Tag Archives: Curve Community Production

Interview with the cast of Fen

As I haven’t been involved in the show, I thought readers may like to hear from the cast themselves. Cast includes first year Drama student Sarah, second years Hannah Putnam, Katharina, Amy and Becca Robson as well as Performing Arts student Alex, and third years Becca Cooper, Hannah Abbott, Jonny and Kirsty as well as their stage manager, Gina.

Q How has this experience been for you?

Amy: Really good
Hannah A: Yeah, it’s good to feel part of a company.

Becca C: Eye opening. I know Caryl Churchill was a varied playwright but I had no idea she was this dark. Tim’s made it a whole lot darker. It’s amazing to see how a director can bring out the potential in a play.

Becca R: Amazing. Acting is something I was considering but wasn’t sure about so this has been amazing to work in a professional company. Tim has been good for setting up a professional atmosphere and expects us to work to a high level. It’s good for me to know how it works and that it’s what I want to do.

Hannah P: Amazing, great to work with people of the industry, costume and sound. I’ve not done a production this big before.

Kirsty: This time round everyone is at rehearsal together so the company are really close.
Even when you’re not in the scene, you’re still in it. It’s like there’s more excitement when something awesome happens.

Gina: This experience has been amazing, it’s helped my develop so many skills and i feel especially proud to be the first student to work on the production side of a collaboration project

Alex: This experience has been a great one for me! I have been so privileged to be a part of it and would like to thank everyone involved for making this so perfect for me!

Katharina: It has been (well, still is :)) a very special experience for me. I didn’t really know what to expect, but the time with the cast has been wonderful. It’s such a great chance to perform at a theatre like Curve, which keeps you motivated to do your best. It has been very challenging as well, you get pushed to your boundaries and beyond, but it helps you to improve. And we had a lot of fun as well!

Q What have you gained from this experience?

Becca C: Acting experience. It’s so demanding – so many things I have to do with little lines. Also the friends I’ve made and the sense of community has been really lovely.

Sarah: More experience, it’s been more professional than anything else I’ve been in – I was in one other show which was a lot different.

Hannah P: Confidence. Tim isn’t the kind of director who tells you each position, he just gives you the overall idea and it gives you that confidence as an actor.

Kirsty: I’ve learnt to act bigger, I tend to do quite small acting. It was difficult but good to learn.
Hannah P: Pushes you.

Gina: I have gained so much experience working with curve and have developed some great contacts that I know I’ll be using in the future.

Alex: I have gained so much from this experience. Coming from the Performing Arts course rather than the Drama course, I started out feeling a lot less confident about my abilities than maybe some of the other performers. However after taking part, I have learnt so much in the way of acting and becoming stronger and more natural, and have made some brilliant friends along the way who I hope to be friends with for a long time!

Katharina: I have learned some new approaches and methods concerning character development, textual work and blocking. Tim is always very interested in little details and reminds us to think about each pause, each full stop. It is brilliant to see how much you can get from the play text! I’ve also gained more confidence in performing in English, as this is still a lot more difficult for me. We all became friends throughout the rehearsals and I’m sure we’ll keep in contact after the show.

Jonny: A massive boost in confidence. I have a bigger swagger in me step. I’ve liked learning different styles of acting, I feel extremely lucky to have been given these opportunities.

Q How does this compare to previous years?

Becca C: Greek pushed me physically, as in my physical boundaries but this has pushed me emotionally. Two different experiences with two very different directors. Adele brought out the style of the play whereas Tim works on emotions of characters.

Becca R: I didn’t even know this was a thing. I saw Laramie last year and thought Holy Bananas, was blown away by the standard of the performance and asked the cast how to get involved. Jonny and Kirsty told me to look out for the e mail from Roger at the beginning of the year and here I am!

Alex: I did not take part in last year’s production, although I went to see it and loved it! I have found that this year has been the perfect one for me to start on and I hope to continue this into the next year!

Katharina: I didn’t know that there was the possibility to take part in the show last year – I didn’t get any information about it. I would have been to scared to audition anyway I guess, as I just moved to England last year.

Q Do you feel this would help towards a career in acting?

Amy: Yeah, I’ve wanted it more since doing this.
Hannah: Good for lecturers to see you act

Amy: What you do at uni is …weird so it’s good to do real acting.

Becca C: Working in professional environement is different from uni, being directed is much more satisfying to the devising we do in class. I’m hoping to do an MA in acting.

Gina: This project has shown me that i do want to be a stage manager in the future, i know that i want to be taking a MA in a few years and i believe this will help me gain a place on a prestigious course.

Alex: Absolutely! As a Performing Arts student, I learn more about contemporary styles of performance, so to add one more string to my bow is always helpful!

