Edinburgh Fringe 2022
How can a soldier be trained to be a cold-blooded killing machine while clinging on to the threads of humanity? A Dantesque descent into the conundrums, contradictions and hypocrisies of war through the eyes of a convicted war criminal. Based on real events, this taut psychological thriller seeks justice from the collision of morality and empathy.
European Premiere from multi-award winning House Of Cards writer Bill Cain, directed by Olivier winner Guy Masterson (Morecambe, The Shark Is Broken), starring Joshua Collins, Samara Neely Cohen, Daniel Bowerbank, and Fringe favourite, Stage Award and multiple Fringe First winner, David Calvitto.
Hi Guy thank you for talking to The New Current, how does it feel to heading to Edinburgh Fringe after everything that has happened?
Well, I came up last year and did 11 performances of Under Milk Wood in a Spiegeltent and was one of about 200 shows... so on the one hand I'm really glad that we've returned to some kind of normalcy, on the other hand I cannot believe there are three and a half thousand shows! It has exposed a vulnerable underbelly of a fragile infrastructure that may ultimately lead to its self destruction - But this is about celebration not doom-mongering!
Will there be any nerves ahead of your first show at Assembly Festival?
Not from me. I've delivered 150 shows at EdFringe in 27 seasons and all but 5 of those at Assembly, so nerves are thankfully things of the past for me. Sometimes I wish I did get a bit nervous! Maybe I could head off some problems at inception!
Scott Matthewman in The Reviews Hub said “9 Circles is a magnificently disturbing, compelling, essential watch.” What does it meant you to get this type of reaction and response for this production?
It makes me feel good because it means we've done our job properly. Most people think that it is the applause that drives us but it's not. It is also the knowledge that Theatre can have the power to do good.
Can you tell me a little bit about 9 Circles, what was it about Bill Cain’s text that interested you as a director?
Firstly, it's based on the true story of private Stephen Dale Green who committed war atrocities in Iraq and was sentenced to death in a civilian court in America. What Cain postulates is that despite his crimes, everybody, if they seek to understand the terrible things they did, might have a shot at redemption. Set against the metaphorical backdrop of Dantes Nine Circles of Hell, we are able to witness a traumatised human being unravel his guilt and seek redemption. It can force us to look at things from a different perspective, and give us all hope.
Due to the salient themes within 9 Circles and the precarious political situation we find ourselves in did you have any apprehensions about bringing this production to the fringe?
Not at all. Precisely the opposite. This is exactly the time to bring such a thought-provoking hard-hitting play to perhaps the only place on Earth that you can really bring it home.
Do you think it’s important for theatre makers to continue to push the boundaries of the theatre and stories they want to tell?
I have never thought differently. It is perhaps the only medium where you can be profoundly direct about your message. I'm not saying that every work of theatre should have a message, but that it is arguably the only art form where you can be uncompromising in challenging the status quo through a central message.
"Directing 9 Circles has been challenging in many respects, but I would like to think that I have taken the pressure of "creating" the production of myself."
How much flexibility do you allow yourself or the cast with the text or staging once a show is running?
Theatre is a live art form which manifests through the live performances of its protagonists, but the playwright's words are sacrosanct after the rehearsal process. My job is Director is simply to ensure that the story is clear for the audience and that all movement and vocalisation on stage serves the narrative direction. In the West End, after the previews, we "lock the show". Any changes after that - deliberate or inadvertent - are entered into the show log. If they contribute to the narrative, they might be included going forward. If not, they would be excised mercilessly!
Where did your passion for theatre come from?
I think I've always loved going to plays, and I was one of those kids that the teachers asked to read lines from Shakespeare or poetry in class, but the passion only really developed after my famous uncle – Richard Burton – passed away unexpectedly in 1984. He had already engendered a new love of theatre and poetry in me despite my being a biochemist!, but little did I know at the time that I would consider it a career path.
What has been the most interesting thing you have discovered about yourself and the theatre you want to create after directing 9 Circles?
Directing 9 Circles has been challenging in many respects, but I would like to think that I have taken the pressure of "creating" the production off myself because I don't think of myself as a creator, merely an interpreter. Therefore if my interpretation does not work, I still have the flexibility to fix it. That's vital. And it keeps the ego under control!
What one word would best describes this show?
What has been the best piece of advice you have been give and do you have any advice you would offer an emerging theatre director?
Love the words (Dylan Thomas).
Do you have a favourite theatre quote?
"Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Macbeth: Shakespeare
It's taught me to take what I do with a bigger pinch of salt!
And finally, what do you hope your audiences will take away from 9 Circles?
That they are sensitive empathetic people and there are two sides to every story. Sometimes that realisation can be a shock to them!