Why did you choose H. G. Wells and ‘The Crystal Egg’?
Actor, director and producer Mike Archer of Old Lamp Entertainment talks about the company’s debut production ‘The Crystal Egg Live’, and how they have gone about bringing H. G. Wells’ classic short story to the stage in a multimedia immersive production.
I have been a fan of H. G. Wells’ work, ever since I was a child. I watched the 1953 ‘War of the Worlds’ and it left such an impression that when I went back and read the book. I was hooked. For me, Wells has a way of writing that is both grounded in the reality of the everyday, and yet fantastical at the same time. His words stimulate the imagination in a very powerful way and his literature outlined defining points in Victorian thoughts and attitudes to societal concerns. Verne, Wells, Doyle – all masters at cementing their fiction in a believable truth based on the latest changes in society.
With his finger on the pulse of the time he wrote about, Wells was able to logically allude to where things were going in terms of the status quo. For me, the fact he was such a forward thinking writer, means his work is always relevant, and it’s what makes his work so adaptable; especially when they are re-contextualized to take in the fears and climate at the time they were produced. Hence, the 1953 film was about the fear of nuclear weapons. The 1930’s radio broadcast – the growing war in Europe.
I read ‘The Crystal Egg’ back in 2005. Instantly, the links between it and ‘The War of the Worlds’ really appealed to me. Being a fan of one, I was excited about the expansion of the ideas and themes in the other.
When we were looking for a story to debut the company and our approach, we wanted a story that encapsulated the current state of the world we live in now, without being too on the nose about it. Between, me and my partner Luisa, we agreed that this is the way independent artistic output is most effective when addressing contemporary anxieties.
We live in a world now where our own privacy is very much at question, to the point where we do not quite know who is watching us, from where, and what their motives may be. Internet surveillance and the ‘invasion’ of our privacy is an unnerving prospect.
In adapting ‘The Crystal Egg’, we wanted to tell an invasion story for the ‘now’. Today – these invasions are more covert and the crystal egg – the unassuming object in the corner of the room, becomes an excellent metaphor for that.
We want to open the story out to a wider audience. The source material is hugely scientific. It encapsulates various ideas flourishing at the time Wells wrote his story about life on Mars and our place in the universe. Within the narrative there’s one passage about Cave’s state of being – his mental anguish and the relationship with his family. That became the catalyst for how we envisaged bringing ‘The Crystal Egg’ to life and developing it from that point. I like the material to inspire me, and provoke me to ask more and more questions of the text.
I believe you do not need to update something to find a meaning. In fact, keeping the story routed in the period means we are able to play with our theme even further – our audience watching the characters in their world, who are watched by creatures, and at one point, audience and creatures come face to face, watching each other. That is our goal in the show – to bring ‘our audience’ into the experience of interacting with the object Crystal Egg, as well as observing the technological invasion of the family unit. That was our strongest direction to follow in terms of adapting the material. To contextualize the ‘invasion’ theme as an invasion of the home and of the family, makes this aspect more frightening through its intimacy to what we relate to in our contemporary lives. We still get the wonder of the egg, but ultimately there is a deeper, more menacing meaning in its presence. That is the metaphor for the insidious relationship society generally has with technology now.
For me, art has a responsibility, and if we can stimulate a sense of curiosity in the material and the works of Wells then we will have achieved our goal. I want to open his ideas out to a whole new generation of people with the same passion and curiosity I had as a child for ‘The War of the Worlds’, all the while confronting our own sensitivities, hopes and fears. For an author who was able to explore the direction we were collectively heading in, I would hope he would approve of our take on ‘The Crystal Egg’.
The Crystal Egg Live is set to open at The Vaults, Waterloo on 6th January 2018 and will run until 13th January 2018. Tickets are limited so Advanced Booking to avoid disappointment is recommended.
Show Website: http://www.oldlamp.biz/crystal-egg-book-page
Online Box Office: https://www.thevaults.london/the-crystal-egg