“The worst thing you can do is choke your actors”
I sat down and spoke to writers and directors of Time Lapse, Stephan Ledesma and Jack Ridley, about writing collaboratively, time travel, and rapping…
So, what’s Time Lapse all about?
Stephan: Essentially, it’s about a young woman called Jamie who can reverse time. She uses this power to live all these different lives, all of her dreams, and be successful. But after that’s done, she gets bored. She starts living lives she never would have wanted to, but does anyway to experiment, like being a drug addict, just to have these intense experiences. It’s funny, because having unlimited control makes you limited.
Jack: With this complete control you cannot experience life fully, and it’s difficult for things to feel surprising and rewarding, so it becomes instinct for her to reverse time. Essentially, she can’t die and she’s trying to do so; suicide is discussed in the play. I guess, also, the play is about love and Jamie not being able to recreate a sequence of events she had with her partner, which drives her crazy, which is where we join her in the play, stuck in a loop, manipulating people to try and escape. It gets pretty dark.
Where did the inspiration for the play come from?
S: I’ve always been inspired by seeing things which pissed me off in performances and wanting to do it better! When I was a kid, time travel was the super power I always wanted so it stems from wanting to explore that.
J: Last year I wrote and directed a show called ‘Bump’, which was also about time travel and death, so it was nice to explore similar themes in a different way.
So how did working together come around?
S: I read a monologue from the show to Jack at Spoons after his show, Bump, last year, and he said he liked it and it just went from there.
J: Actually, when ‘Time Lapse’ is performed [4 March] it will be exactly a year since we spoke about it together!
I’m just curious, what was the show like in its first incarnations?
S: Looking back, I really hated the first draft – it felt so A-Level! Originally it had “two acts” but we preferred the second act so decided to stick with that as the main play and instead have a ten minute prologue which explains what the first half was through movement.
J: I really liked it. It was naturally a lot more straight-forward than it is now. Now it’s very non-linear as it’s constantly weaving in and out of different moments in Jamie’s life.
S: I knew I always wanted a rap in the play so that’s stayed in there from the beginning!
Jack and Stephan then performed a rap for me on the spot, which was pretty cool.
What’s the writing process like?
S: We met up lots just to throw around ideas for scenes, dances, and the background of characters, as well as discussing what we would do with the power ourselves. We spent a lot of time discussing the look of the piece, too. It’s very odd to collaborate with writing but we tended to improvise with each other and write down the phrases which we felt worked so we didn’t forget them.
J: Writing collaboratively feels like improvisation and playing, and that’s where a lot of it has come from. When it came down to writing, we’d take it in turns to write things and come back to each other and talk about it.
S: With the ending, for instance, we moulded three timeline endings into one.
J: It’s always been positive from the get-go which is really helpful.
How are rehearsals going?
J: Rehearsals have been a lot funnier than we thought! We always intended it to be a dark comedy, though.
S: No necessarily comedy, but silly. The play is quite depressing, but we have some great ensemble work from Helena [Banerjee] and Conor [Burke] who are bringing their strengths and kookiness to the production to alleviate these dark tense moments with a bit of light relief.
What type of directors would you say you are?
S: I very much believe in the death-of-the-author thing. In rehearsals I’ve been looking at physical theatre. I’ve let Jack work on monologues and character development.
J: My place has been more of a dramaturg. If things have been too stale or if we need it to be more stylised I chip in there, as well as talking about music and costumes.
S: I enable and drive the cast crazy making sure there are always giving 10/10. Jack has been holding everyone’s leash.
J: We sit down and improvise a lot to give that freedom to the actors to say the scene in their own words and explain what’s happening in their own voices, so when they go back into the script they can put some of those elements back in. We try and have a conversation and draw on that experience.
S: We are very human. We don’t necessarily show them what we want, but we point out things and let them interpret as they wish and “broaden their horizons” – that’s a line from the play *laughs*. The worst thing you can do is choke your actors.
So you’re not precious over your script at all?
S: Not at all. Of course there are things we know need to be said in the right way, though.
How do you stage time travel?
S: We didn’t want concepts of time to sound like a textbook explanation. We wanted to show and not tell.
J: We want the audience to imagine what occurs; we jump into each scene half way through, to allow the audience to fill in the gaps of what has happened before.
S: We use a sound effect for the time lapse which is really helpful. The play is set in-the-round too, which was always what we wanted. We have entrances at the twelve, three, six, and nine positions on a clock, and the play’s action happens within the circle and outside it.
J: We’re working a lot with some quirky abstract imagery- such as the dolls you would find in a cuckoo clock malfunctioning… and lots of UV paint!
What do you want the audience to get from the play?
S: It’s really bizarre, some people will be unsure whether to laugh or not.
J: Yeah, the ending is a hefty one for sure, it will land so much heavier, but the moment it ends there’s going to be happy-go-lucky music playing.
S: It gives the audience no respite.
J: It’s like a time reversal in itself. Though the plot is non-linear, the emotional movement is linear and definitely peaks at the end. We want the audience to be thinking about it later in the evening.
S: We want them thinking about the concepts rather than the story – existential questions.
J: It has a lot more lasting weight to it.
S: At the end of the day they come to see a great piece of drama!
‘Time Lapse’ is being performed on March 4 in the Pinter Studio by a cast which includes Eloina Haines, Alfie Noble, Brendan Jackson, Emily Redpath, Helena Banerjee, and Conor Burke. Tickets can be booked at www.qmtc.co.uk.