Love mysteries, black comedy and Agatha Christie? Then you have to check out Sealed, a new play by Will Jarvis, which runs at the OSO from the 12th-14th June. After a successful run in Exeter last year, the play transfers to the OSO for a three day run. The show, both thrilling and hilarious in equal measure, is a fantastic example of the strong new writing emerging from the Exeter theatre scene. We spoke to the writer about what makes Sealed unique.
What were your inspirations when writing Sealed?
‘Sealed’ was certainly inspired by the fiction of Agatha Christie, taking cues from novels such as ‘And Then There Were None’ in its focus on character. The play was also influenced by Samuel Beckett’s use of space in works such as ‘Waiting for Godot’ and ‘Endgame’ in how they insist upon a single location and everything set outside this particular space remains uncertain.
I was also heavily influenced by television and films that undermine and complicate stereotypes, depicting contrasting and contradictory characters. These include ‘The Breakfast Club’ and Dan Harmon’s ‘Community’, while much of the comedy in the play is inspired by the writing of Edgar Wright (‘Shaun of the Dead’, ‘Hot Fuzz’), Richard Ayoade (‘The IT Crowd’, ‘Submarine’) and Martin McDonagh (‘The Pillowman’, ‘In Bruges’).
The show got an excellent reception in Exeter. How have you adapted it for the OSO stage?
While the show was very positively received, I consistently remain very critical of my own work, even spotting things in our final Exeter performance that I wished I could change slightly and improve. Niamh Smith (my co-director) and I spoke to countless friends who had enjoyed the show yet some had questions about the piece that may have remained unanswered or plot holes which remained unresolved. When rehearsals began for our second production, we knew that we had to tighten the script, and we are very happy with the progress that we have made.
Bizarrely enough, even the time of year has changed some aspects in the show as it was originally set during a freezing cold November evening. Given the difficulty of representing Winter in summery Barnes, we chose to change the script accordingly, and it now takes place in mid-June.
Tell us about the casting and rehearsal process.
Since performing it in Exeter, two of our characters have been recast, which naturally creates a different energy on stage as our original cast must now react to and respond to entirely new performances by actors with different interpretations of their characters. This made our second round of rehearsals very interesting as we wanted to avoid the risk of a stale show being re-cycling just in a new space: every night has got to top the last. We now felt more comfortable to push our actors in very different directions, complicating their motives, intentions and circumstances whilst allowing them to experiment with new and interesting ways to perform the same play.
What’s next for you and the company?
At this point, I know this will be the only show we do together as a company this summer. The vast majority of people involved are still at university next year so will remain based in Exeter and I’m sure will continue creating brilliant theatre as part of the university. As for myself, I am signed on for a few projects this coming summer, performing in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ in Stratford and touring a new play with Paradox Theatre to the Edinburgh Fringe this August. I will also be part of this summer’s ‘Hemlock Bones’ at the OSO.
In terms of writing and directing, I have began writing my next play but am unsure when this will be finished, keep an eye out!
In one sentence, why should people come to see Sealed?
Everyone understands the importance of human connection with those around you yet people sometimes fail to value how necessary this ongoing reciprocity really is; Sealed explores this sensation in dramatic and comedic ways that anyone can empathise with.
Sealed runs from the 12th-14th June. Book now for this unmissable mystery.