Multi-award nominated Interval Productions have teamed exciting up and coming writer Rebecca Walker together with indie-pop act Eliza and the Bear to bring Wretch to the Vault Festival this February. We caught up with Tori Allen-Martin to hear all about the show and The Vault Festival.
Are you excited to be performing at The Vault Festival?
Yes, very! We were there rehearsing the other day and there’s such a buzz around the building, and it’s looking amazing in there! We put on a mini run of our piece ‘Streets’ at The Vaults a couple of years ago and that was one of my favourite jobs to date, so the venue already has a very special place in my heart. The Festival is going from strength to strength and it’s a real honour to be a part of it, there’s some seriously exciting work going on in there.
What do you think makes The Vault Festival so popular?
It’s like a mini Edinburgh Festival all in one building! I think there are lots of people who enjoy supporting new work, but let’s be honest – a lot of us are broke, and a lot of us are busy – life gets in the way, so to be able to make a day of it, all under one roof – and catch two, three, four shows, maybe even on a 2-4-1 bargain, none of which are more than an hour long (so If you hate it, you’ve not lost hours of your life) is appealing! Aside from that, there’s just a really cool vibe in there – it’s refreshing and exciting.
You’re bringing WRETCH by Rebecca Walker to The Vault Festival, what can you tell us about the show?
WRETCH is about two women who met on a night bus during long nights of homelessness, and who are reunited a year later in a homeless shelter. They couldn’t be more opposite – Amy is full of life, a mile a minute, confident, disruptive, with no boundaries whilst Irena is quiet, buttoned up, focused, driven by routine and extremely private. Amy crashes head first into Irena’s life with no signs of letting up and it’s just this rollercoaster of emotion. On reading it, I never saw any of it coming, it was a real page turner. I love the piece. Rebecca is a truly brilliant writer, I think she’s really special and such an important voice – I think she’s going to be a really big deal and I can’t wait until it happens for her. I urge you to come watch.
What have you learned from your co-stars, Debra Baker and Timothy O’Hara?
So much! I am honestly sharing the stage with two of the most incredible actors I’ve ever come across. I’ve known Tim for years, he is actually married to my best friend. He’s directed me before and he’s been in things we’ve written but we’ve never worked together as actors, so it’s a bit of a finally moment!. Debra, I directed in a monologue by the phenomenal Annie Jenkins for Pluck Productions brilliant ‘Park Scratchings’ night at the Park Theatre. It was a bit of love at first sight… I’m so grateful to EJ Martin from Pluck for hooking it all up. I was blown away by Debra’s energy and talent, she’s just brilliant – there’s no other way to describe her.
Why do you think Rebecca wanted to bring a musical element to the show, and did you agree it was the right thing to do?
Rebecca had initially envisioned the piece as a Musical – she wanted one act to be the reality and one act to be this fantasy world full of Amy’s delusions, but another production company had commissioned the piece initially and they went down a straight play route with it. So when Becky approached me with what was already a fully formed play, I was interested in her ideas but I’m definitely from the school of thinking, ‘if it aint broke, don’t fix it’. It was already a brilliant piece, so while I’m always intrigued by the addition of music, I didn’t feel it needed the vast re-writes that turning this into a fully fledged musical would take. I felt we needed to complement what was already there. We spoke first about music potentially being the only place Amy spoke her truth, whilst everything else was lies – it was a cool conceptual starting point, but could’ve easily gotten laboured in terms of editing the script for that – so we loosened up on it a bit and instead the songs do speak Amy’s truth but in a fantastical way. Eliza and the Bear’s songs couldn’t be more perfect for that – as they’ve got this real festival vibe – carefree, ultimate escapism – throw your hands up and let go.
Are Eliza and The Bear using their own music?
We’ve used songs from their album. I was doing backing vocals for the band at the time and had to learn the whole record for their London Headline show. It struck me when I was contemplating music for WRETCH that so many of their songs would be perfect – I was listening to their song ‘Cruel’ and just understood it in a totally different way and thought, ‘this is perfect’. I was so happy when they gave us permission to use their songs.
WRETCH was inspired by interviews with vulnerably housed women, have you listened to any of the interviews? How did they make you feel?
Yes, I listened to one interview in particular with an amazing woman – she was such a character, full of stories, and she’d jump from one thing to the next, it was all over the place but so vibrant and full of life and honest. One thing that really struck me (and struck Rebecca, because it’s why she shared that particular interview with me) was how this woman had been her happiest sleeping rough with fourteen guy friends, who she made a point of saying ‘never touched her’ – they became like brothers to her and looked out for her and she did their washing etc. It made you think about the community and the support networks the homeless community create for each other.
After putting so much work into Muted, which recently received great reviews at The Bunker, how does it feel to be working on something else?
It feels good. I’m not going to lie – MUTED was tough, and we’ve worked so hard for so long that it was a bit soul destroying that it was such hard work- and it cost us a fortune that we don’t have because the support simply wasn’t there – we’ll be paying it off for the foreseeable future and it’s sad that it wasn’t the fairytale we’d hoped, and if I hadn’t have had Wretch booked in I might’ve said ‘I can’t’ – I might’ve felt restricted by the debt and how hard it all was so I think actually, Wretch has been my saving grace. I’m proud of Muted and the whole team and of what we achieved and it definitely ain’t dead yet. As tough as it gets, I know we can’t quit – no matter how hard it gets you’ve got to keep going and Wretch has given me that strength. I will keep banging on those doors, for as long as it takes for them to open. I’ve come this far, I can’t turn back now, and there’s no better show than Wretch to remind me of that.