Caroline Brothers & Oliver Emanuel: From Page To Performance

Edinburgh International Book Festival

On 24 August 2017

Review by David Chadderton

In an event that should have been better attended (and finished much earlier than advertised), Robert Dawson Scott chaired this discussion with novelist Caroline Brothers and the playwright who adapted her novel Hinterland into the Edinburgh International Festival production Flight for Vox Motus, Oliver Emanuel.

Brothers was a journalist with Reuters and the New York Times when she did a news story about unaccompanied minors escaping from Afghanistan but treated as adults by the authorities in France. Her story hit the Times front page just as Obama came to power and she was expecting things to change, but nothing happened.

She said there were aspects of the story that could not be contained by journalism and had no place in an objective news article and she needed to reflect the human side, which she could do with a fictional account based on real children that she came across and spoke to in France.

Emanuel said Vox Motus came to him to adapt the novel after he had written Dragon, which featured no words. He visited Brothers in Paris and saw the locations of the story but was struggling to find a way of showing it on stage—he had considered puppets and human actors. They hit on the idea of using models rather like the model boxes they use to demonstrate in miniature the set of a show but on a carousel moving in front of an audience listening on headphones.

Emanuel said most of the authors he has adapted have been foreign or dead or both, but for this he was able to discuss his adaptation with the author.

Members of the theatre company in the audience were able to give an insight into the production process. They took over a floor of a warehouse in Glasgow for six months to create 200 model boxes and 500 characters with nearly 50 people working on the project, including volunteers.

This was a very interesting insight into the production process for an unusual type of theatre production.