Q&A with Selma Dimitrijevic

| by Catherine Love

Greyscale's artistic director talks to Catherine Love about bringing her show Gods Are Fallen and All Safety Gone to the Showcase.


Tell us about your show.

The show is called Gods Are Fallen and All Safety Gone and it’s a two-hander written and directed by me and created by Greyscale’s ensemble. There are two actors, Sean Campion and Scott Turnbull, designer Oliver Townsend and myself. We’ve been playing it for three years now, on and off at different venues and festivals. If you look at it literally, it’s a play about mother and daughter, but we’ve had people keep saying that for them it’s about relationships of any sort. That might have to do with the fact that it’s a play about mother and daughter, so about two women, but it’s played by two men, which somehow by accident seems to make it more universal for people. People see their fathers or sons or two friends. It turns out to be about something that’s quite universal: how difficult it is to be fully honest with the people who are closest to us, especially your family, and what that love-hate relationship is.

How do you think the show will translate to different cultures?

We’ve been having really interesting responses from a few international industry people who have seen it. Possibly because I’m Croatian, and when I wrote the play ten years ago I was quite new to this country, the language is quite simple and the characters are quite recognisable, so there’s nothing in terms of storyline that couldn’t be understood by people who are not used to seeing English-language theatre. I don’t think Gods strikes people as a terribly British play, or English or Croatian, so hopefully it will be able to speak to people abroad.

Is there anywhere you would particularly like to tour the show to internationally?

Our work seems to be intriguing to people from Eastern Europe. It might have to do with the fact that as a company we’re not terribly interested in naturalism or realism. The play has been produced in Moscow, it’s being translated at the moment in Poland and we’re going to Georgia in October, and Eastern European audiences seem to react to it in a way that I find very familiar. They talk about things that I find really exciting and interesting rather than necessarily talking about Gods as a play - they talk about it more as a show, or as a piece of theatrical work.

I’d love to take the show to a culture that sees things completely differently, I think that would be really interesting for us as a challenge. I hope we can go to a few more places in Eastern Europe and just see how I can take everything that excites me about the tradition I come from, and then take everything that excites me about British theatre about new writing and precision, and just figure out an even better way to have both in each show.

What did you as a company learn from being part of the Showcase in 2011?

We were here four years ago with a piece called Tonight Sandy Grierson Will Dance and Box. I loved it, I think it was a wonderful show, but it was quite absurdist and experimental. Delegates either absolutely loved it and were going “I have never seen anything like this”, or were just walking out and going “I don’t know what to do with this”. We were very young as a company then, so it was a big shock coming with a show here and going “right, who do we talk to?” I think we spent a lot of time making very simple mistakes, as I think everyone does, like trying to sell the show to people who have no interest in that particular kind of theatre. It’s very different being back here four years later, especially after doing two shows at the caravan showcase in the meantime. That feels like a huge learning curve for us.

It’s important to find out what the delegates like, what they’re interested in, not just by going to their websites but by speaking to all the people from the British Council who are more than happy when you go “tell me more about this person or that person”. They’re fantastic at doing that; they do 90% of the work for you. Four years ago, I basically stood there and I thought someone will come and ask me something, and then people didn’t. It can be  a horrible thing for an artist, especially if they’re presenting their own work, to be in a room of 200 people who might be interested to buy their show or not. There’s pressure, there’s insecurity and there’s a huge expectation.

What’s brilliant is how direct people are. I think it's to do with saving time because you’re all so busy. It's important not to take it personally, because it’s to do with language and with British politeness in terms of expressing yourself. How useful is it if you’re standing next to someone and they have no interest in your show, rather than you spending 45 minutes trying to be nice to them, they go “look, I’m just not interested” and you can both move on. Having practical answers ready is also incredibly useful.  I think it's important having the practical side and figures both ready and flexible. That’s a big thing for us, saying to people we can work in any space, almost any size - not every show can - or we can work if there’s no lighting rig. It really depends on what your show needs, but I know exactly what our parameters are for this one and it makes the conversation easier.

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