“We both knew we wanted to write individually”…
“This whole time, we never sort of had a plan…it was a constant experiment”
Ross Stanley and Henry Regan literally do finish each other’s sentences. Meeting the two of them is like watching a strange drama unfold, their conversations often reaching dead ends but then stitching each other back into life. These two good mates began writing together in the evenings, once a week from round about 2008, and got stuck into a story about friendship through adversity. That project then became “Take Two Every Four Hours”, which they took to Edinburgh Festival last year, and since lily-padded across various theatres in London. It’s an impressive and quick development for the two early twenty-somethings, and it’ll be playing at Greenwich Theatre on Sunday 13th May.
“The whole premise of it is awful. But what we talk about it is what guys talk about. We’ve got this underbelly of stuff, but we’ve got this In-Betweeners humour, which is totally relatable.”
Audiences have laughed and cried at the story of Freddy and James, two young men in a private ward battling terminal illness. As Ross explains,
“I’ve got leukaemia, Henry’s character [Freddy] has just recovered from major heart surgery. Ultimately, I’m gonna die and he’s gonna go on and live the rest of his life.”
The action is played out intimately by the two actors, offering a window into an hour of their lives. “You don’t get an answer and you don’t get a conclusion, cos that’s what life is. You don’t know what they’re going onto, and we like that open element”. The reality is that hospital, whether you’re facing a routine operation or recovering from serious illness, can be very boring, like much of life. Punctuated by visits from nurses, bed-baths, and impromptu juggling, being truthful to life requires covering this aspect of boredom, about having a laugh. And above all, “they don’t want pity, they want to be treated as normal!”
Hence the late night writing sessions. It’s not a solemn play nor ladled in medical jargon, but is much about how young men get on, about the way we talk, laugh, read and support each other. Flung together in a private ward, “they’ve been thrown together cos they’re two young guys.” And Henry adds: “The story’s about their relationship, how they support each other. And we’re very conscious that we didn’t want it to be gay!” “We wanted to show a friendship where they do love each other and do look after each other, in a non-sexual way”. The pair of them are pretty passionate that they don’t want theatre to spoon-feed audiences. The result is an uncompromising look at how friendship keeps your identity together through adversity, and offers its own suggestions towards what friendship among mates actually feels like.
“In terms of relationships, the characters are warped versions of ourselves.” “That’s just you, a couple of years ago!” “Before a show, we’ll intentionally spend a lot of time together to build up that sense of” … “cabin fever” … “so that we can complete each other’s”… “sentences!” Most people can relate to someone who’s been in hospital, or had that experience themselves. In these cases, the human interest isn’t in the names of pills but something more fundamental, like banter and humour, and friendship. Hence Take Two Every Four Hours is a story not about something morose, but friendship, of two lads who keep themselves going in a very cool and special way.
CALM first heard about the show at Theatre 503; it’s since been at the Pleasance Theatre in Islington. It’s now on at Greenwich for a one-off show, but this feels like just the start for the play, and for Henry’s Vertical Line Theatre Company, who are already dizzily talking about future shows. “I really hope we’re not doing this when we’re old!” jokes Ross, but somehow this tale about two mates hits on some universal themes that give this play a bit more weight than much young theatre. As Henry ends our interview,
“This isn’t as big as we think it could go. We’ve had 500 to 1000 people seen it, we want thousands!”
Take Two Every Four Hours will be playing at Greenwich Theatre on 13th May 2012, and you can get tickets here – http://www.greenwichtheatre.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1076:take-two-every-four-hours&catid=7:playingnow&Itemid=1. £12.50 / £7.50.
Find out more about Vertical Line Theatre at www.verticallinetheatre.co.uk