Katharina: I do hope so – you need as much experience as you can get. It’s good to be able to provide some evidence of what shows you have been involved with.

Jonny: Because of the first experience I had with Greek, it encouraged me to persue acting and get involved with Off the Fence. Infact, a Leicestershire theatre group saw me in Greek and took me to Edinburgh.

Q How does this compare to other shows you have done?

Hannah A: This is more relaxed, some directors can be impatient

Amy: But you still get stuff done

Becca R: It was interesting to work with my local drama club where the cast were quite adult so this is interesting because of the younger cast, it’s a different dynamic. I prefer this because its more professional, the community feel is down to Tim having everyone here, I reckon Fen will always have a special place in my heart.

Gina: I’ve always been interested in stage management and my friends encouraged me to go for this role. To be honest I didn’t expect to be the official stage manager, I thought I’d be an assistant so I was very surprised.

Alex: Without a doubt the best show I’ve done! I have enjoyed every second, and would like to thank everyone involved for this experience, and hope everybody enjoys the show!!

Katharina: It’s really different from everything I have done before, simply because this is probably the biggest live performance I have ever been involved in. It’s the first time I have worked with a professional director, which makes such a big difference. It’s so good to have someone to tell you if you’re doing a good or a bad job and who can instruct you. It’s also very different, as we’re all almost on stage all the time. It’s also great to see that everyone is fully committed, so it truly feels like a collaborative group work!

Jonny: I was in last year’s Curve Community production of Oliver! And I found these DMU Collaborations to be more professional, you’re held to a higher standard. Whilst this is a great opportunity for us we are held to these responsibilities to give you experience of being a professional actor, we are working under Curve’s name so we don’t want to show them up!

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Fen Blog 3

Today is the casts last Wednesday rehearsal before their full week of tech and dress runs next week. As I haven’t visited for a while, the setup is more extensive as they now have a smashing brown carpet to represent their field, amongst many more props I’ve not seen before. Before they begin, the cast are practicing the ‘Harlem Shake’ – not sure this is part of the play!
I feel a bit lonely as the cast leave the room to talk to Demon FM. I’m pleased to see that they are taking an interest this year and that students are helping to promote their fellow students, it really heightens this production as being about the talent of DMU students. Everyone reappears in their costumes; they all look fetching in their light denim jeans, woolly jumpers and flowery housewife aprons. Tim surprises the group with metal buckets which they all seem especially excited about, particularly Becca who has to sit on one – Time does an impression of how she would sit on the plastic one, you can imagine.
Tim is telling everyone about their visitors for this evening – production team and set designers as well as photographers. He tells the cast that Curve’s photographer Pamela Raith will be taking photos of their tech rehearsal and that the cast can have copies for their CV. This is excellent for the cast members thinking about a professional career in acting and is an added bonus to this experience in general.
The first scene they run through is intense, frightening. The costume adds to the atmosphere but the acting has come on even more since my last visit.
I can’t continue much more as the cast then did a full run through and to explain how it went would be giving too much away. All I know is that I left the theatre feeling really emotional and I wasn’t sure why! A sure sign of brilliant acting and directing, of course. Read my interview with the cast to find out exactly how this experience has been for them.

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Fen Blog 2

As I entered this next rehearsal, I feel intrusive as the cast are in discussion with Tim discussion the plan for today. They have made charts and graphs about their character’s process through the play – a very interesting rehearsal technique, a good way for the cast to get into character. I sit next to Gina as I watch; she is inputting everyone’s measurements for costume.
The scene they start with is ‘exactly slap bang in the middle’ Gina tells me, one including all the female cast. The atmospheric music I mentioned last time assists their transition as they all walk very slowly to new positions, it seems very ghost like.
There are only two girls talking in this scene whilst all the others stand at the back staring at Becca, can’t wait to see it in context.
‘Waa’, Gina supplies the sound effects to prompt Amy as she goes to nurse a baby that looks a lot like a towel. Amy has a lot to do in this scene, Tim and Gina remind her of where she has to be on each line – acting isn’t as easy as it may look. ‘That’s alright don’t worry, it’s not easy’, reassures Tim. Now Jonny has entered the scene and poor Amy now has to tend to him with overlapping dialogue and numerous tasks to continue the scene. The other girls are still staring forward, except Kirsty who has her eyes fixed on Becca. I wonder what she’s done.
‘I must say Amy, you handle eating soup and holding a baby incredibly well’ Gina compliments her. The way Becca is miming ironing, I wouldn’t trust her with mine.

