"it is not just ‘someone’ who he wants, but ‘somebody’ specifically in his life"Photo by Maddie Coole with permission for Varsity

Bobby, an unmarried thirty-five-year-old, lived in New York City in the 1970s. Surrounded by his married friends, he wonders whether he also needs a bit of Company. As a concept musical, Director Elliot Aitken categorises Sondheim’s show as ‘made up of many vignettes around the same themes: thinking about marriage, vulnerability, and, even more broadly, why is it worth opening up to love and letting people in when the potential for people to hurt you exists?’

Elliot continues that these vignettes ‘seem to work as a silent machine that balances not only the emotional moments of self-reflection but some great moments of comedy.’ He claims that ‘it is both a grounded musical, exploring rich characters and ruminating on these heady concepts, as well as a fun spectacle including classical musical theatre style dance numbers,’ and believes ‘there is something for everyone here — whether you’re a hardcore musical theatre fan, or have never heard of Sondheim before.’

“It’s been ‘a fun challenge to think about how we can bring more depth and nuance to all fourteen members of the cast’”

Company is an intensely character-focused show, and Elliot highlighted that it’s been ‘a fun challenge to think about how we can bring more depth and nuance to all fourteen members of the cast.’ In particular, Elliot ‘wanted to think about the female characters, who can often be done dirty with the direction that focuses on Bobby as a party-going, Tony Starkesque ladies-man.’ He said he ‘wanted to think a lot about where the humour is coming from, and how we might engage with it after removing as much punching-down as possible.’ This also affected the way Elliot approached some songs: he emphasised that he wanted them to be a true ‘representation of Bobby’s intrusive, worst projections and anxieties.’ For example, in a ’classic song like You Could Drive A Person Crazy,’ Elliot said, ‘it’s been fun to imagine this as a representation of how Bobby worries the girlfriends think of him — whereas, when you see their interactions, you realise they are much more grounded and nuanced as characters.’

“The birthday party continues to return, and haunt Bobby”

Another challenge that Elliot outlined was capturing the quick ‘flicks between moments of time’ of Company’s non-linear plot, and how ‘it can be one that creeps up on you.’ The plot is centred around Bobby’s admittance that, upon blowing out his birthday candles, ‘he didn’t wish for anything’. Elliot highlights that as the play commences, ‘the birthday party continues to return, and haunt Bobby.’ Elliot also enjoys adding finding interpretations for different songs and scenes. Particularly, this has created some satisfying moments for the arc of Bobby’s character. Elliot believes it ’also creates some subtle, satisfying moments fo this character as he transitions soliloquy song, Someone is Waiting, contradicting himself and not wanting to give up anything in a relationship, to the realisation at the end in Being Alive that it is not just ‘someone’ who he wants, but ‘somebody’ specifically in his life, not just as an abstract, imagined figure.’

“I’ve tried to keep accessibility at the forefront of the production, as it can sometimes seem like a tick-box”

Company, however, is not without its content warnings. With thirteen to be aware of, Elliot explains that ’as a disabled director, [he] find[s] it useful with media to have more knowledge about what [he is] going into – for example (not that this is in Company) but it is very different to only mention that there is a ‘gunshot’, versus giving an idea of when this can be, the context and if this is surprising, which could allow me as an audience member to make more of an informed decision about if I can engage with the story.’ He also believes that ‘this echoes how, with this production, I’ve tried to keep accessibility at the forefront of the production, as it can sometimes seem like a tick-box or something that can be lost as things get stressful.’ He continues ’from a welfare contact, content warnings, visual story and a long rehearsal process, I’ve found its been helpful to help take the stress off during exam season.;


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Elliot also hopes that ‘audience members from the LGBT+ community can find the same connection to the show as [he] did when [he] was thirteen.’ ‘As a gay director,’ he continues, ‘[he’s] found the show takes on new life when considered as a story about a man worried by marriage, surrounded by stifling binaries and heteronormativity with all his friends being married and suggesting he settle with a woman.’ Elliot thinks 'this adds an extra poignancy to the final song Being Alive, with opening yourself up to love and self-acceptance taking on a new angle when from a queer perspective.’ He also hopes that ‘although it has been a balance with the constraints of licensing rights, these messages still bleed through and this resonates with my community, while still having something that everyone can take away.’

Company is showing at the ADC Theatre at 7:45pm from 14th-18th June