We sat down with the co-director and creative genius behind ‘Impending Doom’ Alex Benjamin.
What was your inspiration?
A while back I did an adaptation of one of the Grimm fairy tales- Godfather Death-where the figure of Death was humanized. I found the idea of humanizing abstract concepts and using them as main characters to tell a genuinely human story interesting. That’s kind of where the idea of the Horsemen in the play came from.
How long was the process?
About 9-10 months from writing to directing – 8 months writing and 2 months directing.
Was bringing it to life a difficult process?
Yes. I wanted to make sure that everything came together right, the way I wanted it to be. I think once you’ve started you have to commit, and I wanted to make it the best I could.
What was the most fun part for you?
When you’ve been working on something for a long time, it’s been on your hard drive for months and months, and you actually get actors doing these things that you’ve been working on it’s really enjoyable. It’s like being released. When you get the right actor and see them playing with the script and adding and improvising, bringing it to life, that’s just a really great feeling.
What was the most challenging part?
I was very obsessive, when writing it, over getting the structure right, making sure that the narrative worked. My starting point was the four Horsemen living together and the challenge there was to turn it into a structured story, produce conflicts and things. It’s really easy in drama to use the anger to get things going.
Do you have a favourite character?
That’s very hard for any writer. It’s like who’s your favourite child? All of them are equally great, the actors just made them so amazing. I was happy with how they were written, but when you see them in action they’re so different from how you’d intended, it gets even better. I can’t really pick a favourite.
What did you learn from your experience?
I feel like I’m learning so much constantly, that it’s got me looking to the future, what I’m going to do. I’m not particularly experienced. This is my first major project that I’ve directed. I’ve done bits and pieces before, but nothing on this kind of scale. I’ve learnt so much about how to work with actors, what works well on a stage and what doesn’t, especially in a play this long. It helped me to understand how to keep the pace going and put it together properly.
As your first play, were you happy with the outcome?
Yeah, I mean, it was weird because on the first night I couldn’t enjoy it because I was just thinking about all the problems with it, but on the second night it just came up to such a level. The cast were so great that I was just really, really happy. That was the moment that I saw that my work paid off. I was really worried that wasn’t going to happen, but it did.
Were there any funny moments whilst practicing/performing?
There are sections that are just improvised, like the bit at the end. In the script the characters just keep talking as it fades out and every single time we rehearsed the Horsemen would just keep coming up with crazier and crazier things, and they were just playing up this Star Wars poster we had. It’s just a really nice spontaneous moment. Yeah, little bits like that, where you see the cast just come into their own.
Like ‘pear pockets’?
Yeah. It wasn’t a wholly improvised thing, it did come quite close to what I wrote but sections like that. The ending has such absurdity to it, playing around with the characters.
Is it awkward having to audition actors?
Not as much as you’d think actually, because people are very understanding. With a play where you get 70 people coming to audition for 7 parts, people appreciate they’re probably not going to get it. It’s just statistically unlikely. It’s probably more awkward for the person auditioning.
Was having Niamh as co-director your decision?
I just knew that I needed a co-director to work with, especially since Niamh has a constant enthusiasm and energy that sometimes I don’t really have. She gets the cast really pumped and I needed someone like that, who could work with me and make it the best it could be.
Amber Turner-Flanders and Melanie Mackay