Trust opens at the Gate Theatre tonight. Theatre journalist Tom Ward sits down with director and performer Jude Christian to peek behind the curtain of this production:

I sat down for few cups of tea with Jude Christian, to discuss her new production of Trust by Falk Richter (translated by Maja Zade) at the Gate Theatre. We talk about Jude’s attitudes to British theatre, what Trust has taught her about her artistry, and just how scary it is to perform in your own work:

So for those who don’t know, can you tell people a bit about Trust?

“Including me! It draws a correlation between the abusiveness of relationships – where we might find ourselves content within the security of it being there – and our relationship to capitalism. When I initially read it, I thought it was brilliant, and even though I knew it was brilliant, I couldn’t justify exactly why it should be done in Britain at that time.”

Trust Jude Christian

Zephryn Taitte

How have you found the process of making a German play relevant to a British audience?

“Brexit happened, and living through a national breakup just highlighted many aspects of the play for me. As somebody who is mixed race and was born in this country, I don’t want the island that I live on to lock in that little bit further. I was also going through a personal breakup at the time, and it struck me how you can be very sad about the whole thing, but then something about the way that person acts towards the breakup reaffirms the 52% of me that wanted to leave. And that aspect feels so loud in the play.”

“The way to do it feels easy but the actually doing it is hard – Trust is a text that works through a process of layering. It combines a very stream of conscious narrative, followed up with something relatively naturalistic. I guess what becomes harder is giving the audience the license to find things out for themselves, knowing where to land things without making every single thing feel like you are really pushing your point across. But it also needs to be fun and entertaining! You don’t want to make something relentlessly depressing and wordy. Allow those connections to be glorious and ridiculous.”

Trust Jude Christian Gate Theatre

Pia Laborde Noguez & Zephryn Taitte

What have you found interesting about Falk’s style?

“I find it really liberating. Because the text has zero stage directions, it very seldom has lines assigned to specific characters. The voices of the individuals are so strong that it felt like such an exciting opportunity.”

“After I had agreed that I was going to direct Trust, I asked Falk if I could add & take bits away, make myself more present in the play to make it slightly more specific to Britain in 2018 rather than Germany in 2010. He said yes to everything I was asking but I still wanted to stay true to what is in the text, which is partly a British approach to making work but also partly a recognition that this play is already so fragmented &self aware that it requires such a lightness of touch.”

Just words on the page

Hannah Rae & Justine Mitchell in Vivienne Franzmann’s Bodies (image courtesy of Bronwen Sharp)

In Jude’s production of Bodies at the Royal Court Upstairs, the text is also absent of stage directions. I wonder if texts that don’t feature these allow a director more freedom to throw ideas around, examine the production through a personal lens without having it provide you with a set of expectations:

“I’m at a stage in my work where I’m really excited by direction & design being a creative art form, and writing be a component of that but not being a blueprint. It has a lot to do with how new writing is made in this country – writers want to give as full a picture to the theatre as possible because you are trying to help people visualise it in a way that isn’t helped when you have just blank words on a page. But I find it exciting to have just those words on the page because it demands so much of you as a director.”

“I like writers who demand the impossible. If a writer is telling you everything that is done, then why write plays? Why not be a novelist? I’m more interested in us all going in as a collective unknown and figuring out how to make the impossible work. In doing new writing, you are having a negotiation with the writer, and a lot of writers obviously want strong authorship over the text. I have really come to respect the constraint of writers who say no, those who keep you in check. That’s a great meeting ground.”

“Even though I was able to chuck things out and change bits with Trust, it’s been a discipline exercise in,

‘Don’t just cut that bit because you don’t understand it yet’.

Trust is a text that invites you to throw it up against the wall in as many different ways as you can.”

Making work that is dangerous and unknown

Trust Jude Christian Gate Theatre

Jude Christian

Not only is Jude directing, but she is also performing in Trust. It’s not the first time she has taken this strategy – Nanjing was developed at the Yard Theatre as part of their NOW Festival 2016 and will premiere at The Globe in June 2018:

“When Trust came about, there were three reasons why I decided that I should be in it. The first reason is for the fun of it – why not!”

“The second reason is that there is a character in the play who is trying to fathom all of these systems, trying to examine them together with an awareness of the prose and cons of using art to do that. Seeing as I’m the one who has chosen to do it in this case, it felt weird that I would direct an actor to be ‘me’.”

The third reason is knew it would be an incredibly exposing and difficult show to do, and I didn’t feel entirely comfortable having two actors do that and then me sodding off every night. If I want to be making work that is dangerous and unknown, work that has potential for making everyone involved so exposed, then it is only fair if I share that too.”

I’m this weird scruffbag with a strange imagination

Trust Jude Christian Gate Theatre

I’d Rather Goya Robbed Me Of My Sleep Than Some Other Arsehole (image courtesy of Ikin Yum)

It’s great to hear Jude speak of herself still in development as a director. What is frequently forgotten is that not all work has to be successful for it to be beneficial – more often than not, the unknown quantity is the most intriguing. There seems to be is a big anxiety at the moment, especially with emerging artists, that their work has to be good all the time:

“The first funded show I put on, I hadn’t directed much before that because I didn’t have any money and was in a position where if I didn’t work, I didn’t eat. Having a full rehearsal period at that time was beyond my comprehension. We live in a horrible world where we expect young directors to make their name in conditions like these.”

“I got given the JP Morgan Directors’ Bursary at the National Theatre Studios and had six months to prepare a show that was going to be on at the Gate Theatre. I made I’d Rather Goya Robbed Me Of My Sleep Than Some Other Arsehole, a Spanish Monologue with two pigs in it. I got so much well-intentioned advice from people about not feeling like I needed to overstretch or prove myself. Essentially,

‘Don’t be too weird.’

I just didn’t understand because I find work that is non-offensive and solid a bit offensive, so I’m not good at doing that. Why am I going to try and be the director that is brilliant at realising an author’s vision through a more naturalistic process, when there are so many fantastic artists doing that already?”

“I’m this weird scruffbag with a strange imagination. I stick to that and hope that people pay me for it. What I love about Trust is that anxiety is really present in the play. Trust is trying to make its audience bored, or a bit listless and confused, in the hope that within this confusion we will be able to find each other again.”

 

 

Trust runs at the Gate Theatre until 17 March 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.