Young reporter's interview: Stephen Unwin

Young reporter's interview: Stephen Unwin

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

by Kayleigh Phillips

Kayleigh Phillips interviewed Stephen Unwin, director of A View from the Bridge, in its opening week in Nottingham. Stephen reveals his thoughts on the creative process and his approach to staging an American play for British audiences. 


I walk into the auditorium and see the principal actors on stage with Stephen Unwin, the director, working on the timing of one of the scenes. The difference of a second is huge between allowing a through line of momentum and not. The timing is worked out, the lighting plot is altered slightly and they continue on working through the scene. 
 
After they finish the blocking, I was able to sit down with Stephen and kick off with the first question about our great city of Nottingham.

Stephen tells me that he loves the city, but he has done this strange triangle between the theatre, his hotel and a little Italian restaurant that he has found as he has been working so much that he hasn't left the triangle since arriving on Monday morning.
 
I asked about the four-week rehearsal process which he agrees is a very tight time frame, however, he is used to doing big productions in a small amount of time. He tells me that 'you can't get it wrong, you can't waste a day and follow dead ends'. Stephen is a very experienced director and can see if something is not working, for example before the interview, a moment was being worked out on stage and an idea is suggested, tried and withdrawn in a very small time frame as no time can be wasted.

"You can't get it wrong, you can't waste a day and follow dead ends."
Stephen Unwin, Director of A View from the Bridge

We discuss the process, Stephen tells me he 'loves the tech, as you really can nail it then'. Stephen tells me that  through experience, this is the time of the week after the first performance when 'you have to keep going'. He hopes that the show is now settled technically and then Friday afternoon there will be an acting rehearsal where there is more depth and texture that they can find. Stephen speaks of how tough the first week is and how 'the modern audience expect such a high standard and such finish from a professional company, and the reality is they have to squeeze this in to such a small time frame due to specific conditions'. We discuss the time frame in more detail and he reveals other shows would be given longer rehearsal processes. Stephen commented that it is 'not necessarily about talent, but it is about rehearsal and resources' and how 'another week would allow more time for finesse'.

"...the modern audience expect such a high standard and such finish from a professional company, and the reality is they have to squeeze this in to such a small time frame due to specific conditions" 
Stephen Unwin, Director of A View from the Bridge

A fundamental point is that a play is there for an audience, I ask how the directorial approach of an American play for a predominately British audience may have possibly differed if the audience were American. Stephen tells me that 'one of the interesting things about this American play (for him) is that it is an American play which sort of challenges some of the sentimental notions of the American dream'. Stephen clarifies that he doesn't believe that it is anti-American but it is 'a play about the statue of liberty, but whose liberty? Do we want immigrants or don't we want immigrants.' He tells me his belief that it is 'extraordinary pertinent' for now (in 2015) and you can see as the story develops 'the two immigrants bring nothing but good to America and the real agony is the underlying poverty'. Marco is there to work and save his family. All he has he gives to them and 'the real sadness is the uneducated, depressed Eddie' says Stephen.

To round off the interview I ask Stephen about his favourite moment in the play. He tells me 'When the Italians find out how much you can earn here, they say dollars and Eddie says, sure dollars. And Marco kind of bursts in to tears because of all that it can mean for his family'. It is evident that Stephen enjoys the humanity that is shown, the moments of 'You get a blessing for this, you get a blessing for that' with the connection of 'the contradiction between catastrophe and pleasure, happiness and I am eager to catch that'.

We have to leave the auditorium so that they can finish setting up for the matinee, I thank him just as Nathan Markiewicz, the assistant director, comes over to check a note from the rehearsal. I get a lovely smile from Stephen and allow them to get back to work. 

A View from the Bridge opened at Theatre Royal, Nottingham, where it ran from 4 to 7 March 2015. It then toured to Cheltenham, Darlington, Wolverhampton, Bradford, Coventry and Edinburgh, where it concluded on 2 May.