Staffroom

Saturday July 22nd 10pm

The Staff Room examines the life inside a state school staff room. Three teachers. One staff room. But what’s the subject?

Behind closed doors three teachers form an unlikely friendship. Bonding over fad diets, Instagram abs and the government’s impending sugar tax – in this school it’s not just the students who have lessons to learn. Sometimes all that matters are biscuits and banter.

One for the Netflix generation, this is a sitcom for the stage speaking about society today through the eyes of its educators. It stars Craig Webb, who appeared on Gary Barlow’s Let It Shine (BBC) earlier this year, Faye Derham and Hilary Murnane. The Staff Room plays a week at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 21-26 August at The Space @ Surgeon’s Hall.

About the writer and director Michelle Payne

Training: PPA & Arts Ed.
Michelle is a writer, director and actress from Essex. Her first play Orchid won two awards at the annual Moors Theatre Awards (Camden Fringe 2015) – Best New Writing & Best Actress.
Credits (Writing): Sad About the Cows, Too Thick For Politics, The Robbing Class, The Staff Room (The Bunker, Theatre N16), Orchid (Moors Theatre & Etcetera Theatre), Hero & Other.
Credits (Directing): The Staff Room (Theatre N16), …And The Award Goes To and Ordinary Days (Ye Olde Rose & Crown) both for The Out Of Work Collective, Hearts & Minds (Queens Theatre Hornchurch). Associate director & choreographer for Split by Emma Pritchard & musical-comedienne Tamar Broadbent (Brighton Fringe). 

Michelle is currently understudy Alice in Adventures in Wonderland at The Vaults.

Associate Director Anna Buckmaster

Cast

Hilary Murnane

Faye Derham

Craig Webb from BBC ‘Let It Shine’

Review

https://www.londontheatre1.com/news/145480/michelle-paynes-the-staff-room-theatre-n16/

The Staffroom has several Edinburgh fringe previews so go now and catch one! Follow @STAFFROOMplay

 

2022

Saturday 22nd July 7.30pm

 

 

How has actor awareness helped you ?

Actor Awareness gave me the chance to showcase the short version of my play in front of an audience and get feedback. And now they’ve given me the chance to showcase a whole hour of work, in front of public, industry and reviewers; a really invaluable opportunity.

What do you hope to get from the festival?

Feedback, first and foremost. And to see how the material plays out in front of an audience – what works and what doesn’t. And the chance to network, see other people’s work and make contacts. 

In three words tell us your writing style ?

Punchy, funny, dynamic.

In one sentence sell us your play ?

A dystopian drama about a post-Brexit British Muslim ban.

 

About the Writer & Director…. Colleen Pendergast

Colleen Prendergast trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. As an actor, her credits include The Mortal Ash (Bush Theatre) and The Comedy of Errors (Nuffield Southampton). As director her credits include After Penelope (White Bear/Rome International Fringe Festival) and The True History of the Tragic Life and Triumphant Death of Julia Pastrana (Hope Mill Theatre).

2022 is her first full length play.

 

Cast

Gower – Richard Innocent

Richard Innocent trained at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. Recent theatre credits include 2022 (Brockley Jack, Old Red Lion Theatre) and The True History of the Tragic Life and Triumphant Death of Julia Pastrana, The Ugliest Woman in the World (Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester). Richard is a graduate of the University of Leeds, and has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe for Fourth Monkey Theatre Company and Aireborne Theatre. 

Colquhoun – Jayne Edwards

Jayne is an actor, writer and voice over artist. Since graduating from Bretton Hall, she has worked extensively creating and performing new work, both scripted and devised. As an Associate Artist for the Pensive Federation she has performed at The Oldham Coliseum, Tristan Bates Theatre and The Vaults. In October 2016 she was awarded the Special Mention in the 3 minute round at Monologue Slam, Theatre Royal Stratford East. 

Selwa Dewan – Lauren Santana

Lauren has been lucky enough to play a variety of exciting roles in London venues, including Juliet in The Secret Theatre Company’s production of ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ She has also performed with a company in Vienna and recently filmed in New York for an upcoming fantasy book trailer, ‘The Shadow War Saga.’

Walk of Shame

Friday 21st July,  7.30pm

Meet Alice, she’s loud,  she’s proud, she loves sex and vodka.

