OBSERVE THE SONS OF ULSTER MARCHING TOWARDS THE SOMME
Those I belonged to, those I have not forgotten, the irreplaceable ones, they kept their nerve, and they died.
On 1 July 1916, the 36th (Ulster) Division took part in one of the bloodiest battles in human history. The Battle of the Somme.
One hundred years on, a major new co-production of Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme directed by Headlong’s Artistic Director,Jeremy Herrin.
In the extraordinary circumstances of WWI, eight ordinary men are changed, changed utterly…
This iconic war play by Frank McGuinness is a powerful portrayal of mortality, love and loss.
What more have we to tell each other?
What was the inspiration for this performance?
The centenary of the battle of the Somme made me think it was a good time to look at the legacy of the 36th Ulster Division and the culture that resonates from that blood sacrifice, particularly after the Good Friday agreement.
How did you go about gathering the team for it?
Long arduous casting process. It's arguably the most important part of my process.
How did you become interested in making performance in the
first place - does it hold any particular qualities that other media don't have?
The liveness of it is exciting: anything could happen and something must happen to paraphrase Perter Brook. I love the limitations that theatre places on you - to transcend them you need imagination.
Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
Yes four weeks rehearsal, lots of research, plenty of volleyball. A typically collegiate atmosphere - it's been fun
What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I hope they will find it funnier than the title suggests, I hope they mediate on identity, and I hope they are loved at this moving portrayal of this massive waste of human life.
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
All the physical elements: space, light, sound. Word & body. Clarity and mystery, and the correspondence between the two.
Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
I feel like I'm firmly in what I would call a Royal Court tradition. The primacy of the text and the maximum vocal and corporeal presence in an essentialist space.