29 posts categorized "Interviews" Feed

Interview: Theatre photographer Simon Annand on what he's learned about actors and whether he gets star struck

Simon Annand
The man behind the camera, Simon Annand

Photographer Simon Annand has spent decades capturing actors backstage at the theatre in the half-hour before curtain up.

His collection of photos, published in a book THE HALF, are now on display at an exhibition at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield and include early career Tom Hardy and David Tennant, as well as acting legends Dame Judi Dench and Anthony Hopkins. 

I asked him about his approach, what he's learned about actors over the years and whether he ever gets star struck.

How do you ensure an authentic photograph of a ‘private’ moment and have you ever felt like you were intruding?

The Half is not an attempt to be “fly on the wall”. Authenticity is therefore not based on pretending the camera is absent, but rather acknowledging that the actor is alone in their responsibility to perform the role.

All the sessions have been arranged prior to the meeting so there has never been a question of intrusion.

Has your process changed over the years?

The process has deepened over time in line with a more informed knowledge of the decisions that the actors are making.

The photos themselves have hopefully gained in resonance as this journey has taken place.

JUDE LAW (Simon Annand) Colour LR
Jude Law. Photo by Simon Annand

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Interview: Director Harry Mackrill on his new play, working on Angels In America and dream casts

"I can’t begin to describe everything I’ve learnt from some incredible directors. Their passion and dedication is perhaps the most immediate thing that comes to mind."

Harry Mackrill - World's End
Harry Mackrill

Director Harry Mackrill lastest work is World’s End, the debut play from upcoming writer James Corley at The King's Head Theatre and he's recently been announced one of the theatre's new artistic associates.

As an associate director, he's worked on two epic productions at the National Theatre: Angels in America and Peter Gynt and spent a year at the Kiln Theatre.

I asked him about his latest work, the role of an associate director and if he knew Angels was going to be such a huge success.

Tell us a bit about World’s End the play you are directing at the King’s Head and what drew you to the work?

World's End is a story, set in 1998 against the backdrop of the approaching Millennium and the Kosovo war, which charts two neighbouring families – both single parents – and how their sons fall in love whilst playing Zelda on the Nintendo.

This is a play about first love. When we meet Ben and Besnik they are both dealing with their own fears and insecurities about the outside world, but together they find security and passion.

I think James [Corley] has written two wonderful LGBT figures in the two characters, but the love they find in each other is something that is universal.

It is a profoundly moving, visceral piece of storytelling. I am drawn to work that embraces stillness, and James understands the power of simplicity.

It’s a gift to be able to work on the play – both in the writer-director relationship, but also with the actors and seeing the characters come to life.

How would you describe your directing style and what was your approach for this play?

I’m not sure I’m best placed to answer this question – I have set of rules that I approach each production with.

My main passion for directing comes from a love and respect for actors: what they do and the fact that they are brave enough to do it.

I think my role as the director, in the rehearsal room, is to create a space that is supportive and rooted, so that actors can do their best work.

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Interview: Libby Liburd and Cathy Tyson talk Fighter, Stratford Circus - "The drama of a fight night coupled with the laughter of a comedy night".

"You'll get the drama of a fight night coupled with the laughter of a comedy night."

Fighter (Stratford Circus Arts) is the story of a single mum who decides to take up boxing. Set in a boxing gym with cast that includes young boxers, I asked writer/performer Libby Liburd and performer Cathy Tyson about the inspiration behind the play and what it's like to perform.

12) Libby Liburd Headshot 2 Credit Jon Holloway
Libby Liburd. Photo by Jon Holloway

Tell us a bit about Fighter and what inspired you to write the play?

Libby Liburd: Fighter is the story of Lee, who finds herself plunged into the world of boxing, and through finding herself in a world that doesn't yet embrace women in the ring, she finds her 'happy place' where she feels she belongs and is alive.

It's about literal and figurative fights and changing through challenge. Most of the show is set in 1998, which was super important for me as the late 90's was the era when women in Britain were finally able to fight.

Up until 1996, there was a ban on women boxing in the Amateurs and it was only in 1998 that the first professional women boxers were licensed in Britain.

So, that research, my own experiences as a boxer and conversations with our Ambassador Cathy Brown (the 2nd ever licensed Pro female boxer in the UK) inspired the story of Lee and her journey.

Why is a story like this important and why now?

Libby: I think theatre generally should tell exciting and unheard stories. Certainly, I think we're used to seeing boxing as an inspiration for theatre, but I've never seen the kind of story I'm telling in Fighter.

It's elevating themes of motherhood and womanhood but the story of courage, resilience and overcoming obstacles is universal. It's a story that everyone can relate to whilst at the same time, exposing a truth and aspects of history that we might not be aware of.

