From Shakespeare to Scratch

Posted: August 5, 2014 in A Bit of Everything

New writing London, scratch nights London, All women Shakespeare, Richard III Theatre, All women Richard III, All female Richard III, Edinburgh Fringe Theatre, Storytelling Theatre, Nick Myles, Etcetera Theatre, Harriet Kemsley, Charley Willow, Marie Rabe, Rosemary Tross, Victoria Allies, Charlotte Ive, Theatre London, Theatre blog LondonIt’s been a few months since the last Scrawny blog and there’s much to tell.  We’ve been beavering away at different things and now, finally, there’s a little time to process.

Back in April we staged our biggest show to date, a three week run of Richard III at The Rose Playhouse Bankside.  The Playhouse is the archaeological site of the original Rose Theatre, one of Bankside’s first playhouses and the place where Shakespeare started his career – if you’ve seen Shakespeare In Love, it’s the one from that!  Needless to say this was an exciting experience.  What was more exciting, for us at least, was what we chose to do with the play.  We Scrawny’s are committed to performing and staging productions with strong female roles, whether they are intended to be or not.  We also want to look at how stories are told, what you need to tell them, what quiet little things do you need to share with the audience to build a world for them, we wanted to explore those through our staging of Richard.

New writing London, scratch nights London, All women Shakespeare, Richard III Theatre, All women Richard III, All female Richard III, Edinburgh Fringe Theatre, Storytelling Theatre, Nick Myles, Etcetera Theatre, Harriet Kemsley, Charley Willow, Marie Rabe, Rosemary Tross, Victoria Allies, Charlotte Ive, Theatre London, Theatre blog LondonThe play had to be edited to an hour and a half, which was a task!  But nothing is impossible if you really want to do it, you just have to work out how.  So we were looking at a short, pacey Richard, but why stop there?  There are some fantastic female roles in Richard III, but Richard is essentially about, well, Richard.  The role is a gift and a challenge for any actor, but of course (Benedict and Martin) it is generally one reserved for men.  Well we wanted the ladies to have a go too.  We chose to do an all-female Richard, not simply to spread the ‘Lion’s Share’ but also because of the afore-mentioned female role.  Lady Anne, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Margaret, The Duchess of York; they were some of the most powerful women of their time.  By powerful, I mean their political weight.  The fates of these ladies decided the story of nations, each one of them and the events that happened to them, shaped the history of the middle ages.  But in essence, they had no power.  They did not decide who they would marry, where they would live, where their all important  dowry and lands would go and which would-be King their estates would prop up and propel onto the throne.  It was a paradox that seemed incredibly fruitful, but theatre is a practical arena in which to discuss things, so the idea of having actresses rather than actors being the ones giving and taking the power from these women, as well as playing the women themselves, offered and interesting maze of representation and re-evaluation for us to play in and pull apart.

 

Shakespeare London, Rose Playhouse Bankside, Shakespeare's career, Shakespeare In Love, Richard III London, New writing London, scratch nights London, All women Shakespeare, Richard III Theatre, All women Richard III, All female Richard III, Edinburgh Fringe Theatre, Storytelling Theatre, Nick Myles, Etcetera Theatre, Harriet Kemsley, Charley Willow, Marie Rabe, Rosemary Tross, Victoria Allies, Charlotte Ive, Theatre London, Theatre blog LondonTo really investigate the idea of what it meant to these characters to be trapped in the way they were, to be such pawns on the board of history, we chose to have a cast of just four, four women, each playing Richard at some stage and each having one of the main female roles.  Through the edit and the rehearsals, we co-ordinated which actress played Richard when, so that it had the maximum dramatic affect  on the female character they were playing. For example Marie Rabe and Scrawny newcomer (but now very much resident) Charley Willow played Lady Anne and Queen Elizabeth respectively.  It made sense, therefore, to have Charley play Richard in the Lady Anne wooing scene, all charm and manipulation, relentlessly burrowing in to her heart, conscience and mind to win her hand, despite having been responsible for the death of her first husband and his father.  Later in the play, the table was turned, Marie playing Richard to Charley’s Queen Elizabeth, as a desperate King trying to keep a grip on his power and make the vital political manoeuvre of marrying Elizabeth’s daughter.  For the actresses, for myself as a director, and hopefully for the audience, it was a process abundant with meaning and resonance and allowed us to also investigate the many faceted role of Richard and all his different guises as he manipulates, murders and makes galvanising changes in Britain’s history.

