In a faded hotel room in Scarborough, a couple is having an illicit weekend away. Amidst the peeling wallpaper they laugh, quarrel and make love, but they don’t dare go out.
Sounds beautiful but what lies beneath this love affair? There is a glimmer of something just a little off centre here, isn't there? Something a little dangerous or illicit? That is exactly what is going on says director Loren de Jong: "Scarborough is about an affair between a teenager and their teacher and of course that’s no good. It’s gross, it’s wrong, it’s illegal – no one is for that, right? The thing that attracted me to this story is that it takes all the outrage and judgment out of the equation, and instead we get to see what these people are actually going through. You’re allowed to get emotionally involved. You’re allowed to laugh too. And then, just when you think you’ve got it figured out, the writer does this one really simple trick, and it totally messes with your head. It still messes with my head."
Fiona Evans' Scarborough (winner of the 2007 Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Festival) examines the tenuous relationship between a 29-year-old teacher and a 15-year-old pupil. Evans seems interested in examining the effect this relationship has on our sensibilities and does something very interesting in her script in Act 11 – I will not reveal this here but will lend itself to much thought provoking discussion. Things are not always black and white no matter what our moral compass may dictate suggests de Jong: "I think it’s easy to judge too quickly, with too little information. I know I’m guilty of doing it. There is always more to a story than a headline, and that to me, is what is significant about this work. Teacher-Student sexual relationships are not ok, but neither is demonising or victimising. This play embraces the fact that humans are complex."
This is the first time de Jong is directing something not written by herself and that, she says, makes things pretty challenging. "Can’t just shift words around or add bits in willy nilly like I would with my own work, so that’s different. I’m also learning the value of keeping my mouth shut sometimes to allow my actors to find their own way through."
De Jong is sharing the load with co-director Celeste Markwell. "We are fortunate to have cast really great people and have a strong team besides, so it’s actually been a real pleasure, says de Jong. "The actors aren’t native Yorkshire folk meaning they all had to learn the accent -which sometimes moves me to inappropriate laughter. Each of the two acts has it’s own director (though Celeste and I are very similar directors), which is a unique challenge, you know, to make sure the two halves aren’t from two separate universes… or rather, perhaps they are? You’ll have to see for yourself."
De Jong and Markwell are both members of The Honeytrap founded in 2012. Other members are Debbie Zukerman, Kasey Gambling and Joanne Redfearn. The company are a Melbourne based production company producing local and international work for screen and stage. "The five of us are oldish friends," explains de Jong. "We trained as actors together and have similar aesthetics and so on, then about a year ago we all sort of realised that we wanted a little more of a say (i.e. Full and Complete Creative Control) in the projects we took on. We’d had it with those dodgy experiences of making creative work that turns out crap and we figured the best way to avoid that was to band together to keep each other honest. We’re brutal with each other when we think something isn’t up to scratch but it’s good. It’s great. The stories we tell and how we tell them are better for it."
Says de Jong: " Scarborough is a great little play that will suck you into the claustrophobic reality of being truly stuck in a bad situation and what it is to live through that. It’s also deeply funny and engaging with a dead clever twist to take to the pub and argue about afterwards. I will be a happy director lady if the show moves people to have a little more compassion for other humans. I just think there can never be enough of that."
May 2 – 18
Brunswick Arts Space