Bitten By Productions is kicking off the New Year like The Boss, with a new play written and directed by Gabriel Bergmoser about Bruce Springsteen, and the sacrifices he made to create one of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time.
Theatre People spoke to Bergmoser about his inspirations for the show, how it compares to his previous plays and what he has been up to since winning the Sir Peter Ustinov Award for Scriptwriting.
The concept for Springsteen came from one of his favourite novels, The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper.
“It’s packed full of Springsteen references. The first time I read it in high school I thought ‘Okay, I’m going to have to listen to this music to really get what’s going on here’, so I downloaded Backstreets, a recurring motif in the book, and I never looked back,” said Bergmoser.
“There was this real thrill to discovering an artist who spoke to me on that level and it’s an obsession that hasn’t abated at all in the years since. Like any classics, Springsteen’s albums are so layered that you can find new things in them even after listening hundreds and hundreds of times” he said.
The show is something he has wanted to do for years.
“I became really fascinated by his incredible work ethic, drive and unwillingness to stagnate. But it took me ages to find the angle to dramatize him in an effective way. This play has gone through so many iterations, but I think it was reading his autobiography last year that really made it all click into place and let me realise exactly what story I was trying to tell,” he said.
Like Springsteen, Bergmoser has felt similar pressures and made sacrifices from pursuing a career in the arts.
“I think for any piece of writing to work there has to be an element of the personal, and this is no exception,” he said.
“I don’t think I’m as harshly uncompromising as Springsteen was at my age, but I do relate a huge amount to prioritising what I do at the expense of giving necessary attention to the people in my life”.
“Some of Springsteen’s autobiography really spoke to me, like when it comes to feeling like your art is the only thing in the world that actually matters to you and wondering whether that’s a healthy or valid way to live your life; if you’re missing out on things that could have been wonderful because you were too focused on one thing to notice what you had until it was gone,” he said.
Bergmoser, the recipient of the Sir Peter Ustinov Award for Scriptwriting (an international award run by the Emmy Awards), at only 23 years old, has put himself under a lot of pressure on himself and his work.
“I thought that things would sort of blow up a little more than they have, ignoring the reality of creative industries: that things can take a really, really long time to happen. For the first few months I was anxious when meetings and discussions that had resulted from the award fell through or seemed to stall; there was very much a sense of “Am I a fraud? Is everyone laughing at me? Do I need to work harder?” he said.
“People strive for years to get any kind of validation in the arts. The fact that something of that significance happened to me at 23 now seems more like an invitation for me to be a little less hard on myself. It suggests I’m probably on the right track and can maybe be a bit less frantic in how I approach things”.
Bergmoser could talk about his favourite Springsteen albums all day.
“I think ultimately it will always be Born to Run, which has so much nostalgic importance to me but was also the album that really got me into his work. Darkness of the Edge of Town is a masterpiece of atmosphere, Tunnel of Love is so elusive and beautifully haunting, Wrecking Ball might be the best album ever written by a rocker over sixty and The Rising was such a pitch perfect, measured, intelligent response to 9/11” Bergmoser said.
“As for which song, it’s got to be either Thunder Road, which still makes me feel hopeful about just about everything, or Thundercrack which is eight minutes of unadulterated joy and delight,” he spouted with joy.
This isn’t the first play Bergmoser has written or directed, but its very different to his previous work, like Regression or The Critic.
“Springsteen is very much a character study looking at ambition and how worthwhile it is. The first half of the play is a bit like a mix between Whiplash and The Social Network where it looks at what it takes to become successful, while the second half takes a quieter, more introspective look at what happens once you’ve achieved the success you craved, at the expense of just about everything else in your life”.
“I’m very proud of the cast: there are moments where you will think Chris Farrell is Bruce Springsteen. I’m happy with how the show now looks; I really have no idea if people will actually like it,” he said.
The next two plays that Bitten By Productions will put on will be a complete change of pace from Springsteen.
“Our next play is about Dracula and it’s by Sean Carney. The show is an expansion on the passage in the novel where Dracula travels from Transylvania to London and upon arrival he’s the only one left alive on the ship,” he said.
The play after is different again, a drama called Chris Hawkins about a guy who returns home for his ex-girlfriend’s funeral years after a mysterious event made him leave.
Make sure you check out Bitten By Productions first show of 2017, Springsteen at Tuxedo Cat, running from Wednesday 25 January to Saturday 4 Feburary. Tickets at: https://www.trybooking.com/Booking/BookingEventSummary.aspx?eid=250404