140 Million Miles – Interview with Director Nik Partridge

The brilliant a Play, a Pie and a Pint series at Tobacco Factory Theatres is back! The series previously commissioned the epic Banksy: The Room in the Elephant by Tom Wainwright and the disturbingly brilliant Helen by Thomas Eccleshare.

This season Bristol’s revered Adam Peck has written a brand new play – 140 Million Miles – which has been directed by Nik Partridge, previously Director in Residence at Tobacco Factory Theatres.

We caught up with Nik to find out about this new commission.

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So tell us more about 140 Million Miles. What’s the story?

Neil and Dawn are an ordinary Bristol couple. They’ve won a trip to Mars in a televised, global selection process, a bit like Big Brother. They’re whisked off for an intensive training session and their journey begins! As soon as they take off we start to get flashbacks of their life on earth; some of the problems and worries they have and what this trip means for them. And as they get deeper into space some of those problems really come to the surface. There’s a distinct idea about people choosing to go on a journey they might not return from. And ultimately it’s a comedy; they’re dealing with very real problems in their lives but there’s a great humour and lightness of touch to the play.

This is a special commission for a Play, a Pie and a Pint. How has that impacted the production you’ve created?

It’s been an intensive process that has created a production which is compact and light on its feet. We’ve crammed a lot into 45 minutes which has been an exciting challenge. You have to think about what will entertain audiences with full bellies (or even audiences who are eating as they watch – which is how the production will be in Glasgow) – so holding their attention is important.

The other part of a Play, a Pie and a Pint that is so enjoyable is the process of collaboration it fosters. You have to work quickly and the production has to be quite stripped back because of budget and –quite literally – needing to fit into a suitcase! What that means is that we’ve been all the more focussed on the interest of the story itself; the quality of writing and performance and on telling a good story.

What’s the relationship been between you and Adam in creating this new play from nothing?

It’s been great – what’s been particularly special is that we started thinking about it a long time before the writing began. There’s been a lot of sharing and collaboration in thinking about those initial stories that we wanted to tell. The conversations we had early on have led to a final product that is a reflection of both of our thoughts; a hybrid of our tastes and ideas. That’s really satisfying and it really contributes to my feeling that a director should be involved much earlier in a making process than they often are. This kind of relationship and collaboration creates exciting theatre.

What about the rest of the team? Who’s acting? And who else has been part of the process?

We’ve got two very talented actors – Darren Seed and Rosie Mason. They’re versatile and they’re strong comedically. And there’s a sincerity and truth to the way they’re playing the parts which is very genuine. We also have a third character: the voice of Mission Control, recorded by Vincenzo Pelligrino. It’s been interesting for the actors to interact with that third disembodied character. Then there’s Ruby Spencer Pugh who’s designing; she’s been enjoying creating space jumpsuits, finding space food and creating lots of 90s references. It’s a stripped back production but her design is bringing out certain colours and details to give a better sense of the journey. Cher’s pretty important to the play too! Last but not least, Paul Wyse is lighting the production and Keegan Curran is our sound designer.

You’ve spent the last 18 months as Director in Residence at Tobacco Factory Theatres. How has that impacted the work you’re creating and what you’re doing now?

It’s been invaluable. Mainly it has allowed me to further my thinking as a director; refining and strengthening my practice by giving me time and allowing me to build relationships with other artists, including of course, with Adam, who I originally met and worked with at Tobacco Factory Theatres – on The Last Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor and 101 Dalmatians. It’s given me so many opportunities through making connections and contacts; a lot of the work I’m doing now has been facilitated by that. And directing here this season for a Play, a Pie and a Pint feels like coming home.

Can you sum up what audiences can expect from 140 Million Miles?

140 Million Miles is a 45 minute rollercoaster in space with (hopefully!) quite a few laughs along the way. And a bit of Cher. And a Pie.

Yum.

140 Million Miles is at Tobacco Factory Theatres from Wed 23 – Sat 26 September, before transferring to Òran Mór, Glasgow and Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh.

Find out more and book tickets here

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