As Jason Durr says, “A 22-foot boat and 69,000 litres of water... what could possibly go wrong?”
Way Upstream (April 23-May 16) is certainly going to be one of the most technically-challenging plays to open a Chichester Festival Theatre summer season.
“This is Alan Acykbourn’s play, and he dictates we should have a boat and a volume of water. I think it is going to be 1.5 metres deep. But we have got brilliant designers and technical people who have all stepped up to the plate. It’s the first time I have ever been on stage with that amount of water, but we have got a fantastically-creative team, and I should think this is going to be something new for the audience too! The audience won’t ever have seen anything like it before, but it’s what is required in the script, and they like to do things properly in Chichester. It’s going to be a great way to kick off the season. So with all the creative people we’ve just got to do as actors what we always do. You know the thing. ‘Learn the lines and not bump into any of the furniture!’ Not that there is going to be much furniture on the boat. I suppose I should say ‘Learn the lines and not fall out of the boat!’”
The play is the tale of four old friends, one cruising boat, two weeks off work, and the perfect setting of the beautiful River Orb. But even before the ignition key is turned, the outlook is not completely calm. Emma is worried about her onboard safety, captain Keith and his shipmate Alistair have trouble brewing back at their novelty goods business, and sun-seeker June is far from happy. Waters get even choppier when the crew bump into enigmatic seadog Vince (Jason)...
“It’s very funny, but it also delves into some dark places,” Jason says. “It’s that wonderful Ayckbourn mix of humour and great drama. It’s tragic as well in many ways. It is sad. But it is also uplifting. It ticks all the boxes in that wonderful Ayckbourn way. Aykbourn is just so achingly talented. I have never done an Ayckbourn before in my life, but a lot of my mates have been up there to work with him in Scarborough.”
So is there an Ayckbourn knack?
“What you do is what is on the page, but at the same time, listening to friends who have worked with him and their stories of this guy, you know with Ayckbourn there is perhaps a certain way. He has had such a consistent knack of writing such fantastic plays.”
And as for Vince?
“Well, he is a kind of Good Samaritan with a twist. I don’t want to put out any spoilers. I want the audience that come to see the show to work it out, but stuff happens. He is a very charming, affable guy... but he is multi-layered. He is not quite what he seems to be. He is a fascinating man. He has obviously lived the life, but whether he has done all these things he says he has done is maybe another matter. Is he a little bit of a Walter Mitty? Is he slightly sociopathic? I don’t know...”
Jason has enjoyed success on the big and small screen and on stage in a busy career: “I have worked with some great people and some great directors, but all the way I have always tried to challenge myself, to find parts where I can eke out something I have not done before, to explore places I have not been before...”
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