Guest Blog: Director Michael Yale On LATE COMPANY

Guest Blog: Director Michael Yale On LATE COMPANY
Late Company

I don't remember ever working on a show before when all the cast and production team have become so involved on such an emotional level, myself included.

The strength of the writing blew me away on first reading Late Company. It's a powerfully compelling story with realistically drawn characters where no one is all good or all bad. Our allegiances twist and turn throughout the show's 75 minutes.

It's a drama that has immediate impact, as it resonates so strongly with so many aspects of modern life. After that first reading I knew straightaway that I wanted to direct it, and I'm delighted that I've had the opportunity to do just that, first at the Finborough Theatre and now with our transfer to Trafalgar Studios.

The major catalyst for the setting of the play is the loss of a child - the aftermath of a the suicide of a teenager who took his own life after being bullied at school and on social media for being "different". A year after the suicide, in an attempt to find some sort of closure, the boy's parents invite the boy accused of being the main tormentor of their son, together with his parents, to a kind of restorative justice dinner party.

Incredibly, the play was written by the talented Jordan Tannahill when he was only 23 years of age. When we met for the first time, I was full of questions for him about how he came to write such a powerful piece of theatre and what his inspiration was.

Guest Blog: Director Michael Yale On LATE COMPANY
Late Company

Jordan told me the play was written as a reaction to news of a peer's suicide in Ottawa; he was angry about what he described as the political and parental hypocrisies that he felt surrounded him. As time has passed, he says he still feels some of that anger, but also great empathy for the 21st-century parent "navigating a landscape of uncertainty day to day".

Jordan asks the question of how well can parents ever really know their children. This unknown is explored in the play through the parents' lack of knowledge of their son's life on the internet.

The play asks us all the bigger question of whose responsibility is it to supervise our children in the cybersphere and how much freedom should we be giving them? Who should be policing their cyber activity - parents, teachers, neighbours, strangers?

The play also asks questions around confronting children about sexuality, antisocial behaviour and depression. It offers no definitive answers, but sees the value in asking the questions. I know in the rehearsal room it's sparked lots of debate.

If it sounds like rehearsals would be sombre affairs full of doom and gloom this was not the case at all - far from it. Although intense and focused, the camaraderie and openness needed to create the production has led to one of the most enjoyable of rehearsal periods. We have debated the issues, shared personal stories and nurtured the development of a genuine bond between us all.

It's like taking on a challenging journey, but with traveling companions who are great company. Surprisingly, perhaps, for such dark material, the play has much humour and it's that and its humanity that helps the audience digest the difficult situations being played out in front of them.

Guest Blog: Director Michael Yale On LATE COMPANY
Late Company

Myself and Eilene Davidson, the producer at Stage Traffic Productions, felt a great responsibility when taking on Late Company to be sensitive and accurate in our portrayal of the subject matter.

Early in the process, we approached the charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), an organisation dedicated to preventing male suicide, telling them about the production and asking for help and advice. They read the play and met with us, and I'm delighted to say agreed to support the production.

They felt that our show "encapsulated perfectly the emotions of those who are left behind after someone has committed suicide, the fact that blame is heavily involved and that often there is no real resolution."

CALM also felt it was a show they wanted to spread the word about as much as possible, to not only provide support for those who have been in similar situations, but as it continues the conversation about changing the stigma surrounding mental health as well as the dangers of social media and bullying.

I'm so delighted that the production has been brilliantly received by critics and audiences alike, but the accolade that has meant so much to me is the feedback that we received from CALM after seeing the production for the first time. I am so happy and proud that while theatre can of course be superbly entertaining, it can also play its part in being such a powerful tool for change.

Late Company is at Trafalgar Studios until 15 September

Stage Traffic Productions and CALM will be hosting a free live Q&A at the Trafalgar Studios on 30 August, discussing the role theatre can play in helping to process traumatic events

Photo credit: Alastair Muir

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