Who are our characters? How do they feel in the moment? And where does Queer Eye fit into all of this?

In this week’s blog, Assistant Director Shilpa shares the work the team have been doing in rehearsals to find out more about the characters in Crocodile Fever.


It’s Sunday after the second week of rehearsals and I’m watching Queer Eye (I’m late to the bandwagon). Jonathon Van Ness is describing the split between husband and wife products on the bathroom counter as ‘not a hard border, more like a Northern Ireland/Ireland border pre-Brexit’.

The reference may be ridiculous but in an offhand way it reminds me how our histories have a habit of coming around again, and just how present the 1980s context of this play feel now. It’s not only the political context but also the examination of abusive relationships and how this can shape people in different ways which feels simultaneously of its time but also hideously familiar.


Thinking about the world that our characters grew up in, how it affected their notions of self and their way of dealing with life, we’ve been scouring the text for clues this week in order to form a cohesive idea of each character. As in most rehearsal rooms there’s an element of playing the detective/ psychologist. We’ve continued the method of reading each scene and chatting about it, making sure we understand the nuance and possibilities, then putting the scene on its feet and beginning to find the shape of the play.

Working through it a second time around there’s already a fuller sense of who these characters are, what their family dynamic was in the past and what this slippery re-introduction means. As we revisit scenes the space becomes clearer in my mind as well, everything is still very much to play for and nothing is set in stone but we’re learning more about the way that each character interacts with the space; an oppressive kitchen that one sister has become trapped in and that the other hasn’t seen in years.


I’ve also been doing my homework around some of the 1980s pop culture references in the play, a more upbeat research task than last weeks. There’s something fascinating about tracing back the timeline of the characters, working out what they were watching and listening to as children as well as in the present of the play. Particularly because the story centres around two siblings, there’s something very recognisable in their shared knowledge and/or gaps in knowledge about music and films.

Now that we’re all thinking about the play, songs that feature in Crocodile Fever seem to be following us around, historical/political references pop up in the most unlikely places, and we’ve got reptiles on the brain.

The Assistant Director position for Crocodile Fever is supported by The JMK Trust. Shilpa T-Hyland is a Leverhulme Arts Scholar and recipient of the JMK regional bursary funded by the Leverhulme Trust Arts Scholarships Fund.

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