36 posts categorized "Interviews" Feed

Interview: Brixton House's Owen Calvert-Lyons on the future of fringe theatre post lockdown

Head of theatre and artist development at Brixton House (formally Ovalhouse*) Owen Calvert-Lyons talks about life during the lockdown, the post-Covid future for fringe theatre and exciting streaming plans.

Owen Calvert-Lyons  Head of Theatre and Artist Development at Ovalhouse (credit Ludovic Des Cognets) 1
Owen Calvert-Lyons Head of Theatre and Artist Development at Ovalhouse/Brixton House. Photo: Ludovic Des Cognets.

How are you doing during lockdown?

Lockdown has been a very strange experience so far. Of course, it has lots of negatives, but I’ve been surprised by the number of positives too.

Working in theatre can be all-consuming and this has given me an opportunity to redress the work/life balance and spend more time doing things I love other than theatre.

What does the future look like for fringe theatres post-lockdown?

While things look pretty bleak right now, I think it’s important to remain positive. Theatre is not just about entertainment, it plays a really vital role in many people’s lives, so it will certainly survive this crisis.

I think the most important thing is not to feel that we have to return to the status quo.

There are many things which need to change about our industry and this hiatus should give us an opportunity to imagine what theatre could look like in the future.

One of the most pressing needs is to solve the inequalities in arts funding which leave so many freelance artists struggling to earn a living.

If we can use this moment to fix that, then theatre post-lockdown could be better than ever before.

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Interview: Big Telly Theatre's Zoe Seaton: "We want to draw you into our world but also let us step into yours a little"

Hot on the heels of Creation and Big Telly Theatres virtual, interactive production of The Tempest, Big Telly is bringing its game-theatre experience online with a new production: Operation Elsewhere.

Zoe Seaton
Big Telly Theatre Company's Zoe Seaton

Big Telly's artistic director Zoe Seaton talks about creativity, inventiveness and performance during the lockdown.

Operation Elsewhere is described as being 'a new and extraordinary online theatrical experience’ - how does it work?

Like The Tempest, the audience joins a zoom call… Technically, it is complicated, although each actor is running their own tech – most of them are using more than one device, a number of locations and a myriad of props/lighting/effects.

The real magic, however, is happening in Lurgan, where our brilliant stage manager, Sinead Owens is vision mixing the whole show, sharing screens, muting and spotlighting audience and actors – finding an actor amongst 60 thumbnail images and spotlighting them on cue is an art.

The biggest challenge is something we can’t control – i.e. the unpredictability of the internet. If your bandwidth becomes unstable, Zoom can kick you out the room mid-scene, which one actor described as ‘like being an astronaut cut off from the space station….’.

Luckily, we have unbelievably resourceful actors who can improvise and cover and recover…

And the audience is involved in the story. They can see each other and react and join together.

The piece marries ancient Irish myths with theatre produced using digital and virtual technology - what makes old and new forms work so well together?

Many of our productions borrow from old stories, myths and legends. We want to keep our work grounded culturally and share that in unusual ways.

So we’ve always played with traditional stories and ways to subvert them for an audience without losing their authenticity and integrity. So, I think for us, it’s natural to pair the ancient with the future and explore that.

The ancient stories, like Tir na N’Og, which Operation Elsewhere is based on have so much resonance with our lives now. They are timeless - they illustrate the human condition, frailties, beliefs, loyalties, that doesn’t change.

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Q&A: Creation Theatre's Lucy Askew on the challenges of creating interactive theatre during lockdown

This weekend Creation Theatre is inviting audiences to watch an interactive, virtual version of Shakespeare's The Tempest - from the safety of their sofa. Creation's chief executive Lucy Askew talks about the challenges of making theatre in isolation for people in isolation and how it will change theatre in the future

Lucy Askew 

Necessity breeds invention, how did the idea for an interactive, virtual production of The Tempest come about?

We felt really strongly that despite the restrictions we all currently face we had a responsibility to continue to entertain and that we needed to find ways it would still be live and responsive to an audience.

We didn't want isolation to mean we'd lose what is different and special about the live experience, chatting to Zoe Seaton at Big Telly [Theatre Company] it was clear they were thinking similar thoughts.

Last year we made the Tempest so adapting that and embracing the new opportunities online mediums offer felt like a good place to start.

How does it work and what can audiences expect?

The audience is invited to a Zoom call. They then see the story of The Tempest unfold, the show has been virtually designed by our costume designer Ryan Dawson Laight with virtual backgrounds and carefully curated costumes put together from what can be accessed by our cast in isolation.

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Interview: 14-year-old deaf dancer Chyna: "I want D/deaf and hearing people to be equal and I want everyone to be kind to each other"

Chyna is 14, a dancer and deaf.  In an eponymously titled multimedia dance production, she takes the audience on a journey through her daily life. 

Chyna Vault Festival 1

Created in collaboration with Oak Lodge, a specialist school for the D/deaf in Balham and Deaf Dance Artist Chisato Minamimura, this performance aims at bridging the D/deaf and hearing communities. Here she talks about how performance makes her feel and what it means to her and her hopes for the future.

Where did the idea come from and how did you create the piece?
Laurence [Dollander, the director] spoke to me about the project, she asked me a few questions, she wanted to incorporate being D/deaf and D/deaf empowerment to a live performance.
So I started to practise, I think we had that conversation back in September. I practised weekly during December and twice a week from January right through until now.
Soon it’ll be March when the performance is and I’ve been performing a lot, so it’s a long time and I’m very excited. I’ve progressed and practised a lot.

