TES – Tess of the D’Ubervilles Reimagined
Westbury Theatre (10330 – 104 avenue) August 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 23
More information: stevelarkin.com
An interview with Steve Larkin
Describe your show in five words.
Racy intense dramatic urban story
Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?
So ‘TES’ is Tess of the D’Urbervilles re-imagined. I have taken the original threads of Hardy’s classic and rewoven them into a gritty enthralling modern day story which has been described by various sources as:
“an Orwellian portrayal of Britain’s rotting underbelly that slices like a rusty razor”
Victoria Times Colonist
“a fierce retelling of an old classic that needs to be seen”
I’ve done all the hard work bringing the story alive so you don’t have to wade through hundreds of pages of pastoral landscapes!
There are laughs in the show but essentially it’s a tragedy, I like to think that TES is the antithesis of Disney. It’s a show which stands alone that will be enjoyed by anyone, and I’m regularly told by people who are aware of the original that they are fascinated by the modern day equivalents.
I suppose the obvious question is: why re-imagine Tess of the D’Ubervilles?
Good question. Firstly if you do wade through the book as an adult you will be richly rewarded – it is brilliant. Secondly in the UK and in the West generally we are sliding backwards into Victorian values, the state is being stripped back, unaccountable corporations are becoming dangerously powerful and we are being sold a bogus story about another golden age of philanthropy. Abysmal social mobility in the UK continues in the post-industrial era and there are many parallels with the era in which Hardy wrote TES. I think the piece is extremely pertinent and speaks directly to the zeitgeist.
TES originally started out as a spoken-word piece. I know there are a lot of similarities between spoken word and theatre, but what was the impetus to develop it into a theatre piece?
I want people to be immersed in this world that I have created. I liked the purely spoken word story version of the show but I have since worked with a dramaturge and an Olivier-Award nominated West End sound designer to create a soundscape that will help you feel every bump of the character’s journey. I’m looking forward to recreating this world in The Westbury. I’d like to think that the piece could have life beyond the theatre in TV or film, it is consciously written with a cinematic eye. It is certainly a different beast than shows I’ve done for many years which are essentially a set list of poems or songs.
Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?
Yes, there are a few stand-alone pieces of performance poetry or ‘slam poetry’ as some call it. The set up I use, having the main character being found to be the decedent of Lord Byron, gives me the opportunity to explore another theme and hopefully showcase some talent to entertain. Oh and he dies in the end! This isn’t a spoiler – “how?’ and “when?” are the questions that will keep you in suspense.
Bonus question: Any names you want to drop who have been involved in your show (Edmonton arts people or otherwise)?
I have had quite a bit of help with this show. I wrote it on a fringe tour last year and I’m indebted to Martin Dockery who gave me some initial directorial support and importantly encouraged me to develop the show orally without recording any of it on a written script. After he’d helped me with the first draft I also had input from Candy Simmons from Sunset Productions and then recently from Rob Gee who has become a massive fan of the show. The residency at The Old Fire Station Theatre in Oxford this year with Lizzy McBain (the dramaturge) and Chris Full (sound designer) has been the only formal training/development I have done in the theatrical world. It’s this mixed bunch of influences from professional actors, to storytellers, to stand-up poets that have helped me create what I hope is a unique and extremely palatable theatrical cocktail.