Meet Liam a city boy with a past; hungry for the London life.

Two people’s world collide in a night that changes their lives forever. For Liam it is a night of glory, for Alice it’s a Walk of Shame ….

How has Actor Awareness helped you?

Emelia:  After not getting into a BA drama course after my foundation I felt a bit like what shall I do.  Actor Awareness has kept me focused on my career and now I have positives goals to look forward to. I’m creating work and actively steering my own career. I’ve acted, directed and wrote for Actor Awareness scratch nights. I really apprieciate their support in my work.

Steph: I have many positives to reel off but I feel I have mentioned them all before. I’m very grateful to be working with Emelia on Walk of Shame .

What do you hope to get from the festival?

Positive responses for Walk of Shame and hopefully it will give us an idea of how to shape it for the final rewrite for production later this year and early 2018

In three words tell us your writing style?

Emelia: Stephanie and I have co-wrote this so it’s two styles merged. The piece itself is brave, lyrical and honest.

In one sentence tell us your play?

Hard hitting, courageous look at different perceptions, judgments and the ugly truth of judging a book by it’s cover.

About the writer’s

Emelia Marshall Lovsey is a FCA Rose Bruford grad and she has worked with Stephanie on her play ‘The Monologues of a Tired Nurse’ Edinburgh 2016 and has directed many of Glass Half Full Theatre productions. She recently directly their 2nd production ‘C’est La Vie’ which is also showing at the Actor Awareness festival.

Stephanie Silver met Emelia at an audition at Lamda back in 2014. Their working relationship and friendship has grown and they have the same ethos and drive to make thought provoking gritty theatre.

Cast

Stephanie Silver as Alice                  OFFIE nominated Calum Speed as Liam

Worsooz

Wednesday July 19th at 7.30pm

WORSOOZ, Longlisted for the Papatango Playwrights Award, London                Written   by Catherine Kay / Directed by Kevin Russell / Performed by Actor Awareness      

An assured piece of writing – beautiful and tender. Suzanne Bell (New Writing Associate, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester / Everyman Theatre, Liverpool)

Refreshing, political and feminist.Janis Chambers (New Writing Associate, Octagon Theatre, Bolton)  

Detailed characterisation, playful dialogue, touching and funny.  A promising voice.  (Papatango Playwrights Award, London)   

A play born out of Thatcher’s Britain…When Worsooz meets her estranged father Nick, her mother Alberta is immersed in a secret relationship with girlfriend Anne and building their plan to rid the world of domestic violence.  Isolated and disgusted by her mother’s relationship, Worsooz is lured into criminality by her father Nick and immerses herself in to a secret world where only men can belong.  Set in the late 1980’s against the backdrop of the rise of the women’s refuge movement, Worsooz is a semi-autobiographical story of how far one girl will go for the love of a father.

Worsooz journeys to the dark corners of Thatcher’s Britain to explore the lives of people living in a city where there’s ‘no such thing as society’.  The people are real, their stories universal.  This is 80’s Britain but just as relevant today in 2017.

Worsooz is directed by Kevin Russell who directed the successful revival of Hang by Debbie Tucker Green for the Edinburgh Festival 2016, winning Best production of a Drama and Best Performance in a drama for Tiannah Viechweg at the Derek Awards.  The production also played at the Brighton Festival and will be produced later this year in London.  Other directing credits include the London premier of the Bryony Lavery adaptation of Henrik Ibsen, A Dolls’ HouseMemory of Water, Shelagh Stephenson, My Best Friend by Tamsin Olgesby, Barons Court Theatre, all receiving 4 and 5 star reviews.  Homefront, Rosie MacPherson Jermyn Street Theatre.  6am Hospital Chapel, Dick Curran Bread and Roses Theatre.

Catherine Kay is a writer, actress and producer from Manchester. Her first play Bubbysaurus attracted positive feedback from literary managers in new writing theatres like Hampstead and Soho Theatre, directors like Max Stafford Clark and iconoclast writers like Edward Bond.  A single parent at 18 and unimpressed by not seeing the sorts of writing for performance that reflected her own life experiences, Catherine produced Bubbysaurus a play about Love, Friendship, Babies and Raves at Contact Theatre (Manchester) and the production gained critical acclaim with sell out audiences and was later nominated for an MEN Theatre Award for Best New Play.

