A new academic year means a new season for Nottingham New Theatre, and this year, it’s set for a dynamic range of genres, styles, and writers. Kicking it off is Pornography by Simon Stephens. Impact talks to director, Ollie Shortt, and producer, Lydia Smith, to find out more.
Firstly, what is the play about?
Both: The play’s events surround the 7/7 bombings and the week leading up to this iconic tragedy. We follow eight characters who are all dealing with intense personal issues, and are isolated from society in their own unique ways. This allows the audience to see the other side of very taboo topics, ones for which they often have preconceived opinions.
Violence and extremism are prevalent in the media today, did this influence your decision in terms of choosing of the play?
Both: For us, the timing of putting on this play is perfect for this very reason, paired with the fact that it is 10 years since the 7/7 bombings. Stephens hammers home the message of the media’s distortion of personal opinion, and we feel that this is something which is very much prevalent in the present day with regards to issues such as ISIS, the Russian and Korean governments, and various other hot topics.
Were there any limitations you had to overcome?
Both: We’ve had 17 days to piece together this production. This proved to be a challenge but all those who have worked with us on the play have astonished us with their dedication and support. We are confident that this has allowed us to produce a challenging and impressive piece of theatre to kick off the season.
Writer, Simon Stephens, has been quoted saying that the 7/7 bombers ‘were not monsters’. Have certain actors struggled having to create empathy for potentially hated figures? How have they coped?
Both: Stephens removes all preconceptions of race, religion and gender concerning the 7/7 bomber; this, in turn, forces us to reconsider the bomber’s motives. Harry Pavlou, playing the 7/7 bomber, gives a phenomenal performance which focuses on his isolation from society and the bomber’s disgust with the austerity and consumerist sensibilities of this country.
Why should people come and watch Pornography?
Both: People should come to see the show because their opinions of society will be challenged in the most subtle of ways. They will leave the show with a more open and socially challenging mind set.
Describe your play in three words.
Both: Unnerving, exhilarating, scarring.