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Demi Leigh- interview

Taking to Barons Court Theatre this month, The Sea Between is a play written by and starring Demi Leigh. With inspiration from the Greek myth of Iphigenia, and drawing on her own experience since moving from Greece in 2009, the piece explores the relationship of Ginny and Mike, as they begin to share truths, and toxicity builds, while trying to love.

Keep reading to find out more about this intriguingly beautiful show.


What is The Sea Between about, and where did the idea behind the show originate from?

The Sea Between is fundamentally about the relationship of two young adults in London, both eager to love and be with one another, but the circumstances, their culture, class and the lies build up this insurmountable ocean between them. I was born in Greece and moved to the UK when I was 19. For a long time, I refused to accept that there are any cultural barriers between me and my new home - until one day I met a Mediterranean girl who asked me how I handle all the cultural differences - at work and within relationships. It was a reality check. It made me realise that in order to fit in, I was actively erasing my greekness, changing my personality. That was the spark of inspiration: a woman who falls in the age-old trap of changing yourself to please others. At the same time, I was watching a modern interpretation of Iphigenia and it hit me how much Iphigenia was also a woman who transformed herself - in her case, to please the men in her life, the will of the Goddess. The play came together soon after. A modern relationship, negotiating transformation and agency; a tragedy both ancient and contemporary.

Why did you choose for the characters to first meet at Halloween?

Growing up, we didn't celebrate Halloween in Greece. I first experienced it in the UK, and I was fascinated. I am so intrigued by the celebration - both by the Gaelic/Celtic history, the celebration of the departed, but also the modern day connotations. A day when everyone wears masks and hides behind a custom, but in many ways let their real nature show. It felt like a very appropriate moment for Ginny and Mike to meet: her, wearing the antlers that are a symbol of Artemis, goddess of the hunt and saviour of Iphigenia, and him, hooded, masking himself from the world. In a way, that meeting of theirs at Halloween is maybe the only time they show each other their true colours, before expectations and the need to impress one another make them hide their personalities and desires.

How did you research in preparation for combining the myth of Iphigenia with a modern day narrative, and how have you made this relatable for audiences?

Vittorio Parri, our director, has a long-standing love for ancient tragedy and worked very closely with me in reworking the script. We originally put this play together as a preview, back in February, with Lee Lomas - an absolutely amazing coach and director. In it's early form, the play was more naturalistic, closer to a modern day kitchen sink drama, with the myth of Iphigenia coming into play near the end, during a dream sequence. With Vitto, we restructured the play, incorporating Iphigenia in Ginny's personality and the symbolism, on stage and in the costuming - the bed becomes an altar; the wedding dress, the vows, the antlers. The story people watch unfold is 100% modern, the struggle of a bicultural couple in the London of Brexit and financial crisis. The myth of Iphigenia is hiding in Ginny herself, in her dreams of the sea and foreign shores, in her acceptance of fate and ultimately her transformation after the lies are exposed and the masks fall, in the last scene of the play.

What drew you towards developing the characters to have a toxic relationship and how was the writing process for developing this connection?

You could say I'm drawn to the darker sides of humanity, but only because I love humans and I love the complexity of us all - some of my favourite plays are Pinter's Betrayal, Beckett's Endgame and Medea. Humans crave connections; they crave to be seen and understood, and yet we often sabotage ourselves by putting up barriers and walls, out of fear. And lies, so that others don't see the sides of ourselves we sometimes don't like very much. This contradiction leads to dramatic irony, which is at the core of tragedy itself. With The Sea Between, both Mike and Ginny are full of good intentions. He wants to offer her a better life - the opportunities she didn't have. Ginny wants to be the perfect partner to him, and changes herself to please him. In the process they cause so much heartache to themselves and each other. We did quite a bit of improv on some of the most dramatic scenes, to faithfully portray this toxicity. Matthew Kay, who plays Mike, is such a fantastic actor to work with - his natural easy-going personality was so far away from the explosive anger of Mike, it is an absolute revelation to watch him transform during the play.

What is the meaning behind the piece, and what message do you intend for it to convey?

What I wanted with The Sea Between was to take the audience on a journey, with two very human, flawed, recognisable characters. So the audience can empathise with them, get angry at Mike, get annoyed at Ginny. And at the end of that one-hour journey, the audience experience release - catharsis as the old Greeks used to say. We are living through some confusing times, so I'd love for people to escape their own trouble for one hour, and leave the theatre with a feeling of relief. If they find some deeper meaning in watching this relationship play out, that's up to each person - so far I have been fascinated by how many different conclusions people come to, based on their own experiences.

If you were a character in Greek mythology, who would you be and why?

What a scary universe to be thrown into! The Gods of the old were selfish and cruel, and the heroes often ended up cursed! I always loved Athena, the badass goddess of war and sapphism. Knowing my luck, I'd probably end up as a minor priestess, eventually getting ostracised for being too mouthy with the king... In fact, I'd probably be Cassandra, the Trojan priestess who annoyed Apollo, and he cursed her, so that she could she the future but no one would believe her prophecies - leading, eventually, to the fall of Troy.


Thanks very much to Demi for her great answers, and I hope you're having a brilliant run of the show so far!

Grab your tickets to the remaining shows here:

{Some grammar is amended for clarity}


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