Ahead of their show Gulliver Returns in the Great Hall on Thu 13 September, we caught up with Dan Coleman, Artistic Director of Dawn State Theatre Company to find out more about the show.
Tickets for Gulliver Returns are on sale here.
For those who might not have seen your previous collaborations, tell us more about your shows.
Dawn State began life about 4 years ago. We make new work inspired by classic texts and forgotten stories; creating a bridge between the past and the present with plays that feel both contemporary and timeless. We’re interested in what a contemporary myth might look like, and what place those myths might have in the raging debate about who we are, and where we’re going. Our first show was a contemporary adaptation of Kipling’s début novella The Man Who Would Be King; which explored the rise and fall of two mercenaries who try to set themselves up as kings in the remote north of Afghanistan. Our second was a new play inspired by the true story of Britain’s bloodiest witch-hunt, called The Wonderful Discovery of Witches in the County of Lancaster.
What made you choose Gulliver’s Travels as your inspiration?
I wanted to write a play about grief and mental health, and I wanted that play to explore the idea that being grief-stricken is like being lost in a savage land. So I started looking at Gulliver’s Travels, which is a book I’ve wanted to do something with for a while. It’s an astonishing, contradictory, insightful (and largely misunderstood) book. For me it’s about a lost soul trying to find some kind of order in a scary and chaotic world; and that felt like a really interesting jumping off point. So Gulliver Returns tells the story of the book but it’s also the story of a contemporary couple dealing with a traumatic loss. In an attempt to escape his grief our Lemuel has escaped into the weird world of Swift’s book, and now his partner Lil is on a mission to drag him out of his fantasy and bring him back home. The hope is that by laying those two stories on top of each other you get to look at both of them in a new way.
Can you tell us more about the style and feel of the play? What can the audience expect from seeing the show?
I think adaptations of Gulliver’s Travels quite often focus on the more child-friendly adventures that take place early in the book – where Gulliver is washed up in the land of the tiny Liliputians. Ours focuses on the second half of the book where things become darker and more mysterious, so audiences should expect something very different – something that feels very dramatic and hopefully very emotional. It’s a play that explores the strange places we go to when our world is torn apart, and the power that love has to drag us back from those places. I hope people are transported by it and touched by it as well.
On the question of boiled eggs, do you open yours at the big or the little end?
Haha! I hate all kinds of eggs and basically haven’t eaten one since I was a child, so I thankfully stand apart from the big-end/small-end divide. It’s a brilliant bit of satire though isn’t it? I think that side of Gulliver’s Travels is quite over-looked, but it sits right at the heart of Swift’s book. It’s the original dystopian novel and the way it comments on society had a huge influence on many of the great novels that came after it: George Orwell talks about it having a huge influence on 1984, for example.
Gulliver Returns by Dawn State Theatre Company is at the Maltings on Thursday 13 September, at 7.30pm. Book your tickets here. Maltings members tickets are just £9.