Sam is joint Artistic Director and co-founder of Mulligan Theatre.
Before Mulligan Sam was attached to AllthePigs as co -Artistic Director (2010-2015) with Ami Stidolph, and Director/Dramaturg with epoch presents alongside creative producer Caggy Kerlogue and dramaturg George Islay Calderwood (2013-2015).
As a freelance Director for the past few years Sam has been working with Smoke & Oakum Theatre Company, Chipping Norton Theatre, The Dukes Theatre Lancaster and The Old Vic Theatre.
James Barbour: What is forgiveness?
Sam Carrack: You know when we started this journey, when we picked forgiveness I thought I knew what it was. I thought, we’ll find some plays where some people do some bad things and then see if we can get the audience to forgive them. Because that’s what forgiveness is, absolving someone of blame, right? Then we started speaking to Marina, Sandra and The Forgiveness Project and Tim at Heritage Arts and it changed everything.
JB: How so?
SC: Well, I realised just how much depth there is to the concept of, let alone the act of, forgiveness. I only really understood it on a plastic level, like someone called me names, or let me down, and then you start hearing stories of real heartbreak, real problems and suddenly the complexities start to really dawn you. I hadn't really ever thought about it being something that you 'own' before just as something that you say. It’s quite humbling really. It’s crazy, in English we have about 8 words for hello and yet 1 word forgiveness that has to cover everything.
JB: Ok, so what is forgiveness now?
SC: Ha. A minefield. When talking to people about the season we don't always get loads of time so when I try and explain it to people in a sentence, I say, think about revenge, got it? Right, well forgiveness is the opposite of that. I think it’s about finding a peace that means you can get on with your day, your life. It’s not necessarily about absolving blame, and it’s certainly not about forgetting or condoning, I think it’s about getting to a place where you can move forward without being governed by the choices and decisions of someone else. Revenge is hard. It takes so much energy. Being angry, resentful, it takes over and I think you have to work so hard at hate, and then when you let it to go, it’s like wow! Suddenly I’ve all this energy and drive and I can think about other stuff. I dunno? I don't understand all the rules.
SC: Yeah, for sure, like the rules that are inflicted by society and politics. Imagine forgiving someone for wronging your family but your siblings cant? Suddenly everyone is questioning you, you’re the bad guy.
JB: So it’s about you?
SC: Yes. No.. I don’t know? I think it’s unique. You know what, it’s a choice, it’s a brave, brave choice.
JB: Does it exist in Art?
SC: I think so. I think it has to. You’ve got to split it into categories. The work, and then the artist. It sounds pretentious… Basically you’ve got someone who’s doing their job and that might be to play a murderer, or write one, or to ask someone else to play one and that in itself means that person has to forgive themselves, that’s your job, be respectful and get on with it.
JB: Forgive themselves?
SC: Yeah. The audience need you to share - that's what great storytellers do - so you’ve got to go 'there' and that means forgive yourself and get in that headspace, be a murderer, think those terrible things, and then share how it is to think like that. You can't walk around on stage apologising. So yeah you gotta forgive yourself and then get on with your job. A better example… Ok. A voice teacher I worked with at OSD used to say of accents that the performer needed to ‘forgive themselves to allow themselves to sound different’.
JB: What’s the other way?
JB: You said two categories, the artist and then the work.
SC: Yes. So then there's the work itself. Theatre is exploring humanity, but it's also a comment on how we're living right now, and challenging how we could/should be behaving. Sometimes people will make work that's going to offend, sometimes that's the point but we should remember that, well not always, but mostly it's about challenging us as human beings to be better.
JB: Is anything unforgivable?
SC: No. I don’t think it is. I reckon you could probably make a good case for Murder, Rape, Genocide etc But I think that somewhere in the back of all the grey there is a light somewhere that means you could find forgiveness? But I don’t know, it’s so tricky, and so individual too, and until you're in that situation then it's impossible to say. However this is where The Forgiveness Project have educated me again, read Marina's book, it's stories from people who've found forgiveness in the face of some terrible wrongs and it shows you that human beings are capable of incredible things. It's changed me entire perception of Forgiveness.
JB: Why is Mulligan exploring it?
SC: Well, firstly because what we do is look at the human condition. And forgiveness fits perfectly into that. It’s such a uniquely human dilemma. It just doesn’t exist in the animal kingdom, no squirrel is forgiving another one for stealing it’s nuts is it? No it’s gonna scratch your eyes out and them the rules. And then because, and this is my opinion, society seems really angry at the moment. Lots of it for very good reason and I’m not saying that it’s not necessary but right now there’s no plays on forgiveness we’re just not talking about it, we’re not focused on it, and we should be.
JB: So should it exist more prominently in theatre?
SC: Hey make the theatre you wanna make, and see the stuff you want to see. I’m not telling anyone else what they should be making and some of the best stuff I’ve seen this year fits right into that ‘angry’ category. But for me theatre, storytelling, it’s got to have balance, it’s got to be sharing and explorative otherwise why spend loads of energy making a play? Just make a placard and stand outside of a theatre saying ‘you should think like this’, it’ll be cheaper. So if a little more forgiveness brings a bit of balance then, sure, yeah why not?
JB: Cool, so lighter note, what do you struggle to forgive?
SC: Ummm. I get pretty angry with people who dunk their biscuits in my tea. In fact dunking biscuits in anyone’s tea. Don’t dunk! It ruins the biscuit and the tea.