A sequestered community, led by propaganda and religious zealots, fuelled by inbreeding and moonshine rests on the outskirts of society at large: the world that Nick Cave moulded in his debut novel, And The Ass Saw The Angel, is as ugly as it is inspired.
The London-based (but comprising a troupe of international creatives ) Fledgling Theatre Company have taken Cave’s brutal social landscape and have transposed it onto a timeless backdrop which questions the human condition when a society is pushed to the limit. A project which has taken over a year to come to fruition, Fledging Theatre’s Jericho Creek opens at the Cockpit Theatre this month and we caught up with the company to discuss the project and the long-lasting influence of Mr. Cave.
THE METROPOLIST: And The Ass Saw The Angel by Nick Cave is a difficult book to adapt: it has number of narrative voices, a mute protagonist and is set over a long period of time. Tell us how it all came about.
Chris Huntly-Turner: We started, my co-director and I, the other Chris who can’t be here today, with the book. Chris [Neels] had read the And The Ass Saw The Angel, gave it to me and said “there is a lot in here we could explore”. I thought “this is perfect!” So we had a research and development (R&D) session with three different plays and very different concepts we were working with at the at time and we were lucky enough to get 30 actors, writers, musicians and directors in and we presented three showcases to a variety of other producers and directors.
Unanimously, Jericho Creek was the idea and the concept which was considered to be more rounded and which captured the attention of everyone asked. It is not a retelling of Nick Cave’s work, we like to describe it as ‘inspired by the works of Nick Cave’. If you look at the structure and the plot (or the lack thereof) it is an immersive book, we are merely taking some issues which are discussed at the start of the book and completely re-contextualising them into a place and time where we feel they are heightened and more prevalent.
Callum Cameron: Also, another work we reference amongst ourselves is The Proposition which, in terms of setting and site, was kind of a direct inspiration on us. I would say it is mainly inspired by those two works.
CH-T: Basically, it is the tale of a religious community in colonial Australia before it was Australia. There are no Australian accents, there is no Crocodile Dundee jokes – it is very much an English, western society transplanted into a harsh environment, an unforgiving landscape and Jericho Creek looks at hoe religion plays a part in tearing that apart and how people at the extremes of their own existence interact and fall apart.
CC: And how they choose to believe in when they are most desperate.
TM: So you take the ideas of propaganda which are prevalent at the start of the novel and you try to think about them in a different way. Ideas of immigration come to mind and this is something you have said before.
CC: When we were doing the R&D we worked with that idea but I think the play has moved on from that now. I think when we were originally applying for things and working on the R&D a lot of people thought the leader figure, the preacher who grabs everyone remind someone of Nigel Farage and Ukip. It may seem quite cheap to just attach a fictional character to a name but there were notions of nationhood – and how you build a nation of equality – which came about and we were really interested in that idea for a while. Now the piece has moved on.
CH-T: But definitely in terms of immigration and transplantation of cultures, that is very prevalent. The world and society we have created is one which is constantly trying to grab a hold of what they know and what they know to be the way of life should be in a place which doesn’t allow it to be the case. So, if you think about the segregation of cultures across London, let alone the UK, I think ideas within the play speak universally.
This interview was conducted for The Metropolist website. The Full interview can be read here.
Inspired by Nick Cave’s novel ‘And the Ass Saw the Angel’, Jericho Creek is set in the harsh conditions of colonial Australia. Jericho Creek is a world of inbreeding, moonshine and religious fanaticism where slowly but surely the community’s dark underbelly begins to expose itself.
Fledgling Theatre Company are Callum Cameron, Chris Huntly – Turner and Christopher Neels.
Jericho Creek will be at the Cockpit Theatre between 29th July and 1st August 2015. Click here for more details and tickets.