THE Mill on the Floss is coming to the Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre next month.

Ahead of its’ arrival on June 13, here is a Q&A with the play’s director, Paul Clarkson.

Q: When you were given the job of directing Mill on the Floss what were your initial thoughts?

A: I selected the Mill on the Floss as Head of Acting Courses after reading a number of stage adaptations of novels. I particularly liked this version due to its inherently theatrical nature. It was originally written by Helen Edmundson for ‘Shared Experience’ in 1994.

Q: Did you read the book or read a synopsis?

A: I have now read the novel three times in the past few months. I love it!

Q: What were the types of imagery which came to your mind when having read the story?

A: One cannot get away from the presence of water in the novel. The river is almost character in the book, full of romance and danger. Peace and violence. Maggie Tulliver’s love of the physical environment, music, animals and the world of the senses is also something that we very much wanted to feature in the play.

Q: How did you go about translating the novel into a modern play?

A: I didn’t, that job has been wonderfully performed by Helen Edmundson who wrote the adaptation initially for Shared Experience.

Chard & Ilminster News:

Q: Are there any clever devices (how feelings/ situations are put across in the play or with scenery) which people can look forward to it the play?

A: The play has 36 scenes and 35 transitions and we are required to make amongst others, boats, riversides, grand balls, school rooms, tea parties and a violent storm. Sarah Mills who has designed the set and costumes has given us a wonderful playground and I hope people will be delighted by the way we use 5 duckboards, four crates and 3 buckets to tell our tale!

Q: Do you think while it is a book many have heard of those who have heard of it have not read it so would you encourage them to see the play and maybe spark their interest in reading the book?

A: Absolutely. The young cast that have made this play had none, or very little knowledge of George Eliot or her wonderfully passionate, witty and modern storytelling. However they have delighted in the discovery of a female writer who suffered many of the sleights that Mary Ann Evans had to bear and have connected readily and enthusiastically to the very modern themes in the novel.

Q: What elements of The Mill on the Floss do you think would still resonate with a modern audience?

A: The Mill on the Floss was written at a time of great change ie the dawn if the industrial age. It is difficult to avoid the parallels with the modern day. At a time of technological revolution and the fragility of tolerance of those who may be deemed different or less able, the novel reminds us that we are all unique and that family, love and understanding are most valuable and not the possession of material things merely.

Chard & Ilminster News:

Q: How would you describe your approach as a director to directing this play?

A: I have wanted to utilise the particular talents of a wonderfully creative group of students in order to tell, as honestly as possible the tale that Mary Ann Evans wrote. I work in a very collaborative way and we have made this together as co-creatives. I have steered the skiff but they have made it!

Q: What surprised you the most about directing this?

A: That we were able to create so much out of so little and how fresh and resonant the story is to a modern audience.

Q: What do you hope this production will give the audience when they watch it?

A: I hope you will be entertained stimulated and enthralled by the magnificent story of a brother and a sister who never reached their true potential due to the constraints and prejudices of a rigid and judgemental society.

All pics: Craig Fuller