With 7 weeks left to go, Tim reminds Rebecca to be off script as soon as possible. Hopefully the chart she was making earlier will help her remember her lines. Tim now advises the cast that punctuation is important, he is very thorough with his direction, always giving explanations as to why he is saying what he is saying; ‘we really have to understand the depth of the story’.
The cast now all sit round Tim as they read through the same scene, I think Tim felt they needed to get to know their lines better before they could run through it again.
‘We’ll do this scene, then we have a nice romantic scene, then we’ll go to church. What a strange play this is!’ Tim explains as they get up to put the scene in action again.
As they finish this scene, Hannah and Sarah, who play mother and daughter Angela and Becky, cross paths with Alex (playing Frank), staring at him as he passes. ‘Oh, I’m so sorry to stop you again, I’ve just had a genius idea’ Tim inserts. ‘Bing’ Becca adds. I won’t say what it was though because I don’t want to ruin the surprise.
Everyone has a giggle at Gina’s expense as she flop-runs out of the room telling Tim something on the way out. He gives a good impression of her as he imitates her run, telling everyone that he couldn’t hear what she said. They all let her know of his mimicking when she re-enters the room.
Now they practice the Church scene but after a few lines they can’t continue as Becca has the giggles; ‘the highs and lows of a Fen rehearsal’ Tim observes. I think she was laughing at Rebecca’s accent to which Tim tells them, ‘don’t worry the accent man will be here in two weeks time’, I like the term ‘accent man’. Kirsty’s accent however is very good, she has practiced her speech well and I am involved in her story as she delivers.
As they practice this scene I can see that some of the cast have multi-roles. This mirrors last years Laramie Project as all cast members had at least 3 characters each. Playing more than one character in a play is a very hard task to determine as a young actor, a challenge of which I’m sure Tim will direct them through during the rest of the process. As I type this though he jokes, ‘tonight’s problem, what is a Jesus hug?’
‘Tight’ answers Gina.
As Becca and Sarah leave their scene, Tim tells him what he has thought for Val (Becca’s character). ‘Tim makes this play sadder’, Gina says. It is true, what he directs Becca to do is very heart-wrenching and I find myself even more intrigued. Becca’s giggles ruin the scene again though as she laughs her way through that serious exit. Tim makes her go back and do it again. The scene is beautiful once she carries it through correctly.
As they approach the next scene, Tim tells everyone that the great grandmother’s speech, played by Rebecca, is a verbatim one. The knowledge that these are words that Churchill collected from a real old lady from the Fens makes the sadness of this scene even more poignant.
Finally, Tim sits everyone down at the end to reflect on today’s session, congratulating them on their progress and describing how they are now beginning to properly understand the words of the play, portraying them convincingly.

Follow @Fenfm on twitter to hear from the cast members themselves. (According to Rebecca, Caryl Churchill follows!)

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Curve and De Montfort University collaboration

 

Sitting in the Curve café, sipping a hot chocolate that comes with a free biscuit, I await my first visit to the Fen rehearsals. As I sit here, Becca, who is playing Val, is practicing her lines, her West Country accent already authentic. This year, the cast have had one 3-4 hour rehearsal a week where all cast are required to attend. I’ve been told that Fen is about a varied community who live in the Cambridgeshire Fens, and it seems as though this weekly group rehearsal helps gain a sense of community in the group.

Today is a small rehearsal however as people have gone home for Christmas. As I sit to talk to Tim their director, they all get involved in a ball game to warm up, trying not to let the ball touch the floor. As they warm up, Tim puts ‘Call me maybe’ on through the speakers. While they wait for Jonny to get the ball the girls do a goofy dance. ‘This is the kind of mad stuff we get up to you see,’ says Tim as he joins in. Next thing I know I’m being plummeted with tennis balls.

Something new to this year’s production is their student stage manager Gina, who is also a DMU Drama student. She seems very much part of the cast which will ease them all when it comes to tech and dress rehearsals, having a friendly face rather than the scary techie men with beards, wearing all black.

After they decide which scenes to rehearse, they start to set up. Their set consists of randomly placed buckets and tennis balls all over the floor. I’m intrigued to see how this will transform in production. Tim is deciding some staging; ‘Jonny may have to drag you for a minute’ he decides, to which Becca replies, ‘I’m so sorry.’ These two have had many an awkward scene together, Becca playing Jonny’s mother and lover in Greek in the DMU/Curve’s first collaboration. If you know the story of Oedipus, then you’ll know what I’m referring to! I think Jonny is filling in for Alex though, who plays Frank. The task that Tim has set seems harder for Becca though, as she tries to stay limp and keep a straight face. Tim tells Gina, ‘Google how to move a dead body’ to which she replies, ‘I don’t know if that’s a joke’. Today they have a music man, Tom. He has a green guitar with a cool piece of equiptment that makes his guitar make atmospheric music. It works really well and adds an understanding to the strange place that the characters are situated. ‘It’s a very sinister play’ Tim tells me as they think about one of Val’s lines after she has awoken from the dead. I told him that I thought the play was about potatoes – ‘So did we’. As they all explore this eerie scene, Gina suddenly pops up with, ‘I typed in how to move a body across the stage and it came up with AA Breakdown cover’; looks like this will have to come down to pure acting skills. Even in rehearsal with no costume or effects, it is an eerie scene. Tim gives Becca notes to make her lines ‘make sense’, and she takes them well, I am fully involved in her story as I listen.

