Samson Hawkins is the Artistic Director of Second Sons. Since graduating, Samson has worked consistently as a director, including Second Sons first production, Swan Bake, which was nominated for a Brighton-fringe award in 2016. He was also Assistant Director on 5 Guys Chillin’, which stormed Edinburgh last summer.
Samson joins us to talk about his next production, Dark Vanilla Jungle by Philip Ridley, about a young girl’s quest for the perfect family & home revealing a biting commentary on abuses of power in a patriarchal society. It follows Andrea, played by Emily Thornton, as she tells her story through her unique eyes.
You’re directing Dark Vanilla Jungle at Theatre N16, what attracted you to this show?
Philip Ridley is the bravest writer working today. In an environment when many people are working on creating the safest pieces Ridley manages to constantly surprise in his own unique way. Dark Vanilla Jungle is horrifically shocking while still keeping subtle nuances that lie just below the surface. Dark Vanilla Jungle is also pure performance. It is a character telling her story. It’s the most basic and raw form of performance. Theatre is storytelling, Dark Vanilla Jungle strips away all the distractions and gets right down to the nitty gritty.
What do you think will make this production of Dark Vanilla Jungle stand out from previous productions?
N16 is such an intimate space, and Dark Vanilla Jungle is such an intimate play. The closeness of the actor and the audience will really bring the audience into the story. Most of the previous productions are done end on, but we are having it on a thrust. The audience surrounding the actor, making the audience part of the story.
Without giving too much away. It’s going to be pretty intense. The play demands a big commitment from the actor, to make the audience commit to it. We are so lucky to have Emily Thornton, who I recently worked with in a production of Sex with a Stranger at The Pleasence, play Andrea. Emily is capable of having such emotional connection to a piece while also putting on a show.
Do you have to adapt when you’re directing a monologue compared to a piece with several actors?
I’ve never actually directed a 1 person show before, so, I guess we will find out. I’ve directed shows with long monologues, but this is 80 minutes long and it’s a lot of text. Me and Emily have a good working relationship and we have already started working on the show. Splitting the play into small units and working on them in bite sized chunks. It’s a really hard play for the actor, there is no way around that, but what’s the point in doing something easy.
Dark Vanilla Jungles tackles Sex Slavery, what did you have to learn about the subject?
I think what is important is to keep everything personal. The play isn’t about the social political system creating sexism in a patriarchal society. It’s about Andrea, and her story. Andrea is a very unique character who sees things in a very unique way, she doesn’t think of herself as a victim, and as the play is from her point of view, the play doesn’t think she is a victim.
You’re a writer as well, which do you prefer, writing or directing?
It’s not so much about what I prefer. It’s quite hard to do just one thing in this industry anymore. The actors needs to be able to play guitar. The musicians need to be able to sing. The dramaturges need to tap dance. I started working as an assistant director without really thinking about it. And then I wanted to produce my own play and I thought I’d direct that to save money. In terms of enjoyment, I prefer directing. You get to work with people, instead of being locked in a room. Writing isn’t fun, it’s just something I’ve always done.
You’re the Artistic Director of Second Sons, how did you get involved with them?
We founded the company in our last year of drama school. We wanted to make theatre for people who didn’t like theatre. I got fed up of going to a play and knowing most of the audience. We are trying to change things. There are lots of companies really trying to make a difference and stop theatre being a middle class hobby.
You were Assistant Director on the hugely successful 5 Guys Chillin’ (which we loved), what did you learn from directing a show at The Edinburgh Fringe?
That sleep can be replaced with coffee. That you can live in a cupboard and you won’t die. That shoes fall apart if you only bring one pair. That Edinburgh looks like Rome but feels like an apocalyptic wasteland. That if you want to drastically lower your self-esteem get a flyering job. That I hate all improvised shows. That improvised musicals are the worst kind of improvised shows. And choose your venue based on the bar.