‘A Quick 5′ with Wils Wilson

Wils Wilson

Wils Wilson is the director of The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart which is currently being presented by The National Theatre of Scotland at The Bier Baron Tavern as part of The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s current season . Wils’s other National Theatre of Scotland credits include Gobbo (Best Production for Children & Young People, Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland) and HOME Shetland (Best Music, Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland). Wils was co-founder and co-Artistic Director of wilson+wilson (1997–2007), creating site-specific art, installation and theatre. Productions included HOUSE, Mapping the Edge, News from the Seventh Floor, and Mulgrave. Other recent directing credits include Manchester Lines (Manchester Library), Queen Bee (New Writing North/ North East Theatre Consortium), Secret Heart, Eliza’s House (Manchester Royal Exchange), as well as work for Live Theatre, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Bolton Octagon, the Gate Theatre, London, Midsommer Actors, and BBC Radio Drama. Creating site-specific theatre is no easy task but Wils Wilson and The National Theatre of Scotland have been dong it for a long time. If you saw Black Watch you got a taste of what this company is capable of. If you are planning to see The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart you can see more of the company’s fine work under the direction this time of the incredibly talented Wils Wilson.

What was your first production for The National Theatre of Scotland?

The National Theatre of Scotland is a national theatre which has chosen to have no fixed theatre building. The extraordinary vision of Vicky Featherstone, our Artistic Director means, as she says, “all Scotland is our stage”. NTS’s inaugural production was called HOME and created 10 site-specific theatre events in 10 diverse locations across Scotland on the theme of home. I was lucky enough to be asked to go to the Shetland Islands, the northernmost reaches of Scotland, where I created a promenade theatre event on the ferry which runs between Shetland and the mainland, using the upper decks, the cabins and finishing in the majestic space of the car deck.

Annie Grace, Melody Grove and Andy Clark in ‘The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart.’ Photo by Drew Farrell.

Can you please tell us a little bit about The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart?

How long have you got? It’s a contemporary folk ballad, it’s a great night out, it’s a serious investigation into the authenticity of experience, it’s funny, it’s sometimes surreal, there’s great music (you might even want to sing sometimes), it’s never the same twice, there’s a fair maiden and a devil, but also some karaoke, twitter and a love story.

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart is a site-specific production set in a bar. Do you find directing a site-specific production harder than a standard proscenium show or is it just a different way of putting a production together?

Both forms have their different challenges. I love working in non-theatre spaces because the audience have to take a risk, leap into the unknown, and that’s an opportunity to connect with people in an unusually personal way. In Prudencia, we’re in a bar, so there’s immediately a relaxation, a conviviality, which is right for the show. Prudencia responds to the character of each space it plays and each audience, which keeps it real, grounded in the reality of the moment.

Of all the productions you have worked on, what are some of your favorites?

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, of course! Every show I make is my favorite while I make it. It feels disloyal to pick any out, like talking about a friend behind their back!

What are your next few projects?

I’m making a new piece in Shetland called Ignition, again for the National Theatre of Scotland. It’s a huge project, which examines our complex relationship with the car – how it shapes us, defines us, frees us, challenges our attitudes to dwindling resources – and sometimes kills us. We’ve created a series of community engagement activities over 7 months, which culminate in a large-scale theatre performance involving dance, drama, parkour, music – and cars. David Greig and I are also developing our next piece together – it’s a kind of heist movie on stage crossed with a coming-of-age story performed by an aging jazz band. In Scotland. Or at least that’s what we think it is this week…