As an official media partner of the 30th annual St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival, Montreal Theatre Hub brings the #FringeBuzz in 2021 with an all-new interview series with artists from this year’s edition of the fest! In this Snapshot, we feature NILS SVENSSON-CARELL – playwright, director, and performer of Peckish Artist Productions’ THE BOX. Read our Q&A with the creator of the Fringe show in the lead-up to its premiere on June 10th at Monument-National.
MONTREAL THEATRE HUB: What is ‘The Box‘ about?
NILS: ‘The Box‘ is about a man moving apartments after a not-too mutual breakup who has to decide what in life is important to keep, and what is expendable. It is a story about anger, and the potential of letting go.
MTH: What can audiences expect from the experience of seeing it?
NILS: I hope that they will experience something they can relate to, even if it is only a line here and there, and maybe one or two laughs, who knows. Above all I am hoping that that they will leave the theatre feeling like they have been thoroughly entertained for half an hour. Fingers crossed.
MTH: What was the idea and inspiration behind the piece?
NILS: It sounds weird, but I find that I don’t often get ideas. I had a long period of time where I wasn’t doing anything and people would say to me “well why don’t you write something, you’re decent at that” and I would respond with “yeah, but I don’t have an idea yet”. I spent so long JUST waiting for an idea that finally I got fed up, so I figured, what the hell, I’ll just force myself. So, I just started writing. About nothing. Nonsensical things. But in the act of actually doing it the ideas that I had been waiting for started popping up. All of a sudden there was direction, all of a sudden the idea was there, and then you just had to delete the nonsense that the idea had spawned from and go from there. As for ‘The Box’ specially, I was just lying in bed one morning, or afternoon if we are being honest, and I saw the call for submissions for Centaur Theatre Company’s Portico Project and I figured why not? The theme was ‘unpacking’ so in that moment I took it literally and started out with moving boxes. And I just started writing. Anything really. Soon the ideas started to come, and then the direction was there, and then you start throwing in some bits and pieces from your own life and presto; it’s not nonsense anymore. Or maybe it is but at least it is entertaining nonsense. Anyway, I send it in and while I did not get into The Portico Project, I got put on the shortlist for The Catalyst Project instead. It was there that I got the help to develop the piece further, and it went from just a small scene to a one act play. So a big shout out to Eda Holmes and everyone at the Centaur Theatre responsible for The Catalyst Project, and above all to Rose Plotek, who was my main liaison at Centaur Theatre and gave me all the feedback and tips that helped me take this project from just a couple of pages of lines to what it is today.
The Box’s Nils Svensson-Carell (writer/director/actor), Lucas Di Tecco (actor), and Skyler Clark (actor) – Photographer: Jeremy Cabrera
MTH: Why did you choose the Fringe as the place to premiere this work?
NILS: It was kind of happenstance. After The Catalyst Project was all said and done we talked about what was next, and I said that I would be awesome to present it on the stage, but I figured it was a bit too short. So we toyed with the idea of maybe doing a double header with something else of similar length or making it in to a short film, and it was all a bit up in the air. Then all of a sudden we get the word that Fringe is actually happening and lo and behold they have half an hour slots. I’ve always loved the Fringe and I think it is the perfect sort of place to test the water with these sorts of projects, so I was over the moon when I got in. I’ve done Fringe in the past but this is the first time where it is my own work so the nerves and excitement is on top.
MTH: What has it been like trying to create a show during a pandemic?
NILS: In one word? Therapeutic. I’m an immigrant and I lost my status and work permit all the way back in March 2019, so by the time the pandemic hit and everyone stopped whatever they were doing I was already deep into that mindset, for better or for worse. So once people slowly started doing things again and I was still stuck, it was a way for me to point at something and tell myself “no, you are doing something”. Another worry was that once I finally do get my Permanent Residency will there even be any work to be had in a pandemic stricken nation for someone who is not already that established? And even there the show helped. The very same day I got granted my Permanent Residency I got emails from people who had seen the excerpt at The Catalyst Project, Ubisoft and the like, about potential self-tapes. Self-tapes led to auditions which led to call-backs and for someone who has been stuck on the sidelines for so long it felt amazing to hit the ground running. The show had definitely opened some doors for me, and I’m excited to see where the hallways behind them leads. So, in short, the show has been my little rock to cling to when the waves hit just a little bit too hard.
