Award-winning company brings comedy to New Wolsey

Quite often, life imitates art; which is the position The Frequency D’ici has found itself in.

The company’s latest work, Free-Time Radical, sees Ali (Sebastien Lawson) and Jensen (Tom Frankland) struggling against the riptide of their 30s when they’re trapped in their flat as millions die in biblical floods outside.

Comparisons with the situation in Japan can’t be avoided.

“It’s made us very aware of us honouring the reality of how this has affected people’s lives while working within a fictional fantasy,” says director Jamie Wood.

“We’re talking about something in one way and when you’re looking at somebody who’s lost everything there is this sense of ‘is this okay’?

“Watching the news the other day, people were talking about the prevalence of natural disasters seeming to be such a part of our lives. You see all these incredibly heart-wrenching, disturbing, terrifying images everywhere you look and I think part of this show is us asking how we deal with that information all the time.”

The play, funded by Arts Council England and Escalator to Edinburgh, seeks to explore the barriers we build to block out the world while seeking safety in the familiar when things become too big to put into words.

Most Read

Having looked at male relationships in an office in their Fringe-First winning show Paperweight, they decided to continue the theme in a social setting.

“We came out of that and went ‘okay, let’s look at a free time environment and set it in a front room’,” says Jamie.

Fascinated by how free time has its own set of rules and constraints and male relationships in general, the trio focused on what it means to be male today and the pressures men feel that might not be articulated very often in film or popular media.

“The idea is life is an incredibly complicated thing for all of us, juggling all of the intensities of relationships, our negotiations with family, love, work and sometimes that busyness means we can’t ever find any free time in our heads. These two guys have invented a really radical way of finding some free time for themselves – which I can’ tell you about without ruining the idea of the show.”

Free-Time Radical was supposed to be part of last year’s Pulse festival but had to be cancelled when Sebastien Lawson, who plays Ali, broke his ankle while practising for his skateboarding scene the day before coming to Ipswich.

“He has metal in it now; that might become part of the introduction,” adds Jamie, who describes the show as a deeply peculiar and disturbing comedy.

Using a minimalist stage, the audience’s imagination plays a pivotal role in the production. But Jamie stresses accessibility is key and the company doesn’t set out to be clever or obscure.

“There’s a moment of a guy rolling backwards and forth on a skateboard, as the director I just go that’s a beautiful moment for you to be talking about time, it’s as simple as that. No one will go oh my god that moment with the skateboard.

“As you work with bodies, space and objects, we probably trust them more than language so we work very much with them. That doesn’t mean it becomes dance. The challenge is how we stimulate people’s imaginations and ideas.”

Jamie paid particular tribute to the New Wolsey.

“Their support has been invaluable, incredible. They’re co-producing this and it’s due to them we’re funded through Escalator East to Edinburgh. People need to appreciate this amazing venue they’ve got.”

Free-Time Radical runs at the New Wolsey Studio Thursday and Friday night.