Clem Garritty, Artistic Director of award-winning theatre company Kill the Beast, talks about his fresh adaptation of H.G.Wells’ sci-fi classic The Invisible Man. He gives a little taste of what you can expect from this gripping thriller and how it’s different from previous stage productions.
What was it about H.G.Wells’ original book The Invisible Man that appealed to you?
I read the book and it’s really thrilling. I would say, I was really surprised by how much of a thriller it was and I was also really impressed by the science of it all. It was written with an obvious sense of detail of science and obviously he’s the father of science fiction so that makes a lot of sense. The thing that I got from reading it was that it was an adventure story and that for me is always really thrilling when you go and watch shows on stage.
What makes your version of The Invisible Man so different to previous adaptations?
In terms of what makes it different, there aren’t really any women in the original text. I’m also a director as well as a writer and am always very keen to not solely make work that is about men, and white men. It feels like the majority of mainstream theatre ends up accidently being [that] by proxy. I wanted to create a strong female foil for Griffin, the lead character, because also, it didn’t necessarily feel like he had that many domestic drivers. I wanted to explore that a little bit and created the character of Lucy. She is also a scientist and isn’t just the sort of Inn Keeper or cleaner which were the only female roles in the original book. I also wanted to explore how Griffin is outside of the classroom, out of his experiments.
The thing that really comes through in the book is the mix of the pursuit of knowledge – how a very smart man finishing a PHD and by exploring a strand of physics, can end up going mad at the potential power it gives. That comes across amazingly in the book. When I talked to Ryan, the director, that was something that we really wanted to push and view how that’s told onstage. We spoke for a while about whether or not it should be a modern adaptation because a lot of it feels very applicable to today and the nature of being visible and being invisible. We did toy for a while with that. I felt very excited about writing and Ryan staging something that was a bit classic and old school. If you’ve never seen The Invisible Man before then come and see it playing out on the rooftops of London and this whole Victorian, gothic aesthetic!
We were given an amazing design aesthetic so it was nice to see how Lily the designer has interpreted that. It also leads you to finding fresh new ways of doing that. It’s not just black, soot, street beggars and cobbles stones etc. So yea I think in terms of keeping it in the original context actually probably led us to more original ways of telling that story I think.
Tell me a bit more about your award-winning theatre company Kill the Beast
We adapted The Boys that Kick Pigs and it all kicked off from there. We took the show up to the Edinburgh Fringe at the Pleasance and then made a few more shows after that. He Had Hairy Hands was an original piece about a werewolf detective movie onstage, very ridiculous! It’s a small crew of four performers and me. We all write the scripts together and combine our love of horror films and British comedy TV shows. That sort of led us down a strange, weird little path that I think not many people are doing. We got noticed just because no one else was really doing it, which was lovely. It’s been bubbling on from there for about 5 years now. We did another show called Don’t Wake the Damp which we toured and played at the Soho Theatre recently. We are currently making our fourth show. We’re a small collective so we do everything ourselves. I design everything and we write everything between the five of us. I direct, the guys in the cast also write and compose songs and music, and we produce everything ourselves.
How has the process been working on The Invisible Man? It’s a much larger scale production with lots more people involved
Slightly terrifying! On the first day of rehearsals they revealed what the model box looks like and I was like ‘Oh My God’ this stage is huge! I’ve written this on my own. Normally, with Kill the Beast we write as a group, as a collective. When we first started I was quite nervous. I had a meeting with Ryan the director and John the Magic Consultant and I nervously said ‘How should I write this? Should I wait until I’ve got a design and know what tricks we can and can’t do?’ And they were both very quick to say ‘No, go away and write the show you want to write and we’ll make the magic work, we’ll figure out a way of staging this’. It’s very cool having such a large, professional, hardworking team squirreling away for months, to put your words onto a stage and make them look more amazing than they are. I really am excited to see it! You’re getting two for the price of one. You’re going to see this thriller play on stage, but you’re also getting a magic show out of it. Hopefully you’ll be looking at it going ‘How the hell are they doing that!?’ which would be lovely, I’m hoping audiences do!
The show runs at the Queen’s Theatre from 28 October to 18 November. For more information and tickets visit: http://www.queens-theatre.co.uk/whats-on/show/the-invisible-man/