The next interview in our stagey chat series, is with the wonderful Christopher Styles, from Parabolic Theatre. Parabolic Theatre have been creating immersive and interactive theatre experiences since 2016. Today, we're talking about their upcoming production of Illicit Signals Bletchley, which opens 2nd May at Crypt

Get yourself comfy and join Christopher and I for a chat about all things stagey!

Hi, thanks so much for chatting to Stage to Page today! How are you? And would you mind giving us an introduction to yourselves?
Hi, thank you very much for having me! My name is Christopher Styles and I am the writer and director of Illicit Signals Bletchley.

Can you tell us about the upcoming immersive production of Illicit Signals Bletchley?
So the show is all about the codebreakers who worked at Bletchley Park during the second world war. All the codebreakers in the show are based on the real men and women who worked at Bletchley and a lot of the events that take place in the show are based on their real life stories. So there will be characters you might have heard of like Alan Turing and Joan Clarke, but there's also Mavis Lever and Keith Batey who you may not know but also had fascinating lives.

But as you mentioned this is an immersive production so as well as these stories there will also be opportunities for our audience to decipher Enigma, and some other codes and ciphers, and help score some victories for Bletchley Park!

Immersive theatre is becoming increasingly popular. Why do you think audiences are loving immersive experiences so much at the moment?
I would say the simple answer is because people like to play. We all love stories but immersive theatre allows you to play a part in the story and explore a new world that we can interact with and impact. I guess part of it is escapism, which is something we’ve desperately needed over the past couple of years, but I think a big part of it is being able to empathise with a narrative by being immersed in the story.

The show is running at the newly launched venue, the CRYPT. What do you think this incredible venue will bring to the production?
Crypt is an amazing venue steeped in history! Just going down the steps you are transported from our modern world back into the mid 20th century and it’s incredibly exciting to fill the space with stories from that period!

Who's your target audience? Is there a specific age range that this immersive experience is best for?
I would say the show is pitched at anyone over the age of 16. We want our show to be enjoyable for anyone who's looking for something a little different or who loves immersive theatre, but Illicit Signals Bletchley would also be great for anyone interested in history or likes a challenge cracking ciphers!

How are you feeling about bringing the production to life? And showcasing it to audiences?
It's so exciting! Every time we’ve put on this production we've always been amazed at the different ways each audience will interact with our actors and the different atmospheres they will bring to each performance. But at the end of the day this show is all about paying tribute to all the men and women who worked at Bletchley Park and we can’t wait to pay tribute to them with our audiences.

How does the creative process differ for immersive theatre, as opposed to traditional theatre?
The biggest difference is the way we script these shows. With immersive theatre we want our audience to feel as much part of the story as our actors and we want them to interact as much as they like, as a result all the dialogue is improvised and reactive to our audience. There is still a script or sorts however, but rather than focusing on the dialogue it focuses on each scene's structure, the beats of the show and where different characters need to be in each scene. And that brings me on quite nicely to the second difference which is all about timing. Writing a show like this is kinda like having a sliding game where you’re moving your characters around between the different rooms in the set, you’re constantly thinking about how long each scene needs to last in order to make sure your characters enters or exits each room at the right time. When it comes together it's a beautiful well oiled machine with many moving parts but getting it to that stage can be difficult.

Can you tell us any other upcoming projects you have, alongside Illicit Signals Bletchley?
All the projects happening in Crypt at the moment are all immersive shows set within the Second World War as part of the ‘Make do and Mend’ series.  Before Illicit Signals Bletchley comes in there is ‘The Resistance Museum’, running till the 13th of April, which looks at alternate history and what Britain would have looked like if it was invaded and occupied during WW2. After Illicit Signals Bletchley come ‘Line of Fire’, running from the 1st of June to the 5th, which is a WW2 murder mystery show. And finally we have ‘Hidden Figures WW2’, running from 1st of July till the 30th of September, a show which uncovers the lives of the unsung wartime heroes.

My blog is called Stage to Page. But if you could turn any book, from page to stage, what would it be and why?
Wow, that is a fantastic question! If you’ll allow me to adapt a comic book then I’d go for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I just love the concept of bringing Victorian literary heroes together into a steampunk world, and I’d love to tackle the challenge bringing to life characters like the invisible man and Dr Jackle and Mr Hyde! If I had to choose a more conventional book then it would be PJ Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster. I love a good farce and think they can translate really well to immersive theatre.

And finally, why should people book tickets to Illicit Signals Bletchley?
Illicit Signals Bletchley, with all the different characters and narratives, has a little bit of everything in there. There's history and puzzles, romance and heartbreak, comedy and tragedy, lgbt and femenist icons. Everyone who worked at Bletchley Park had a different story to tell, some of them very happy and others less so, and I hope that whoever you are there will be a story or character in Illicit Signals Bletchley that you will be able to relate to.

Thank you so much for chatting to us Christopher. You can catch Illicit Signals Bletchley at CRYPT, London from May 2, here.

No comments