Interview: Evan Lordan, ‘Situations don’t really get much more awkward than this!’

Inspired by the case of Armin Meiwes who killed and consumed a voluntary victim in a case of consensual cannibalism, Fiji, which opened at the Omnibus Theatre this week, makes for an appetising piece of theatre.

The play is co-written by cast members Eddie Loodmer-Elliot and Pedro Leandro and director Evan Lordan – the trio first presenting the play during a short run at the same venue in 2019.

Lordan is the Artistic Director of Conflicted Theatre Company, creating new work at venues such as disused warehouses, office building, elevators, and private dining clubs. As an associate director, his work has included Touching the Void which ran in the West End at Duke of York’s Theatre.

Ahead of opening night, we caught up with Lordan to talk about how audiences might react to the story, normalising the characters, and the inherent British humour of the play.

Q&A with Evan Lordan

Hi Evan, thanks for taking the time to talk to us about Fiji – it’s a fascinating story.  What can you tell us about directing this production?

My role as director on this show has been made incredibly easy due to the insane talent of Pedro & Eddie. As writers and co-creators, they are genuinely astonishing and the process itself is really unique because they are both writing from the perspective of their own characters – so they intrinsically know these characters inside and out before we even set foot inside the rehearsal room.

Also, Eddie and Pedro are very close friends in real life and they have this really natural and exciting chemistry, which in many ways is the foundation to the tone of this play. This intimate chemistry is a joy to behold and would be so difficult to recreate with even the most talented of actors.

How do you think audience members will react to the play?

Hopefully they will be pleasantly surprised! The show is an unusual blend of two very different genres: True Crime and Rom Com. There seems to be a hypnotic quality to true crime, you can’t take your eyes off it and the more disturbing the better. And that makes for really fun theatre. However, we were sort of more interested in the human side of the story: how does it feel to be in this situation? Does it feel like love? What conversations do you have to have? And as we kept writing and discovering the world of Nick and Sam, we discovered that the tender, light, silly Rom Com moments were some of our favourites. We didn’t necessarily set out to create a True Crime Rom Com, it just sort of happened. And we’ve found that those different shades in the story really complement each other and help each other along.

Was the idea something that had been on the cards for a while before FIJI’s initial release, or did you hear the story and think immediately we must write a play about this? 

The show actually started out as an idea for a comedy sketch that Eddie and Pedro came up with just while hanging out together. It wasn’t until we started fleshing out the idea as a full length show that our research led us to the real life scenario between Armin Meiwes (‘the Rotenburg Cannibal’) and his consenting victim, Bernd Brandes.

We tried to make our versions of these characters seem as normal, charming and genuine as possible to disarm the entire situation. I think one of the most intriguing things to explore was the perceived monsters within the story; could we de-monster them and see how their motives are evaluated when they are themselves seemingly very much in love, extremely charming and just lovely.

How has the rehearsal process been so far?

In many ways the writing process was a pretty significant part of the actual rehearsal process and vice-versa. On the one hand, it was a very easy show to create: we had a beginning and an ending to the story from the get go and we just had to figure out the character journeys within that. On the other hand, every decision that we make about the show goes through the three of us so we have to find a way to reach a consensus every time, which can be tricky! It’s been a lot of fun though: a lot of days spent going from café to café to discuss and finesse the script, arguing loudly about cannibalism next to mums with prams.

Is there anything that has surprised you about the characters?

We basically approached these characters by asking ourselves what we would do and/or what we would want to know if we were in their situation. I think one of the most surprising things is how relatable they are, even within such extraordinary circumstances.

We decided quite early on that it would be an exciting challenge for us to try and get the audience onside with these characters who commit unspeakable acts. And so we almost needed them to be incredibly lovable, while also not ignoring the darkness within each of them. Luckily Pedro and Eddie are both inherently and extremely lovable, but especially as a performing duo.

Given the subject matter, has it been challenging to find the balance between the comic elements and the darker themes of the play?

Yes & No. It’s definitely a dark comedy, but it’s not jet black humour. The scenario that these two men find themselves sort of does the work of creating the darkness for us and so we could really just focus on creating the lightness to contrast that. A lot of British humour revolves around the inherent awkwardness of a particular situation and situations don’t really get much more awkward than this! So we discovered there were actually a huge amount of comic opportunities to explore and we think that we have managed to strike just the right balance.

Finally, how would you describe Fiji to someone considering buying a ticket for the show?

I’m going to be a bit big-headed in answering this question and refer you to one of the ★★★★★ reviews we received when we first performed the show in 2019 –

“Don’t let the subject of cannibalism put you off. This is a beautifully written, structured, produced and performed piece of comic theatre, that will make you both laugh and think. What more can you ask for?” –  View from the Outside.

Fiji is at Omnibus Theatre until 25 March