Duncan Macmillan and Morgan Lloyd-Malcolm collaborated on PLATFORM, a new promenade show about London premiering in The Old Vic Tunnels. They tell us about working with community actors and writing as a team...
How did you get involved with PLATFORM?
Morgan: We were asked in to speak to Alex Ferris and Steve Winter [director and co-producer].
Duncan: They know us because we were in the first year of Old Vic New Voices' 24 Hour Plays - now we’re old fogies.
M: They had done lots of research on being a Londoner in 2010 and wanted to put together a big promenade piece using the Old Vic Tunnels, which is what hooked me. It’s such an amazing space.
D: When we were given our grand tour, we were going, “Can we have a bus down here, can we make it snow? Can we make it rain, can we flood one of the tunnels, can we have a choir of Oompa-Loompas?“ Nobody said no.
M: When the designer worked out there were 62 named parts, she had a little heart attack.
How is this different from the work you’ve done before?
M: Duncan and I did a year at theatre503 as The Apathists. We were quite experimental, but doing a proper promenade piece is a big ask.
D: With this you can write whatever you want. You can have the audience in a tube carriage, walk them into a wedding party, then into a forest. One of the big challenges was thinking about how the audience is involved. They’re not passive onlookers, they’re the congregation of a wedding reception, passengers on a train or people on an anti-war march. There will be actors amongst them and it will become clear who they are as the show goes on.
Tell us about working with community actors.
M: They act as they want to rather than how they think they should. I teach in the community and you do tend to meet absolutely brilliant people. Just because you’re untrained doesn’t mean you’re not an amazing actor, or that you don’t have amazing things to bring to the stage.
Have you enjoyed collaborating on this piece?
D: It’s been fun. One of the things we’ve discovered is that if an idea feels right to both of you, after a while you completely forget who came up with it.
M: It’s useful that we do know each other; we haven’t had to do that getting to know you stuff – working out what that person can take in terms of constructive criticism. We know we get on and like each other’s work.
D: We can be honest and tell each other whether it’s shit or not.
How did the research from Londoners impact on the piece?
M: The sheer amount of research material handed to us was pretty awesome: a metre high of paperwork and hours of interviews.
D: A couple of times we came down to The Old Vic and they’d covered a room in reams of paper with brainstormed scrawls all over it. It was crazy.
M: I wrote a scene with teenagers after I’d listened to some fantastic teenagers from Catford. There’s a cabbie in the show and quite a bit of his stuff came from one of the cabbie interviews.
D: It was about trying to put stories out there that you don’t see often. Kick against the typical urban crime-filled crap. A lot of being a Londoner is going around with your head down, but when something does happen you become a community.
Finally, can we expect any surprises from the show?
M: There might be some soup handed round.
D: Some soup, some icecream, you never know. There’s a game of football halfway through, we’re having a snowball fight. All kinds of stuff will happen. We’re excited.
Find out more about PLATFORM here. Image of callbacks courtesy of Lucy Cullen.
Duncan and Morgan were talking to Miriam Zendle.