The Dolphin Crossing - Interview with Ed Viney
The Dolphin Crossing is landing at The Brewery in July. The classic novel by Jill Paton Walsh has been skilfully adapted and directed for stage by Bristol based Ed Viney. Here we have an opportunity to peep at his process as he answers a few questions about the project.
For more information on The Dolphin Crossing or to book tickets book click HERE.
What made you choose to create a stage adaptation of this particular book?
It’s a belief that we’re all connected in some way to the events of the past. Jill writes brilliant stories; she uses the facts of a situation as a background to some deeper truth - in this case, the events of Dunkirk and how it brought together people of different classes . And boats of all different shapes and sizes! People were working together on something that proved vital to the outcome of the whole war. I was struck by the trust that developed between the two main characters. When they decided to go and do something incredibly brave it wasn’t a gung-ho spirit but something much more matter of fact. They demonstrated incredible independence and maturity - something that we don’t always credit to kids these days. The moment I met up with Jill I knew it was the right choice. She’s trusted me with the theatrical adaptation to pass on the story.
The cast is made up of just two actors and a voiceover, can you tell us how this has been a challenge when representing the subject matter?
I think the story tackles the subject of heroism in a very clever way. It’s not saying “Look at these heroes!” - even though there were many acts of heroism during that week in May/June 1940, and throughout the rest of the war. The point about having two actors to play all the characters is to try and move away from the idea of a hero as one person. We’re all capable of moments of bravery and cowardice. Everything is much more fluid - and fragile - than the history books, or the modern media, like to portray. So if you have two actors you keep everything in play. It allows space to imagine it’s your son, father, grandfather sailing across the English Channel - or waiting to be rescued in dark, cold water up to one’s waist. Tim Pigott-Smith as the voice of the narrator provides a context for the events happening onstage but what with ack-ack guns, U-boats and enemy aircraft flying overheard, the actors are going to be knackered at the end of each night!
Can you tell us anything more about the set and costumes for The Dolphin Crossing?
Yes, I’ve worked before with set and costume designer, Anna Michaels. She conjured up a brilliantly atmospheric set and costumes for a play I directed at the Alma Tavern. It really felt like you were in damp, dark Wales even though you were above a pub in Clifton. We’re trying to be as authentic as possible to the feelings of the characters in the play. There’s no budget to replicate the state of the beaches in Dunkirk where so much ammunition and equipment had to be dumped. It’s about having a design that helps the audience follow the story. We’re using sound and light but most of all we’re using actors to tell the story. That might seem a bit old-fashioned but it works if you understand and trust the process.
Finally, why do you think people should come and see the show?
The story of John and Pat in The Dolphin Crossing is not a true story but it could have been true. It’s true in one sense: people really did cross the Channel to rescue the British Army stranded at Dunkirk. It’s also true that when real people take risks they really get killed. I’m not giving away what happens to them - you’ll have to come and see! - but through their story I think you get insight into why people do incredibly brave things at very necessary times.