The Marlowe Showcase – How it Went; Cigarettes and Chocolate – Where We’re At, and The Shakespeare Trilogy – Review

The biggest problem I’m having with only writing one blog post a week is there are lots of things I want to write about, and it’s really hard to pick only one, because I feel like I will miss out important things I want to share! That said, I have too much university work at the moment (to clarifty, a minimum of two essays a week plus a dissertation to finish and another one to start [7000 words each, excluding footnotes], lots of meetings and classes and lectures and yeah… I’m enjoying it, but it’s a lot to do.) to be able to commit to more than one post a week. So I’m going to try and cover several things I want to write about in each post. You might get a little bit less detail for each of these than you did in my first four months of blogging, but I hope that way there is still a breadth of material, and I can update on the wide variety of theatre-related things I’m doing, as well as give advice.

This is an update post, and a lot has happened in the last three weeks, since my last update-about-my-creative work post, in which I told you about where The Marlowe Showcase was at, with 12 days to go. I also mentioned last week that my next project, Cigarettes and Chocolate, has been announced. Last week I also trialled writing about some theatre I’d seen (almost a month before) and that got quite a positive response, so I thought I’d also tell you about my experience of the Donmar Warehouse’s Shakespeare Triology, which I saw on the Trilogy day on the 19th December, with a Young+Free ticket.(The Donmar have teamed up with Delta Airlines so that 25% of their tickets are free to under 25s. I am not sponsored by them, but I think it’s an amazing scheme to enable young people to go see theatre they might not otherwise be able to see.) I had already seen the Tempest earlier in the run, but seeing the Trilogy in one go was something special. More on that later!

The Marlowe Showcase – How it Went

I’m going to start with my final update on the Marlowe Showcase, which went very well. The first performance, in the Corpus Playroom in Cambridge was very well received, and attended by a few agents and the actors’ friends and families, who were able to provide them with a very very supportive audience for a first run, before the almost-exclusively agency audience the following day. We were delighted to welcome almost 40 agents and casting directors to Jermyn Street on Thursday 17th, along with a few actors’ friends living in London.

This was the biggest achievement for me (alongside the whole thing going smoothly and with no hiccups, something which has never happened to me in the past, and will probably never happen to me again). Previous showcases hadn’t always been able to get many people along to see the showcase, and, however smoothly everything happens, the aim of art is to share it, particularly with a showcase, where the actors are hoping to be noticed and be able to go on to more work in future. I’m planning on writing a post of advice about writing invitations to events in the near future (possibly even next week) so keep your eyes peeled for that!

The showcase was very well received, and the actors’ performances were all, in my not-entirely-unbiased, but still fair, I hope, opinion, excellent. The whole-company musical introductory opening and closing numbers, written and choreographed by Toby Marlow, were also excellent.

Overall, the whole experience was a great one, and I’m really pleased and grateful to have had the opportunity to work with so many great people, including Nicholas Barter, the director, Zak, my co-producer and one of the actors performing in the showcase, as well as the President of the Marlowe society, and the fantastic company.

Cigarettes and Chocolate – Where We’re At So Far

As you heard last week if you’re a regular reader (and if not – welcome! I hope you join us, and enjoy what I write), I am producing Anthony Minghella’s radio play, Cigarettes and Chocolate, for a stage performance at the ADC Theatre, in Cambridge, on the 1st and 2nd of February of next year. The project is being directed by Emily Galvin, a close friend of mine (and yes, we are having to go by “Emily the producer” and “Emily the director”, but what can you do?) and I am in the process of getting a production team together.

Currently, as well as getting the production team together, my to-do list involves sorting out issues of rights and funding, all of which I hope to have completed within a week or two (when the Cambridge term ends). After that, I will be creating a show budget (obviously, in order to apply for funding, I have an idea of what I’m expecting the budget to look like, but I won’t be able to set it up finally [ish] until the funding is sorted out). Then I will be managing the production process, along with a hopefully great team (so far, so good – we’ve got some really fantastic people to work with) and getting the show on stage with a minimum of difficulties.

When I first started producing student theatre, I found that it was really difficult to get an idea of how the process worked; what I was expected to do, and by when, so, if you’re a student producing theatre, I hope this helps you get an idea of how the process works and what kinds of things we do (and of course, feel free to look over past projects to see how I’ve done those, as well as the advice I’ve written for student producers!).

