Sophie Arthur

An Interview with Elinor Randle, ‘Beyond Belief’s Creative Director

I recently got the chance to sit down with the creative director, Elinor Randle, of a new play, ‘Beyond Belief’, premiering at the Unity Theatre on Hope Street between 28th September and 6th October. Have a read below and make sure you go and see what sounds like an incredible performance.

Could you give me a bit of the background to the story?

So, ‘Beyond Belief’ is a company and they exist in the future. They can bring your loved ones back to life through their data and what we call digital souls. It’s a piece that has text, story, physicality; some of it is quite real and some of it is fantasy.

 

How did this idea come about? And what inspired it?

It came in at a few stages. Normally the work that I do starts with one thing I’ve really been thinking about and that can be quite general, so it actually started with thinking a lot about death and how do we cope as humans with this concept. That was going round and round and round, and I was thinking about it a lot. Then I started to talk to the writer about these thoughts that I’d been having and that led us to immortality and what’s going on in the world now. The thing that then majorly influenced me was social media, I started finding out people had died on Facebook and I thought, “This is crazy!” and it led me to thinking about digital legacies. So, we explored the future of that happening but in a physical form. It was a real mix of the way we are living now, and potentially will in the future, and the more human element of life and death.

Are there any questions that you keep revisiting in rehearsals?

I suppose myself and the writer, Chris Fittock, are now narrowing those ideas and thoughts that we had at the beginning down. We’re now at a point of just refining and making decisions about what we show. We try to show loss and the physical, human side of this, and if you could physicalise those emotions of grief and loss, what would it look like? Or the longing for someone? But then on the other side there’s the tech that’s overcoming this, almost.

Why this and why now? Was it your next idea, or something you’ve been thinking about for a while?

We have a pattern that we have a new show every two years, so we do the research and a show where we get feedback and then change it all in one year and then it’ll open the next year. So, it was our normal timing of shows but I suppose for this particular piece, I’m just really fascinated in how social media works and how it can keep someone alive, and then what are we? What is left? It’s really different now and that is going to come into our lives in a massive, massive way. Do we ever get to change our online biographies and will we ever have to pay a subscription like we pay for a tombstone or a plaque in a crematorium to keep our memory alive?

How do you go about incorporating the physical aspects of the play?

It’s a bit of everything, some things we workshop and some are still evolving as we rehearse. The very first process is lots and lots of ideas and films and ideas to improv and then we’ll sort of go “we’re just going to explore this physically” or we know that we want an opening that’s almost a love dance of this couple. Some things are quite obvious and some we’re still finding what the balance is stylistically with text and how much movement is needed or not. We use adverts on a screen because that’s how we read these days. That’s the process that will be continuing throughout the tech and the previews.

Do you think we’ve reached this point yet? Or is it still in our future?

I mean it is already happening and it really surprised me because it’s not really something I looked in to. It firstly surprised me that there’s companies starting up every minute to be the ones to sign you up to protect your digital legacy and then there’s loads more happening that we don’t even know, especially in terms of how advanced things are technologically.

This is obviously incredibly current so what would you like audiences to take away from it?

I don’t think there’s something ever, with any of the pieces that I do, where I want someone to take away one thing. It’s got to take you on a journey and affect you in some way about what it is to be alive and to be human. You don’t have to be interested even in the subject, because you are people and you should be interested in human relationships and life.

How collaborative is the approach between the acting, design and music to create the world we see on stage?

It’s very collaborative from as early as possible, even at the point where it is still embarrassing for me to say the ideas because they’re not properly formed yet. But I force them to be involved, in email groups sending round different ideas, so that we’ve built up a language together in the room and they try and be in the room as much as possible. It’s a really vital part. The composer, I’ve worked with several times before for so many years now, so we both know what is needed and what’s not. That’s really important. It’s what everyone ideally wants that you’re all working together, to the same thing.

How do you go about creating the digital world on a stage? And what are the challenges that come with this?

That was a choice early on that we don’t have big, massive budgets, so it’s not going to look high-tech like some of the things we see on TV and film. We worked with the amazing people from The Kazimier to make it look more analogue, with our set designer we’re making our own world, not an imaginary future. We, as a current society, are already more high-tech than you will see in our future, but we hope that it creates an effective performance. It’s a really good question because it’s something that from the beginning we were thinking, “Right, how are we going to do this?”

To book tickets and find out more, look here: https://www.unitytheatreliverpool.co.uk/whats-on/beyond-belief.html

Photo Credits to Tmesis Theatre

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