Serious yet sexy comedy The English Heart starts its run at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden from this Tuesday – writer and director Matthew Campling explains more.
Hi Matthew, give us a brief overview of what the English Heart is about.
Handsome lone wolf Andre buys the family farmhouse of married couple Jake and Marie. He wants English countryside isolation but is drawn into the desires of both of them. For a while all is fun, sex and deception – but once Marie finds her husband’s underpants under Andre’s bed, things get serious and and dangerous. Desperately in love with Andre, Jake attempts suicide and Marie has to rescue her husband. But then in a comedic twist Andre uses the uncertainty and change of our current political situation to argue for a dramatic and creative solution to the passion and desires of all three.
What made you start writing The English Heart?
I used to own a farmhouse outside Boston, Lincolnshire. I read an article that said Boston was the area in the UK with the highest votes for Brexit. The play opens five days after the coming general election. I didn’t want to write a serious political polemic because as the characters say, everybody knows everything and nobody knows what’s actually going to happen. So I created characters who bang out hilarious, usually very rude, one-liners about our various politicians. Writing the play and pouring scorn on politicians came out of my deep sense of anger and frustration, so I’ve given it to my characters, which makes them a voice for the audience, who most probably feel exactly the same way.
Did you know the route the script was going to take from the start?
I’ve been producing my plays since 1980 and over the years I’ve learned to write with the end in sight. I don’t allow my characters to go wherever the hell they like. I like to bring to the page exactly what I’ve worked out. But once we begin the development and rehearsal phase, not so much whole scenes but definitely moments will be dropped in favour of others that just work better.
How do you think the Election will work out?
I would like whichever party that wants to reverse Brexit to win. I’m appalled by what happened last year and I don’t know anyone who favours isolation and fear. However, realistically I think the Tories are going to remain in power for a number of reasons, none of which are good ones.
Why should Boyz readers come and see The English Heart?
It’s got great one-liners, perfect for quoting afterwards to friends. The one about Theresa May and the house brick should become a classic. It’s got three very attractive, talented actors working very hard to put across the message of the play. There are great comic scenes like Andre’s seduction of Jake, and their subsequent lovemaking in the freezing barn. And it has something to say about responding to the fear and uncertainty of nowadays. Basically that we need to work harder at our relationships, to make them work creatively. So at least we are having our own personal revolution, even though the political news continues to horrify.