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Interview: Roisin Feeny of youth theatre group Sounds Like Chaos on its new sci-fi play and use of multimedia

Sounds Like Chaos is a youth theatre group co-founded by Roisin Feeny and Gemma Rowan and their latest piece, Wow Everything Is Amazing, imagines the digital world in 50 years time.

Roisin Feeny
Roisin Feeny

I spoke to Roisin about the inspiration behind the piece, the use of multi-media and whether theatres should embrace digital media more.

Tell us a bit about Wow Everything Is Amazing and what inspired it? 

Wow Everything Is Amazing is a sci-fi hallucinatory madness set in the church of the future.

In this new world, sermons are stored on servers, and data has replaced deities.

Lead by our new AI leader, Godhead, it asks the congregation to trust in progress to be saved, as the boundaries between humans and tech become ever-more blurred.

The story is told through music, film and movement in an explosion of energy from the young performers.

There is an underlying discomfort about who is represented in this new world, with ideas around race and gender embedded in the fabric of the piece, in part through experimentation with audio description

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Interview: Writer Kieran Hurley on bringing Fringe hit Mouthpiece to London and how theatre needs to change

I think that some of the people running theatres need to really ask who they’re making work for, and why, and what kinds of work they value.

Kieran Hurley

Following a 5 star run at the Traverse Theatre, Fringe First winner Kieran Hurley brings Mouthpiece to Soho Theatre next month.  Here he talks about the play, the point of theatre and making it more inclusive.

How would you describe Mouthpiece?

It’s a two-person play about a teenage artist with a traumatic home life, and a jaded middle-aged writer who meets him and turns his story into a play.

Performed by two wonderful actors in Lorn Macdonald and Neve McIntosh it also has a cracking original score by Kim Moore. It is funny and sad and angry, it’s a bit sexy and a bit weird, and it’s all done and dusted in about 90 minutes or so.

The play questions the purpose of art and theatre, what do you think the point of theatre is?

For all my continual frustrations with it, theatre is still where we come together to be present with each other and present with stories that help us understand how we live and how we might live better.

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Interview: Kristine Landon-Smith on directing the 'understated' and 'pricelessly funny' The Orchestra, Omnibus Theatre

Kristine Landon-Smith headshot
Director Kristine Landon-Smith

Jean Anouilh’s play The Orchestra tells the story of a third-rate orchestra in France just after the second world war and it is a play that made a big impression on director Kristine Landon-Smith.

"I had never seen anything quite like it: a play set in France just after the war where the musicians between arrangements try to work out who had "collaborated".

"Understated yet pricelessly funny, I knew I wanted to direct this classic gem," she says.

Landon-Smith, who was founder member and artistic director of Tamasha for 22 years and a senior lecturer in acting at The National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) Australia, got her wish 10 years later. 

However, she's now been drawn back to the play a second time.

I asked her what has changed and whether she thinks the landscape is changing for the better for women theatre-makers.

The Orchestra obviously had a big impact when you first saw it but watching is different from directing - what did you want to explore in directing it?

I was a young actress when I first saw it and just making a foray into directing.

There was this beautiful mix of understated throw away comic delivery and then these heightened moments where the actors mime the musical numbers.

I could see it required great skill and precision to play well and I was very drawn to this aspect of it.

And now you are revisiting it a second time, what has changed?

Everything has changed. I have changed and the world has changed so you do come to things with that experience behind you and also with a sensibility of how you are feeling at the moment.

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Interview: Playwright Jennifer Cerys on queer history and 3D lesbian characters

Playwright Jennifer Cerys' new play Dandelion at the King's Head Theatre explores queer history through a lesbian relationship in the time of Clause 28. Here she talks about why queer history is important and the need to diversify queer narratives in mainstream theatre.

Dandelion Show ImageIt’s 30 years since Clause 28 why is it important for queer history to be on the stage?

Though it may be 30 years since Clause 28 was introduced, and 15 years since it was repealed, the effects of it can still be seen in our education system today.

The School Report by Cambridge University last year found that 40% of lesbian, gay, bi and trans young people are never taught anything about LGBT issues at school.

Though schools should obviously be the place where queer history is taught, showing it on stage will hopefully be a step in the right direction.

I know a young, queer me would’ve loved to have learnt about my community’s history at school, as it would have given me a greater sense of belonging and identity.

Some of the biggest plays of the past few years have centred on gay characters - Angels in America, The Inheritance, My Night With Reg (to name just three) which is fabulous to see but stories which feature lesbian narratives still feel like the preserve of fringe theatre. Is there a queer glass ceiling that needs smashing?

Definitely! It’s great to see any queer characters on stage, but lesbian narratives do seem to be forgotten.

I saw the brilliant Grotty by Damsel Productions earlier this year and that show was the first time I had seen lesbian characters on stage.

When I was growing up, lesbians and bisexual women were presented through a male gaze in an overly-sexualised way and I saw a lesbian for the first time over the shoulder of a boy at school who was watching porn on his phone.

