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Director Max Elton: ‘The play’s characters have a one-night stand while one is wearing a mouse costume’

Max Elton Max Elton
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Director Max Elton is working on David Ireland’s new comedy The End of Hope, which is playing at London’s Soho Theatre. He talks to Roda Musa about the play’s themes of human interaction, and the sadness that comes with the end of a play’s run…

What drew you to directing?

I acted in a few plays at university and realised I wasn’t very good at it. So I moved into a slightly different lane and started directing and just kept going. I like watching something incrementally change over a period, and build into something that is exciting with a whole team behind it. I love the team effort and being proud of the end result.

Tell me about The End of Hope.

The main characters are Janet and Dermot, who have a one-night stand while Janet is wearing a mouse costume. I think it is about how people from different ends of the spectrum, with completely different viewpoints, talk to each other. The play explores their interaction and how they manage to find some common ground. The idea for it is based on the time David Ireland, the playwright, was worried that his then girlfriend and now wife would move abroad when he had only just met her. The play is therefore about moments that need to be grasped and those first exciting instants in a new relationship.

Does it cover quite a few different topics?

Yes it does, but it is not an issue play, it doesn’t try to take you on a journey about what identity means or something, but sort of does that anyway, because the writing is so clever. Ireland is a very subtle writer. With all new writing you have to be helpful to the writer and actors, and in this play I’ve tried to let the writing speak for itself. For me, it’s about letting actors find different ways to play their roles and finding the best way to present it.

What impact do you want the play to have?

It’s a very short play, you’re out by 8.15pm, but it’s not insignificant. I want people to be really absorbed for the hour, its aim is to entertain but also to make them really reflect about the themes. It is for people to think about how we interact and communicate with other people, especially those with different views to us. The play also raises the question of the masks we wear at the beginning of relationships, with Janet quite literally in a mouse costume. Janet is quite insecure and worried about how men will perceive her, so she hides.

Have you had any struggles in your career?

Many. The biggest one is feeling that you’ve taken on a project and it finishes, and you feel like no one has really heard of it or seen it. The sad thing about doing plays is that they have a short existence, unlike films, so when it finishes, it really is gone. My struggle would be the sadness that sometimes accompanies the end of a project.

What advice do you have for young directors?

Do what you want, within reason. Sometimes you have to do things that are not your first choice. But try to work on things that you love, and then the plays you work on will be easy for you because of that.

CV: Max Elton

Training: MA in directing, St Mary’s University in collaboration with the Orange Tree (2017)
First professional role: New writing festival, Tabard Theatre (2015)
Agent: None

The End of Hope is at the Soho Theatre, London, until November 11

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