Lilac Yosiphon: One Last Thing (For Now)
By Caro Moses | Published on Thursday 2 March 2017
Coming this month to the Old Red Lion theatre is Althea Theatre’s ‘One Last Thing (For Now)’, an exploration of communication between lovers, set against the backdrop of war and conflict.
To find out more about this intriguing theatrical piece, and how it all came together, I spoke to director Lilac Yosiphon.
CM: Can you start by explaining what format the play takes? I understand that there are a number of different stories, but do they intertwine, or are they independently told?
LY: We begin with several independent stories told in fragments, but as the show progresses these begin to collide, overlap and interconnect. By the end of the show, a network of narratives becomes one, so each one sheds light on the other, and a cross-cultural experience of love and conflict can be shared. The artistic director of the Old Red Lion describes the play as ‘a tapestry of interweaving stories’.
CM: What are the stories about?
LY: The play focuses around several main narratives from WWI in Northern England, WW2 in Paris, Germany and Russia, the Vietnam war, the conflict in Colombia in the last few decades, together with contemporary stories from Britain and Israel. Each story connects somehow to one of the other stories and helps illuminate political unrest and uncertainty in the UK and the world.
CM: What ideas and themes were you intending to explore with the piece?
LY: The play connects different aspects of war – the difficulty to describe the violence involved, the need to maintain an illusion, conscientious objection – in order to reflect on the type of injuries which occur at the front line together with potential emotional trauma to the community at the home front and humanity’s potential to rise above it.
CM: It’s a very international in its approach, isn’t it? How do you evoke the differences between the different settings?
LY: Each scene is very much its own moment in time. Some exist as more grounded glimpses into the lives of those around us while others act as a window into something much more fantastical. Music, physicality and movement are the lifeblood of the company and as the play progresses the seemingly disparate scenes begin to overlap and connect.
CM: The show has been created by you and your ensemble cast – can you explain how your creative process worked?
LY: We began with reading as many letters as we could find. Some were published in collections and some we sourced through family, friends and people we work with. We even found some remarkable hand-made postcards from 1914 sent from the trenches to Southgate. We then discussed what we discovered from reading these letters – what are the repeating statements? How do people describe their experiences in war time? How do they express their love or distress? I then encouraged the actors to start writing monologues, scenes and develop characters. There were certain physical exercises that led to the development of certain stories. Eventually, the text and movement were incorporated into the final draft of the play which we’ve been developing ever since.
CM: Is your cast as international as the play?
LY: We’re lucky enough to enjoy a varied international cast. A few of us are British as we are a London based company, but our group hails from all over the Globe! Columbia, Greece, Israel, France… Yorkshire. Some of the places and timelines we explore are new ventures for all of us but that came from a desire to create a more complete international tapestry for the audience to appreciate.
CM: Apparently one of the scenes is the result of a call-out to the local area for love letters – can you tell us a bit about that?
LY: With a mind to take the show all over the world we wanted to portray that no matter where you are, or where you’re from, there is a history and experience of war and hundreds of hidden stories and correspondences surrounding it. So we called for letters in the local area of Angel and in and around London. The idea being that wherever we go a new story will be devised based on these letters, the location and its history. We feel it gives a resonance; something an audience can relate to, ‘closer to home’. We found some really interesting letters but you’ll have to come and see the show to discover which one we picked.
CM: Can you tell us about Althea Theatre? Who brought the company together, and what are your aims?
LY: Althea Theatre is an international theatre company of British and non-British actors based in London that was founded in 2014. Through exploring international and local viewpoints, we seek to challenge issues prevalent to European society today.
CM: What other shows has the company produced?
LY: Althea’ second project, ‘There’s No Place Like’ was written by me and directed by Mike Cole and Marianne Mayer. It premiered in Brighton Fringe Festival in 2015 and transferred immediately to the Arts Theatre where it had a limited sold out run. Since the beginning of 2016, the show has been touring internationally and had sold-out performances in Paris (Café du Theatre in January and Paris Fringe in May), Jaffa (Arab-Hebrew Theatre) and Venice (Venice Open Stage). The production is currently planned for an American-Canadian tour in 2017.
Althea’s Third project, ‘untranslatable’, was a co-production with HeSaidSheSaid production and had a two-week run at the Space Theatre in London in August. The play co-written by a Northern-Irish writer and an Australian writer captured the essence of a relationship as a collection of moments shared between lovers before bedtime.
The company is also currently working on a monodrama titled ‘Jericho’s Rose’, about memory, displacement and identity which was originally developed for The Northern Stage’s Here’s the News from Over There at Edinburgh Fringe 2015. The play interconnects events from Baghdad, Paris, Tel Aviv and London and was sampled at The One Festival at The Space Theatre This January.
CM: What are your future plans?
LY: We’re certainly not finished with ‘One Last Thing (For Now)’. Our previous production ‘There’s No Place Like’ enjoyed a successful international tour in Paris, Venice and Tel Aviv. If we can return to each of these beautiful locations and perhaps even further afield we’d be ecstatic. For the moment though, the opening of the play at the Old Red Lion Theatre is the next challenge for the company.
‘One Last Thing (For Now)’ is on at the Old Red Lion Theatre from 7-25 Mar. See this page here for details.