It's been a very good twenty four hours. We spent yesterday afternoon over at Ham House, introducing The Tempest company to the space and talking through the technical logistics of the show with Tina and Alistair. It's great having the chance to work in situ and ideas flow so much faster when you're able to walk actors through the actual space.
We're trying to pay homage a little to the House in the production, which plays with the conceit of Miranda as an old lady, established as Queen of Naples, remembering her past and telling it back to the children in the audience. The play becomes a reconstructed memory, with the children constantly helping Old Miranda to recall the sounds, sights and events of her time on the magical island, through soundscapes and puppets.
The Jacobean House itself then becomes a contemporary royal palace with the pictures on the walls relating to the characters - we've costumed accordingly.
The trip seemed to give this evening's rehearsal and added buzz. Perhaps seeing the space made the show ever more real and brought focus to the company. We worked through several of the more complicated sequences with fresh energy and new understanding. It was a very good session.
This morning Mary (74) and Fiona (59 - today!), from Richmond Poetry Society came in to help the third years with a reminiscence class. We run this as part of our Drama in the Community module each year and each year I find it the most fascinating and heart warming activity.
Our guests were generous and open with their stories and the students seemed to really enjoy listening and asking questions. Stories ranged from evacuation, to attending a Beatles concert, to first husbands, to winkle pickers, to black outs, to visiting America in the sixties, to filling tin baths, to seeing King George VI in Buckingham Palace and Twiggy in Oxford Street. It really was a thrilling hour of unofficial late twentieth century history.
The students then worked on dramatising the stories that they'd found most appealing or significant and played them back to a great deal of laughter. Both Mary and Fiona were moved by the evocative nature of the work and charmed by sensitivity in which their lives were dramatised. A very rewarding way to spend the morning.
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.