After a long stint in the literary wilderness, Catherine returned to theatre with her second play Just One Day an uncompromising and unsanitised story about sexual violence and the F word.  The play was researched and developed with the support of Manchester Rape Crisis and STAR (Surviving Trauma after Rape) Wakefield.  Catherine produced Just One Day at Lowry Theatre (Salford), receiving a 5 star review.  The script was published by Playdead Press in 2014.

Catherine Kay says of her new play, ‘I’m very excited about the production of Worsooz.  I wrote the play as a wedding gift for a close friend of mine. I’m also really pleased about working with the director Kevin Russell and the brilliant Actor Awareness, I wish they’d been around when I first started out to help fight my corner. It’s very uplifting and empowering the way that they’re collaborating with actors, writers and directors.’

Worsooz will be published by Playdead Press later in (2017)       

How has Actor Awareness helped you?

Actor Awareness has been a god send in terms of my play Worsooz being seen and heard by the general public.  Their divine intervention has enabled me to collaborate with talented professionals and use my work as a vehicle to generate opportunities for others and exercise my lofty ideals about art being for everyone.

What do you hope to get fro the festival?

Due to an hour long extract of Worsooz being performed at the festival I have already secured the publication of the script.  Additionally to this I would like the full play to be commissioned by a new writing theatre or on the strength of public and industry feedback secure funding for a co-production of the play.

In three words tell us your writing style?

In Yer Face

In One sentence tell us your play?

Power is never given it is taken.

Above photo taken at the Actor Awareness scratch

About the writer….

Catherine is a writer, actor and producer.  She studied a Postgraduate in Writing for the Stage at The Arden School of Theatre and a Masters in Screenwriting at Screen Academy (Scotland).  Her credits include Bubbysaurus, nominated for an MEN award for best new play and produced at Contact Theatre (Manchester) and Unity Theatre (Liverpool).  Just One Day produced at The Lowry Theatre (Salford) and published by Play Dead Press.  Worsooz, longlisted for The Papatango Playwrights Award (London) and published by Play Dead Press (2017).  Catherine is currently writing a musical / lyrical love letter dedicated to her beloved hometown of Manchester.

Directed by Kevin Russell

Kevin directed the 5-star Edinburgh & Brighton Fringe sell out  ‘Hang’ by Debbie Tucker Green 2016-2017.

Hang won Best Drama and Best Individual Performance for Tiannah Viechweg at The Derek Awards and was short-listed with two other productions for the prestigious James Tait Black Award. Kevin is an experienced director directing a wide variety of styles including the London Premier of Bryony Lavery adaptation of Henrik Ibsen: A Dolls House a new musical for Goldsmith Universcity, London and several new pieces of writing.

Additionally Kevin recently directed a new play called: 6am Hospital Chapel for Free Rayne Artists which was performed at the Southwick Playhouse April 2017.

 

Cast

Heather Howard plays Matilda

Jayne Edwards plays Anne (Worsooz mother girlfriend)

Nigel Fyfe plays Nick (Worsooz dad)

Mark Forester plays Geordie Nicks friend.

Vicky Winnings plays Alberta (Worsooz mum)

Kate O’ Rourke plays Joyce

Chloe Dark plays Worsooz

 

 

 

 

 

 

..

 

 

Come Die With Me

Thursday 20th July, 7.30pm

Written by Vicki Connerty / Directed by Shian Denovan

‘I had tighter cheekbones after I laughed my way through Vicki Connerty’s black comedy’​ ​British Theatre. ​Upstairs, a man is dying. Downstairs, his family attempt to navigate their way through the entirely unfamiliar and oft-absurd waters of grief with varied levels of success. A darkly comic tale of love, loss and laughter.

 

How has Actor Awareness helped you ?

Actor Awareness was the first scratch night to fully stage my debut short play, ‘Come Die With Me’ which was a fantastic experience. It also got me my very first 5* review from BritishTheatre.com! Being asked to extend it for the New Writing Festival was amazing and terrifying in equal measure – nothing scares a procrastinating playwright more than an immovable deadline but the Actor Awareness guys have been nothing but supportive and encouraging, despite my occasional midnight ‘gaaaaaaaaaaaah, I can’t do it!!!!’ emails! 

