Interview

Why ‘Film Noir’ setting for A View from the Edge?

Charlotte: As a company, we are still developing our style even after six years of making work. Certainly our previous two plays – Above Bored, Wrongdoings and Wake Up Calls at the Stop-Off Motel – had many things in common and there was a strong mystery element to both of them. In both shows the main characters weren’t that happy and throughout the shows they went on a journey where there was a bit of self-discovery alongside the mystery the characters (and audience) had to solve. We realised that noir as a genre shares a lot of qualities with our past productions. Often Noir films feature protagonists whom are a bit jaded by nature, they may be struggling to get on in this world which they may see as being corrupt in some way. Also, Commonly in a noir, there is a mystery to solve with suspects, clues and locations and this fits in quite well with our previous shows. But overall, its just a style we really enjoy and wish to explore more. We are big fans of Neo-noirs such as Fargo which you may not consider as a noir at first but it falls into the genre’s bracket and is one of our favourite films going. There are other modern films such as L.A. Confidential, Chinatown, Who framed roger rabbit? and Brick which have all come out in the last 20-30 years or so. All these films are examples of neo-noirs and the latter two especially do some very inventive things with the genre. When we began to research it a bit more it occurred to us loads of the films that we enjoyed seemed to come under the noir category. So in summary, a personal liking of noir crossed with it fitting our past plot styles made us decide to write one ourselves and if you’re familiar with ‘Owdyado’s work, you’ll know to expect a puzzle, plot twists and some underlying philosophical themes. It definitely won’t be a ‘straight noir’!

Dan: It’s a genre that many people will feel comfortable with and hopefully understand. When you watch a noir there are certain things you would expect from it, but also noir by its very nature often plays with the unexpected, which is why we believe it would work for us. We wanted to find something that will draw people in – which I think film noir will do and will give the audience an exciting new version of ‘Owdyado’s work. We liked the idea of a noir being on stage and we’re interested to see if it’ll work, when we talk about noir it obviously won’t be ‘film noir’ (even though it’s borrowing a lot from the genre) because it’s performed in a theatre at the end of the day. However, we will hopefully have Brett Harvey as our director who is an accomplished film director, so he should hopefully bring that ‘filmic feel’ to the stage – possibly coining the genre ‘Theatre-noir!’. The writing in some of the best noirs is absoloutley fantastic and the language is brilliant which intially caused us to be drawn towards it.

Charlotte: There is a scene which we posted on our facebook page from a film called Double Indemnity which is one of my favourite classic noirs from the 40s. We are currently doing a lot of research on old noirs at the moment as well as watching the current neo-noirs. Sometimes as a modern viewer we can watch an old film and see why it was good at the time but to nowadays may seem slow and outdated – or that there are strange moments within the plot or an ‘odd’ character relationship and so on. However, for Double Indemnity we found we could watch it as a modern viewer and get the same amount of enjoyment as out of it as a current film. It’s paced very well and it is framed nicely. It gets straight into the action and has some really gripping and exciting moments. Also, the banter in it is absolutely fantasticly written and we can’t stress enough how much we enjoyed it.

What is it that you enjoy about Film Noirs?

Dan: We find thst the writing and the language used at the time of the original noirs is very impressive in terms of its wit and sharpness. When you watch a lot of film noirs you realise why screenwriters write certain things as they do now because they are clearly influenced by some films such as the aforementioned Double indemnity. Humphery Bogart always has lot of very snappy dialogue and quite a lot of sassy remarks. So language and writing is key but I also like noirs because they were first considered ‘Pulp fiction’  -(stories written quickly then released as film) many noirs were the spaghetti westerns of the time. But now, like spaghetti westerns, they are now considered quite high art although they weren’t created originally to be high art. But now, directors such as the Coen brothers have produced some amazing films which were influenced from film noir back when it was still evolving as a style. This just shows how noir is constantly timeless as it keeps evolving.