Nils Svensson-Carell, Lucas Di Tecco, and Skyler Clark – Photographer: Jeremy Cabrera
MTH: What’s kept you driven to keep creating during this past year?
NILS: Like I mentioned, just to keep sane. Artists kind of rely on art for their own sake, and once you get stripped of the ability to create, you can feel that something is missing. So, it was very liberating to be able to take matters into your own hands and say that it doesn’t matter if everything else I had going is cancelled. Something is going on. And something is all we need to keep going.
MTH: How does this show speak to our present times?
NILS: While I definitely think, or at least hope, that the show will speak to people, I don’t necessarily think that it makes any specific statement to our present times. Themes of love, anger and friendship are as old as time itself. I’m just trying to tell a nice little story. The question isn’t what I am trying to say, but rather what they hear.
MTH: How does it feel to be back presenting on a live stage?
NILS: Stressful, scary, nerve-racking, intense, and fucking amazing.
Skyler Clark, Nils Svensson-Carell, and Lucas Di Tecco – Photographer: Jeremy Cabrera
RAPID FIRE ROUND
What have you missed most about the Fringe?
Leaving a dark theatre to go sitting and sipping apricot ales in the sun while talking about what you just saw.
Favourite Fringe show you’ve ever seen?
My main man from another family plan Gabe Schultz put on a show at the Fringe 2017 called ‘Invasive Species‘. It was predictable in the sense that it was as brilliant as its creator.
#Fringebuzz: which show(s) on the 2021 lineup are you most stoked to check out?
‘Matt Enos and The River Men’. Who doesn’t like the blues?
Nils Svensson-Carell was born and raised in Helsingborg, Sweden. Ever since he ran up on stage and gatecrashed the performance of a poor acting troupe on a school tour at the age of eight, he has taken a keen interest in the performing arts. Class clownery, buffoonery and drama groups eventually landed him in Montreal, where he graduated from Dawson College Professional Theatre Program in 2015. Since graduation, he has been fortunate to partake projects such as Tantalus’ Adoration, Persephone’s Moby Dick (2016) & Abigail (2018), Cabal’s Mary Stuart, Raise the Stakes’ Antigone and many more. He is excited & hopeful that this project will be another experience from which he can learn more about performance, writing and himself.
THE BOX presented by Peckish Artist Productions plays from June 10-19 at Monument-National’s Studio Hydro Québec (1182 Boulevard St-Laurent). Tickets ($9.00-$11.00) can be purchased online at www.montrealfringe.ca.
Trailer for The Box
Support for Adrian & Cassandra MacDonald
On a different note, as I am sure many of the Montreal theatre community is aware, actor, director, playwright and all around great human being Adrian Macdonald along with his wife Cassandra suffered a horrific car accident as their brakes failed on their honeymoon in 2020, leaving Adrian struggling with Traumatic Brain Injury. Recently the SAAQ have decided that they are no longer going to contribute financially to Adrian’s therapies. These therapies are crucial to his recovery and can cost up to $1000 a week! I don’t need to tell anyone who has spent even a brief moment of time in Adrian’s presence that this could not have happened to a more undeserving person. We are therefore asking anyone to give anything they can to support Adrian and Cassandra in this extremely difficult time. If you have anything to spare, and I mean anything, please don’t hesitate to check out the GoFundMe page at https://ca.gofundme.com/f/support-for-adrian-macdonald-amp-cassandra
– Nils Svensson-Carell
Read here all of the interviews in the Fringe Artist Snapshots series: