Missing Cat – pre-Edinburgh fringe interview

Missing Cat are taking their radical version of Woyzeck to the Edinburgh Fringe from 2-17 August at Greenside @ Infirmary Street’s Forest Theatre.

Before they did their London previews, I asked Joshua Silverlock (director/producer) and Saul Barrett (producer/adaptation) to give a flavour of what audiences might expect of their show, and to answer a few more general questions about the fringe scene.

I love your company name, so let’s start with that. Who, or what, is the “missing cat”?

SB: One day I came across a poster in a street for a cat that had gone missing and I thought if we called ourselves Missing Cat it could save us money on printing…

JS: That is actually true by the way. Plus it sounds cool.

SB: We chanced upon it as a name – it felt both evocative and open enough for us to be anything.

Woyzeck is an interesting piece to adapt. Tell me about how you have created a radical version which runs just fifty minutes!

JS: Well to be honest the play itself doesn’t run much longer than an hour [note: this is true but Buchner left the play unfinished and the opera by Berg is considerably longer!] so it’s been a case of making small but judicious cuts and alterations which Saul has done really well. The way Buchner writes is incredibly lean and pared back, there is hardly any flab to the story. Each exchange is essential.

SB: The biggest change we’ve made is to reduce the cast to only three actors – one playing Woyzeck, one playing Marie and a third covering all the others. The idea behind this was to give an already economical text a tighter dramatic focus.

Rehearsal photo for Woyzeck
Rehearsal photo for Woyzeck

Is your work at all influenced by wars and conflict currently happening across the world?

SB: The key strength of the play is that it feels incredibly contemporary while also directly borne of the time Buchner was writing. It has a timeless appeal, the issues at its heart still preoccupy us, while remaining deeply personal.

JS: To a certain extent the military aspect is incidental, ultimately it’s about a man and a woman struggling to provide for their son and fraying at the edges as a result. Buchner, who died at a very young age, mainly wrote political essays, Woyzeck being one of his few plays – to us that’s a really vital clue into staging it – it has a political conscience but it can’t exist on a page – it’s about people, atmosphere and emotion.

You’re playing at the New River Studios in London and at the Forest Theatre on the Edinburgh Fringe. What attracted you to these particular venues?

SB: Both spaces are (at least by fringe theatre standards!) very large, open and expansive – we really wanted a blank canvas within which to create this world.

JS: The majority of the stage will be covered with soil, within which all scenes occur. Just outside this are all the mechanics used to create the show (sound equipment, lights, props etc.), manipulated onstage by the actors. For these two ‘layers’ to work we needed an unobtrusive space that would blend seamlessly with our starkly visible design.

Rehearsal photo for Woyzeck
Rehearsal photo for Woyzeck

How important is music to your creative process?

JS: Both music and sound are the bedrock of this production. Johnny [Edwards – sound designer] and Finn [Carter – Composer] have been in rehearsals throughout and the play has been built around their work. We’ve worked really hard to blur the line between music and sound design, underscoring the action without ever making their presence too obviously known.

SB: Having such a present soundscape to work against is a real treat for me as an actor. In this production the sound is almost another character to be playing against.

What’s the single most exciting thing happening in fringe theatre right now?

SB: The blending of different performance genres feels very exciting at the moment. Just like we as individuals are increasingly avoiding simple classification, the shows I’ve seen lately seem to defy pigeonholing and embrace nuance.

JS: I think for me what makes fringe theatre special is that it feels like a more immediate artform – most commercial and even subsidised theatre it seems to me has to jump through so many hoops before it gets to an audience that the end product can often bear no resemblance to what might initially imagined. The fringe I think manages to avoid this issue – sometimes for better sometimes for worse!

The cast of Woyzeck - Chris Born, Lucy Sherry, Saul Barrett
The cast of Woyzeck – Chris Born, Lucy Sherry, Saul Barrett

Where is Missing Cat heading after this production?

JS + SB: Well! To quote a memorable exchange from the play:

“Let’s go, Marie. It’s time.”

“Where to?”

“Who knows?”

Photo courtesy of Missing Cat’s Facebook page.

My thanks to Josh and Saul for their time and responses, and please consider watching Woyzeck if you are at the Edinburgh Fringe. You can follow the further adventures of the Missing Cat on their Facebook page.