Spotlight On… Cast and Creatives of The House Of Usher

The House Of Usher

Created by LUKE ADAMSON & DAN BOTTOMLEY Inspired by EDGAR ALLAN POE
The Hope Theatre 207 Upper Street London N1 1RL
18th Oct – 5th Nov 2016 Tuesday – Saturday 7.45pm Tickets £15 & £12 concs
Box Office: 0333 666 3366 http://www.thehopetheatre.com

eloise-1

I chatted to cast, directors and writers of the show:

Answered by performers, Eloise Kay and Richard Lounds

Thank you for talking to Break A Leg. Tell me about the piece and your character(s)

EK: It doesn’t shy away from bold ideas – musically or in terms of action. We’re really going all in. Maddy as a character is a very sweet girl with quite a blinkered view if the world. She’s been trapped in this little bubble all her life, but she won’t be manipulated. She faces up to the challenges in her life and in the end gives up on waiting for her prince to come and takes matters into her own hands.

RL: The piece is a musical reworking of a classic Gothic short story from one of the genre’s masters. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that my character is a classic Gothic trope, the nameless narrator, I suppose his anonymity serves the same purpose here as in the story: to put you right into the action. An audience experiences his doubt, his fears, his struggle in real-time while being led by the hand, as it were, through the weirdness of Usher.

What was your initial impression of the script?

EK: On a self-centred note, I was grateful that it was a bigger role than the source material suggests! Originally, Maddy is only ever glimpsed and doesn’t have any lines or play any instruments (unlike Roderick, who plays and sings in the book), so they’ve really fleshed out my character and given her a whole backstory. It’s also really interesting to see how the family dynamic is explored and there are some twists in this version that aren’t present in Poe’s original, so it’s surprising even for those that know the story well whilst still being faithful to the overall arc and characters.

RL: The script really tries to key into the Gothic genre from the start and uses a good deal of Poe’s beautiful writing.

Was it easy to translate from page to stage?

RL: When dealing with stories where the dead walk, where houses seem to seem to change and move, of course it can present difficulties in translating it to the stage, but once the logistics are sorted, the horror and thrills are universal feelings that come over loud and clear.

Did you have any ideas about what you wanted to bring to the role(s)?

EK: Not really. I came in with quite an open mind. I do think a lot happens under the surface with Madeline, as she knows there is a set way to behave, and that sometimes overrides what she really wants to say. But in terms of how feisty she lets herself get, that’s a balance we’ll need to strike in rehearsals.

RL: I like Poe, and loved the Gothic when I was younger, so I felt I knew that peculiar and almost paradoxical kind of open minded sceptic narrator character, the one which shows disbelief while giving a knowing nudge towards the truth. I wanted to get a little of the classic hammer horror narrator into it, a pinch of Vincent Price, and while, of course I can’t go crazy, I think there’s a shadow of it in there somewhere.

How does the space lend itself to the piece?

EK: It’s quite a small theatre, which is great for this, as the whole feel of the piece is one of claustrophobia and being trapped. It also means the space has to be quite fluid – we can’t separate it out into different ‘rooms’ so we all (uncomfortably) share the same space for most of the play, which is fairly representative of what the characters are feeling.

RL: A studio sized space like the Hope will really lend itself to the claustrophobic feel of the house in which Usher is slowly wasting away. As a performer, the feeling of so many eyes so close will help that feeling in me too.

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

EK: The score is really inventive, and draws on lots of different influences, so it should be fun to hear all the different genres. It’s also obvious from music rehearsals that the chaps are amazing musicians and great story tellers. And of course it’s the perfect Halloween show – a gothic thriller that slowly builds the tension until it reaches a creepy finale.

RL: I would say that if you’re looking for something special for Halloween and the spooky season, this should be top of the list. Come for the thrills, the music and the fun.

Answered by Directors, Phil Croft & Luke Adamson

Tell me about the piece and your vision for it

LA: Well we want to create an atmospheric , exciting, sexy Edgar Allan Poe inspired musical! It was conceived specifically for the Hope’s space and so we plan to use the character of the space itself to full effect.

Did you have initial ideas about casting and what you wanted actors to bring to the piece?

LA: We knew that we wanted the actors to play instruments and sing but other than that it was very open, we had no set ideas about age or look or anything. We were delighted by the amount of talent that walked through the door at the auditions and managed to secure this wonderful cast!

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

PC: I wish for the audience to leave the production having experienced a creative and exciting piece of gothic story telling.

Have rehearsals altered your initial thoughts, at all?

PC: Working with actor musicians always alters the original plans for a piece. Particularly on a show like this where there is a wonderful underscore almost entirely throughout, you have to fit in the practical elements of playing and storing instruments and make sure that they two are incorporated into the story telling.

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

PC: This show has never been done before, it is wholly unique and individual and will be like nothing you have seen before.

Finally, any advice for budding directors?

PC: Take every opportunity you can, and make stuff.

Answered by Writer, Dan Bottomley

Tell me about the piece and your inspiration for it

The idea was all Luke’s and then it continued to very gradually consume me too. Edgar Allan Poe’s writing is so dark and rich, like any great writer he gives you so much while leaving a lot of it down to the dark corners of your imagination to fathom up. In this sense the journey has been constantly surprising, we’ve never drawn a blank on inspiration. Cheers Ed.

Was it easy to put it all down on paper?

Many of the songs wrote themselves, others were more difficult. I knew going in I didn’t want the songs to fall into an easy categorisation as far as genre was concerned. We have taken liberties with the period and that is hopefully enhanced within the music. After an initial struggle it became very liberating.

Is it translating well from page to stage? 

In regards to the writing process I found it difficult to imagine on the page until Luke and I threw ourselves into the acting of it and forced it off the page. It was during these very loud and occasionally boozy sessions we found a lot of the real drama and character of the piece.

How is the space lending itself to the piece?

We knew from day one that it was going to be in ‘the hope’. Fortunately for us we had the space before we had a single note or word down on paper so the piece has been catered for the space. I’m sure when we get in there we’ll find all sorts of issues we never even imagined, but so far every problem we’ve encountered has prompted a much more interesting solution.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

Besides the programme and copy of the soundtrack, I hope they will be unnerved, thrilled and ever so slightly baffled.

Finally, any advice for budding writers?

Write. Throw yourself in at the deep end and be afraid. Collaborate and make a note of any idea you have, however trivial, one day they all might fall into a narrative so exciting you simply have to create something brilliant.

Thanks to everybody for their input in this interview, I wish the show every success.

 

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