‘No-one would have believed in the early years of the twentieth century that this world was being watched…’ But we did believe. Written with Isley Lynn (Skin A Cat) and inspired by Orson Welles’ radio broadcast, The War of the Worlds is a Fringe show that explores the ongoing power of fake events to cause real reactions. Julian Spooner from Rhum and Clay discussed the show with The Fountain in more detail, as well as his plans for the Fringe.
TF: You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, how exciting?
Yes! Correct. It is very exciting.
TF: The War Of The Worlds certainly sounds intriguing, what is the premise?
The War of the Worlds is inspired by the now infamous Orson Welles 1938 radio adaptation of H.G. Well’s sci-fi novel. Our version of the story is set in two time zones; 1938 and 2016, just before the US presidential elections. In the 2016 story line a podcaster travels from the UK to the US to investigate the truth behind a family whose relationships were completely destroyed by the fall-out from the 1938 Orson Welles broadcast.
TF: And what drove the project, where did your influences lie?
First broadcast live over the radio in 1938, Orson Welles’ production used a breaking news format to tell the story of the Martian invasion as if in real time. Because it was so well done, and thrillingly convincing, many people believed it was real, including (amazingly) the US Navy, which brought sailors back from shore leave! The effects were also madly exaggerated by newspapers jealous of radio’s listener numbers and keen to disaparage this new medium…
After Brexit and Trump, we became increasingly interested in the power of stories, and the ways in which opposing narratives can generate such division and conflict. In researching the show, I travelled to Grover’s Mill in New Jersey, the place Orson Welles chose for his Martian attack. In this sleepy, suburban township lies a plaque dedicated to the broadcast, a novelty themed café, and a water tower that was supposedly shot at by locals believing that it was a Martian tripod. It was fascinating how the real landscape was dotted with tributes to a fake invasion and that sense of the blurring of real and imaginary, in a country that just elected the former host of The Apprentice as President, became the driving force behind the piece.
TF: Have you been to the Fringe before, is there anything you are keen to see whilst in Edinburgh?
Yes, we have. This will be the seventh time the company has taken a production to the Fringe. It feels like a particularly good year for theatre and we are really looking forward to seeing all the new and exciting work coming up: I am particularly keen to see Jaavid Alipoor’s new show Rich Kids and Ontroerend Goed’s Are We Not Drawn Onward.. which both sound very tasty indeed and catching a couple of shows that I missed last year when I was performing in Mistero Buffo: Un Poyo Roja and Medea Electronica. The latter is on just before us at Pleasance Forth, so I hope I’ll get a chance to see it this year.
TF: And what are your future plans beyond The War Of The Worlds?
The War of the Worlds will be embarking on a big tour in Spring 2020 and hopefully some international touring beyond that (our last-but-one show, Testosterone, in Edinburgh in 2017, is still on the road, in Venezuela in the Autumn!), but we are also developing several new productions: One large-scale one and a couple of smaller-scale ones. Follow us on twitter @rhumandclay to keep abreast of everything!
You can see The War of the Worlds at Pleasance Courtyard from 6th – 26th August at 15:20. For tickets, please visit www.edfringe.com