Peter and the Wolf…and me, Nick Young

When you think of the folk tale Peter And The Wolf many think of the Prokofiev’s symphony for children, the famous haunting oboe melody, the various animations, films and illustrated stories that have grown from its birth in the cold winters of Russia. Nick Young thinks of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe and Michael Jackson’s Thriller: his childhood growing up in the dusty heat of Africa. We joined him to find out how this famous musical work and his memories of his childhood have formed the bedrock to his new play Peter And The Wolf (And Me).

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Can you tell us a bit about Peter and the Wolf (and me) and your journey from the idea to the stage?

As a child in Zimbabwe I was obsessed with our family vinyl of the story, narrated by Peter Ustinov. A couple of years ago I decided I wanted to tackle the story but not head on and after a couple of false starts that led nowhere I sat down and wrote “When I was seven I owned a record…” So now it is a story of my life, the 80s, Africa and family – told through the story of Peter and The Wolf. I have been working on it in spurts in between other projects over the past couple of years. I spent some time at Au Brana in France writing and developing the story, which has led to collaboration with them on the current production. Then the lovely Ms Emma Bettridge (Ferment Producer) invited me to develop it through Ferment and here we are.

How, when and why did you decide to tackle this story?

The question of what happened to Peter after the story, the effects of his actions, had been floating around my head for a while. Initially I tried to tackle a sequel to the folk tale but wasn’t having much joy. Then I tried a few minutes of what the show has become now (using the folk tale as a backdrop to my childhood in Africa) as a prototype and it felt right, so that’s what I continued with. I’m still interested in exploring the sequel idea though.

What do you love most about creating theatre?

Mostly it’s the sheer amount of energy present. That and the balls out fun I have, even when things are not going as planned (perhaps more so in fact). James Michener said: “The Master…simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.” It’s something I aspire to.

What has been the most memorable moment of creating Peter and the Wolf (and me)?

Working with a brand new team. I have never worked with my current director (Kate Hannah Perry) or musician (Omer Makessa) on a show before, so it was a bit of a leap into the unknown but it’s working fantastically well. So I guess the single moment would be the first day of rehearsals when I realised this might just work. In the words of Hannibal, boss of the A-Team: “I love it when a plan comes together.”

What part of the show has been the biggest challenge to direct/devise?

As writer, performer and former self-director during last year’s Ferment, the biggest challenge has been bringing in a new director and then not telling her what the show should be.

What’s next in the pipeline? What are you working on at the moment?

Theatre-wise I’m working towards a show with local new writer Alice Nicholas, which I will direct in the summer. It came from Roughhouse Theatre’s 24-hour play project we were part of last year and is a nicely provocative juicy story. I am also in the very early stages of developing an idea for a show based on the true story of a man called John Tarrant aka, The Ghost Runner, but that’s very early days. There are also discussions about revisiting our take on the Odyssey that we did in The Ithaca Axis last year. Again, watch this space. I’m also training for a couple of marathons later in the year but that’s a whole different story. Unless you wanna race…?

Nick Young is performing in Peter And The Wolf (And Me) in our Studio from 28-29 Mar. For more information please visit the Bristol Old Vic website.

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