We’ll bet you’ve never attended a play set inside a leisure centre before, but that’s exactly what will happen when site-specific theatre specialists Dante or Die bring Take on Me to Rossmore Leisure Centre from 16-18 November. By a happy coincidence the play’s writer Andrew Muir hails from Poole, so of course we couldn’t wait to hear his thoughts as Take on Me makes its way to his home town …
Hi Andrew - can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born in Poole and brought up for most of my life in a pub in Ferndown. I went to Bournemouth & Poole College to do drama A Level, before attending Mountview Theatre School where I studied Acting for 3 years. I worked as an actor for about a decade, after which I began writing. As an actor I worked mainly in theatre but was lucky enough to dabble occasionally in TV and film. Since I started writing I have had plays produced both nationally and internationally, and my last play, The Session, which had a four week run at the Soho Theatre, is published by Metheun. Writing has also opened up various other avenues for me, and I now work on a part-time basis at the Bournemouth & Poole College as writer in residence, which I enjoy immensely. I have lived in London for many years now but every week during the academic year I come down to Poole for two days to work with students who are studying on the Performing Arts Foundation Degree at the college. I am also mentor on the MA/MFA script writing courses at Central School of Speech and Drama and for the last two years I've been running, 'Introduction to Playwriting' at the National Theatre. I am thrilled that TAKE ON ME is coming to Poole for various reasons, but one of the main reasons is that my mum will finally be able to tell all the locals that come into our pub, who have asked for so many years, "what is it Andrew does exactly?" "this is what he does and now you go and see it for yourselves!"
What inspired you to write Take on Me?
Take On Me was born out of lengthy chats with the brilliant team of Daphna and Terry, the artistic directors of Dante or Die. They approached me with the initial remit, which was that this play, whatever it is, has to work in a leisure centre. The audience need to follow a story that takes them on a journey through various locations within a leisure centre. I was reminded of my days spent in the Ferndown Sports Centre which was local to me during my schooldays and which I used a lot; swimming, football and badminton. I remembered how important it was to me, and how me and my friends at the time would hang out there a lot. The vending machines, the smell of the pool and the sounds of trainers sticking to the floor of the gymnasium during a 5-A-Side football match. And of course the constant soundscape of 80's pop culture and film. Daphna and Terry are brilliant collaborators and together we worked on a story that could sit in this type of world. The result is Take On Me.
What can the audience expect from Take on Me?
The audience will experience something completely immersive. They will be guided around a leisure centre watching the lives of others played out before their very eyes in locations such as changing rooms, aerobics classes and even the swimming pool. Various tunes are played out live to accompany them as they journey with the actors and these tunes are instantly recognisable classics from the 80's - and that has to be worth the price of a ticket alone!
What do you think site specific pieces can offer the audience over traditional theatre?
Most of the time when we go the theatre, we are sat in an auditorium, the lights go down and we watch as the lights come up as the production begins. A site specific show tends to be a little different, because rather than a traditional theatre space, it will shed a light on a building, and use that building to form the backbone of the piece being created. The building becomes a character in itself and is integral to the storytelling. With Take On Me, this means that the leisure centre is at the heart of the play, as a leisure centre is often at the heart of a community. The audience will experience the centre differently from what they might be used to. They might see the changing room from a different angle, because rather than changing themselves, they become voyeurs and will watch as people change in front of them.
Take On Me is set in the 80s and features live acoustic versions of some of the chart-topping songs of the decade. What’s your favourite 80s hit?
My favourite 80s track - there are so many to choose from - I am a huge fan! But, if I was to choose one, it would have to be Look of Love, by ABC who I saw perform at Lighthouse in 1985. One of the best nights of my life. But I never did get to have that gold suit. Not yet anyway....