 
What do you hope to get from the festival? 
An extended run somewhere would be quite nice! But in lieu of that, I’d just like to sell out my show and not have anyone walk out, fall asleep or throw cabbages at me afterwards. Luckily, I have a brilliant director and a talented cast so I’m hoping for a cabbage-free zone.  
 
In three words tell us your writing style 
Naturalistic, irreverent, optimistic. 
 

In one sentence sell us your play
Come Die With Me is a darkly comic tale of one family’s attempt to navigate the unfamiliar and oft-absurd waters of grief and loss. 

About the writer…. 

After spending two decades working in the media industry in the U.K and Australia, Vicki returned to London in 2016 to take up a place at the prestigious Royal Central School of Speech and Drama where she is studying for an M.A in Writing for the Stage and Broadcast Media.

In February 2017, Vicki saw her debut short play, ‘Come Die With Me’, performed as a rehearsed reading at Fizzy Sherbet’s new writing night before it was selected by Actor Awareness to be staged for the first time at their scratch night in April. Since then, it has been performed as part of Little Pieces of Gold’s new writing night at Southwark Playhouse and recently enjoyed a 3 night run at Bread & Roses Theatre in Clapham as part of ‘The Platform’.

In April, she was one of four playwrights selected for Reading Between The Lines Theatre Company’s annual writing relay event, #OffTheBlock6 where each writer was given one day to write a 20-minute play, with all four plays then being rehearsed and performed on the Friday. As a dedicated and lifelong procrastinator, Vicki is still recovering from the experience of writing a play in a day.

Despite questioning the logistical and financial wisdom of writing a play that requires a full-size coffin, she is tremendously grateful to Actor Awareness New Writing Festival for breathing yet more life into ‘Come Die With Me’.

She is also grateful to the National Theatre for supplying aforementioned coffin at a discounted rate and to her white van driver Tomas for dragging it all over London and up several flights of narrow fringe theatre stairs without complaint.

Vicki is the author of a blog (‪www.fellowshipoftheringlets.com).

 

Directed by Shian Denovan

Cast

Stella Ross – ‘Helen’

Jacqueline Johnson – ‘Debbie’

James Robert Gordon – ‘David’

Saria Steel – ‘Rachel’

C’est La Vie

Written by Stephanie Silver  /  Directed by Emelia Marshall Lovsey

How has Actor Awareness helped you?

Actor Awareness is like a baby for me and working alongside Tom Stocks over the last 2 and half years , I find myself wanting to do more and more and help the campaign along further. My passion is new writing and events so I produce the new writing nights and events such as the New Writing Festival. It gives me a chance to try out and platform some of my work and meet lots of great and creative people. There is a lot of people who follow the campaign and regulars who come to events and this gives a great sense of working towards a shared interest. Actor Awareness has given me confidence and the shove to just get on with things and a realization that there are other roles I like doing in theatre such as writing and producing.

What do you hope to get from the festival?

I have had ‘C’est La Vie’ on in May at Wandsworth fringe and 3 nights at Theatre N16, I would love for it to venture to another venue but 6 actors is a lot of people and at this moment in time I can’t afford the financial risk, so the festival is another chance to tell a rather important story.

In three words tell us your writing style?

I asked my friend who directs most of my work this question as my writing is very broad, she says ‘gritty, gripping and relevant’

In One sentence tell us your play?

Funny, sexy, raw, real and sometimes painful to watch

About the Writer

Stephanie Silver (that’s me)

Stephanie is an actor/writer and producer. Her first play ‘The Monologues of a Tired Nurse’ was a candid honest portrayal of working in the NHS after 8 years as a nurse herself. The play received 4-stars London Theatre Pubs & Breaking The Fourth wall and has toured around London 2017 and Edinburgh 2016. She also produces bi-monthly new writing events for Actor Awareness and is producing their upcoming new writing festival. Her 2nd play ‘C’est la Vie’ won an open submission in Australia 2017 and was produced in Melbourne by Owl and cat Theatre, it was produced in London at Theatre N16 in May by Glass Half Full Theatre. Stephanie completed the playwriting lab 2016 with play ‘Baby’. Stephanie produces her own work through Glass half Full Theatre, website here https://tanheartssteph.wixsite.com/glasshalffulltheatre

Director Emelia Marshall Lovsey

Emelia has worked extensively with Glass Half Full, acting, directing and now collaborating in writing for their next production ‘Walk of Shame’ . Stephanie and Emelia met at a Lamda audition and after met, planned world domination and have been inseparable since. ‘C’est La Vie’ is Emelia’s first full length directorial début.

