EGTG Catch their 22

Nov 10 2019 | By More

Pace, Panto and Pathos promised at Biscuit Factory

Stage adaptations of literature have been pouring off Edinburgh’s stages in the last wee while, but amateur company EGTG has gone to the top of the tree marked Iconic.

They will be staging a production of Joseph Heller’s own adaptation of his great novel Catch-22 at the Biscuit Factory this coming week, Tuesday 12 to Saturday 16 November 2019.

The cast of EGTG’s November 2019 production of Catch-22

And instead of placing the action behind a proscenium arch, director Hannah Bradley is putting it into a recreation of the nose cone of an American B-25 Bomber of the kind crewed by Captain Yossarian in Heller’s novel, set in the Mediterranean during WW2.

The framework which encompasses the bombardier’s seat will be enlarged to enclose the audience, putting them intimately close to the action as Yossarian attempts to evade both the enemy guns and the military authorities who are intent on sending him on more bombing missions than it is statistically likely he will return from.

The Catch-22 of the title has, of course, entered the language to indicate an intractable bureaucratic conundrum based on the false logic of mutually exclusive outcomes. Or indeed, any such logical conundrum.

In Yossarian’s case the only way to get out of flying another mission is to be crazy – but as you would have to be crazy to want to fly another mission, anyone who applies to get out of flying again must be sane.

irony and wordplay

Catch-22 is a big sprawling anti-war novel, which has captured the imaginations of successive generations since it was published in 1961. Bradley is no different. She fell in love with it as a teenager and was captivated by its use of irony and wordplay to reflect the cyclical and timeless nature of warfare.

“I was much younger, and much freer, when I first read the book which meant I was reading a lot more,” she told Æ. “So I don’t have that feeling of remembering exactly where I was when I read it, but it’s always stuck with me.

“It’s the only novel that’s made me laugh out loud whilst reading it. It’s Heller’s style of writing that stuck with me most, the repetition and the back and forth. I’ve not found much that compares to it since.”

In taking on Heller, Bradley is continuing EGTG’s reputation for tackling challenging work. Heller wrote his adaptation in 1971 and it has rarely been staged – debuting in the UK in a production at Newcastle’s Northern Stage in 2014 which had somewhat mixed reviews.

So how has the adaptation effected how Bradley thinks of the book and how has the novel effected how she approaches the adaptation – Have they fed off each other or has the company jumped straight into the adaptation?

“We’ve stuck pretty closely to the adaptation for the performances,” Bradley told Æ. “But the novel was invaluable when it came to our character discussions. It’s that thing of not including anything that isn’t in the script, but in this case we had 500 pages of background information to refer back to.

“Especially when you have actors portraying four or five different characters, it was great to see where they came from to get to that point in the script.”

Although Heller called for a total of nine performers in his script, Bradley has assembled what should be a properly accomplished cast to take on the cult classic, with 14 actors performing a total of 40 parts.

Playing Yossarian will be Gordon Houston, who took on the demonic double role of Jason and his puppet Tyrone in EGTG’s thoroughly entertaining production of Robert Askin’s Hand to God this April. While EGTG regulars include Richard Godden, Laurence Wareing, Wendy Brindle and Steven Croall who are joined by new talents such as Bethany Cunningham, Graham Pritz-Bennett, and Dimitri Woods.

“It’s a really interesting adaptation, squeezing the novel into just 140 minutes of stage time,” Bradley adds. “It’s obviously been highly edited, with some characters being combined and certain stories dropped altogether; but Heller knew the story he wanted to tell and it’s a really neat script.

“Someone recently called it feisty and I think that fits well. Full of pace, panto and pathos.”

The Biscuit Factory, 4-6 Anderson Place, EH6 5NP
Tuesday 12 – Saturday 16 November 2019
Evenings at 7.30 pm.
Tickets £12 in advance: Book here.
And £15 on the door.

EGTG Facebook: @edingrads/
Twitter: @TheGrads
Instagram: @edingrads

Poster for Catch-22 from EGTG at the biscuit factory November 2019


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