“Welcome to Tynemouth!”
When I find Lucy Hayes, Producer of Edward II, she is tucking into a takeaway container of Chinese dumplings. “It’s a bit of a joke though,” she says with a wry smile, “the guy made a whole ceremony of putting one on and said, ‘free!’, but I’ve counted them, and there are only ten!” We are soon joined by Director, Charlotte Vickers, who has a box in her hands. “Lucy, I got you a present…” It’s a huge slice of carrot cake, as a thank you for Lucy’s painting of the set. Evident from the start of our meeting is the genuine affection and mutual support between these two core production team members.
I am almost surprised that they only met 9 months ago, for the purpose of putting on this show. This is Lucy’s first producing gig and she tells me that it has come with lots of new challenges, including painting the set. Apparently, she chose to do this because she thought that making wood look like concrete would be a good life skill. Charlotte meanwhile is an experienced director, having done the fabulous Farenheit 451 last year, and lots of musicals.
I want to know about Charlotte’s concept for the show, as the posters have certainly “raised eyebrows”. Charlotte explains that her production places the action in the 1980s, Thatcher’s Britain, with a cold war backdrop and “a king who thinks he’s David Bowie”. She tells me that her original concept was set in Russia, to be closer to the cold war, but that she realised that the inherent Britishness of the play would have prevented her from doing this.
Fixing up the concept has not been the only challenge she has faced. She tells me that the two main difficulties throughout the show have been getting 20 actors in a room at the same time, and getting 20 actors to listen to her. Lucy adds that it is hard to hold 20 people in your head, with all of their characteristics at one time, since “conceptually, you can’t really have more than 5.”
It has not been without its laughs though! I ask what the funniest moments throughout the rehearsal process have been. After Lucy sternly says, “We don’t laugh, it’s a tragedy,” both giggle for a few moments. Charlotte tells me, “probably the bows… they can’t bow…! They just can’t! One of them can, and they all have to stand behind this one person just bowing again and again….” She then goes on to tell me about a scene in which four people have to bow, and how they had to run it for three hours to get it right, while breaking down in laughter. Another “meme” of the show, they inform me, is the line “Welcome to Tynemouth!” which apparently provokes corpsing a-plenty whenever it comes up. Neither are fully able to explain why, but Charlotte does say, “if a line is funny the first time, it will just be The Funny Line.”
This show really does look like it will be fantastic. Get your tickets here: https://www.oxfordplayhouse.com/whats-on/all-shows/edward-ii/3563 and look out for any repressed smiles at the mention of Tynemouth.