The Shakespeare Trilogy, Donmar Warehouse – Trilogy Day 19th November

Last, but not least, I want to tell you about my experience of seeing the first Trilogy Day of the Donmar Warehouse’s Shakespeare Trilogy last Saturday. If you’ve been reading for a while you are probably aware that I am writing one of my dissertations this year on the use of female actors in contemporary performances of Shakespeare. I have a lot to say and think about this, although I thought the performances also considered other, hugely important topics as well, but inevitably, my focus on these performances is on the choice to use female actors. (Incidentally, I’m going to see Glenda Jackson as King Lear tomorrow, and I am beyond excited!)

The Shakespeare Trilogy is three plays by Shakespeare: Julius CaesarHenry IV (both parts condensed into one 2 hour play) and The Tempest, all performed by the same all-female company, directed by Phyllida Lloyd, and linked by the framing of an all-female prison, in which the inmates are performing the plays, and linking them to their own experiences. Each actor has a prison-character, three of whom introduce themselves at the start of one play, and the whole company worked with Clean Break, a company who work with women in the criminal justice system in the UK, and with women in prison such as Judy Clark, whose stories inspired the prison characters’ stories and the evolution of the Trilogy. Julius Caesar was first produced in 2012, and Henry IV in 2014. The two have been remounted alongside the new production of The Tempest, and are being performed on alternative nights, and in Trilogy days, where all three plays are performed in one day: Julius Caesar  at 11am, Henry IV at 3.30pm, and The Tempest at 8pm. I first saw The Tempest in September, and then again in the Trilogy day I attended on Saturday.

I should start by saying that I think these three performances are stupendous, and if you live in or near London and have any way of getting tickets to one or all of them, I cannot recommend enough that you do so!

The whole company burst with energy through the whole three plays (no mean feat – three Shakespeare plays in one day is a huge task!) and the questions considered about the criminal justice system, and the effects of imprisonment, were fascinating. I really appreciated that, actually, very little was made of the fact that all the actors were female, and, at least for me, that simply wasn’t the point of the plays. (Obviously, that is a point in an of itself, but I think it’s a good one to aim for nonetheless!) The prison uniform was androgynous, and use of costume was not always gendered (with the exception of Harriet Walter in “drag”, if you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean).

As I said though, gender was simply less of a focus, at least to me, other than as a casting decision. Other casting decisions were also pointedly political in the same way as choosing to use an all-female cast; the cast were ethnically diverse, and used a wide variety of accents (I assume their own, although I don’t know that), rather than the more traditional choice of imposing RP. Carolina Valdés’s prison character and characters in the Shakespeare plays often slipped into Spanish (again, I assume, her native language, although I don’t know that either). The Trilogy is pointedly diverse in as many ways as possible, as a prison environment would be, and as England is, despite some politicians attempts to make it otherwise, and I think this is as important, if not more, to these plays than simply the gender of the actors cast.

I think the most important thing for these plays is what they say about the criminal justice system, and the portrayal they give of the experiences of a wide variety of people who might end up in prison; from educated middle class women who have committed political crimes; the story of Harriet Walter’s prison character, Hanna, to young women who have been addicted to drugs of some form or other, such as the prison character playing Hal, played by Clare Dunne, or victims of domestic violence, such as the prison character playing Mark Antony, played by Jade Anouka. It is both a fascinating insight for those who know very little about it (like me, until I first saw the Tempest over the summer) and a deeply insightful way to raise some very difficult questions. I could not have enjoyed the day more if I’d tried, and was so pleased to be able to come away with many thoughts about performance, it’s possibilities, the different things one can take from a Shakespeare play, gender, the performance of gender and the criminal justice system.

The performances by all the members of the company were absolutely phenomenal, and showed a huge amount of versatility across the three plays (on the subject of versatility, Jackie Clune deserves a special mention for her Caesar and Stefano: the contrast in the space of a few hours was impressive…). I was particularly struck by Anouka (playing Mark Antony, Hotspur and Ariel) and, perhaps unsurprisingly, Walter (Brutus, Henry IV and Prospero), but every single member of the company (and production team!) deserves a commendation for these outstanding plays.

That’s all for this week (and it seems like plenty really!), thank you as always for reading, especially if you’ve read all three sections! I really appreciate your support and interest in my experiences! Please like the post if you enjoyed it, follow the blog if you’re interested in reading more from me, and leave a comment with your thoughts or questions if you have time to. I’d be especially interested to hear your thoughts on The Shakespeare Trilogy if you’ve seen it, and anything you’d like to see me write about in future.

See you next week!

Emily xxx


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