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her is a compelling new story about a fifteen year old London girl who inexplicably finds that conflict has made her an alien in her own country. Drawing on the experiences of ordinary people confronted with displacement as a result of war, the play features one actor playing different versions of the ‘girl’ as she navigates the harsh realities faced by young women in conflict zones and the difficult choices they have to make to survive.
her is a new co-production for teenage audiences by Brolly Productions and Half Moon and reveals a dark and twisted world of war, politics and survival. We spoke to Dominic Hingorani, the director and writer of her, and Rachana Jadhav, the production’s designer and illustrator, to find out more about the show, its inspiration and the cutting edge mix of live action, film and animation.
Tell us a little about her. What’s the show about?
her is the story of an ‘ordinary’ fifteen year old East London girl who comes home one day to find that war has come to her door. We have one brilliant actor, Shala Nyx, playing five versions of the same girl plus all the other characters. We do this by filming her on ‘green screen’ so that she can then act in scenes with herself as the other characters.
The design is central to the production; for this show we have made a ‘live’ graphic novel with original art work. As with all our shows we like to stage a completely made up world, so that it’s hopefully very exciting and entertaining, but also talks about some very serious issues.
What was the inspiration for the story?
We wanted to look at the experiences of young women in war and how people in that situation are often portrayed as if they are somehow different, or other, than any other young person – we wanted to make a connection between a young woman in East London and young women in Syria, Bosnia or Nigeria. We had also seen reports of how often a war would be advancing on a civilian population and, even though they knew the fighting was coming, there was nothing they could do about it except wait.
We wanted to put a young woman at the centre of this story, to the extent that there is only one female actor playing all the roles, and see the choices women are forced to make in these terrible situations. We also wanted to draw on the graphic novel to express the reality and also the very dark humour in the madness of these horrible situations.
The production uses a mix of live action, film and animation to bring the story to life. What does this cutting edge technology bring to the production?
We wanted to make a live graphic novel and have the female actor and the female voice in charge of everything that happens on the stage. So we used the technology to film Shala, who plays the girl of the title, not only to play five versions of herself but also all the other male and female characters in the play. Filming her playing the other characters on green screen then allows her to play scenes with herself.
We also have original artwork that is then animated to bring the story to life, which we hope will be something really exciting and engaging for the audience. We use the technology to tell the story, but it has to be integrated with the live action, dialogue, sound and lighting to make it a great theatrical show. We want the show to have the visual intensity of a graphic novel and the emotional power of theatre.
Has it been difficult to bring such innovative techniques to the stage?
We have been working with digital technologies for some time now and we have a particular way of working. Normally in a theatre show the script is written first and then a director works with the actor and then a designer comes in at the end. We are the opposite! We work together as designer and writer and make a storyboard, like they do for film, which includes visuals and text and then we really direct it together. So for us it is not innovative, it’s the best way for us to make what we have in our heads together.
What can audiences look forward to?
A tremendously exciting and powerful show that runs one hour straight through, amazing visuals, serious acting and original music that tells an important story that is happening in the real world.
The audience can also talk to us about the show after the performance and they’ll be a microsite with free content and downloads with more information about how we made the show and how you could do it yourself. We are really looking forward to our audience seeing the work and we hope have an amazing experience – what our audience think is very important to us and we don’t want to let them down.
Describe the show in three words.
Emotionally powerful and visually stunning – that’s four words!
And finally, what would you like audiences to take with them after seeing the show?
To ask questions about the choices that young women are confronted with in war and how we can change things for the better. We also want to make something that is very creative so we feel empowered and ready to make change. One thing we know from our audience is that they are a brilliantly diverse and creative force and if anyone can do it – they can.
her is at Half Moon Theatre from Thursday 2 to Tuesday 7 February before embarking on a short UK tour.