Woodley Theatre present Humble Boy
April 20, 2012
Audiences are funny animals – or at least, they are according to the director of Woodley Theatre’s latest production.
With experience of no fewer than 25 shows, director Steve Atkins knows what he is talking about.
“The audience start off as individual people,” he explains. “And if you do it right they evolve into this living, breathing thing of their own.
“It must be an interesting psychology.”
The 66-year-old is hoping his audience will turn into a noisy applauding beast, when they watch the company’s production of Humble Boy next week.
The play, written by former actress Charlotte Jones, tells the story of the Humble family and their dysfunctional relationships.
Inspired by Hamlet, it begins when Felix Humble returns to his family home in the countryside after receiving word of the death of his father James.
He arrives to find his mother, Flora, has got rid of all his father’s belongings, including his precious bees, and has already lined up a new husband to fill his shoes.
“It is a very intelligent play so you can view it on various levels,” says Steve. “You can read the play and see different bits as well.
“It’s one of those plays that right throughout the rehearsal you see bits and think ‘oh, that happens in act one and that’s why something else happens in act two’.
“There is a lot of subtext.”
After the tension-filled return, things become increasingly frosty between Felix and Flora, despite the hot summer backdrop to the play.
Giving a nod to the works of Alan Ayckbourn, Humble Boy features an elaborate garden set, which won an Olivier award when it premiered at The National Theatre in 2001.
For the Woodley Theatre production Steve has also turned his talents to set design, coming up with a green, vivid outdoor setting.
“My set is a back porch with hanging baskets, a lawn, wall ivy and flowers,” he says.
“It represents a country garden in mid-summer and hopefully it should be quite lush.”
Between directing the play and designing the set it is a wonder Steve has any time to relax, but he says he enjoys seeing all the pieces of a play come together.
“I love doing it,” he says. “Some directors like to get inspired as they go through and I have worked with some who end up with a very good result, but they keep changing up until somewhere near the end.
“I don’t like working off the hoof. I like to have a pretty good idea of where I’m going when I start.”
And with curtain up just a few days away the director is confident that the cast are almost ready to go.
“The cast are brilliant,” he says enthusiastically.
“Two of the actors have done the parts before. We have a preview evening in January which shows bits of the plays we are going to do and these two did a bit of Humble Boy.
“They said they got together and rehearsed it briefly but I was most impressed with what they came up with. It was stage ready.
“I do love to see this kind of thing come together and you get a different perspective from each audience.”
As he awaits the audience’s reaction to Humble Boy next week, Steve is hoping the animal sitting in the theatre will be left purring after getting a taste of Woodley Theatre’s latest treat.
Humble Boy is at The Oakwood Centre in Headley Road from Tuesday, April 24, to Saturday, April 28. Tickets are £10 or £8 for concessions. To book visit www.woodleytheatre.org or call 07939 210 121.