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Outside the Box with Bryan Hodgson

We sat down in our tiny living room space, so tiny that it forces people to have conversations with each other. Bryan began by offering to make a cup of tea for the both of us. “Shall we have a typhoon again?”, he asks. I was puzzled by his question and replied, “Tetley, you mean? I’ve got those because they are the same ones I use back home.”

The ultra-casual interview started with the vague and unprepared question of, what do you think is most relevant in theatre today? Bryan’s answer was, “just telling stories.”

“I think it’s so important, stories are so powerful. Stories have been one of the most powerful things we’ve had, and they actually have the power to change people; whether that be in a political sense, it may be in an emotional sense, or it may just make them happy.”

The importance of storytelling is coupled with why theatre still needs to be relevant today. Stories are powerful because “theatre is live, it’s now and it’s in the moment and you’re never going to see it again […]. People are realising that life is short and it's full of moments and experience. You’ve got to fill it with experience and theatre is one of the most powerful ways of doing that.” We tend to complain regularly about how we humans are becoming less present in our daily lives. A main culprit is social media.

The greatest vice of social media is that it tends to show us how we should live life, rather than actually allowing us to live it. “There’s a lot of accidentally mean people in the world, people that can say things online without consequence and I think actually that the power of goodness and niceness (I sound so ridiculous but I don’t care) is so strong, but with social media people could be hung up on it because there is a lot of negativity out there. […] Theatre gets people to switch off their devices and live for a little bit.” He gives a strong piece of advice to theatre goers by suggesting to “literally be there and see how it makes you feel, rather than showing the world how you think you should be feeling.”

Being present at the theatre is not only the case for the audience, but it also should be experienced by the ones putting up the show. The story should be told out of love, between lovely people, and allowed to be received by the living audience. Any show is a once in a lifetime experience, because it can never be replicated again. Hence, that is what makes theatre so priceless, as it isn’t something you can acquire from someone else; it’s going to happen, it’s happening, it’s happened and now it’s gone forever.

After deviating into important topic matters about the industry and working process of a director, I felt that it was more pertinent to reach the heart of the matter. What makes a good or a bad story? His reply was simple, “I think you can have bad storytellers and you can have bad listeners, but I don’t think there is ever such a thing as a bad story. Look at the story of the guy that turned into a cockroach [The Metamorphosis]. It’s how it’s told and how it can make you feel.” He goes on to unsuccessfully wrack his brain to think of a bad story. He offers a simple example of how he went to the shops that day, and immediately pointed out as a listener, I was already engaged with this, as I too have gone out shopping at some point in my life. This connection deems the story alluring to myself, and therefore relatable. He finishes off with stating that “there are so many different things that can come out of stories, whether they are bad or good. You find similarities with yourself, you find things that you would admire, you find things that you would long for, you find things that would make you upset, would hurt you when you imagine what would happen to yourself. And I guess a good storyteller will open up an audience’s mind to go to those emotional places. So yeah, I guess it doesn’t really matter, a story is a story, bish bash bosh.”

Hopefully the introduction makes sense with how my time with Bryan developed over the half hour chat we had, moments before he had to rush off to gives notes to his Importance of Being Earnest cast. Take some time out of your week to experience a good story. Be it at the theatre, at the cinema, outside your front door or right in your living room. Experience some love, share it and express it with others. It will make life entirely happier.

Lots of love,

Aidan Aquilina

Cultural Ambassador 2020


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