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Interview: Dr Jingan Young on her new play and why theatre is a crucial medium for political stories

Dr Jingan Young is a journalist and writer from Hong Kong and her latest play, which opens at the Vault Festival on 25 February, focuses on censorship in the media.

Here she talks about what inspired the story, communism and freedom of speech and why theatre is such a crucial medium for political stories.

Dr Jingan Young speaking on the BBC

When did you first get interested in writing and specifically writing for the stage?

I didn’t grow up going to the theatre in Hong Kong. I didn’t see my first serious production until after I moved to London for university in 2009. I was transfixed by this world where words directed action and vice versa, where what actors pretended could affect and had affected lives.

And politics, rhetoric…to be able to argue or to explore topics about our lives through drama. I found it visceral, ephemeral, addictive...as I grow older, and as we continue to see the disconnect within the digital and real-world, I see the political importance of having a space for live theatre/live performance where audiences are forced to engage with what they're watching.

I applied on a whim to the Hampstead Theatre’s (now defunct) Heat & Light and rather extraordinarily was mentored by James Graham.

A month later I was admitted into the Royal Court Theatre’s Young Writers Programme. The training was invaluable.

I was later commissioned by the Hong Kong Arts Festival for my play FILTH (Failed In London, Try Hong Kong) on ex-pats in the city.

Later, I set up my own non-profit company Pokfulam Rd Productions, which for four years, championed new writing from South East Asian/East Asian writers & those inspired by it at venues like Theatre503 and the Arcola Theatre.

This culminated in the publication of Foreign Goods, the first British East Asian play collection published by Oberon Books in 2018, the foreword was by my mentor David Henry Hwang.

Tell us a bit about your new play The Life and Death of a Journalist?

Last year, I wrote about the political importance of writing a play about Hong Kong, the city of my birth and an ex-British colony whose freedoms are being eroded by the Chinese Communist Party.

I also discussed the anchor of the play, which is the CCP’s ongoing interference in Britain, specifically, in the media. 

My play follows a female journalist who chooses to align herself with a pro-CCP outlet because of her misplaced belief that she can change it from the inside.

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Interview: The Vault Festival's head of lates, Laura Drake Chambers on finding the unique and edgy late shows

The Vault Festival kicks off next week promising to be bigger and better than ever. I asked Laura Drake Chambers, head of lates, how she goes about putting together the programme and advice for first-timers.

V20 Class Image (Credit Tom Shannon)
Image by Tom Shannon

With 500+ shows at the festival, where do you start when putting together the programme?

Working to find the right companies is one of the most enjoyable parts of the process.

London is full of incredible creativity, it’s saturated with artists and communities expressing themselves through late-night work, it’s definitely not a chore going out and finding great work to programme.

Making sure to look at the balance between companies that are hungry to expand into larger venue spaces, or in a place that would benefit from the support that VAULT can offer and also partner well with the ethos of VAULT Festival to bring in new and exciting audiences into our festival is key.

What is the process and what is the most difficult part?

I approach a lot of the Lates companies personally, to gauge how right they are for the scale of the event spaces we can offer.

Once I’ve approached everyone on my radar for that year, it’s then just piecing it together like a fabulous jigsaw puzzle!

I think the most challenging part can be fitting the shows together in the right order. I try to see the festival programme as an arc of connected events and focus on giving each company the right spot within it.

What are you looking for when deciding if a show is suitable?

A few simple things really – with the larger events in The Underbar on Saturdays, I need to be confident that the night will sell, so artists aren’t exposed to unnecessary risk and taking the show space is a positive move.

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Interview: "It's a bit like being in an episode of The Thick of It... set in 1979" - Owen Kingston on his new immersive show.

Parabolic Theatre’s immersive theatre show Crisis? What Crisis? cracks open the government machine and gives the audience the chance to get hands-on with the levers of power.

Owen Kingston
Director Owen Kingston

I spoke to director Owen Kingston about the show, what immersive theatre adds to the audience experience, how the company prepare for the unexpected and advice for those who are shy about getting involved?

Crisis? What Crisis? Is an immersive experience - how does it work?

All the events of the show take place in a Government office building in 1979.

The country has just been through the “winter of discontent” where strikes brought the country to its knees, and now Jim Callaghan's government is facing a vote of no confidence.  

In our shows, the audience is firmly in the driving seat narrative-wise.

We don't go as far as giving our audience specific roles, but we do give them a reason to be present in the world of the show.

In “Crisis? What Crisis?” our audience members are special advisors to government ministers, and they have been gathered together to try and solve some of the big problems facing the country while all the MPs are in parliament debating in advance on the no-confidence vote. 

The audience as a whole has to actively engage with these problems and try and solve them.

This can involve negotiating with Union representatives over the phone or in person, persuading MPs to try and vote in a particular manner, or choosing financial policies to enact to try and stabilise the economy.

The whole thing feels like a cross between a theatre performance and a board game, where the decisions taken by the audience affect the direction of the story.

Tackling problems affecting one part of the country might worsen problems in another part, and it is down to the audience to prioritise what to fix and how, and to try and work out what will have the biggest influence on the no-confidence vote, which is the ultimate metric of success or failure.

Continue reading "Interview: "It's a bit like being in an episode of The Thick of It... set in 1979" - Owen Kingston on his new immersive show." »

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.

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