Yesterday I had the amazing honour and enormous pleasure talking to one of Ireland’s youngest but finest, extremely talented and ever so inspiring theatre companies: Fast Intent. Gerard Adlum, Nessa Matthews and Sarah Finlay, the three founding members of FI, talked to me about the past, the future and the present of the company.
We met in an ever-so-welcoming and already feeling-like-home Theatre Upstairs where, being a company in residence 2015, Fast Intent is showcasing their second original play Bob&Judy.
Being a company in residence in Theatre Upstairs means, as Sarah Finlay explains to me, that the company gets a chance to put up three shows within one calendar year. In a modern theatre world, it’s an opportunity that many theatre makers could only dream of. You get to work with the most professional, creative and talented people in the business; the company in residence also doesn’t have to worry about finding a venue or fundings for the productions. The audience gets to know the company and the company gets to know its audience, as well. it’s a very reciprocative experience, which might be absolutely crucial when a young company is trying to establish itself. All what’s needed from the company in residence is creativity, willingness to work hard and ability to produce a decent piece of theatre… which, from my point of view, Fast Intent has been doing brilliantly so far. Their first piece The Man in Two Pieces (written by Gerard Adlum and directed by Sarah Finaly) premiered earlier this year, Bob & Judy is the second one, and later this year the company will be presenting a third original play.
Fast Intent is a Theatre Company that started with the idea of “misfits”. Three people: Nessa Matthews, Gerard Adlum and Sarah Finlay met in the famous UCD DramSoc about nine years ago and have been a company for the last four of them. Fast Intent has been created in a very natural and organic way, as the three members saw an opportunity and took it. Having always wanted to produce high quality work no matter what it is about or who wrote it, Sarah, Nessa and Gerard confess that Fast Intent has never had a manifesto or a subject that they would blindly follow in their work. They’ve always enjoyed working with other talented people and kept open-minded to new opportunities… “A good story is a good story”, Gerard says adding that the three of them have been mostly inspired by such writers as William Shakespeare and Harold Pinter.
Nessa believes that their company has always been quite text-driven. Whenever developing a new piece of theatre, they try to focus as much as possible on exploring the characters.
“Emotional and artistic honesty is really important to us”, says Sarah “No matter how big or small, old or new, famous or not the play is.” Sarah also adds that she personally gets more inspired by creative people around her and Theatre Upstairs is the perfect place for it, just seeing people working hard on what they believe in and getting things done can be very motivating.
So what makes Fast Intent‘s plays so special and so unlike any others? Both The Man in Two Pieces and Bob & Judy are about “how people just need, more than anything else, other people; people look for connections, their family, their place and their home”.
Bob & Judy is a beautiful example of it. I ask the guys to describe the play in three words:
“Connectivity, childhood and wonder”
“Funny metaphysical tragi-comedy”
“Misfits, experience, childhood”
Bob & Judy is a devised work that came out from a series of workshops that the members of Fast Intent carried out to bust their inspiration and creativity. And, even though the initial idea was a bit different from the play as we know it now, it all started with Nessa Matthews drawing a black hole on a blackboard and a simple what happens if… the astronomy just found its natural way as one of the subplots. But, as Gerard Adlum promises and I, as somebody who has seen the play, can confirm “it’s very light astronomy” and the characters will be holding your hand, metaphorically, all the way through the darkness.
Bob & Judy is an romantic apocalyptic type of tragic-comedy. The ending is just another natural thing in the circle of life. Nothing ever really dies, it just becomes something else instead. Gerard quotes Einstein: “Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another”. And it’s a beautiful metaphor for life and people just being here and there. Who are we? What are we? Nothing more than a handful of stardust. But that’s what this life is all about.
Sarah Finlay reveals to me that at the beginning she was against the play ending the way it ends, until later in the process when certain parts were re-worked and the whole play just fell into one piece and made sense. After all, it’s not all about the end, it’s about the moment “in between” and people living and making this “in between” significant by connecting to each other.
Nessa Matthews says that for her the play is more about acceptance than anything else. It’s about the characters being ok with where they are and who they are and finally finding peace. Gerard Adlum jumps in saying that the play reminds him of one of the cinema classics “Being There” by Hal Ashby, where the main character (symbolically called Chance) gets by in life by simply accepting each and every new person who crosses his life path.
Bob is a bit like Chance, “he is his own defence mechanism” says Gerard. He always tries to find the bright side of the moon and stay positive about life. He tries to find the good bit because life with a smile is better than with a tear; he meets Judith, a completely polar to him personage, and tries to accept her and the way she is.
Nessa admits that Judith is “a ball of contradictions; who is a bit stuck at this point of life”. She is still very much the person she used to be when growing up, that little girl who used to look into the sky and stare at the stars; but now an adult, she is confused about life and what she should do next.
All the way through, the play is very heightened and Bob & Judy find the connection to each other. “It might last twenty years or a few seconds”, says Gerard, “but it doesn’t really matter. The last few moments that Bob and Judy share together are just as valuable and important as years of life they might have shared.” And that’s true, time is nothing, just a tool created by people to try and make life easier… but, just as the famous song goes “can love be measured by the hours in the day?” if a moment of true happiness exists, does it matter how long it lasts? Does it make it any less valuable or significant? Nessa Metthews remembers the perfect quotes from William Blake’s “To See a World…” to describe the final moment of the play:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour.
Bob & Judy runs in Theatre Upstairs till Saturday, 8th. For more info or to book tickets, please visit http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/bob-and-judy