What drew you to each other’s practice?
We have known each other as friends for years since we met at the University of Manchester but never had the opportunity to work together professionally. After graduating, we both pursued our separate creative avenues – Piers created the award-winning theatre company Ransack Theatre and trained on the National Theatre Director’s Course, and Joseph attended LAMDA and the Soho Writers’ Lab. As admirers of each others’ work, we hoped that the opportunity would come to work together eventually, and after Joseph wrote Get Happy at the end of 2019, he approached Piers, who had recent experience exploring one-person narratives through his Ransack Theatre show Catching Comets. At the moment we started exploring the text, though, the pandemic started and the project was put on the backburner. With this funding, we’re able to finally investigate the play together, to see how it lives.
JA: I’m hugely excited to finally work with Piers on a one-to-one basis exploring this text in a new collaboration. I was drawn to working with Piers due to his incredible sense of how a text can translate to live action in exciting and dynamic ways, and his eye for theatricality, and how to test the boundaries of a play and find its true emotional core.
Why did you choose the idea you will be working on?
Get Happy is a one-person show, and at this stage we both felt that the play needed much more investigation one-on-one, between director and writer/performer, to discover what the play actually is when it’s not on the page anymore. The show explores the idea of what it is to be happy, with a specifically queer perspective, and we felt that exploring this idea now, when the world has changed so much since the show was originally written and there feels as though there’s been somewhat of a refocusing of priorities for life, could open up entirely new conversations and possibilities for the play.
What is the one thing you most hope to gain from undertaking this work?
We’re keen to actualise the script. A huge shift takes place when words on a page become action in a space, and we are excited to interrogate what the creative language for this transition can be. As with all one-person shows, you have to carefully consider the performer’s relationship with the audience – we’re not offering them a window from which to watch a story take place, we’re inviting them to be one side of a conversation with this character. Joe’s script is funny, moving and delightfully poppy, and I can’t wait for us to have some space and time to try and capture all of that energy in a physical body. There’s only so much that we’ve been able to do at a distance, and being offered this support means we can take that first vital step towards putting this script into action.
Joseph Aldous is a writer and performer. He trained at LAMDA and was part of the Soho Writers’ Lab 2018-19 and the Soho Writers Alumni Group 2019-20. His debut play, Get Happy, won the 2020 Carlo Annoni International Playwriting Prize, and he has recently been longlisted for the BBC Drama Writers’ Room for 2021 and the VAULT Five. Further writing credits include The Wedding (Oxford School of Drama), Tracks (Soho Theatre), and once we go (Customs House). As a performer, credits include Moonfleece (Pleasance Theatre) and Helena and Hermia: Untucked (the Bunker).
Piers Black trained on the National Theatre Directors’ Course and was Resident Director at the Almeida. He is the recipient of the John Fernald Directing Award and the JMK Regional Director Award. Recent credits include Catching Comets (Royal Exchange / Pleasance / Theatr Clwyd), Jumpers for Goalposts (LAMDA), Crops (The Yard), and Minus Touch (Royal Exchange). Credits also include Associate Director to Sarah Frankcom on Simon Stephens’ Light Falls (Royal Exchange Theatre), Staff Director on Nina Raine’s Stories (National Theatre), and Assistant Director to Blanche McIntyre on Ella Hickson’s The Writer (The Almeida).