By Josh Barrow
We begin in a dilapidated rave venue. I’ve hardly slept. I’m feeding off the energy of what I am expecting to find. However, the ‘cloth-thrown-over-a-table-and-a-couple-of-fold-up-chairs’ set remains where it belongs; in my head. Instead I am presented with something that suits my play so well, I could never have thought of it myself. A bar with beer taps I kept pulling in awe of the fact they actually moved. Lamps and shelves, tables and chairs; set dressing that dropped me into new depths of my character's sorrow. In the world that had been created, Renford, Berniston and Sam had got what they deserved. And it broke my heart.
Together, the characters make a spectrum. The beginning, middle and end to the story of how stories are made. Renford and Berniston belong in a world where boredom and ostracism dominate. Spirit is a wax-less flame flickering at a lick of the wind. The entrance of Sam douses that world in possibility giving a glimpse to a future where words reign supreme. At its core, the play depicts the fear that comes from trying to achieve something, and the complacency our anxiety breeds to hold us in captivity.
We’re all guilty of working towards the end we think we deserve. Nowhere Orange was no different. In the original draft, pessimism won. It had seeped and settled as it so often does when something is hard to get right. Revisiting the characters in 2018, it occurred to me that I had doomed them. They were born from my own experiences as a writer and in the end they failed at everything. So what chance did I have?
The antagonist was an unclear mix of the invisible enemy outside and helplessness. Where is the hope? I asked myself. The hope lay in the characters themselves. It was obvious which of the men were more rooted in their routine. Giving Berniston a dominion over Renford established control, a malevolent hold wreathed in care and distraction. This transforms the presence of positive progression into something that must be won. Throw in Sam, who will uproot herself and suffer for what she wants, and the play becomes a battle for absolute possibility. Which I’m sure you’ll agree, is for more appealing than submitting to emotional destitution.
In the world that had been created, Renford, Berniston and Sam had got what they deserved. And it broke my heart.
You often hear writers refer to their plays as their babies. I can appreciate this sentiment, although I’m not a parent and therefore unqualified to make the comparison. But after having the idea; going through multiple rewrites, cutting characters, badgering peers to read it over, countless scratch performances, ending overhauls, flowery rambling philosophical debates I completely lost the point of. Seeing the maturity the piece held itself with and knowing the work it had undergone to get itself there. Watching Gutter Street’s production of Nowhere Orange felt like watching it graduate.
While writing this, it is not my intention to dissuade you from your own interpretation of Nowhere Orange. For all I am a writer writing about writers, the plot is a struggle that blights human condition. Where, who and what the characters are is entirely up to you. It is only natural that opposing interpretations can be taken from one root source.