Inside the Actor’s tent

With the soft melody of the summer rain touching down upon the roof of the tent, artistic director of Chester Performs, Alex Clifton introduced the talented company of actors in a pre show talk on Wednesday evening

He spoke about his role as casting director with  70 parts to cast.  –He puts the call out to agents and ” lots come back….you find the 15 best actors you can find and start chucking parts at them.” He looks for actors with “pride, diligence and humility”

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Opening up the cast,  Emilio Doorgasingh  said that  “auditions are weird, you never really know what people are looking for”. Louise Shuttleworth commented that many of the cast had  acted in the open air theatre so knew what to expect.

Each member of the cast plays a different role in the three plays of the season with just  7 weeks rehearsal time.An audience member asked about how hard it was to switch from character to character. Danielle Henry said that all the cast were encouraged to develop well defined characters, “all so different and clearly separate.”

The cast have to learn 3 plays at one time, with some of them performing music as well. Although demanding, Alix Ross feels that ““Its a joy, you get to play a range of characters, its nice it keeps it exciting”

Graham O Mara: “open air theatre, kind of a shock to begin with, 99% of actors work done in a normal theatre.” He praised the relationship with the audience and the backdrop of the sky, with one audience member commenting that this was how Shakespeare’s plays were originally performed.

Of the open air, Daniel Good commented on the  physicality of performance needed, adjusting the voice to the rain, wind… “even high pollen count” said Louise Kempton.

“There’s lots more variables, you know on race weekends… sirens or helicopters” agreed Emilio.

Alix Ross :“The elements can really heighten things” She recalled the thunder on the opening night of the Merry Wives of Windsor… “the downpour was better than any lighting you can get”

With the theatre space, walkways and steps. allowing for a unique level of audience interaction, Tom Richardson commented on this relationship changing every night. He was full of enthusiasm for this part of the job, echoed by the company’s Romeo, Adam Harley “its lovely chatting to the audience.”

Another comment from the audience “its so lovely  to have you here when Chester has no theatre.” Is Chester getting more of a reputation for the arts  in this supposed dark age of performance? Louise Kempton agreed that more in the industry were hearing about Chester and there was coverage in the national newspapers now.

Chester Performs will run the new theatre/arts centre opening in 2016 and an audience member criticised the “100 seat cinema” provision.  Mr Clifton described this as a bit deceptive as there could be 4 screenings a day as well as projection into the library/foyer area He said the new theatre will have an ensemble cast  “twice the size of this.. The limits are our imagination”. (There is a separate talk about the vision for the new theatre on the 20th August)

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Clifton spoke of the directors challenge- acting like a facilitator or a “host at a dinner party” introducing actors to each other and working out how they will interact. He described the varying backgrounds of the company: Adam, just graduated from RADA, James Holmes, former comedian who came to acting late in life, much in demand after TV roles including Miranda, Lou Shuttleworth- trained as a musician, Adam Keast- spends most of his time in pantomime. He has enjoyed “collaborations with people who have such different and rich backgrounds”

The session closed with Alex illustrating the versatility and adaptability of the cast. On two occasions when cast members have been unavailable due to illness, with only hours notice, the cast have rearranged scenes and dialogue seamlessly to cover for the absence. In his programme notes, Alex Clifton says “join me in raising a glass of Prosecco to the beautiful city of Chester and another creative inspiring Summer”.. a really interesting session and great to get some insight into a talented and versatile cast.

SC review of Romeo and Juliet: https://shitchester.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/romeo-and-juliet-review/

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