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Tag Archive | "Squint"

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Spotlight On: Squint

Posted on 18 April 2012 by Anna Braybrooke

At 24, Andrew Whyment has already done things that most would only dream of achieving in a lifetime. An acclaimed director and theatrical entrepreneur, his directorial credits include productions at the Old Vic Tunnels. He is an associate of the National Youth Theatre and runs his own company, Squint, which has received rave reviews for productions Bluebird and Frozen, the latter of which was described as “fascinating”, “skilful” and “slick” by reviewers.

On paper he’s a youthful amalgamation of Kevin Spacey and Alan Sugar. However, upon meeting Whyment, currently doing an MFA in Theatre Directing at Birkbeck College, it is immediately obvious that any hunger for fame and power is not part of his agenda. Rather, he’s the kind of director who believes in being absolutely engaged with every aspect of his productions, in working collaboratively and in challenging himself continually.

“I like to think I take risks as often as possible,” he tells me in between sips of tea. Whyment created Squint when he was only in his second year of university. “I knew that I wanted to test myself.” He describes the risk he took in staging the play Bluebird, which stunned audiences in 2011 at the Fringe. “[The playwright] Simon Stevens tells you in Bluebird that it is set almost entirely in a taxi. I would never choose to ignore that, because that is what he asks for in his script. But in theatre there is only so many ways you can do that. And we chose not to represent that taxi in any kind of naturalistic or conventional way. Our risk was to use the entire space as the interior of this taxi and have seats that could float about and move and people could stand up as much as they wanted and walk.”

Although dedicated to directing theatre, Whyment’s enduring engagement with film, music and acting strongly informs his work. “I guess somewhere I have always been directing but I’ve underscored that with lots of different things.” Having studied Film and Theatre at Reading University, aspects of film direction are integrated into Whyment’s approach to the stage. “I knew I wanted to be somewhere that looks at how the two combine.” He scans new writing for “pieces that have that filmic quality”, believing that it’s this visual panoramic feel that makes Squint’s work accessible to audiences.

Whyment’s history of working with sound also influences the musicality of Squint’s shows. “When I was at school, what got me into theatre was actually doing sound design and working creatively in technical fields. I do a lot of stuff with music and sound… but I’m not a musician by any means.”

Part of Whyment’s vast portfolio is an array of acting experiences. He enthusiastically emphasises the huge impact the National Youth Theatre has had on his career. “NYT has made me never feel intimidated by the industry because since I was 18 I felt like I have been in it already.” From being a young actor in the company to becoming an Associate, NYT seems to have provided Whyment with brilliant opportunities and he can’t recommend it enough to young people trying to penetrate the industry.

Does he miss acting? “I do! I love to be directed.” He recalls a particularly memorable experience from a run of interactive theatre in Glastonbury Festival’s Block 9, inside a set built to replicate the London underground. Whyment started performing at midnight each night and worked till 4am each morning. The run was for 11 nights. He confesses, “I didn’t shower the whole time I was there”.

With a weekend of casting for their new production coming up, I wonder whether Whyment looks for similar balls of steel in his performers. “If someone has a strange tic, that you can’t quite put your finger on and there is something just really intriguing about it, then they are probably more likely to be cast then someone who is a bit plain.” So is he only keen to direct eccentrics? “There are two things that I want, one is talent, but more importantly is for you to be a really nice person. It sounds really hippy but it’s essential. I don’t want any divas.”

It is no wonder that Whyment values congeniality so highly when a strong part of Squint’s ethos is collaborating with everyone involved in the creative process. “We are somewhere in between new writing and devised theatre, and I quite like that we are in the middle.” I ask him what defines whether a show has been successful or not. The reviews? The audience numbers? After a moment’s thought he responds, “If you can get every single member of your team, even if all they do is plug in something before the show and then cue someone on stage, if all of those people or as many as possible feel ownership of what they’re doing, then you are going to get the best theatre possible.”

Now well on his way to being a renowned director, it seems that Whyment is a bit of a Renaissance man; unafraid of getting his hands dirty as a performer, bringing aspects of film and sound into the creative space and taking risks at every opportunity. It looks like he’s got it all sorted, so is there any one piece of advice he would give to someone who’d like to take a similar path?

His answer is that you shouldn’t be afraid to take part in a lot of different projects. As long as you are engaged with each one of them, he believes there’s nothing wrong with throwing yourself into many roles. “If you want to juggle several things then do, because if you are questioning whether or not you’ll be able to, you probably can.” It’s an encouraging message for anyone with big ambitions who’s just starting out.

Squint recently showcased new show Broken News at the New Wimbledon Studio, with a tour in the pipeline for this year. To keep up to date with the company, follow them @squinttweet or visit their website, www.squintonline.com.

Image credit: Squint

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Review: Broken News

Posted on 07 April 2012 by Jake Orr

Broken News, SquintWith a running time of less than an hour, Squint’s Broken News at the New Wimbledon Studio Theatre packs in an energetic production with a compact story fit for the micro-narrative society that we are becoming. Here I am referring to our obsessive nature of consuming media in bite-sized chunks, cramming in updates on politics, world news and friends around our already hectic lifestyles… Broken News weaves three interconnecting stories of people pushed to their limits, trying to balance their work and personal lives. These are contrasted against the slightly philosophical narrative of Percy Spencer, inventor of the microwave oven – the device intended to give us the freedom of time.

Considering Squint has only been working on the script of Broken News along with the staging for a matter of months, it is surprisingly slick in both narrative and direction. Adam Foster, Claire Shaw and Andrew Whyment condense their writing into a gripping series of stories that interlock, and, thanks to Whyment’s direction, never allow the audience’s attention to dwindle as the scenes flow with choreographic precision. Helen Coyston and Aaron J Dootson’s design and lighting for Broken News work perfectly at creating atmosphere and picking out the details within Whyment’s direction. What starts as an explosion of movement across the stage is quick to hook in its audience, leaving just enough clues for us to be guided through the story with fluiditiy. It’s good to feel that you’re experiencing a developed script, and whilst I might have wanted more (an hour is never enough for good theatre to thrive within), it’s difficult to fault the writers’ intention. Their message is clear and it is delivered with creativity, instead of the trite ‘we’re too overworked and have little time for ourselves and our loved ones’ theatre that is common.

The ensemble cast are committed and engaging to watch. They offer just the right level of characterisation and meet the demands of Whyment’s direction well. The stories which focus on Spencer inventing the microwave oven, a scientist trying to assist in curing dementia, a businessman desperate for the next big invention, and a news researcher trying to get her big moment, are interconnected cleverly and provide ample emotion and depth. There is a slight tendancy for some of the cast to shout their lines, and given the small space of the New Wimbeldon Studio Theatre this really isn’t needed, but otherwise the cast are a solid team.

It’s good to see a production that doesn’t try to be bigger than it is. Broken News is as entertaining as it is committed and energised, with a creative team who think imaginatively in a small space. It’s clear that Squint is a company to keep an eye on. As I left the theatre and turned on my phone again, I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps Broken News is right, we are far too connected to our work and we really just need more time. If the microwave oven was meant to free us from the time needed for cooking, then Broken News becomes a nice wake up call for its audience to claim back the time the microwave oven has saved and to invest it in something more human – those around us.

Broken News is playing at the New Wimbledon Studio Theatre until Saturday 7 April. For more information and tickets, see the Squint website.

Jake Orr

Jake Orr

Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.

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