Charlotte: We are trying to do our own version of it by translating it onto a stage and then by adding these theatrical influences to it. I can give away a litte bit of the plot from A View from the Edge now and tell you that there is a parallel storyline alongside the detective plot which will be about two theatre writers struggling to write their new noir show. I’ve always loved a good mystery and I certainly enjoy the challenge of dechipering clues and this is the sort of thing we hope the audience will enjoy too. Another thing I lke is that lot of the classic noirs typically have a very sleazy jazz soundtrack and that just works so well with the atmosphere and was why we wanted to involve a lot of music in this show.

Dan: Noirs are commonly based about human frailty and focus on the darker side of the world with the slightly grimey costumes and even grimier locations and feature themes about greed and lust. For it to be an interesting play, we believe we have to include this human angle as well for it to be interesting.

Charlotte: In our work, there is always a human element –through the characters’ dilemas we really like latching onto this and getting inside their head.

Have you seen any noir theatre productions before?

Dan: The last clear noir piece that I saw on stage was at the Hall for Cornwall, but because it was such a long time ago, I’m afraid I have forgotten its title. At the time, I was a teenager so it was over 10 years ago at least. The main effect they used was projected film and clear stereotypes of the noir theme, which were easy enough to get onboard with. I think it may have been a mondern version of ‘The Tempest’ which was quite weird and wonderful, especially as this was a darker adaption. There was a particularly memorable moment when a beautiful projection of a street scene behind the main character was illumonated whilst he was talking. He then promptly turned, placed his hat on the floor and walked into the sheet which refelected the projection and he appeared on screen and walked up the alleyway. It was done so flawlessly that it literally looked like he had walked into the scene. I also recall that there was a character – who I believe was playing the character of Ariel – who was portrayed through a handheld projector and so wherever it was pointed, she appeared. They were both very impressive moments, shame I cannot recall the exact show they were from.

My friend from Near-ta theatre – Ciaran Clarke – wrote a play called the Pantocrime which was a pantomime-noir which was very enjoyable. I got to play the femme-fatal as they had a gender swap theme. A lot of the points in that play was that in pantomime we have set characters. So we have the hero, the heroine, the dame, the ‘buttons’ character etc… and we are typically used to that because we are brought up with it as children. It doesn’t matter which pantomime you are watching as each one has very similar archytypes throughout. Ciaran’s point is that noir isn’t that detached from a pantomime. You typically have a detective type character who isn’t at his prime and the classic femme-fatal and the ‘Big Pin’ – the person behind all the events. You also normally have similar themes as well which tend to be about greed and corruption. So there are some consistant parallels which are apparent throughout. With A View from the Edge, we want to explore what happens when you mix those classic well-known archtypes with a modern story. And hope to question how similar those typical stories are to your own life.

Charlotte: I honestly don’t think I have ever seen a noir on stage before. Which makes it all the more intriguing for myself. We have spent a lot of time watching various noir films we have aquired. There are plenty of noir crossovers in theatre, such as 39 steps and An inspector Calls by J.B.Priestly  

Dan: Perhaps we will find out why noirs aren’t done on stage very often – maybe they all get to rehearsals and then realise that it’s imposible!? Well, I hope not!

So the overall answer to the question is – No, not really. But we know that they exist in rare quantities.

What would you consider as current noirs at the moment?

Dan: They have recently just brought out a new television series based on the original Fargo film which was definitely a noir.

Charlotte: I know it’s not recent, but we were watching The X-files recently and we realised how many shadow effects were used in it and couldn’t help thinking that these were inspired by the original noirs. However, more recently, we posted a clip on facebook recently from the current AMC series of Better Call Saul which isn’t a noir, but it had a brilliant old-school noir scene about a ‘scam montage’ in which I just loved becaue it was done so well. Better Call Saul has a lot of underlying darkness and if you’ve followed Breaking Bad, the side story is how Saul becomes corrupted over time.

Dan: I believe that the themes of noir are inbedded in many types of modern filmmaking. You can find elements in noir in films such as Batman because it uses the typical themes such a corrupt person/police and a femme-fatal. Even the hero is damaged by character much alike most of the other noir protagonists. Some modern films like Sin city and its sequel were obvious noirs. There are also many detective series which we also haven’t got round to watching.

Noir is so imbedded into film culture – especially in America.If you think of any modern film, we can gurantee that the filmography had some kind of influence from a noir film.