Sunday, 14 September 2008

Getting away with Murder.

The National Youth Theatre had a memorial celebration for our former artistic director, Ed Wilson, who sadly died earlier this year. It was quite an event. Ed led the company from a tiny two room office above a garage in King's Cross to the wonderful, fit for purpose building that we now occupy on the Holloway Road. Two hundred or so of the former and current members gathered to re create work from his tenure and read words of tribute. It was a very moving day.

The highlight of my time with the NYT was the tour to Stanislavski's Moscow Arts Theatre, with T.S Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral in 1989. It was the time of glasnost and we were the first actors to perform a play with a 'religious' theme in the USSR. Prince Edward, our patron came with us and his meeting with the Patriarch of Russia was the first time a blood relative of the Romanovs was afforded the privilege since the revolution. We encountered the frenzy of a royal paparazzi press call in Red Square, lunched at the British embassy, rushed out in our pyjamas to see the changing of the guard at Lenin's tomb and were greeted with flowers enough to cover all our dressing rooms. We stayed at the humongous hotel Rossia, spied on by an army of charming matriarchs, who sat with phones and samovars at the end of the corridor and recorded our comings and goings in a black leather book. It was heady.

Several members of this company were back in the familiar main rehearsal room today and - supplemented with monks and women of Canterbury from Ed's 2003 revival and the company's choir, recently returned from singing the natioanl anthem at the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics - we recreated the Kyrie and Beckett's first entrance. Time was short and Paul Roseby, the company's current Artistic director urged us to 'stretch it', 'punch it out' and, my personal favourite 'wang it round to the audience.' Interestingly, both generations of actors implicitly understood the coded vocabulary.

During a break the technicians ran some video clips of Ed pleading passionately for government investment in youth arts followed by twenty year old footage from the initial production's rehearsals. None of us knew it existed and none of us were able to hold back tears.

No comments: