Spent the morning in College reworking our forum theatre play for Richmond police's community safety day. It's the third year we've taken the commission and it's always interesting to revisit the work and bring in some new actors. Katie, who's a veteran of the previous two incarnations, is going to direct whilst I'm away in Hong Kong, so today was really my only chance to work with the new actors before the dress rehearsal in a fortnight's time. I'll return to share the jokering with her.
Alongside Katie, we've also kept Michael from last year's cast and are going to use his experience by casting him as chief antagonist. It's a step up from the protagonist role he took on last year, but is richly deserved. He's made huge strides as a performer over the last year.
With Michael's promotion and the unavailability of some of the old cast we've been able to bring in four new actors from Level 1. Carl is our new protagonist, Leah plays his frustrated Mum, Maya is the School teacher (a new character this year - offering a different version of authority to the police) and Jess comes in as the love interest.
This year the police have asked us to look a little less at anti-social behaviour and joint enterprise and look more directly at both knife crime and domestic violence. Richmond has one of the highest rates of domestic assaults on parents by teenagers in the country. Worryingly it's a growing phenomenon, particularly in affluent areas like ours. It's a sensitive issue to tackle in a half hour workshop, but working with Carl and Leah we've brought it in as a sub theme to the main thrust of the work. It's a tricky idea for us to incorperate, not least because in classic Theatre of the Oppressed terms it shifts the protagonist from the teenager to the parent, which gives the audience a troubling dilemea over whose problem to focus on. The last thing we want is to hector our audience with a didactic attack on teenagers in general, most of whom wouldn't dream of hitting their parents. The attack, if we chose to go down that route, has to result from a build up of problems rather than being unprovoked.
We had a really good three hours in the theatre going through the script that the company had put together last Thursday and managed to road test some of the more likely interventions from the floor. The Level 1's seemed to have quickly grasped the basic principles of the work, but Katie's really keen that we dress rehearse in front of a real audience before exposing them to the mass ranks of Richmond borough's year 10 students. .
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.