Hangover Square, the modern cult classic novel by Patrick Hamilton, appeared to me in 2005. I have a feeling the novel is one which just appears to people, like a stranger at a bar who suddenly offers to buy you a drink. A friend gave me my copy on a whiskey-infused night in my first month at University. For her it was a sort of passing of the baton: the night before her entrance interview for the University, the ushering undergrad showed her to her room, handed her a copy of Hamilton’s novel, told her emphatically that she really must read it and enigmatically disappeared. She stayed up most of the night rifling through its pages. The novel must have worked some magic: she aced her interview the next day.
I was sucked into the story in that first reading and spat out again after a day and a night, red-eyed and a little shaken. I wondered what it would be to put it on stage but it wasn’t the moment. Hangover Square sunk to the bottom of the theatrical gin tumbler. But the story kept tugging at my sleeve over the years and in 2014 it became clear that now was its moment.
After a great 2 week R&D period in November last year, with the fantastic support of Old Vic New Voices’ LAB scheme, we had two work-in-progress performances at The Russet, Hackney Downs. Coming from a physical, devised theatre angle, we found the beginnings of a really interesting theatrical language and the audience was really positive in their feedback.
Hangover Square November 2014 R&D team, The Russet
We have assembled a fantastic creative team for round two and we are incredibly excited to be carrying on the journey in 2015, with a 6 week development period and showings at a number of venues in London and Kent. We can now announce that our first run is confirmed at the wonderful Old Red Lion theatre in Islington (6th – 10th October 2015), one of London’s finest pub-theatres, fittingly for us. Details of other venues coming soon.
But what of the story? Hangover Square is a dark, gripping tale, set in London in 1939, following George Harvey Bone and his colourful coterie as they career blindly towards a dire future without a care in the world beyond the bottom of their beer glasses. Infatuated with Netta Longdon, George’s life is hopeless, except for in his ‘dead’ moods, when something clicks in his head and he realises that he must kill her. By turns moving and comic, Hangover Square is about taking responsibility for yourself, your happiness and your future.
Apart from the timeliness of the story, it presents a number of really interesting challenges in the staging: it’s largely written in George’s inner monologue; sound is incredibly important ; and, as a product of its time and of its author’s world view, it’s got a rather misogynistic and simplistic view of women. Yet all of these provide a great opportunity to play and to discover how to create a new, physical adaptation, telling a difficult story to an audience with a very different sensibility.
We have a brilliant creative team. The company of five plus director will devise with our playwright – Eve Leigh – and sound designer – Filipe Gomes – in the room. Each creative will be providing provocations and responding to the others in what we hope will be a really collaborative process. We want to build a bridge between physical, devised theatre and more classical text-based theatre. We have designed this process, over a longer time period, to interrogate what it is to really collaborate. We think real collaboration can create rich, deep, layered work which has the power to very deeply move an audience, harnessing everyone’s creative intelligence by bouncing it off the others’.
We’re really excited to be beginning this journey and to be sharing it with you. We’ll be blogging a few times a week. You’ll find more info on our team, our fundraising efforts and tangentially related but interesting things – like World Gin Day (coming up on 13th June).
To Round Two of Hangover Square ! Or, as George would say, ‘Here’s How !’
– Cat Gerrard, Director