In Conversation with Candice Edmunds

The Barbican Theatre in London conducted this interview with co-director Candice Edmunds ahead of their November 2020 showing of Flight.

How did the company come into being?

Jamie and I trained together as actors at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. We were so heavily influenced by both the creation of new theatre work coming out of Glasgow and the international work being presented in the city at that time. We discovered pretty quickly that we had a shared desire to ‘make’, and a shared taste. We started Vox Motus as soon as we graduated: creating work together and discovering and evolving a very design-led aesthetic to tell stories that we find thrilling and impactful.

Where do the ideas come from?

Every piece we make is a long time in gestation. Little ideas and inspirations infiltrate our conversations and those that persistently come up start taking shape into a vision for a production. There’s a ‘spark’ that we’ve come to recognise: a moment where we both get a jolt of pure excitement about an idea. That’s the one that’s going to make it through.

There’s alchemy in finding the story you want to tell and then the way you want to tell it. No two Vox Motus productions are the same.

How do you collaborate?

A lot of talking and coffee! We have a rigorous behind-the-scenes development process that means by the time we go into rehearsals we have a very strong shared vision. Actors or artists collaborating with us are sometimes nervous about having two directors, but we are a unified voice when it comes to the vision of what we are creating.

What drew you to Hinterland?

We have always been drawn to child protagonists – whether or not the work is for children. The world of the ‘unsupervised child’ can be full of wonder and terror. It’s a great leaping-off point for storytelling. Also seeing the world through a child’s (or child-like) eyes is a great equaliser. We’ve all been there.

Hinterland is at the extreme of this spectrum. The events are not fictitious. The terror is real and we have not all been there. Hinterland documents the lengths children are going through to reach a place of perceived safety. It is a story that should keep us all awake at night.

What was the process to create Flight?

Once we had come up with the revolving-carousel-of-model-boxes concept we had roughly nine months to take it from the scribble on the back of an envelope to its premiere at Edinburgh International Festival! We hired the floor of a disused warehouse in Glasgow and created an impromptu workshop space where each model piece and diorama was created by an extraordinary team of makers.

We used an animation of what an audience member would see in their booth to storyboard, set timings, score to and even record the length of the actors’ dialogue to. Every department was working simultaneously, building up the layers. Due to the fixed nature of the revolving carousel, once we had committed to an idea, we had to see it through, which is so counter to the adaptable, in-the-moment-ness of theatre.

Narratively, Oliver Emanuel adapted the novel with a remit to explore the children’s imaginative world. All the DNA of Hinterland is in there, but in adaptation we were able to access something truly intimate in the boys’ world view.

How is it changing for audiences in 2020 and what’s the significance to you of presenting it at this time?

It is truly joyful to have an offering for audiences that can be staged in this particular moment in time. The production is presented absolutely as it was designed to be experienced, which is in itself COVID-friendly.

There is a very deliberate audience journey from the moment you arrive at the theatre, and the staff at The Bridge have been brilliant in understanding this and working with us to create a safe way of doing it.

Flight has had an extraordinary international life over the past three years, but to be presenting it with the powerhouses that are the Barbican and Bridge Theatre, in this extraordinary time, feels like we cheated this pandemic in some way.