Image credited to Walkie Talkie Productions.
On Sunday evening, I had the chance to interview Lucas Quinn, the director and adapter, and Rachel Dastgir, the producer, of the Bergman adapted play Persona which is showing from Tuesday 22nd to Saturday 26th at the BT Studio. I got to learn about the process of translating Persona from the original Swedish, their favourite memories from working on the play, and the main issues it deals with.
What is Persona about?
Lucas – The play begins with the actress Elisabet Vogler losing her speech, falling silent on stage, and being sent away to an island to recover. Throughout the play, the roles she plays on stage and in everyday life become clear to us. She moves in with a nurse, Alma, on the island and as the play progresses, it becomes unclear what her intentions are with Alma.
The play primarily follows a ‘dream logic’ as personalities blend and become confusing to the audience. It deals with issues about identity and the roles we play in society. Even though the psychological drama film was made in 1965, there are many universal themes which are still relevant to a modern audience.
Are there any aspects of the characters that you identify with?
Rachel – Yes, I can relate to Elisabet. I think it is quite a universal feeling to have a realisation that the roles we all naturally slot into aren’t really what we are. I think that in life when people come to this realisation there are two options: either they fall silent like Elisabet, or they choose to protest in another way.
Lucas – The characters deal with integrating their past experiences with fitting their social roles, which is something we can relate to. I also feel that the framework which structures the play applies to everyone.
What has been your favourite part about working on Persona?
Lucas – I have two favourites! Firstly, I really enjoyed the process of adapting the script. We had to start from scratch because it was originally written in Swedish. Over several months, I worked closely with a family member on translating the script, which was a fascinating process to go through the number of different meanings and interpretations.
The second thing I really enjoyed was rehearsals. It was amazing to see the actors bring our conversations about the script to life and seeing their novel approaches to the scene. Over several months, we got to see everything come together and this was a great experience.
Rachel – I liked how initially it seemed like an impossible task when we started with the script. But over the weeks and months of working on it, we were able to bring people together and seeing the dynamics play out was very interesting.
Do you have a favourite memory?
Rachel – I really enjoyed going to Sweden and seeing the Bergman archives at the Swedish Film Institute where we got to see scripts, sketches, and photographs. There were also lots of funny moments in rehearsals such as when Lucas made us all practise our blood curdling screams!
Lucas – Initially, everything felt very chaotic, and Rachel and I were worried about getting the bid. It was great to see it all come together throughout the process.
What was it like to work with the actors?
Lucas – Of course, it is based off of a very psychological film and so I had to go through the process of discussing with the actors why the characters were thinking in a certain way. I really enjoyed this and when they started performing, seeing the discussion becoming something real was very interesting.
Who would enjoy coming to see the show?
Lucas – Aside from everyone?! I think that anyone who has seen the film would enjoy seeing how we have gone through the process of changing it into a theatrical adaptation in a small space at the BT Studio. There are many aspects of the play that complement the film. For example, the film plays with the complicity of the viewer such as the ghostly hands which manipulate the viewer. Recreating that in a small space in the BT will be interesting to see if you saw the film and enjoyed it.
Rachel – Persona covers a huge, diverse range of interests and ideas. If you’re interested in gender, relationships, psychology, different consciousnesses, or Scandinavian culture, then you should come see the show. The play deals with lots of dark and serious topics, but it’s really not all doom and gloom.
Are there any future projects you are both working on?
Lucas – There are potential future theatrical projects we would like to work on. Walkie Talkie Productions is looking into branching out into film, so watch the space! We’re also looking into a line of merch including bras, knickers, and face masks.
Many thanks to Lucas and Rachel for the interview. It was great to learn about Persona and the process behind its adaptation! Persona is showing from Tuesday 22nd to Saturday 26th February every night at 7:30pm at the BT.