Smart Casual: Director’s Statement

Smart Casual is a show about relationships.
It’s about trying to find things that aren’t there.
It’s about tumbling head over heels, and standing up again all on your own.
It’s about six friends, and it’s about how they fall apart.

This is not a conventional piece of musical theatre. In a genre so often dominated by sequins and stilettos, farce and melodrama, this is a piece that sits far closer to home. It is a story that, though small in scale, finds resonance in its examination of universal themes like youth, class, friendship, sexuality and love. In addition, an intricately woven plot, comic dialogue and a powerful score all help to create a unique piece of ensemble theatre, one that we hope will be a great success this summer.

‘Perhaps more importantly, though, this show represents the first product of a collaboration between GOYA and The North Wall that began in November 2019. Over this period, I have benefitted hugely from the ongoing exchange between myself and the creative team at The North Wall, particularly with John Hoggarth, who has been involved with the development of the script and score throughout since the beginning. This collaboration is reflected across the production, with the technical team studying the unique abilities of the venue, and engaging in ongoing conversations with Clive Stevenson, the technical manager at the venue. Most exciting is the fact that this project represents the start of a long-term relationship between The North Wall and GOYA, a company that is entirely comprised of Oxford University students. This is a relationship we hope will continue as we transition from being a group of students making shows in Oxford, to being a professional company performing at The North Wall, but also touring to locations outside Oxfordshire.

‘The North Wall has been particularly instrumental in encouraging the story’s emphasis on multiple protagonists, which allows for a real sense of plurality when it comes to the storytelling. Extended group scenes have generated slightly stylised dialogue, with short lines mirroring the rhythmic nature of the piece’s music, and building a theatrical tone that buries deep truths beneath the bubbly comedy of the first two acts. However, as time passes, the group fractures, and the fate of this mismatched group of friends and lovers end up strangers. They wanted to be a family, but they become little more than polite acquaintances.

‘Of course, no discussion of the piece is complete without talking about the music, which is absolutely central not only to the piece’s status as a musical, but also to the drama itself. The songs are an intrinsic part of the piece, moving the story forwards and allowing for glimpses of the inner workings of the characters and their psychologies. The score draws heavily on jazz and pop, which coupled with a classical approach have created a sound that is both accessible and ambitious.

‘Existing in a state of heightened naturalism, the script contains both contemporary and stylised elements, a characteristic reflected in the use of block colours in costume and set. All set in one apartment, the theatrical space becomes a powerful metaphor for the story, with the stage beginning empty of all furnishing, becoming a home during a dizzying musical sequence before the second act, before being packed up into boxes for the finale.’

Sam Woof (writer / director)

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