V for Vendetta is writer Alan Moore and artist David Lloyd’s seminal comic series from the eighties. The story depicts a near-future police state in which a Fascist party called Norsefire hold power. It is against this backdrop that V, an anarchist revolutionary, undertakes a campaign to bring down the government.
Now a new stage adaptation of V for Vendetta is being produced at the Lass O’Gowrie pub in Manchester as part of Lassfest (an arts festival featuring comedy, drama and music, as well as various other cultural events).
The Fiction Stroker’s Matt Badham talks to Dan Thackeray (Together in Electric Dreams) who will be portraying V in the new production.
Matt Badham: You’ve said to me that staging V for Vendetta was your idea, although it’s Sean Mason (The Good Life, Hot Fat) who’s actually written the script.
Dan Thackeray: I decided pretty early on that I wanted to act in it, so I stepped back from the production side of things.
MB: Why do you think the comic is a good choice for a stage adaptation?
DT: We wanted a good quality follow-up to [our adaptation of] The Ballad of Halo Jones, which is also an Alan Moore property. We’re on quite good terms with Alan Moore and some of the rights-holders for his various works. Both Halo and V have similar points to make and they were both written at roughly the same time, in the eighties. There’s criticism of consumerism, capitalism, the herd mentality of people and the way that governments can be somewhat uncaring when it comes to the needs of their citizens. It seemed logical that if people enjoyed Halo and engaged with it as a stage adaptation — and we did get some good reviews for it and positive feedback from audiences — they would like V for Vendetta as well. Possibly more, because I think it’s arguably more relevant to our current times.
MB: What specific challenges have there been in putting V for Vendetta, a comic, on stage?
DT: V is an unusual comic in that it’s actually very verbose. This is one of the reasons I thought it would be good as a stage play. It’s dialogue-heavy and the art style is quite deliberately grim and gritty. That’s a good stylistic choice when it comes to representing this slightly drab life that everybody is living in the comic. It’s a world that can be presented quite easily on stage.
MB: I suppose the term that could be used is kitchen sink…
DT: Yes. However, one challenge was that V for Vendetta does have quite a few action sequences in it that we’ve had to change or remove. We’ve either placed those off-stage or simplified them. There’s a big scene where V takes down five cops and we couldn’t do it. You could do it on-stage but you can’t do it on-stage in a small space, which is what we’ve got to work with. We’re taking the opposite approach to the film adaptation, which I think emphasised and even extended the action sequences and turned V into an action hero. We imply that he is a capable fighter but we don’t see most of the fights themselves. Instead, it’s mainly his theatricality and his politics that are emphasised in our version.
MB: Can you give me a specific example of your approach to the action sequences?
DT: There’s a scene in the comic on a train where V appears and kills two cops and kidnaps [Norsefire propagandist] Lewis Prothero. That’s totally gone. Prothero just wakes up in V’s lair.
MB: And that works?
DT: In the comic, you have a later scene where police officers talk about what has happened and the fact that Prothero has been kidnapped. And that is actually a bit pointless because you’ve already seen it all. But in the play, it works well for us as a device to explain the detail of the kidnapping.
MB: Are we still going to get that sense of V as a deadly figure? As someone to be feared?
DT: Yes. In the dialogue we emphasise points that are mentioned in the comic, like the fact that he kills with his bare hands. He does have a thing of using knives but there is also this detail that he will sometimes ‘stab’ people with his fingers, which indicates both his physical power and his terrifying determination.
MB: I suppose the police procedural elements that exist in parts of the comic are a bit of a gift in that they offer valuable opportunities for exposition.
DT: Yes. Like I said before, it is all very ‘talky’. But there are some striking visuals there too, of course. Theatre needs strong imagery and V, if you get him right, provides that with his mask and the way he talks and the way he moves.
MB: Just before we finish, it’s probably worth mentioning that Halo Jones is coming back to the Lass and that there will be a V for Vendetta and Ballad of Halo Jones double-bill.
DT: Yes. It will be both plays on the same day with a two-hour break so people can grab a bite to eat and mingle.
MB: That seems as good a place as any to end this short chat. Thanks for your time, Dan, during what I know is a fairly frantic rehearsal period as you gear up for your first show.
DT: No worries. Thank you.
V for Vendetta will be on at The Lass O’Gowrie on 8-10 and 13 January before returning in a special double bill with the Ballad of Halo Jones on Sunday 27 January. Tickets available through WeGotTickets or the Lass O’Gowrie if not sold out.
Photography by Laura Evans.