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From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads: a Q&A with Adrian Berry

Artistic Director of North London's cultural hub Jackson's Lane, Adrian Berry is also the writer and director of a new play about David Bowie, From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads. The play follows the footsteps of a young Bowie obsessive as he makes his way through the streets of London. Run Riot asked Adrian to tell us more about the play, being an outsider and about his own connection to Bowie's musical legacy.

Eli Goldstone: Hi Adrian. Tell us about From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads – when did you write the play?

Adrian Berry: I made the journey to a tiny old town on the east coast of America in May and stayed there for two weeks. It's my 'special place'. In the daytime I cycled, ate my body weight in shellfish and watched old guys play the blues, then when it got dark I sat on a rickety wooden terrace writing each night until the early hours . I didn't finish it, I was still doing re-writes in the rehearsal space last week, but the structure, characters and colour all came together out there. It's the only place I can switch off and create. A long way to go though! A friend once said to me 'why don't you just go to Brighton like everyone else?'

Eli: What unique perspective on Bowie can audiences expect from the show?

Adrian: My own, I guess. It's my take on Bowie's London from the very early days as seen through the eyes of a teenage boy from the Midlands. It's semi-autobiographical in a way, except I was more obsessed with Adam Ant. I think people will find it both surreal and evocative, unlike any take on Bowie that's been seen before. I am aware that Lazarus is going to be the ultimate representation of David from a theatrical perspective, but I hope our work might be seen as a 'comment' on his own creation.

Eli: Are there any particular moments of your life that Bowie has been the soundtrack to?

Adrian: Studying in Liverpool 1988, Port Sunlight in the Wirral to be precise. A girlfriend gave me a tape of Hunky Dory. I'd bought Let's Dance and Ashes to Ashes as a teenager but then he lost me during his 80s period. From Hunky Dory I dived in and discovered Low, Heroes, Station to Station....cornerstones of my life - it was my gateway album!

Eli: The show is a celebration of the London that formed the artist – what are your favourite pockets of the city for a Bowie pilgrimage?

Adrian: Fitzrovia. It's become my favourite part of our capital. I'm being treated to a night in a hotel there for my birthday, and I live in London! He used to reside in a flat near Manchester Square and hang out there, and in the show we visit the amazing little toy museum he used to frequent. Fitzrovia still feels like real London, so iconic, full of history, culture, flamboyance. Soho is disappearing and that makes me sad beyond words, but we bring it all to life for 75 glorious minutes.

Eli: You’re involved in the music scene yourself and play with the band Alberteen. Who are your influences?

Adrian: Aside from the obvious, I try to listen to as much new music as I can. A lot of hip hop at the moment. I’ve really been loving the Frank Ocean album although it is way too trippy to be called hip hop. You know Mitski? Your Best American Girl is brilliant. I’ve also got the new Chelsea Wolfe one, a bit Cocteaus-esque but no bad thing, and I really love the rawness of Fat White Family. Sure my default is to go back to Lou, Iggy, Nico, Sly, but it's important to stay abreast to be inspired. It's why Bowie remained so relevant, even at the end he was listening to Kendrick Lamar and Boards of Canada.

Eli: Before you fell into acting did you have any exposure to the theatre?

Adrian: Yes, some heavyweight stuff! Rod Hull and Emu in panto, followed by Orville the Duck in a pantomime at the Theatre Royal Nottingham. The guy with his hand up Orville's ass berated me for not singing along and my mum gave me an embarrassed nudge. Never forgave that duck. When you're from a small mining town in Nottinghamshire you're not exposed to too much in the way of culture, so I had to break out and create my own. I went to study journalism for my A Levels and did work experience with a freesheet in Derby where they sent me to review some shows. I did not feel worthy, and I remember putting on a tie alongside my dyed black spikey hair and eyeliner, as I thought that's how you dressed for the theatre (the tie, not the eyeliner). I must have looked a sight. But I saw my first ever play at Derby Playhouse, Paines Plough adapting Emile Zola's novel Germinal and it blew me away, and stimulated my interest in theatre. It was the beginning of my journey and made me want to explore more.

Eli: Bowie is an icon for outsiders. What were your teen years in Nottingham like? Did you feel like you fitted in?

Adrian: I was pretty much the local freak. I used to get beaten up regularly in my home town just for being different - the usual cliches. But I dropped out of my first college and went to another one in Nottingham (where Emma Rice, now AD at The Globe also went). I moved out of my mum's flat, signed on and got my own bedsit. I found all the other misfits in Nottingham and I used to go to clubs almost every night - the iconic Garage, Rock City, I even got to DJ there on student night, paid with as much rum and coke as I could drink. But things were imploding with my family and I had to get away so I moved to Liverpool and accidentally got on to a drama course. It's a whole other story which I have told quite often, and is probably a play in itself. It involves a box set of country and western records and a one-way bus trip, is all I can say!

Eli: What is the most underrated Bowie song?

Adrian: Loving the Alien. Or Absolute Beginners. No hang on - Slow Burn. Definitely Slow Burn.

 

From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads

18 Oct - 6 Nov

Waterloo East Theatre