 

Cast

Harry Boyd as Josh and Charlotte Hunter as Susie

Gianbruno Spena as Matthew and Stephanie Silver as Louise

Kate ‘o Rourke as Maxine and Philippa James as Claire

Productions stills by Jennifer Evans photography

 

Speci-Man

                                                                

     ‘Speci-Man’ was a short play taken from an early scratch night, written by Jayne Woodhouse and Directed by Calum Robshaw the show opens the New Writing Festival Monday 17th at 7.30pm.

How has Actor Awareness helped you?

Enormously! By staging my work and providing audience feedback which has been so important in helping me progress. I’ve had the confidence to develop 2 short pieces which were performed at Scratch Nights — Speci-Man and Owls — into full-length plays as a result. Actor Awareness has also enabled me to connect with many very talented actors, directors and other writers, so that I can see and learn from their work.

What do you hope to get from the festival?

I’m hoping to discover whether my play can hold the audience’s interest for the full 60 minutes, which will mean finding out whether the lines I thought were funny really do make people laugh. This is a great opportunity to bring my writing to a wider audience in a great venue, and to gain valuable lessons for re-writing from their feedback. And I also hope the piece will be strong enough for the hard-working cast and director to get noticed, too.

In three words tell us your writing style…

Edgy, challenging, real

In one sentence sell us your play

Speci-Man is a comedy about gender, where you discover what one of the last surviving men on earth might be like.

About the writer…… Jayne Woodhouse

I have been a professional author for several years, and have written many successful non-fiction books for children and curriculum resources for schools. More recently, I made the move into fiction, publishing a trilogy of novels for children and an eBook collection of short stories for adults, Getting Away. For the last three years I have also been teaching creative writing to adults and have really enjoyed seeing people achieve their own successes as a result of my courses. I began writing for the stage in 2015. This means I now get to write all the good stuff (the dialogue), while missing out the boring bits. I have had a number of short plays performed locally and in London theatres; my first full-length play, ‘Living with George’, premiered at the Brighton Fringe in May this year. Actor Awareness have been very supportive of my writing: their ethos of involvement for all and encouragement of new work are things which I value highly. Two of my pieces from their scratch nights, ‘Speci-Man’ and ‘Owls’ have developed into long plays. I really enjoy the collaborative process of working in theatre, which is so different to the solitary life of a novelist. I am particularly interested in contemporary issues confronting society and also creating strong, challenging roles for female actors.

Cast

Adam is played by Dave House

Dr Morgan Ellis is played by Vivi Gaskin

Prof Gwen Reece is played by Catherine Irlam

New Writing Festival

17th-22nd July @ Barons Court Theatre

So we are back, 2nd year in a row with our showcase with some of the scratch nights best talent. As we progress as a campaign we recognise and see that we are in an over saturated competitive industry, this doesn’t mean we give up, it just means we have to work harder, make savvy decisions, be the driver of our own career. We here at Actor awareness really believe that each person, actor, director or writer needs to be able to look for and create work themselves in order to be able to get a foot in any door. We remain in (very much still) a hierarchy in London theatre. Agents, theatres, CD’s pick from the drama school élite, but if you can put something out there, a play, a story, you never know what will come back your way.   If you have a story that is worth sharing then it’s worth doing and our showcase aims to represent and showcase some of Actor awareness best new writing, as well as actor and directors.

The line up covers contemporary and working class issues that are at the core of what Actor Awareness believe should be being made, stories with real people, real guts and some that make you laugh till your face hurts

All shows were picked after being seen performed at Spotlight studio as part of one of our scratch nights, writers have taken 15 minutes and now will present 1 hour of material to a paying audience. Each show will follow a Q & A bar the two full length productions ‘C’est La Vie’ and ‘Staffroom’ these two shows are fully produced and do not require audience feedback.

Industry professionals have been invited to the entire run and given a free press pass allowing them to view any play they want for free. We hope this encourages industry people looking for exciting new shows to programme or produce , to come along.

