An Interview with Vlada Nebo
This week, Theatre Paradok will be presenting THE NETHER at the Checkpoint,
The Mumble caught up with its director, Vlada Nebo for a wee thespian chat
THE MUMBLE : Hello Vlada, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
VLADA : I was born in Moscow, but moved to Switzerland when I was in my early teens and mostly grew up there. After high school I moved to Edinburgh to study English Literature, and am very happy to still be here, even if just for another few months.
THE MUMBLE : So how are you finding Edinburgh?
VLADA : I don’t think there is a single thing I don’t love about Edinburgh, even the constant wind and rain, and the city descending into darkness at around 4pm, kind of grow on you. Although, more importantly I love how vibrant the city is. There is always something going on, new projects are started up all the time, and it’s very easy to find like-minded people to work with you. At the same time, Edinburgh is not overwhelming like Moscow or London, people here actually have the time to be polite and welcoming. I think Edinburgh is just perfect.
THE MUMBLE : What is it like to study the literature of another country in another language?
VLADA : I am genuinely not sure how to answer this question, because I’ve never thought of it before. I mean, it’s literature. You read books. You chat about them. You write essays. It’s great, I love it. I think this question throws me off so much because I grew up in an international community and a lot of people in such situations develop an identity that’s not culture-specific. You absorb a bit of everything. We live in a world where globalisation is more and more prominent, so cultural barriers are only as relevant as you want to make them. More to the point, a lot of the works we study here revolve around specific events in British history that I have had to study up on in order to be able to draw the full significance of the works in question out, which has been very interesting. Also, I suppose to an extent, as a foreign speaker, you have a more acute awareness of the language – the patterns and irregularities of it in particular works of literature.
THE MUMBLE : When did your love of theatre come about?
IVLADA : I’m struggling to point the exact moment, however what I do remember is telling my mom, sometime during my teenage years that I have decided I do not like theatre as it’s not a worthy art form. She reminds me of that every time she gets a chance, which is a lot, because I never shut up about theatre.
THE MUMBLE : Can you tell us about Theatre Paradok?
VLADA : Theatre Paradok is one of the University of Edinburgh student theatre societies, but it is very open to students from other universities and non-students. There is a misconception that Paradok specialise in physical theatre and while they do have an interest in it, they are also keen on theatrical productions that are experimental and different in other ways. They have been an absolute treat to work with – the committee is friendly and very supportive. If anyone has an interest in theatre, but getting into the theatre community seems scary, Paradok is defiantly a good place to start.
THE MUMBLE : Can you tell us about ‘The Nether’ as a play?
VLADA : The Nether is a sci-fi thriller, set in a world where virtual reality has become our contextual framework for being. The play asks what happens when humanity begins to redefine what we understand as reality; whether we can legislate against people’s dreams and whether morality really is a concept set in stone. The dialog is very beautiful, but also very clever. Jennifer Haley, the playwright, pays incredible attention to detail, both in crafting the world and in setting up the dilemmas in it. There are small, story-defining details that took me months to notice. The other important thing is that there are two ways of looking at The Nether: there are the poignant philosophical questions that are the first thing that jumps out at you, but there are also the strikingly complex character stories. All of them are troubled in their own way and you can’t help but feel sympathy for each one of them, to a certain extent. Today, most things happen over the internet – even this interview. It opens a world of possibilities, but it also brings out a whole range of issues of the kind that humanity has never had to deal with before. Jennifer Haley captures that dynamic very effectively. I can talk about this play for hours; however, I can never do it justice, because it really is something you have to experience.
THE MUMBLE : Is it challenging to direct & if so what are those challenges?
VLADA : Apart from feeling like everything is on fire all of the time? I think the biggest challenge is remembering why you are doing this in the first place. You get so caught up in sorting out the little crises and brushing out technical details that it’s very easy to lose sight of why you started this whole project in the first place. You started it because you love this play madly. You started it because you wanted to say something and felt like you have an interesting way of doing it. That’s something you need to constantly, consciously remind yourself of throughout the directing process.
THE MUMBLE : What emotions do you expect The Nether to stimulate in the audience?
VLADA : Curiosity, above all. The Nether is not a didactic play, it does not pretend to give you any answers but provokes a lot of questions. I very much hope that this comes through in the way that we have put the production together.
THE MUMBLE : What does the rest of 2017 hold in store of Vlada Nebo?
VLADA : I am trying not to think about it much. This year is going to be one of those transition years, and they are never easy. For now it’s about doing the best I can with The Nether, typing up 10 000 words for my dissertation (which, believe it or not, is also on The Nether!) for the 11th of April, and then… we will see. I have a couple of vague plans, like catching up on all the videogames I had to miss, actually finding the time to watch the shows my friends put on, maybe getting some sleep. I would also really love to go to a theatre school.