Minority Report at Birmingham Rep

Minority Report at Birmingham Rep


Posted 2024-03-09 by dpmfollow

Fri 22 Mar 2024 - Sat 06 Apr 2024

Philip K Dick’s classic sci-fi novella Minority Report comes to the stage in a new adaptation this spring. And actor and writer David Haig, who has adapted the best-seller, says he definitely stepped out of his comfort zone to work on the show. “Simon Friend, the producer, rang me up and he was a fan of Pressure, my last play, and he said, ‘how would it interest you writing a sci-fi thriller based on Minority Report?’

He was initially uncertain. “Immediately my response internally was what? How can I do this and is it me? Me whose plays have been about the First World War and Second World War and with conventional structures,” David says. “Then I thought that was the very reason to do it. How incredibly exciting to go off-piste and just write exactly what came into my head on the basis of this short story written in the fifties.”

And he was given carte-blanche to go as off-piste as he chose. “The Philip K Dick Estate have been incredibly generous and said that, as long as you use the title and the basic premise of Precrime, ie that you can anticipate murder and get criminals off the streets before they’ve even committed the crime, you have complete freedom to write exactly what you want – and I’ve taken them at their word.”

David is not the first person to adapt the novella – Steven Spielberg turned it into a 2002 blockbuster movie starring Tom Cruise. But David has taken a very different approach, making a fundamental change – his lead character is female. “I thought it would be really exciting to get as far away from the original story in that sense, but also from the film, which in fact I hadn’t seen when I wrote the first draft of the adaptation. So it felt right to write an exciting part for a middle-aged woman in a sci-fi thriller. It’s unlikely, it’s unexpected and that is what’s interesting about it.”

He explains: “The principle of the play is that the head of Precrime, Julia Anderton, sees her own name on the list as the next pre-murderer ie it has been predicted that she will murder and it’s the last thing in the world that she, as head of the whole organization, expects. Then the play is 80 minutes of real time from that moment. It’s always through her point of view and it’s her run from potential incarceration and criminalization. Will she kill? Won’t she? Will she be proved innocent? Won’t she?”

And he says the show is more than a sci-fi thriller. “The play is an interesting portrait of a woman who has to change her mind on a very important premise. Yes, it’s a sci-fi thriller but also it’s a conventional play with a story and a journey.”

David’s previous dramas include My Boy Jack, The Good Samaritan and Pressure but adapting a futuristic tale set in 2050 is a very different prospect.“The challenges of writing sci-fi for the stage are writing stage directions like ‘the van chases the car at 40 miles an hour, the two collide, there is an explosion of metal and the car bursts into flames.…’ That was the freedom that I adopted when I was writing it - you just write anything that comes into your head and then the director Max Webster and the incredible design team that we’ve got, say ‘that’s possible, that’s not possible, that’s possible, that’s not possible’ and so we work towards a solution in that way.”

He has also found the notion of writing about a future world fascinating. “When Blade Runner was filmed, which is also based on a Philip K Dick story, he turned down literally ten to 15 applications for screenplays before he agreed to one. And the one he agreed to was because they created the tone of his world right, and the tone of his world was some bits very dilapidated and old fashioned, and some bits very modern and futuristic. You have to get a mixture so that people feel comfortable in the world they’re in but at the same time think wow, that’s new and that might already have happened and that could be about to happen.”

And the unnerving part of writing about a possible future is that some of it has already come true. “The whole premise of predicting crime is very close to us,” David explains. “What has struck me is that each time I’ve done a new draft of this play, it’s been because the whole obsession, the fear, the respect for artificial intelligence has raced forward as I’ve been writing it. I had already written a draft before Covid and by the time the lockdowns had finished, AI was rattling forward and I was already out of date so I’ve had to keep up with those developments. Already this prediction of how the brain behaves and in what ways it pre-empts stuff and predicts stuff is already there. It doesn’t actually feel so outlandish.”

David is also well-known as an actor, playing Inspector Grim in television’s The Thin Blue Line and appearing in other series as diverse as Downton Abbey, Killing Eve and the 2013 re-make of Yes, Prime Minister as well as the hit movies Four Weddings and a Funeral and Two Weeks Notice.

David grew up in Rugby and knows Birmingham well, having worked at The Rep more than 40 years ago.

“My wife Julia was born in Coventry and we met in Birmingham. She was working at the time for a very good community theatre company called Second City and then we went on to work together at Birmingham Rep. This was in the era of Clive Perry, back in the late seventies and early eighties, and I loved my time there. I have been back very regularly over the years and have a loyalty to the city. I’m very excited that the show is coming to The Rep and I’m looking forward to seeing how it fits into that environment.”

And David encourages everyone, not just sci-fi fans, to see Minority Report. “People who have an open mind to the whole concept of how much our society is watched and monitored and how much our thoughts are probed and how much science is racing ahead of any safety, as well as people who just want a straight adventure story, will be excited by it.”

Co-produced by Birmingham Rep, Nottingham Playhouse and Lyric Hammersmith Theatre in association with Simon Friend, Minority Report plays The Rep on March 22 – April 6. See here for ticket information.


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