I have noticed how in my life, when faced with painful and shocking events, the mind and senses kind-of sharpen and things come into clearer focus. They become more vivid and this can in turn often lead to humour. Tears and laughter are close relatives.
You’re playing Jason, what do you love about the character?
This is a great question. I do love him.
But Lynn doesn’t make it as simple as having us sympathise with someone whose done bad things through sympathetic writing. That would be too easy. Instead, she doesn’t let characters off the hook. They don’t get to do terrible things or make mistakes and find redemption without feeling the enormous weight of consequence on them. In a way, Jason only finds a glimpse of forgiveness through truly feeling and accepting the weight of his guilt. While he runs from those feelings, he will never find peace.
With a lot of the characters in the play, we watch as they attempt to rebuild the life they once had. Emotions like anger and greed lead people to do things which derail the course of their lives. When we see the impact of their decisions and watch as they fight to make the most of their circumstances, it’s very hard not to love them.
With Jason, there are a lot of things that irritate me about him. He has so many blind spots and walls up at the beginning of the play that he doesn’t even see the help people offer him. He has misplaced anger and has chosen to find safety and identity in associating with racist groups in prison. All of this was born out of a feeling of losing control over his life and a political fiasco that was orchestrated so people like him would point fingers at marginalised groups and incite racism. Montrellous creates a space for him to feel safe, despite his mistakes and weaknesses. Through that we start to see the person he was before all of this; someone who loves and needs to be loved, which is very beautiful to witness.
And what do you think will be the biggest challenge?
Right now, it’s that we’re operating a totally functioning kitchen on stage which poses several exciting challenges. It has to be like a dance, all the movements need to be clear and specific, yet you’re working with real ingredients. Building huge, American style, triple-decker burgers while delivering monologues. It requires a certain focus and is also great fun. You must be very clear with what you’re doing emotionally and technically in the scene as once you add in the chaos of a kitchen it could be easy to let that stuff slide and you cannot let that happen. Seeing it slowly come together has been so cool though and I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to be working with. I’m genuinely blown away by the actors on stage every day and I am learning so much being around them.
What’s it been like working with director Lynette Linton?
Lynette is the best. Truly. To have the opportunity to work with her again was just the most exciting thing. She has an incredible ability to allow each actor to find things and to create space for organic discovery. Then she comes in and dials things up and turns other things down. It makes you feel so much more grounded in a performance as you’re fitting in to someone else’s prescribed ideas, you find it together and that process of discovering it has been so exciting whenever we’ve worked together.
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see Clyde’s?
Do it! It’s a truly theatrical experience in the sense that I can’t imagine it ever being the same twice. I feel everyone’s approached it from a place of understanding these characters and their circumstances moment to moment. Then they are playing off each other incredibly spontaneously, add in a working kitchen and it’s a very exciting space to be in. The rehearsal process has been a whirlwind of emotion from belly laughing at some of the scenes to feeling like an emotional wreck watching the tragic elements come together. I’m really looking forward to getting it in front of an audience.