There are no two ways about it, a life working in the theatre is neither easy nor straightforward. For every household name, there are many thousands whose lives are unpredicatable and more full of disappointment than success. That said, the mindset of some can create a far more positive slant on life and the ‘can do’ and ‘will do’ approach to his career is something that actor and writer Jake Bickford is adopting. His upcoming play The God-Bomb opens at The Hope Theatre, London on 30 January 2024.
Born and bred in Bristol, 23 year old Bickford moved to London at 19 to study at Fourth Monkey Actor Training School where an emphasis on collaborative working was a huge attraction to the young performer. An upbringing which included regular church and Sunday School visits introduced him to theatre through nativity plays and other Biblical-based drama; his personality, enthusiasm and aptitude stood out. “What made me want to make my own theatre work was seeing companies such as Punchdrunk, pioneers of immersive-style theatre, and a play called ‘Golem’, performed by 1927 Theatre Company which featured an ensemble cast using projections to create a 3D world with actors giving a physical performance complementing the projected images.” This combination has inspired Bickford and he knows that it creates a very different theatre experience easily competing with modern TV and Film production.
Like so many of us, Jake found he had a lot of time on his hands when Covid-19 struck; his studying disrupted. It was then he started to write The God-Bomb which developed out of the many questions he posed himself during that weird, unsettling time. “I realised I was expressing the answers to those questions about my life, my self, the world we inhabit, within my own writing.”
Influences on his compositions have, and continue to be, Quentin Tarantino, Jez Butterworth, Shane Meadows and Eliza Clark; “they write dialogue for people as they normally speak”. As well as the spoken influences, the themes of the supernatural and sci-fi also reflect Jake’s interests, as do stories from folklore and the Bible.
Hindered by uncertainty about the arc of the story, The God-Bomb was put on the backburner for a year until the impetus to complete it came along. With the encouragement of friends who had read the play, Jake sent it out to a handful of theatres, including The National – though they said it wasn’t quite for them – but it was picked up by The Hope Theatre in Islington.
Through friendships created through drama school, the fallow times lead to the desire to follow the old adage, ‘if you want to get something done, then do it yourself.’ Action was taken. Setting up a company – Cried Wolf Productions – was fundamental to getting the play on stage, attracting other creatives and getting funding; the latter achieved through personal funds and private investment. The production process has been an eye-opening one; Jake has been very fortunate to secure the services of up and coming director, Elizabeth Fox – her interrogation of the script has offered Jake a number of questions, “it has made me wonder how as the writer and central character I am still discovering more about the play.” Such is the beauty of the theatrical and playwriting process.
Jake describes The God-Bomb (a title developed during the writing process) as “Frankensteinesque, queer, semi-immersive horror”; it is being seen at a pertinent time with the current upsurge in Sci-Fi interest and the release of the film ‘Poor Things’, a post-modern revision of Mary Shelley’s famous story.”People are in for a shock, a scare and a debate. The play will have you question the script, the writer and yourself and will, hopefully, stay with you for as long as it needs to.”
With three specific roles to cover; writer, producer and actor, Jake realises that there is a balancing act to achieve. “There is a crossover here, and sometimes it is necessary to step back from the ‘writer’ role, for instance, and let the director do their job, whilst concentrating on acting the central character.”
What has been the biggest challenge? “Marketing the play for sure. I have no relevant experience in the field, but took this other responsibility on myself. I have never admired those in the business who achieve so much; it’s really hard work.” Hopefully, the people will flock to The Hope.
Jake realises he is so fortunate to get to where he currently is and knows with out the inspirational support of his parents, Paul and Emma Bickford that he would have fallen short at some point. So, for the future, Jake’s interest in film and film-making will be to the fore as Cried Wolf Productions seeks to expand its horizons and there is another stage play in the works. The grass is not going to grow under the feet of this artist!
Jake Bickford is ploughing his own furrow in the ultra-competitive world of theatre and is not planning to lower his aspirations one jot. He is patently a multi-faceted talent and his happy-go-lucky persona disguises a steely determination and ambition which will not be deterred. In his own words “I will achieve what I set out to do by hook or by crook.” It would be a brave person to bet against that! Keep your eyes open for Cried Wolf Productions and the inspiring talent behind it!
THE GOD-BOMB runs at THE HOPE THEATRE, ISLINGTON from 30 January – 3 February 2024 – www.thehopetheatre.com 0333 666 3366
INSTAGRAM – @criedwolfproductions