Interview With…Michael Parker

We chatted to the director about bringing Benny Ainsworth’s play to the Arcola Theatre.

Hi, could you give us an insight into what Benny Ainsworth’s play is about? VERMIN is a darkly comic rollercoaster about a couple; Rachel and Billy, trying to deal with an infestation of rats in their home, whilst also trying to deal with some deeply buried trauma in their personal lives which come to the surface in an explosive way. Rachel, an old school romantic, develops a strong personal bond to these vermin, whilst Billy finds himself awakening long suppressed violent urges from his past, putting themselves on a collision course that threatens to engulf their entire relationship. A romantic comedy fused with a somber bombshell; a romcomsombomb if you will!

What has it been like working on the production? In a way, working on VERMIN has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences I have had in theatre. It’s such a provoking piece, and it’s been such a great collaborative process working with Sally and Benny (Rachel and Billy) to push the boundaries of storytelling; harnessing the intensity and humour in the piece.

How does it feel to be bringing ‘Vermin’ to the Arcola Theatre? I am so excited to bring VERMIN to the Arcola Theatre. It’s such an intimate space, the perfect setting in many ways, allowing us to put our audience right in the thick of the action. VERMIN is also a play that is very atmospheric, and there’s a beautiful simplicity to this production that allows us to bring the actors and the story right to the forefront, giving our audience nowhere to hide!

What did you think of the play when you first discovered it? When I first read the play, I felt like I’d been simultaneously hugged and punched in the stomach. I hadn’t had such a visceral reaction to a play before this one, which made me so excited to have the opportunity to direct and bring it off the page to the stage. I think Benny has crafted such a delicious script. You are immediately sucked in by the punchy dialogue and how relatable the characters are, only for the rug to be completely ripped out from under you!

Why should people come along and see ‘Vermin’? People should come and see VERMIN because it will be unlike anything they have seen or felt in a theatre. You will laugh, cry, and be shocked to the very core. It will give you a theatrical experience you won’t be able to stop thinking about or shake off, that was certainly the case for me when I first experienced it! There’s a real dynamism to the production that allows the actors to directly feed off the audience, so each performance will slightly tweak each night depending on the reactions they get, which is great fun for the actors to play and makes every moment/beat feel alive and thrilling for our audiences.

By Emma Clarendon

VERMIN continues to play at the Arcola Theatre until the 1st April.

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