The final One Festival: an interview with director Adam Hemming

Jennifer Greenwood performing ‘Treasure’ Pic: The Space

One Festival, a series of 19 unique solo performances that range from passionate monologues to laugh-out-loud comedies, is entering its last week at The Space, Isle of Dogs. This is the festival’s sixth year, and will be its last, according to Adam Hemming, the director of both The Space and the play ‘Meeting Roman Polanski’. ELL met him to ask about this year’s festival. 

You have 19 separate performances this year. How do you manage them all 

“This is the sixth year that we’ve done it now so there are processes that we’ve put into place to make sure everybody is communicating. We had about 80 proposals for this year’s festival and we have a panel that reads them all. I think the topics that we cover are really wide-ranging. There are serious pieces about abortions, child shootings, identity, and then there are lighter comedy pieces. The last show is about the boy who killed Christmas by getting his line wrong in a nativity play and it’s very funny.” 

How do solo performances compare with the traditional theatre going-experience?  

“It takes a lot of courage to perform a solo piece and a lot of talent to be able to hold an audience. Some of the pieces are 40 to 50 minutes long so, from a performer’s point of view, I think it’s a very nerve-wracking thing to do. The audience are taken into that person’s story and it’s important that they feel some empathy and are guided by the performance. I’m always impressed when a performer is able to keep an audience engaged without fellow cast members on stage.”  

Do you think the added pressure produces a higher quality of performance?  

“Yes, I think so. There is a lot of direct address to the audience and when that happens you make a connection with them. It draws a much stronger performance from the actors involved.”  

Why will this be the last One Festival?  

“It’s about having the opportunity to do something different in the future, and I think all good stories should have a beginning, middle and an end. We have the conversation every year about whether we’re going to do the One Festival again and we wanted to go out on a high rather than it just fading away.”  

Does it feel different knowing that this is it?  

“It does and it doesn’t. I really think the quality of the work this year has come up a notch and that’s exciting. One of the actors, who will be performing the last piece in the last One Festival called ‘The End of Term Show’, said he felt there was a lot of weight and responsibility on himself to give an outstanding performance.”   

Hemming also directed Meeting Roman Polanski’, a short play written by Janice Hallett and performed by Jessica White. It’s a topical piece that follows the internal dilemma of one fan about to meet the world-renowned director.  

What drew you towards Meeting Roman Polanski?  

“I really liked the conflict of the character. She’s a huge fan and Polanski is an inspiration and a major influence in her work. On a personal level, she has some pain and loss inside and there’s a cathartic thing about watching Polanski’s work but, at the same time, she can’t forgive him for some of the things he’s done. As she says in the play, there are no excuses for having sex with a 13-year-old girl, and I think there’s a huge resonance now with what has been uncovered about Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey.” 

What was your reaction to the recent accusations?  

“The debate around being able to appreciate someone’s work and being able to reconcile that with them as a person and actions that they may have taken is an interesting discussion. For some people it’s very easy to separate the work from the person. They don’t need to know anything about the director or producer when they’re watching a film. For other people that is much harder. It’s a thorny and difficult issue and it’s up to everybody else to judge how important the actions are compared to the work that they’ve created. I hope that acts like these will now be called out sooner. If this contributes to that in any small way then that’s a good thing.”  

One Festival closes on January 27. ‘Meeting Roman Polanski’ will be performed for the final time as part of Programme A this Thursday. You can book tickets or find out more here.

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