Cheryl Ndione’s Apple opens at the VAULT festival on 21st February. We spoke to producer Marcus Bernard about the show.
Tell us about Purple Moon Drama, The Upsetters and the collaboration between the two on Apple.
Our collaboration first started back in June 2019 when Purple Moon Drama approached The Upsetters with the idea to commission one of the pieces being performed at our first scratch night. That play ended up being developed into Jollof Wars which is also playing at the VAULT Festival this year. When Cheryl was looking for a producer for a one-person show she had written and was performing in, she approached us.
Working on Apple presented a new challenge for me as a producer. I’ve not produced a VAULT Festival show before but it felt like a fantastic opportunity to learn, to develop the relationship between our companies and to be helpful to others. I try to make my career and my work with The Upsetters a means to facilitate the growth of other artists first and foremost. To me, that’s what producing theatre is about.
Why did you feel that this was a good time to tell a story about a ‘less than rosy mother and daughter relationship’
Cheryl wrote Apple because she felt it was important to tell a mother and daughter relationship where they’re not best friends but rather one that is messy and complex. She sees it as a way to probe into some psychological truths.
I think that’s entirely true, but for me, it feels even more pertinent because it’s a story about Black women. We live at a time when who is allowed and privileged enough to tell certain stories is being challenged and when looking at a story of a mother and daughter relationship we have to consider the wider context of the society we live in and the history of that. It’s every bit as messy as any relationship can be. I think now is a good time because it shines a light on the trauma that women, and especially Black women, can face in a society that has deep rooted misogyny and racism that can prohibit people from speaking out and telling their truth.
How has it been putting on a show at the VAULT festival?
Challenging. Apple opens on 21st February and The Upsetters takeover week at the Bunker Theatre runs from 24 to 29 February so I’ve got these two large projects at exactly the same time, plus the VAULT Festival is entirely new as a process to me. But Purple Moon Drama are co-producing so they’ve lightened my load massively.
It’s also been a learning experience. I’ve had to compromise in some areas, others haven’t progressed as expected, some have gone smoothly, there have been hiccups and problems. We’ve got through them but it’s also meant that I’ve had to question myself as a producer about the work I want to make and how I want to make it. There’s a lot I have to learn and I’m grateful for the opportunity to do so.
What do you hope is next for Apple, is there anything in the pipeline?
These two performances are very much R&D for us. We’re hoping to develop it further to coincide with the Windrush celebrations in June and, ultimately, we’d love to see it have a full run in a larger venue. But it’s one step at a time right now!
APPLE Runs from 21st – 22nd February at the VAULT Festival. You can purchase a ticket here.