Next in line for GOLEM! Theatre, following Macbeths and this summer’s I Know You Of Old, will be a new play called Tomorrow Creeps. Its name is taken from one of Macbeth’s late soliloquies, and is written by company co-founder David Fairs – with a little help from a certain William Shakespeare!
“The Fallen Tyrant lies dreaming in the time-less void of a prison cell. The Spectral Queen haunts the shadows, a memory of what’s lost, a promise of worse to come. The Hollow Hero props up a worthless kingdom, abandoned by a murdered family.”
Ahead of its debut at next year’s VAULT Festival, I met with David Fairs and director Anna Marsland to discuss their influences and how they’ve collaborated to create this play. Kate Bush, magic and David Lynch loom large as they invite you into their prison cell…
In this play and previous work, David Lynch has been an enduring influence – as Fairs explains, “It is a big one, it’s quite multi-faceted in that it’s both on a stylistic level and a narrative level in different ways.” He finds Lynch a “brilliant visual storyteller” who manages to “reinvent and challenge the way narrative is delivered”. In that vein, Marsland sees the three plays as a loose series: “Each time we’ve examined narrative and structure in a different way”, from using a lot of the existing language for Macbeths, to I Know You Of Old examining what might have happened had Hero died, and Tomorrow Creeps being a “completely invented story, but David’s been quite strict about how he uses the text”.
In this play, no less than 16 Shakespeare texts (including the sonnets) have been mined to tell Fairs’ story, and combined with another big inspiration in the music and lyrics of Kate Bush. None of the plays dominate the script, though the title comes from Macbeth, and it is seen as a springboard of sorts. “It’s not linked to Macbeth in any direct way,” explains Fairs, “but the evolution of the supernatural world came out of that, and the idea of the starting point of the characters in our play could be linked to the end point of the characters in that play.”
Marsland continues, “There’s moments where I feel like you suddenly recognise an element of Hamlet, or you suddenly go, ‘Ooh, that’s an element of Henry IV’, or ‘Ooh, that’s an element of The Merchant of Venice’. When you see those moments you see the play through that lens, or there’s a satisfaction or enjoyment of recognising that, but equally – as our hope is with all of our pieces – that you don’t need an understanding or knowledge of the original text. We’re presenting something to you that is standalone; a story in itself.”
Kate Bush is linked to this via the “complete poetry” of her lyrics, and she often creates very supernatural worlds in her songs. Like the sonnets, the Kate Bush inclusion serves a very particular purpose – and is “very much part of the progression of the narrative but in a way that people won’t expect”. They are still fine-tuning the extent of her hold over Tomorrow Creeps, but Odinn Hilmarsson’s sound design is set to be a very important aspect of the production, as “the soundscape of the world is something that is very much in the fabric of the script”.
Other influences for this piece include Hammer Horror, The Love Witch, Alien, The Exorcist, Mulholland Drive, Mindhunter and The Silence of the Lambs. The latter is significant, and has an “immediate influence with the story” – the prisoner is visited by someone who’s seeking advice, very much in the way Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling interact.
The process of creating a play has been slightly different each time, with Macbeths written independently (prior to the formation of the company), then I Know You Of Old being the next step. Though as he and Marsland have similar interests and ways of thinking, Fairs suggests that “even me writing it on my own is somewhat collaborative”. Previously he would only consult if he really felt there was a need to (for example, the logistics of a stage direction), but this time he’s been happy to talk about it whilst still working on it. The play is not quite complete yet, but it’s almost there – as it is presented in three separate “progressions” they’ve been working on it that way.
“None of this was about which Shakespeare bits I liked best and which ones I want to put in, ” says Fairs – the narrative is the key here, which is all mapped out from the start. “As soon as I have a story there I notionally know where some elements of the Shakespeare are going to start to feed in.” He has a “wide working knowledge” of the Bard’s works, but obviously one part of the process was to re-read the 16 texts that were being used. Marsland sees this exercise as very much the writer’s realm, as it wouldn’t be helpful for her or the audience to end up getting “pulled in a direction” influenced by the original plays.
Fairs agrees. “There is no reason to go back to the raw material at that point; it’s come together to form this new play.” And though it’s wonderful to be able to celebrate the “timeless and brilliant” raw material, it’s all about seeing something new: “new play, new narrative, new story”.
This production has been created very much with the Vaults in mind – specifically the Cavern. “the joy of that space is how atmospheric it is; it’s got a specific smell, you can feel the texture of the walls, the air is very thick and heavy”, Marsland explains. “It’s immersive in the sense that you feel like you are entering a different world.” It’s likely that it will end up in the traverse, as it’s a “lovely big space that we can hopefully make a lot of use of”.
The soundscape will also come into play here, as the influence of Kate Bush seeps in: “She creates layers of sound and interesting textures in her music”. Along with the “trains rattling overhead”, it’s set to be a highly atmospheric affair. “You’ve got to embrace all of those aspects in order to make the audience feel completely submerged in the world of this play.”
“It’s the closes to site-specific we could get,” Fairs adds. The company are “not interested in spoon-feeding a story to the audience”, instead they’re happy to “let them into it and they’ll watch it and they’ll see it, but we’re not going to give it to them on a plate”.
The play takes place in real-time, giving a snapshot into their lives – as Marsland puts it, “You are experiencing what the characters are experiencing for an hour.” This idea of ambiguity draws on how real life progresses – you don’t get a run-down on all the details pertinent to a particular moment in everyday life, so why should that always happen in a play? Fairs states that it’s “really important to not patronise audiences and to really let a narrative evolve experientially and in a way that’s more about feeling”.
It may be their most ambitious project to date, but GOLEM! seem to be relishing the chance to do this “mad, exciting thing”. It’s set to be 60 minutes of terror; traditional horror, mixed with the psychological and existential. Did you know that the Vaults is on the site of the London Necropolis Railway, where dead bodies used to be stored? Fairs jokes, “We’re probably going to summon something!”
Tomorrow Creeps runs at the VAULT Festival from 24-28 January 2018. Tickets are available online.