The Line up is as follows

 

  • Monday 17th, 730pm, ‘Speci-Man’ Written by Jayne Woodhouse and Directed by Claum Robshaw

 

The setting is 1000 years in the future when most of the male species have died out. Adam, one of the few remaining males, is housed in a research institute, supervised by Morgan. She has called in the help of Gwen, a psychologist, to help diagnose Adam’s strange behaviour. He appears to be regressing to male stereotypes from 2017. The play is a humorous take on gender stereotypes and is played for laughs, whilst stressing serious contemporary issues.

 

  • Tuesday 18th, 730pm ‘C’est La Vie’ Written by Stephanie Silver, Directed by Emelia Marshall Lovsey.

 

Premiered in Australiaa March 2017 to 4 Star reviews,‘Silver’s written is clever and keany observed’ Samara Dunston ‘C’est La Vie applies a blow torch to human bonding’ The Blurb. The play deals with 3 couples struggling under a privatised healthcare to keep their relationships going. Set post Tory re-election 6 people struggle to keep their heads above water. In a damaged fast paced society, how does modern love survive?

 

  • Wednesday 19th, 730pm ‘Worsooz’ Written by Catherine Kay, Directed by Kevin Russell      

 

Worsooz meets her estranged father Nick, her mother Alberta is immersed in a secret relationship with girlfriend Anne and building their plan to rid the world of domestic violence. Isolated and disgusted by her mother’s relationship, Worsooz is lured into criminality by her father Nick and immerses herself into a secret world where only men can belong. Set in the late 1980’s Worsooz is a semi-autobiographical story of how far one girl will go for the love of her father. Shortlisted Papatango Playwrights 2016

 

  • Thursday 20th, 730pm ‘Come Die with Me’ Written by Vicki Connerty Directed by Shian Denovan

 

‘I had tighter cheekbones after I laughed my way through Vicki Connerty’s black comedy’​ ​British Theatre. ​Upstairs, a man is dying. Downstairs, his family attempt to navigate their way through the entirely unfamiliar and oft-absurd waters of grief with varied levels of success. A darkly comic tale of love, loss and laughter.

 

  • Friday 21st 730pm ‘Walk of Shame’ Written by Stephanie Silver and Emelia Marshall Lovsey and Directed by Emelia Marshall Lovsey

 

Meet Liam for him it’s a night of glory

Meet Alice for her it’s a Walk of Shame

Meet two people whose lives intertwine in a night of Double Vodka shots, between the classes and glasses two people change their lives forever. ‘Hard hitting’ ‘‘The dialogue is courageous and does not shy away from cold detail’  British Theatre

 

  • Friday 21st 9pm ‘Submission’ Written by Shafeeq Shajahan, Produced by Liver and Lung Productions

 

Sameer, a young British Pakistani, struggles to reconcile his sexual desires with his Islamic roots and values. On the day of his 23rd birthday, Sameer hosts an unprecedented after-party with four friends. A series of unwelcome events unfold, triggering an unhinged response in Sameer. Not only does he begin to question his faith, he also begins to acknowledge the cruel realities that queer people of colour face. Torn between his allegiance to Mecca and his desire for temporal modernity, Sameer recites spoken word come Quranic compositions, forcing us to contemplate the importance of integrating age-old philosophy with new-wave ideology.

 

  • Saturday 22nd, 730pm ‘2022’ Written and Directed by Colleen Pendergast

 

Christmas Eve. An immigration detention centre. Five years in the future. Post Brexit Britain has lurched sharply to the right. In the wake of the break with Europe, Scotland has seceded from the Union. A hard border now exists between England and Scotland, and after global instability and a huge economic crash, it has been made illegal to be Muslim in Britain.

 

 

  • Saturday 22nd, 9pm ‘The Staffroom’ Written and Directed by Michelle Payne

 

5- Stars London Theatre Pubs ‘Could easily be a TV sitcom’

They’re teaching our children, but are they teaching the right things?

Three young teachers navigate their way through adulthood and educating. A peek inside a state school staff room. With fad diets, Instagram abs and the government imposing a sugar tax, do the educators even know what is good for us? A Geography, History and PE teacher form an unlikely friendship within the dynamics and the solace of the staff room, bonding over all that matters; biscuits and banter.

Go to the shows specific blog post to find out more ……

Arrows and Traps

arrows-and-t

Here I talk to the talented Ross McGregor, Offie nominated director of Arrows and Traps Theatre Company. He is directing his 10th show Crime and Punishment, Jack Broc Theatre Feb 7th to Feb 25th.

