So we’re 4 sleeps away from the big event!
To say I’m nervous about it is an understatement. This is the first event that I’ve produced in a long while and even then it’s nowhere near the same. In a previous life, I was a conference producer, which I slogged out for 4 years, and although I’ve been able to use what I learnt in that role, it’s got nothing on organising something theatrical.
I started this about 5 weeks ago. As a Producer I had access to 7 plays:
- Hi Vis by Clara Brennan
- Housekeeping by Lucy Kirkwood
- The Fat Man by Anders Lustgarten (based on initial idea with Simon Stephens)
- Things That Make No Sense by Dennis Kelly
- Whiff Whaff by Jack Thorne
- A Bigger Banner by Mark Ravenhill and
- Open Heart Surgery by Laura Lomas
I asked the Technical team at my university if we could use a space at uni or at one of our linked spaces. They worked bloody hard and got me a space in the studio at The Rose Theatre. For that I am eternally grateful as it meant I didn’t need to pay for a space.
I couldn’t think how I would be able to describe to students, in an email, the themes and contents of these unique plays, so I set up read-throughs for prospective directors and actors. I then had to negotiate who was directing what and work out what to do with those plays that weren’t taken.
I and 2 other directors chose Housekeeping, were definitely going ahead. For me The Fat Man was my favourite piece but I felt I couldn’t do it justice so I emailed and Head of Dance and asked for the finest choreographers to put it together as a physical theatre piece.
In the end I thought Things That Make No Sense was too valuable to lose so I took that on too. (Yes, right there. That is my downfall!!) and the other directors wanted to act and direct Hi Vis taking us to 6!Unfortunately that meant that Open Heart Surgery had to be dropped as although it was popular with the actors it wasn’t with directors.
Next we went crazy and held open auditions! For those of you who’ve been here before, you might have read my post Are We Colour Blind? which expressed my feelings on the turn out but I was so happy to see those students who had never auditioned before. A lot of student productions can feel like extensions of cliques and it was great to think that some I don’t usually see at auditions came to this one. So here we all are:
Casting done, we started to rehearse. Some of the university’s finest dance students (Selina, Caleb and Stuart) are choreographing The Fat Man by Anders Lustgarten. Possibly my favourite piece of the lot, they’re working on an exciting physical theatre piece.The dance students work 3 times harder than the drama students do, every hour, of every day. They put me to shame but I was thrilled to be working with them and I’m so glad to learn a different way of working. This monologue is such a powerful call to arms with some intriguing facts and I cannot wait to see it in full.
Alicia is directing a play called Homecoming which has Lucy and Emily (pictured) alongside a charismatic Sam Reddin. It is an interesting play tackling the issues ofcommodification of that which isn’t ours to sell. (Remember back to selling of forests?)
Jennie Westbrook is directing A Bigger Banner, written by Mark Ravenhill which looks at protesting and the changes that have happened through time. I’ve not seen anything of this yet though so can’t tell you much more as yet.
And then there’s me. I’ve been working on Whiff Whaff and Things That Make No Sense as I couldn’t bear for these plays not to be in the afternoon. The former, gives an insight into Nigel (Sam, pictured) and Julie (Lacey, pictured) and their average-suburban-2.4 kids-family life and the impact of living through the Tory and Labour governments. The latter has 3 characters in a room but I daren’t say anymore for fear of giving too much away!! But more to come about those later!
Sadly last week, the actor and director of Hi Vis felt it was too much and they couldn’t do it justice so we’re now down to 5 plays.
With 3 directors and 3 choreographers and 17 actors – fantastic creatives – to coordinate in such a short time is hard work! All are helpful, supportive and a joy to be working with but since we’re midway through our studies, juggling that has had an impact on the plays. So this week rehearsals have gone, for some groups, 1 hour a week to untold!
I shall be popping in and out of rehearsals to see how things are going and plan the running order for the afternoon and hope to upload some videos of rehearsals and interviews with cast and creatives throughout the week so keep your eyes peeled.
For those of you thinking of popping down, it’s this Saturday, 19th March from 2.30pm until 5pm at the Rose Studio in the Rose Theatre, High Street, Kingston.
It’s free to attend and any donations will go to Child Poverty Action Group charity who campaign to make benefits available to those who need them, and have pledged to eradicate child poverty in the UK by 2020.
Find out more here.