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A Dirty Martini With Evelyn Waugh
Back in the days before interactive computer missions that took up more than 24 hours of game play, there were the Choose Your Own Adventure books.
From an initial introduction, readers could make decisions where their character moved within the book – normally with a finger in the previous chapter to make sure if their storyline suddenly stopped, they could go back and make another choice.
Brighton-based Trailblaze Theatre Company’s premiere at the Hendrick’s Library takes that concept of choice and combines it with Evelyn Waugh’s classic tale of the 1920s party scene, Vile Bodies.
“As the story progresses, the audience can choose certain plot lines and see entirely different stories,” says Amy Curtis, who is directing the show.
“Our actors might find they don’t get to do certain scenes depending on the decisions made that night.
“There are eight different formats that you can see the play in at the moment, and all the alternate endings depend on the choices that were made early on in the play.
“A lot of the choices are perspective-based, so the choice the audience made means they will see a scene in a different way.”
The structure of the show has created its own challenges for the company.
“We did a scratch show at The Nightingale [in Surrey Street], which was really beneficial,” says Curtis. “It told us a lot about how people make choices and how much information and evidence they needed to make an informed decision.
“We had to make sure the choices we offered were just as exciting as each other. We didn’t want to be biased and sending the audience down a certain plotline because we enjoyed playing it.
“The hardest part was finding the endings – it’s hard to find just one ending that will satisfy an audience!”
The audience’s connection to the action is Evelyn Waugh, who leads the different plot decisions using a variety of methods, through waving flags to subcommittee decisions by audience members.
“The story is that Waugh is about to start writing Vile Bodies and you help him along,” says Curtis. “The world he writes about becomes secondary to a story about a young girl’s rise to fame and what people will do to get it. A lot of Vile Bodies is about celebrity and the first tabloid coverage of ordinary people.”
This will be Trailblaze’s second appearance at the Fringe, having launched their first professional production, The Rotten Wedding, at The Marlborough Theatre last year.
Since then they have spent a lot of time working on a research and development project at The Marlborough, as well as providing an interactive Christmas show, O Holy Night, last December.
The group is based around Curtis and fellow artistic directors Lizzie Franks, Charlie Blandford and James DuBois, who met at Exeter University. They moved to Brighton to take advantage of the performance network in the city, which Curtis, who grew up in Horsham, knew of old.
“We have found a nice home in Brighton,” she says. “There are so many creative groups, in visual arts and music. You are so close to London, you don’t feel left out of the creative loop as we did in Devon!
“Hopefully next year we will explore touring A Dirty Martini and flipping it with The Rotten Wedding. The challenge is how to pick them up and take them around the country – The Rotten Wedding became very site-specific at The Marlborough.
“It’s interesting to think that this time last year we would have just finished that first run. We’ve come a long way since then.”
Hendrick’s Library Of Delightfully Peculiar Writings, Jubilee Square, Brighton, Thursday, May 24, to Sunday, May 27
Starts 7.15pm, tickets £9. Call 01273 917272