What excited you about the medium of theatre?

I’ve liked theatre from when I was a child. There’s something vital and exciting about it happening live in front of you. As an audience member I always loved feeling part of something ephemeral. It feels so much more collaborative and generous than other mediums, and there’s a connection between the audience and the actor that you don’t get in a cinema.

Arrows and Traps have gained a great reputation for it’s alternative and exciting take on Shakespeare. How did the company com about?

I decided to create Arrows & Traps because first and foremost I wanted to produce work. Actors have a hard time getting cast in things – but spare a thought for the directors. In any show in the West End right now, how many actors on average are in each one? 10-20? Plus understudies and swings? 20-30? Then how many directors are there in that show? Just the one. Plus an assistant, who doesn’t really get to direct. And a resident, who definitely doesn’t. Directing jobs are very scarce on the ground unless you create the opportunities yourself, and A&T was born out of that. I also wanted to build a repertory company of actors that worked across different projects with me, as I thought that sounded rare, exciting and challenging.

Did you always want to direct?

No, not initially. I was taken with being a writer. Fiction mainly, as that’s what I trained in. I picked up the directing bug as a student at Warwick University, actually as a late night dare taken to absurd lengths – and I just ran with it from there. That’s not to say I’m done with writing, in fact I think they’re two very similar disciplines – they’re both about telling stories as clearly and coherently as you can.

What do you find exciting about being a director?

I found the collaborative elements of directing theatre so exciting, watching each play develop and take shape. It’s not really a director’s medium in the way that film is. Theatre is about actors. You can help them most at the beginning, but after press night, your little Hedda Gablers and Hamlets are off out the nest, and all you can do is sit in the back row like a proud mother hen. The play will continue to tighten, hone and polish itself but it no longer needs the director to do that. That’s the most exciting thing about being a director – helping a potential group of strangers become a coherent, slick ensemble that understands the production inside out and together sculpt it into something exciting to watch.

To aspiring theatre directors, what advice would you give with some experience under your belt?

I think the best training for a director is to just get out there and direct. You can read all the books you like, but the best way to learn is to do it and fail, learn, get up and fail better. Grab every opportunity, and if there aren’t any open to you, then make your own. If you have an idea for a show then reach out to a venue. Make an introduction. Join some facebook groups to meet like-minded people. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you have passion to tell a particular story, then don’t let circumstances, limitations or other people hold you back. And once you’re in the rehearsal room, my only piece of albeit cliched advice is to trust your gut. If a brilliant idea of yours isn’t working, cut it. If you’re cringing, change it. If something’s not right, say something, even if you don’t have the answer – work it through. Don’t leave something unsaid because it’s awkward. The audience will see through bullshit instantly, so it’s important you are brave enough to do the same.

You have worked on alot of the fab Shakespeare productions Arrows and Traps has produced. What do you find exciting about Shakespeare? What approach do you take when looking at the texts to bring them alive?

I’ve directed all nine of Arrows & Traps theatre productions so far, and am about to start the tenth. Seven of those have been Shakespeare. When you helm a company that gets a reputation for doing Shakespeare, the assumption is that you’re a Shakespeare expert and a complete bard fanboy. But this is a little known fact about me: I don’t like Shakespeare. I find it too difficult, dry and obtuse. I hated it at school and just didn’t understand why the government were fixated with making our children study such boring literature, that’s not even in English half the time. I’ve been a director for about decade, on and off, and when I returned to theatre, when asking myself what it was I wanted to direct, I gave myself three criteria: “does it stand out from what other people are doing?”, “is it a challenge for me personally?”, and “does it sound exciting to an audience?” Shakespeare was always going to be the greatest challenge for me, because I disliked it for so long. I not only had to work out what was being said, but also how to approach it so it was interesting for an audience. I think that’s why a concept is so important to my Shakespeare work. I focus on something that I feel has not been brought out by other productions, and cultivate what I feel is a modern way of approaching Shakespeare. I have learned to love the plays we’ve done, and there are others that I would like to cover in the future. It’s always been a struggle for me, but I think that’s actually our greatest strength because I’m the first one the production has to impress. I’m no fan boy, I don’t shiver with rapture when Hamlet picks up a skull, in fact I’m the first one to yawn. So Arrows & Traps works to open these texts up for the non-shakespeare fan, for the ambivalent, for the discerning mainstream modern audience.

