Jack Dean is the Director of Jack Dean & Company. He is touring Hero & Leander from 8th July – 18th September to outdoor spaces in the South West and across the UK.
Tell us what Hero & Leander is about.
Two people on either side of a closed sea border fall in love. One starts swimming across the border to meet the other. The higher-ups in the authoritarian states on each side don’t like it. The lovers know it probably won’t end well. But it doesn’t stop them from swimming. Thematically, it’s about risk – what people risk for human connection, in the face of arbitrary power, conventional wisdom, and even the climate itself. It’s a sad story, but a hopeful one.
Where did you first hear the story and what made you think to adapt it?
I was rootling around for old stories about the sea, and I think I came across this one in Stephen Fry’s Mythos book. It’s pleasingly simple as a Greek Myth, leaving it open for reworking. I’ve had a bit of an obsession with English coastal towns for a while: their melancholic, faded glory, their odd resilience, their utterly distinct sense of place, so the story’s just channel for all those vibes really.
What’s the music like? Are there any artists that inspired it?
Hadestown by Anais Mitchell was a major influence. There’s also a lot of sea shanties, a splash of UK Rap, and a strong dollop of shoegazey indie and post-rock in the vein of Sigur Ros, Explosions in the Sky and Silver Mount Zion. It’s the music that plays in my head when I think of Exmouth Beach circa 2009.
You’re traveling with your own bandstand, isn’t it a bit cumbersome?
Yes. Very. But theatre is all about doing things that are needlessly hard. And when you do them with mates, it becomes fun.
What’s the most exciting and the most nerve-wracking thing about performing the show outdoors?
Having to drum up our own audience at some venues will be a fresh challenge as a company, especially with the added vagaries of the weather. That’s also weirdly exhilarating though: it offers a far more spontaneous and democratic way to engage with people than the often intimidating environment of a conventional theatre.
What can audiences expect to see, and what will they leave the ‘theatre’ feeling?
A mix of tender, dancey and moody songs about death, love and the sea, told by six musicians with little to no actor training but a lot of heart. I wouldn’t want to anticipate or dictate what people feel in response to the stuff we do, but hopefully the show will act as a pressure valve for some of the tsunami of challenging emotions we’ve all been wading through.