“It all began when I was talking to Helena and Josephine [Wood’s collaborators Helena Jackson and Josephine Shipp of the Sleepless Theatre Company) about how people identify themselves by how tall they are and how this affects gender,” says Alex, now a journalist at What’s on Stage. “We wanted to explore the way bodies are used to manipulate other people; the way bodies are perceived by others. We pitched that question in workshops and came up with an intimate family story about three characters.”
The play’s narrative revolves around couple Cara and Nate and their baby, Sophie. When Sophie is born, women around the world begin to grow to upwards of nine feet. The play analyses what this growth means for societal and political interaction and how it affects gender roles.
The abstract, three-actor production also tackles disability related issues – with the deaf, disabled or neuro-diverse being very much at the heart of Wood’s show (and Sleepless Theatre Company's ethos). “Too often when theatre incorporates disability, it puts the disability at the centre,” says Wood. “But just because you identify your disability, you don’t have to identify your disability on stage.”
One of the play’s principal characters, Cara, is bilingual – communicating in both English and BSL (British Sign Language) during the performance.
Although very much the writer behind the production, Alex is keen to mark the project as a group effort. “I would never want to take full credit for the script – it was a team effort,” he says, “but my role was to be the person who distilled the idea; I was the the one putting pen to paper at the end of each day.”
Nine Foot Nine was originally showcased at the Royal Court in March prior to its London run at the Bunker Theatre in June and will be shown at Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms from 2-25 August.