Amanda Dalton has adapted Janne Teller’s award winning novel NOTHING , which is to be staged for the first time by the Royal Exchange Young Company in April. She met with the Young Communicators’ group on Wednesday 10th February to talk about the process of adapting the text.
Why was NOTHING chosen as the main piece of theatre for the Young Company to work on in 2015/16?
I feel that NOTHING gives a voice to real things that often don’t get discussed. It’s an interesting story, especially as the adults in the book have no significant role. We held workshops to decide whether it was worthwhile to go further with adapting the story for the stage and the young people were interested and felt that the idea was relevant to them.
I feel that our society has a confused attitude towards teenagers. Adults are overprotective of their children and are scared to let them be who they want to be, but at the same time they want them to act maturely and grow up. Then there are things like the age restriction on Call of Duty which means you have to be 18 to play it, but you only have to be 15 to sign up to join the army and kill people in real life.
How long did it take to adapt the play?
I’ve been working on the adaptation on and off over the past year. I started thinking about adapting the book for stage in March 2014 and by September I had come up with the outline. I had the first proper draft in November and I’m still working on the script even now. I haven’t actually looked at the book for the past four months! The script is still evolving, it may develop still more in the rehearsal process with the actors’ inputs and ideas.
Could you simply dramatise the story as it was or did you need to make any changes to the plot and characters?
It’s nerve-wracking doing something with someone else’s story. I feel very responsible - that I have to honour the intentions of the original author. And as the play will continue to develop in the rehearsal process, it’s a bit like a relay race, where the baton started off with Janne Teller, was handed on to me and will be carried on by the Young Performers.
I had to make quite a few changes because a lot of what happens in the book doesn’t really work on stage. I’ve worked on developing some of the characters, so now each person has a distinctive personality and goes through some sort of journey throughout the play. Some changes were necessary to make it feel as if it belongs to the Young Company and the present day. The naturalistic detail is gone, the location is very ambiguous and there is no specific setting, which makes the play feel as if it could be anywhere and nowhere at the same time.
Nothing is quite a harrowing read. Is the play intended for a general audience or will there be any age guidance?
There will be an age restriction of 14+ due to the strong language. However there is no actual explicit content. The play is not deliberately controversial; it’s not written for the sake of being shocking, the style is matter-of-fact. I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that putting something on stage makes it a communal experience involving both the actors and the audience, and how they will be involved. The play deals with issues that are potent, powerful and very relevant to today’s society.