In fact, why adapt any well known book? The subject of literary adaptation
is a very lively one in British theatre. For many critics and academics,
adaptation is felt to be a dirty trade. They would prefer a theatre devoted
to new plays that speak with the voice of the modern age. For them, there
is something cheap about plucking books off the shelf and adapting them for
the theatre. Indeed, some of them would rather suffer an inept hour of
loosely connected images, studio 'devised' by a collective of competing
egos, than witness a fine book rendered into drama. I have never felt that
way. I do not come from a literary household. I grew up watching movies on
TV and reading American comic versions of the great classics. My
encyclopaedic knowledge of the greats of European literature comes from
these two sources. My family did not go to the theatre. Get Carter came at
a time when I was becoming sentient. I saw/read it the same year I first
slept with a woman, and was first beaten-up on Streatham High Road. It was
part of a now almost forgotten genre of provocative, tremendously
well-written, lewd and violent popular novels published post-censorship.
It's in my DNA. The theatre I make is a collision of elements - an intense
minimal theatrical style used to explore classic stories in ways that both
surprise and entertain a broad audience. We don't have unlimited time to
play with, and during her/his career an artist has a responsibility to make
their work 'count'. If a play is worth doing it must have high stakes. It
must be an enterprise that is worth the effort and resources it takes to
produce, and will repay those involved by giving them the chance to work
well. Otherwise, why bother? Although I seek a popular audience, I must
make it clear I am irked by the glib sentimentality of the commercial
theatre, the vanity of its actors and the undemanding nature of its style.
I want to make exciting theatre that draws on big, timeless themes and which transports the audience. Film and TV are about actuality. They take you there and show it to you. The theatre is about ideas and relies on a
contract with the audience, who are required to bring their imaginations to
the event. To populate the stage with images in their minds, to realise the
descriptions of places and action in their heads. Literary adaptation is my
fast route to all these objectives. Big stories that really matter told by
companies of actors who really commit to their subject. Stories with titles
that linger constantly in the culture, and which, through their ambition,
epic sweep and faithful depiction of the human condition are truly timeless
and of both intellectual and popular appeal. Also, from my position as an
artist, if a story is going to be adapted, it must offer space for me to add
my own signature. I am primarily interested in small ensembles of actors
tackling vast tales, because I think this formula shows off theatre at its
best. Inventive, creative, honest.