The Travelling Squirrel by Robert Lord opens this week at Circa, with actor Paul Waggott playing the lead character, struggling writer Bart. Directed by Susan Wilson, this show is a satirical romantic comedy that follows Bart as he tries to get published and negotiates life with Jane his famous actress wife. It then asks what happens when the tables turn and he becomes New York’s hottest writer and Jane is axed from her soap opera job.
The play depicts a dangerous world in which fame and fortune are always, temptingly, just around the corner. Phillip Mann describes this show of Lord’s as “one of his funniest plays – just as it is also one of the most moving.”
To learn more about the show and what the process has been like, we’ve asked Paul Waggott to share his experience of working on this script over the past four weeks.
“Robert Lord was a name I had come across before while I was studying at Victoria University’s Theatre Department. I spent many hours in The Robert Lord Library. But this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to work on a play by him, and it’s been an absolute joy. I remember when I first read the script I was struck by how ageless it seemed. It deals with so many concepts and situations that still ring true today. I could hardly believe it was over twenty years old.
“Bart is such an exciting character to play. As soon as I read the script I felt like I knew who he was, which is a testament to Lord’s writing I think. I can empathise with Bart’s central struggle: as the play begins he has finally finished writing his first book after five long years. His journey from here takes him through failure, to the depths of despair, out the other side with the promise of fame and fortune and beyond… It’s a rollercoaster for the poor man that’s for sure. I guess it speaks to me of a central question that all creatives must wrestle with at some point: to sell out or to not sell out? And, what even constitutes selling out? Is it worth holding on desperately to the integrity of your art if no one witnesses it? What if ‘selling out’ is the only way to get into a position where you can share your true art with the world? Bart doesn’t manage to answer this question – I’m not sure it’s ever answerable as such – but it sure is a good one to ask.
“Amidst all the intellectual facets of the play sit some very, very funny moments. The play seems to effortlessly run the gamut from poetic beauty to straight talking real world dialogue; from the interrogation of concepts and ideas to high farce. I’m not sure how Lord managed it but it seems to me he pulled it off. Bart is surrounded by wonderful characters, from soap opera superstar wife Jane, to the life in a New York minute agent Terry, to the hedonistic gossip columnist Wallace and more. There are multiple intersecting love (and lust) triangles that I’m sure we can all see ourselves reflected in to a greater or lesser degree – none of which I shall spoil here.
“I think what excites me most is that the characters all feel human – heightened maybe at times, but humans, not caricatures. It really is a great script, and a great production – working with the cast has been a dream come true. There’s so much talent on and off the stage in this production. I really can’t wait to share it with audiences through September. Why don’t you make sure you’re one of them!”
The Travelling Squirrel opens on Saturday 5 September, and is on at Circa until 2 October. Book now: 801 7992 or www.circa.co.nz.