It has been great to have Martin Sherlock-Knowles, one of our founder members, return to work with the Company. He has directed our current production - Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall - and has brought it up to date with the inclusion of some filmed episodes. We asked Martin a few questions about his vision, his approach, and what else he has hidden in the sideboard...
Why did you choose to update Billy Liar?
First and foremost, I just wanted to hear Northern voices on a stage. When you read the text, it’s a fantastically well written play and probably the best example of a writer understanding Northern dialect that I’ve heard.
I’ve seen so many versions of Billy Liar whereby theatre groups have made a parody of Northern people. I wanted to try and bring a more naturalistic quality to it with elements of theatricality, rather than vice-versa. There is also no reason why it should be set in the past because all of the threads of the play are just as relevant today.
Also, it’s just a bloody funny play.
What relevance does the play have for today's audiences?
Ultimately the play is about ordinary people (whatever that means) trying to make sense of life. Billy Liar is also about being trapped but not really knowing how or having the supporting mechanism to break free. I believe that most people can relate to these issues.
Finally, it’s just a bloody funny play.
What were the challenges of putting the production together?
There are audio visual (AV) elements to this production, so it's making sure that you don’t get so caught up in those elements that you neglect the performance side. Also, the text is so tightly written, in terms of comedy and the relationship forming that the pace and energy has to be at the thrust of the delivery, if not the play can become that sluggish Yorkshire parody that I mentioned earlier.
Do you have a particular approach to directing?
Its all about community, everybody involved should feel part of something and there should be no sense of hierarchy. Life is full of hierarchy so theatre should be escapism. In terms of the performances, I just want people to come and have a good night out, so I try and bring as much to the performances as possible, using things like AV, to try and embellish this.
Are there any other stories/plays that you would like to direct?
I’m currently looking for the next play. Preferably just something that reflects some sort of reality of modern life.
What next for you?
Well hopefully, we (Paperzoo) can get our heads together soon and choose our next production.
Also, I'm looking to quickly move onto another play and in-between maybe do short films also. Nothing too fancy, like.
There are still a few of chances to see Billy Liar over the coming weeks. We are at The West Lane Baptist Church in Haworth on Saturday 13th of May, at Ilkley Playhouse on Thursday 18th of May, and the mini-tour ends on the 1st of June when we perform at 7Arts in Leeds.
Details, rehearsal photos and other info are on the website www.paperzootheatrecompany.co.uk