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REVIEW: OLIVER!

Curve Community Productions presents a cast of over 65 young performers from across Leicester and Leicestershire, bringing the much-loved musical Oliver! to life in their own style (31 July – 12 August).

By Young Marketing Forum member, Priya

On Tuesday I was delighted to be invited to see Oliver!, the story of an orphan who runs away to join a gang of pickpockets in London, at Curve theatre in Leicester and I took my sister along with me because she loves the classic tale as much as I do.

Opening scene of Oliver!

Oliver!
Photo by Pamela Raith

I, like many others, am someone who grew up watching the 1968 adaptation of Oliver! every single Christmas. Thanks to my love of the novel by Charles Dickens, and to my love of the film adaptation, I’ve always been hesitant to watch any stage adaptation because of my high expectations. In contrast, my sister had no such reservations and has previously been to see the West End adaptation of the show. Therefore, she really did have a high standard, in terms of quality theatre adaptations, to compare Curve’s efforts to.

When we entered Curve, it was evident to see how universal the tale of Oliver! was because there was a great mix of people in the foyer. Also, throughout the theatre, you could hear the sound of galloping horses, which was a nice touch and began to set the scene before the audience had even taken to their seats. It actually made me feel like I had walked into an interactive installation or something!

Once we found our seats, I was able to fully appreciate the set up inside the auditorium. The sound of the galloping horses sounded slightly louder here and the stage looked dark, smoky and mysterious, which only served to increase my excitement.

The show kicked off with the much-loved Food, Glorious Food, which was choreographed really well and held the whole audience’s attention throughout. I thought it was a great way to begin! I love it when there are loads of people on stage because it just gets the whole audience pumped and excited – okay, it gets ME pumped and excited!

The whole cast performed brilliantly, specifically the little kids who really were especially fantastic. However, the stand out performers for me were the actors who played Oliver, Nancy and the girl who was the first to sing in the song Who Will Buy?. The actor behind the character of Oliver had such a beautiful and innocent kind of voice – dare I say that it sounded somewhat angelic?!

The girl playing Nancy, the ‘tart with a heart’, really blew me away. She was feisty, energetic, charismatic and innocent, and she had a great voice that was stunningly showcased in As Long As He Needs Me and Oom Pah Pah.  Her take on the character of Nancy was exactly how I envisaged Nancy to be.

Nancy performing Oom Pah Pah

Oliver!
Photo by Pamela Raith

Most of my favourite parts of the show were the show tunes, specifically Who Will Buy?. The girl that was the first to sing had the most beautifully haunting voice, which totally captivated me whenever she sang. I was also super impressed with the harmonies of the four singers who began the song, before the rest of the actors joined in. Seriously impressive stuff!

The performance of You’ve Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two was also a particular highlight because of Fagin and the orphans, one of whom was so tiny and adorable. I’ve always thought of Fagin as being a much darker character, but I’ve noticed that he’s been more comedic in most of the adaptations that I’ve seen and was only really dark in the original novel.

I also thought that Mr Bumble could have been scarier, especially considering the young orphans are meant to be extremely fearful of him. However, Kieran Sutcliffe has a great voice and I liked his jovial portrayal of the character nonetheless.

The only criticism I have of the show is that Act II didn’t seem as strong as Act I, with a lot of audience members getting lost when everything kicked off on stage towards the end of the show. The girl sitting next to me was quite baffled, and had I not been so familiar with the story, I probably would have been confused as well. I think the second Act just seemed rushed, with Oliver sidelined more than I feel he should have been.

Visually the show was amazing and, according to my sister, it was similar set up to the West-End adaptation. I loved how the stage was easily transformed, with a lot of detail (hanging clothes, a mini London Bridge, and the basement with the coffins) going into each stage change. Plus, I loved how the depth of the stage was taken full advantage of, particularly in Act II. Oh, and the lightening really helped change and create different atmospheres. My sister and I were really impressed!

All in all I would give this Curve Community Production a massive thumbs up because it impressed me a lot, which is definitely saying something because I had such high expectations from the onset. I thought the amount of effort, in terms of staging, costumes, lighting, was incredible. However, I was most impressed with the cast, who were all from across Leicester and Leicestershire – Go Leicester locals!

Oliver!

Oliver!
Photo by Pamela Raith

Tickets and Information: 0116 242 3595 / www.curveonline.co.uk

Browse the Oliver! production photos >>>

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