Shows like Grotty (and hopefully Dandelion) show lesbians as much more 3D and complex than simply someone’s sexual fetish.

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Interview: writer Lisa Carroll on not festishising Ireland and laughing at her own jokes

Lisa Carroll's play Cuckoo opens at the Soho Theatre next week and follows two teenagers escaping bullies and seeking a new identity in another country. Here she talks about the inspiration behind the play, determining what is funny and how she got started as a playwright. 

Lisa Carroll

Cuckoo’s two central characters want to leave Dublin for London and you are an Irish playwright living in London - how much is the play based on your own experiences?

I came up with the idea for Cuckoo shortly after I made the decision to move from Dublin to London. Emigration has always been a pertinent part of the Irish experience and I wanted to explore ideas of home and what it means to leave.

Particularly after the financial crash, there was an exodus of young people from Ireland, and I knew the play could speak to that.

I used to live near Crumlin, where the play is set, and had close friends from the area.

Crumlin sits outside Dublin city centre and is full of vibrant, sparky, fascinating people, and I wanted to try and capture that unique energy on the page.

The Crumlin dialect is fast, ferocious and nuanced. I feel strongly about writing Ireland as I see it, today, rather than the wistful, nostalgic and often fetishised version Ireland we often see represented on stage.

While the idea of what it means to leave Ireland is inspired by my own experience of doing so, beyond that the play is entirely fictional, from the heightened world to the characters and events.

All I knew when I started writing Cuckoo was that I wanted to create two compelling central characters: Iona, a boisterous, larger-than-life young woman, full of spark and potential, but who was seen as simply ‘too much’ by the people around her.

Cuckoo  Soho Theatre (Courtesy of David Gill) (3)
Cuckoo, Soho Theatre. Photo by David Gill.

And Pingu, who steadfastly identifies as non-binary in a highly gendered world. Pingu has made the decision not to speak, in order not to have to constantly advocate for their right just to be themselves.

It was around these two characters and their desire to find their tribe in London that I built the play.

The play explores themes of gender identity and a sense of belonging, do you think social media makes it harder for teenagers growing up?

Being a teenager has always been a trying time and I think it always will be.

I think in general social media hasn’t changed us as a species, so much as drawn out and exacerbated our already deeply flawed nature, only in new ways.

Being a teenager has always been a phase of uncertainty trying to carve out your identity.

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Interview: Producer Katy Danbury on what spooky fun awaits at this year's London Horror Festival

In its 8th ghoulish and gory year, the London Horror Festival opens on 7 Oct at the Old Red Lion Theatre and I sat down with producer Katy Danbury to get the low down on what to expect.

A5 Final PosterWhat can we expect from the London Horror Festival?

First and foremost, enjoyment. The festival gives you a chance to escape from and purge yourself of the real-life horrors happening outside of the theatre.

You are united with your fellow audience members in an intimate space and together you enter an imaginary world where you can shiver, scream, laugh or spew (please don’t!) out your fears.

I like to think that the festival acts as a gateway for those who don’t often (or never) go to the theatre but want a spooky, fun Halloween experience.

Grand Guignol was popular in the early 20th Century but horror isn’t a genre that is often seen on stage these days, why do you think that is? 

To be honest, it is a tricky genre to perform well. People don’t want to see the actor clumsily place the blood capsule in their mouth or accidentally expose the vomit hose or see the string that’s pulling the floating chair.

You break the illusion, you break the suspense and it all unravels quickly from there as the audience lose interest.

Sadly, I have seen large-scale productions on the West End stage get it very wrong – this can do a lot of damage to the reputation of the genre within the theatre world.

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Interview: Director Jimmy Walters on fun and musicality in his revival of WWI-set Square Rounds, Finborough Theatre

"Having these six munitionettes tell the story adds a theatrical quality to the play in a play that provides a lot of fun."

Getting its first staging for three decades, Tony Harrison's World War I-set play Square Rounds is based on true events and explores the devastating impact of chemical warfare and weapons of mass destruction.

Square Rounds (Rehearsal Images) - Cast_2  courtesy of Samuel Taylor
Jimmy Walters in rehearsal with the cast of Square Rounds. Photo: Samuel Taylor

Director Jimmy Walters talks about its relevance today and paring the play down for an intimate performance space.

Square Rounds was last performed 30 years ago at the National Theatre, why is it ripe for revival?

It feels more relevant now than it was in 1992 in some ways. It tackles gun control, the power of trigger-happy populist rhetoric and addresses the ongoing conflict between the ideologies of Christianity and Islam.

It has an all-female cast, what dynamic does that add to the play and storytelling?

We open with six munitionettes in a factory. At the very same time, these women were taking on the roles of men they go one step further and play the men with a bit of magic involved.

Having these six munitionettes tell the story adds a theatrical quality to the play in a play that provides a lot of fun.

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