It's just been two days since The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abrdiged) closed its raucous two-week run at Sasha's and Urban Aphrodite's Ann James is living the maxim that the show must go on. She's teamed up with the Irish Consulate to produce the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe Festival Fringe First winning play, The New Electric Ballroom. Described by the New York Times as a "mordantly funny, weirdly transfixing play," it was penned by Enda Walsh - a Tony Award winning playwright on the forefront of contemporary Irish writing. The show debuts this Thursday at Sasha's and we have tickets to give away. Read below on how to win and Ann's thoughts on a play she describes as like "Tennessee Williams, if you took out the southern genteelness."
Could you talk about your new show The New Electric Ballroom?
It was written by Enda Walsh and it won Fringe first at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2008. The Irisih Consulate contacted me about putting on a full-length play and multiple people suggested The New Electric Ballroom. It’s so gritty and visceral – these sisters create this ritual experience around an event that happened in their past. They’re extremely isolated from society so there are no rules. No one is watching them so they exist in a very purely human form without social pressures to behave in any way. They come up with their own system of relating to one another with huge sibling rivalry and competition. The family’s tension in an odd way compels them to stay together. It’s claustrophobic and uncomfortable and the audience will feel they’re part of something almost messianic in nature because there’s a ritual in what they do. They speak to each other with these repetitive phrases. I think of it as Tennessee Williams if you took the Southern genteelness out of his work.
It sounds grim.
This play takes family life to an almost Darwinian level of humanity. It’s a tragedy for some but for others it will open their heart to a family member. It makes you understand what it is to have social rules and how protected we are by the social mores and niceties that buffer us from each other. It illuminates watching your words. Watch what you do but more importantly with family where you’re bonded by blood, watch your words. The words you say to this intimate group of human beings stick with that group and don’t go out anywhere else, so it becomes a stew of past comments, past experiences and past joys as well. It’s more than a drama. It’s a melodrama. It’s an über-drama and one of the best plays I’ve read in a long time.
Who are the characters and the cast?
There are three sisters and a fishmonger that comes in and out of their lives. They’re completed isolated in their house on a small isolated fishing village off the coast of Ireland. The cast includes Mirren Hill who recently did Macabre Tales of Poe (with East-West Theatre) who I think has been under-utlized. The other sister is Sue Brooks. She came to Hay Fever and knocked out the audition. She’s got this really breezy attitude and is just fireworks as an actor. We have Christy Shapiro who’s playing the youngest daughter. She’s wonder and I can’t wait to work with her because she’s just a sponge of creativity; wonderfully present and engaged. There’s also Daniel Cotterall who was in East-West’s Lend Me A Tenor. He’s got the Irish dialect down pat and he’s helping out. We’re trying to modulate them together on the same Ireland. (laughs) We have some Northern Ireland, Ireland Ireland, Welsh – so we’re trying to put it together.
How is your Irish accent?
I actually played an Irish woman once at a renaissance festival way back in the day.
Let’s hear it.
No, we’re not going to do that.
Anything you want to add?
I’m so pleased to have been asked by the Irish Consulate to deliver this play to Shanghai. One of their missions is to put Irish culture into any city that they have a consulate and they’re really on the forefront of doing that. They have Irish Culture Departments at the university so they’re setting up something through the consulate for our cast members to go to these departments to talk about the play and there’s a bit of a workshop feel. We do a Q&A and maybe a small scene from the show.
I challenge people to come and see the play and give themselves an opportunity to see good theater. Whether it’s a tragedy or a comedy, one of Urban Aphrodite’s goals is to bring our audiences forward to the cutting edge of theatrical ideas. The play is a solid play and whether the ending is happy or sad, the audience will be changed going through it.
// Nov 28-Dec 8 (Thur to Sun), 7.30pm, RMB200-220. Sasha’s, 3/F, 1 Dongping Lu, by Hengshan Lu 东平路11号，近衡山路(6474 6628)
WIN TICKETS TO THE NEW ELECTRIC BALLROOM
We have a pair of tickets to give away to The New Electric Ballroom. Just answer this question.
Enda Walsh co-wrote a 2008 film starring Michael Fassbender that was nominated for Best British Film at the British Academy Film Awards. What is the name of it?
To win, just send your answers to this question with the subject line "New Electric Ballroom" to firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday, November 27.