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Preview: Call It a Day at The Yard Theatre

PUBLISHED: 12:46 21 January 2019 | UPDATED: 17:12 21 January 2019

Greg Wohead writes, directs and appears in Call it a Day at The Yard Theatre from Jan 29. Picture: Paul Blakemore.

Greg Wohead writes, directs and appears in Call it a Day at The Yard Theatre from Jan 29. Picture: Paul Blakemore.

PAUL BLAKEMORE

A new play written by Greg Wohead is about unlikely encounters and how we interact with people who share very different views of the world compared with our own.

Wohead's new show is inspired by conversations with an Amish couple in January 2009. Picture: Paul Blakemore.Wohead's new show is inspired by conversations with an Amish couple in January 2009. Picture: Paul Blakemore.

Ten years ago, Greg Wohead and his partner found themselves engaged in a conversation with two members of the Amish community at their farm in rural Illinois, USA.

The content of this discussion – inevitably full of confusion, misunderstanding and awe – formed the basis for Call It a Day, a new show written by Wohead which will debut at Hackney’s Yard Theatre from Tuesday January 29.

“A lot has changed since 2009, the month Obama was sworn in as President,” he says.

“I remembered the conversation I had with Samuel and Martha Herscheberger. I thought about how we often have conversations around tables to try to understand one another, but also push our own worldview or simply express who we are to other people.

An image from rehearsals for Call it a Day. Picture: Paul Blakemore.An image from rehearsals for Call it a Day. Picture: Paul Blakemore.

“In what feels like a highly divided cultural and political climate, I wanted to make this show to think about what it might mean to try and understand someone who is coming from a very different – and at times oppositional – point of view.”

Call It a Day is performed by Wohead alongside three other actors; Tim Bromage, Mireya Lucio and Amelia Stubberfield. The play recounts the discussions from that snowy day a decade earlier, re-telling the story in a loop format with different twists on the narrative each time. The cast will each take their turn playing the different characters and the script is partially improvised.

“The conversation in some way repeats but different things happen to it, until it starts to unravel and become a little weirder – a little less realistic,” adds Wohead.

“The idea is that it explodes out to become about more than the specifics of this one conversation.

Originally from Texas, Wohead has lived in London for 13 years. Picture: Paul Blakemore.Originally from Texas, Wohead has lived in London for 13 years. Picture: Paul Blakemore.

“At the current moment, it feels that culturally and politically there is a lot of focus on the ‘other’ – an interest or a fear of it.

“It feels really personal to me. I grew up in suburban Texas, in a conservative atmosphere with a religious background. I’ve now lived in London for 13 years – it’s a very different kind of context. I’m aware of these separations and they feel like different worlds.”

Wohead is an Associate Artist at The Yard and Shoreditch Town Hall, and he has been working on Call It a Day intermittently for four years. The show’s five-day run in east London forms part of Yard Theatre’s Now 19 programme and a UK tour will follow afterwards. An accompanying soundtrack – which has been designed by Ben Babbitt – is also an important element of the story.

Reflecting on what it was that Wohead discussed with his Amish hosts, he says “a lot of it was quite mundane, actually.”

“We talked about where we lived in London – a Victorian house divided in to three flats – and they were surprised and amused about living in such close quarters with people we didn’t know, and not having much space.

“We discussed the things they grew on their farm; we spoke a lot about apple butter, which is a sort of sweet spread that Amish people are known for.

“It’s in that mundanity that you can see this interest or amusement or confusion about what is ‘normal’. That’s where things really sparked, and we used those feelings as starting points for Call It a Day.”

Speaking about who might enjoy the 70-minute production, Wohead says “I wouldn’t even say it’s limited to people who enjoy plays and going to the theatre.

“It’s for anyone who is up for an interesting live experience. It’s rooted in a real event but there are live and improvised aspects – it’s a slightly different thing.

Wohead says he chose to make part of the script improvised so that there is an “extra energy” to the production.

“It makes it a little bit more exciting, we as performers on stage can surprise each other and it’s entertaining and fun in a different way.

“It feels connected to what it’s actually like to have a conversation when you’re just figuring things out as you go.”

Call It a Day is at The Yard Theatre, E9 5EN between Tuesday January 29 and Saturday February 2. For more details and tickets, click here.

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