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Why writers and artists struggled in The Jazz Age

We explore why writers and artists were ignored in The Jazz Age in an interview with Robert Boulter cast as F. Scott Fitzgerald.

What have you been doing so far this year?

Early this year (2019) I finished a play called The Inheritance, which is just about to open on Broadway. I also did a play called Vienna 1934 – Munich 1938 by Vanessa Redgrave at The Rose Theatre Kingston and Theatre Royal Bath. Both plays dealt with writers and artists from the early 20th century, so it’s especially nice getting to continue that theme in The Jazz Age.

How do you feel about being cast in the role of F. Scott?

I can’t begin to explain how excited I am about being cast as Scott. It’s been fascinating and inspiring learning about his life and work, and his relationships.

What attracted you to the role?

The writing and the story. From the first page I was in love with both, I couldn’t put it down. Allan’s writing is sublime, funny, poetic and heartbreaking. And The Playground Theatre is a brilliant space, I think it’s perfect for this play.

How does F. Scott represent writers and artists?

I think Scott represents artists in a very significant way. He is remembered as the voice of a generation, of The Jazz Age, of “All the Sad Young Men”. As one of the greatest writers America has ever produced, and having written one of the greatest American novels of all time. But he died believing himself a failure. That has happened to many artists. And today there will be brilliant people creating wonderful and inspiring art, that are struggling for recognition and to make ends meet. So maybe his most important significance is as an inspiration for those people.

What are the challenges in playing him?

I think there are all sorts of challenges in playing Scott. He’s ludicrously charming and outrageous. He’s an addict and a lover and a poet. Luckily this is all captured in the script so I don’t have to work very hard for it.

How is your American accent?

Luckily I had some experience doing an American accent in The Inheritance, but this will be a much tougher challenge. So who knows!

You are no stranger to period drama; The Jazz Age is set between the 1920s and 30s in America – how do you feel about this period of time, and its cultural significance?

The 20s and 30s were a fascinating period. There were immense changes and events occurring in the world. It had just come out of the most devastating war the world had ever seen. And although they didn’t know it, the world had begun an inevitable journey to a second world war, worse in many ways. But in America a huge industrial, creative and financial boom was taking place. A bubble which burst at the end of the 20s. And the 30s became a hang over from the excesses of the previous decade. The creativity that came out of those years, inspired by the extreme highs and terrifying lows, stands out as some of the greatest we have ever produced. It’s certainly produced some of my favourite work.

What is F. Scott’s significance in The Jazz Age?

Scott’s significance seems to have been as an observer, and a witness to the times. He grew up through and with all these changes. His life in many ways reflected the state of America and he was able to capture it in a way few others did.

Have you worked with Hannah (Tointon cast as Zelda Sayre) or Jack (Derges cast as Ernest Hemingway) before?

I’ve never worked with Hannah or Jack, but I’m having an amazing time with them.

Scott, Zelda and Ernest had a ménage à trois relationship – what interests you about their relationship?

Everything interests me about their relationship. I could talk endlessly about them. Zelda and Scott’s relationship was romantic and beautiful and destructive and tragic and filled with love. Scott and Hemingway’s was inspirational and fiery and brotherly and competitive. There was hero worship. There was artistic respect and admiration. And love too. Again, I think Allan captures these things beautifully.

What; regarding The Jazz Age are you most looking forward to?

All of it.

The Jazz Age performance information

The Jazz Age showing 2-19 October

Showing from 2-19 October at 7.30pm except Sundays.

Press night is on Friday 4 October at 7.30pm.

Saturday matinees on 5, 12 and 19 October at 2.30pm.

Running time is 2 hours with an interval

Suitable for people aged 12+.

Director Anthony Biggs, musical arrangement and composition Darren Berry, choreography Stephanie Burrows, set and costume design Gregor Donnelly, lighting Sherry Coenen, executive producer Amanda Waggott. Casting agent Anne Vosser of Vosser Casting.

Robert Boulter cast as F. Scott Fitzgerald (Casualty, The Inheritance The Young Vic, Mercenaries).
Hannah Tointon cast as Zelda Sayre (The Inbetweeners, Mr. Selfridge, Hollyoaks, The Festival).
Jack Derges cast as Ernest Hemingway (Eastenders, Humans, Queers, Old Vic, Boys in the Band, Vaudeville Theatre).

Darren Berry on violin, ukulele; also composing and arranging
The Jazz Age music (Penguin Cafe, featured in Last.fm).
Rebekah Bouche on double bass, singer-songwriter (Bouche record label,
UK Appalachian scene, Delta Blues, Memphis Mini).
João Mello on saxophone, high-strung acoustic guitar and keyboard
(Rattle That Lock Tour, The Blue, In any Tongue, Delta Blues, Memphis Mini).