 

Shakespeare London, Rose Playhouse Bankside, Shakespeare's career, Shakespeare In Love, Richard III London, New writing London, scratch nights London, All women Shakespeare, Richard III Theatre, All women Richard III, All female Richard III, Edinburgh Fringe Theatre, Storytelling Theatre, Nick Myles, Etcetera Theatre, Harriet Kemsley, Charley Willow, Marie Rabe, Rosemary Tross, Victoria Allies, Charlotte Ive, Theatre London, Theatre blog London, Things to do in London, Richard III Society, Archaeology London, Historic London, London Theatre Heritage, All women Shakespeare, Shakespeare London, Fringe theatre London, Rose Playhouse London, Shakespeare in Love, Heritage London, Bankside ShakespeareSo that was fun!  Breathtaking in fact and I think we all felt privileged to have been able to do it.  But such a big project required digestion.  What worked?  What didn’t?  What have we learnt?  And how do we apply that to what we do next?

 

We have taken a step back to give ourselves time to give ourselves time to process.  We have begun planning our next project, but one thing that became very clear with Richard was that time was a precious element.  The whole process, from visiting the Rose to actually getting the show on, was a year in the doing.  And that was needed.  Not simply to organise, but to allow the time needed for ideas to develop, to sit and gain weight or be cast aside once they prove themselves not right for this particular thing.  It is the longest we have taken with any of our productions and it paid off.  So this is something we must try to apply from now on.

 

Shakespeare London, Rose Playhouse Bankside, Shakespeare's career, Shakespeare In Love, Richard III London, New writing London, scratch nights London, All women Shakespeare, Richard III Theatre, All women Richard III, All female Richard III, Edinburgh Fringe Theatre, Storytelling Theatre, Nick Myles, Etcetera Theatre, Harriet Kemsley, Charley Willow, Marie Rabe, Rosemary Tross, Victoria Allies, Charlotte Ive, Theatre London, Theatre blog LondonSince last August, we were also running our scratch nights, Scrawl, on a monthly basis.  We had to put them on hold during the latter part of getting Richard ready for the stage, but they have given us a wonderful team of people to work with.  Actors and writers who we’ve been able to really enjoy play with, making a space where we can all explore.  It has meant having a pool of incredibly resourceful people to work with, finding those who’s ideas work with ours and who push us to do better.  And it has been successful.  From the scratches came ‘Croque Monsieur’ by Sienna Dexter, performed at The One Festival.  Nick Myles and Harriet Kemsley staged and performed new work with us, Nick will be taking his to The Etcetera Theatre very soon and Harriet is now up in Edinburgh, making her mark on the comedy festival.  We developed two productions that went on to the Pay Nothing, Play Anything festival at The Etcetera Theatre in January and on top of all that, our core creative team has been buoyed by the people we worked with on Scrawl.

 

So now that we have a little more space, we can work with these people again to develop our next idea.  Since the beginning of the year we have been discussing and brainstorming (am I meant to call that mind-showering now?) comedy ideas and what would be a good format for Scrawl to go forward in.  We want to keep the idea of it being a platform for new work, a safe space to try things in and get a response and develop from that contribution.  But we also want think bigger.  We want to reach more people than we can through one evening  a month and we also want a record of the work we’re doing, something to chart our progress with and share, en mass, what we’re trying to do.  With that in mind, we decided in January that Scrawl could become a web series, a sketch series that allows us to explore our comedic writing, to devise and create new stories, new characters, new worlds with our actors and make something they have a real sense of ownership over too.

 

Shakespeare London, Rose Playhouse Bankside, Shakespeare's career, Shakespeare In Love, Richard III London, New writing London, scratch nights London, All women Shakespeare, Richard III Theatre, All women Richard III, All female Richard III, Edinburgh Fringe Theatre, Storytelling Theatre, Nick Myles, Etcetera Theatre, Harriet Kemsley, Charley Willow, Marie Rabe, Rosemary Tross, Victoria Allies, Charlotte Ive, Theatre London, Theatre blog LondonHaving talked and observed and thought and giggled quite a bit for the first six months of the year, we’re now ready to take it into a rehearsal room and get cracking on standing our ideas up, seeing how stable they are, having that amazing thing of putting what’s on paper into the real world with real reactions and watching it fail or fly.

 

Exciting times!

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