In rehearsals how do you like to get the most out of your actors, what do you feel makes a great working environment for a cast?

I think there’s a real danger for a director to get too enamoured by the sound of their own voice. There is power, and with that there is a danger of treating everyone like puppets. I never wanted to be that kind of director. Every director has to learn to step back a bit and trust in the people around them. They should never be domineering or close-minded in the rehearsal room. It’s an actor’s safe place. The cast should feel happy and comfortable there. It’s how they do their best work, how they give you their greatest and craziest ideas. Don’t try to control that. Support, never judge, and never scorn. Director dictatorships produce boring theatre as it’s just one voice talking. The best theatre is a chorus of voices, all lending their unique colour, pitch and timbre. More voices, more ideas, more influences, better theatre.

Crime and punishment is another epic you are taking on, how have you tackled the play to bring it up to date and put the usual Arrows and Trap spin on it?

Crime & Punishment is most of the most iconic Russian novels in history. It’s an sprawling multi-character epic. And as it’s the centenary of the Russian Revolution, it seemed timely to return to a Russian text this year, after our Anna Karenina last Spring. The adaptation we’re staging next month at the Jack Studio is a 90 minute 3-hander, so there’s been some judicious cutting involved. It’s unusual, I think, for a crime thriller to tell a story from the murderer’s perspective and that was interesting for me. With so many novel adaptations they seek to cram the entire book into an evening, and that never seems to quite work, throwing your audiences through various scenes at breakneck pace in an attempt to remain faithful to the source. This adaptation doesn’t do that. It seeks to create something theatrical and new from the story. It’s beautiful and moving, and a real test for the actors as its basically one long scene. I’m not sure what the Arrows spin is exactly, but yes, there will be dream sequences, lots of music and set pieces, and we’ll be showing an old story in a new way.

You do open castings, what do you suggest to actors interested in auditioning for your next show? What do you like to see an actor bring to an audition room?

First and foremost they have to be excited about the project and come with ideas about how they’d approach their characters. A degree of research into either the novel or play text is always impressive, but really we’re interested in you as a person and what you’d bring to the role. There’s an emphasis on ensemble in the company, and we like actors who are ready to muck in and get involved with the heavy lifting. We try to make the audition process as stress-free as possible, and want applicants to not be unnerved by the reading. It doesn’t matter to us if you don’t know it off by heart, or make a few slips or start again, if you can bring the text to life, that’s all that matters.

What is your favourite piece of theatre last year?

As a working director, it’s hard to get time to see anything that’s not your own work, but I adored In The Heights at King’s Cross this year, as well as Better Together – a new play at the Jack Studio Theatre.

What is the plans for 2017?

We’ve got Crime & Punishment opening at the Jack Studio Theatre next month, running February 7th – 25th, and after that we’ll be producing a new version of Frankenstein. We’re also planning to stage Death & The Maiden, which is a blistering thriller, before rounding the year off with some Shakespeare, of course. So lots to get excited about.

Book your tickets now, I AM!!! 

http://www.brockleyjack.co.uk/portfolio/crime-and-punishment/

Events

 

actor

Our next and first event of 2017 is on Feb 6th at Spotlight Studios. The theme is ‘working class’. After a record number of submissions. I waded through and found some gems.

Working Class Scratch Night plays

Injuries of Class by Paul McMahon

Worsooz by Catherine Kay

I am a Doctor by Susan Byron

I Actually Have a Son by Andrew Maddox

We have some fab directors on board including Kevin Russell and Catherine Exposito.

There is a writing night being held on 15th Feb at Southbank Uni, link to booking is here :

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/actor-awareness-writing-workshop-tickets-31062796661

This year we also have our first Manchester workshop on 23rd Jan. Book your place for that here, we are coming to get you ‘North”

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/actor-awareness-workshop-tickets-29656853447?aff=eandprexshre&ref=eandprexshre

We also have a new YouTube Channel, check that out : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl2pioRJ5lP77Lo4spxFVrA?app=desktop

If you are interested in castings as an actor or a director please follow us on Facebook and Twitter, we post all our castings there. @actorawareness / https://www.facebook.com/actorawareness/