Jake Ferretti on fiji land: from auditions to the London run…
Late September and I am in Italy celebrating my 30th birthday under the gently piercing Le Marche sun when my agent emails me. Hi Jake, we have an audition for you for a brand new play called ‘fiji land’ by Nick Gill in about 6 weeks (which, let me assure you, is an utter dream for an actor compared to the frenzied scramble for 2 contrasting audition speeches, an upbeat, but androgynous West End song and a prepared guitar piece needed for 12, noon. Tomorrow!!) Details, details, details.
So, I print out the draft, plonk myself on the veranda with un bicchiere di vino and get stuck in. 4 pages in and I am very intrigued. In fact, I love it. I must get this part. However, on finishing, I wonder how I feel about tackling a brand new play. Will people come to see it? Will they like it? It is fairly gruesome in parts, what will they think of that? There are also quite a lot of ‘fucks’ in it (the word, not the act!) and will that wind people up? My Mum, for instance.
I meet Alice (our sublime director). We chat through the play, its history, the characters and subjects pertaining to torture, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, etc and I am now even more sold than before. Needless to say, I was thrilled to have been offered the part of Grainer.
First night and bringing this piece to paying punters, I was a mix of confidence and soiling myself. Have I got everything in place? Are my flip flops set? Will they laugh at that joke I find frigging hilarious? The lights go down. The music starts. I walk on with my backpack. We begin.
The healthy audience (probably about two thirds full) react well. Very much with us throughout and listening, it seems, attentively. I hoped that the very topical subject matter would keep them entertained (particularly based on how the play progresses) and I don’t think they were disappointed. The play asks some very hard, very intricate questions and when they chuckled at certain jokes (not the one I find hilarious, by the by!) and recover themselves after the curtain call with aghast chatter, I feel an overpowering sense of achievement. They did like it. And because of that initial reaction, my perception of the play changed and, without sounding too much like a dick, I realised we are saying something massively important. Huge, even. Should the questions raised be confronted? Do people want to confront them? If not, why not?
This brand spanking new piece and audiences’ reactions to it have motivated me to really hammer it home that ‘what happens behind cell doors’ needs to be acknowledged. And I shall come at this piece with much more brute force for each and every performance.
Oxford audiences, at ease. London, name and number.
fiji land plays at Southwark Playhouse 15 January – 8 February
read more about the show and book tickets here: http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/index.php/the-little/fiji-land/