Spotlight On… Star of The Enchanted, Jade Ogugua

The Enchanted runs at The Bunker Theatre from 6 – 17 June 2017, book tickets here: The Enchanted
Following a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe 2016, Pharmacy Theatre present the London transfer of their debut show – a highly-acclaimed adaptation of death penalty investigator Rene Denfeld’s award-winning novel.  The Enchanted highlights issues around capital punishment, child abuse, and the self-perpetuating cycle of violence corrupting the US penitentiary.

Death row in America.  Men sit in isolated dungeons awaiting execution.  An investigator works tirelessly to save them.  She will not let men go to their deaths without a fight.

Rene Denfeld’s disturbing and poetic novel comes to life through performance, puppetry, choreography and sound in this striking adaptation examining themes of evil, punishment, clemency and redemption.  This journey through the eyes of the condemned seeps deep into our consciousness – are monsters really born or do we create them?

Pharmacy Theatre comment, Now more than ever, the exploration of these concepts needs to be discussed with wider audiences.  By sharing Rene Denfeld’s story, we hope to illustrate, and provoke discussion about, the parallel failings of justice systems in America and the UK.  This run will allow us to ask questions and inspire solutions for the way forward.

This spellbinding story will refuse to let you go. It is a play with a message to tell about the treatment of human beings and the possibilities of redemption, and it delivers this with skill (Broadway Baby).

Rene Denfeld is a bestselling American author from Portland, Oregon. She is the winner of the French Prix, ALA Medal for Excellence and a Carnegie Listing. She also works as a death penalty investigator and is active in prison reform.

Star of the production, Jade Ogugua chatted to Break A Leg…  
 

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Jade. Tell me about the piece and your character.

The Enchanted is about death row in the US and the role of nature and nurture in creating the people on it, but it’s also about the beauty and pain of human existence and the stories we create to face it. My character, The Lady, is an investigator whose job is to find out why the people we call monsters became who they are.

What was your initial impression of the script?

Relief! The focus on nature and the sounds and shapes of conversations and the magic you experience by being alive was not at all what I had expected from a script about death row and was a pleasant surprise!

Was it easy to translate from page to stage?

The script does a brilliant job of capturing the essence of the original novel and I think the use of movement was really key in translating how much of The Enchanted is about the place just beyond human reality. The slight downside of having the book to work from was my desire to try and convey every single thought and motive that was detailed so beautifully by Rene Denfeld!

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

I watched a great talk by Rene Denfeld about the art and importance of empathetic listening and I really wanted to highlight The Lady’s gift for listening to pretty terrible truths with such an open mind and heart.

How does The Bunker lend itself to the piece?

Well most of the play is set in an underground prison so an underground theatre couldn’t be more perfect!

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

I just think it’s a fascinating and important subject matter. The nature versus nurture question is always a great conversation starter and I think The Enchanted adds something to that conversation. Also, great book, great script, great cast!

Thank you Jade, wishing you all the best with the run!

Photo Credit: Paul Gilling

Spotlight On… Star of La Ronde, Amanda Wilkin

Amanda Wilkin is currently starring in Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde at The Bunker (book tickets here: http://www.bunkertheatre.com/whatson ) which is running until 11 March 2017. I chatted to Amanda about the production:

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Amanda stars in La Ronde

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Amanda. Tell me about the piece and your character(s)

La Ronde is in a new adaptation by Max Gill. In the play we see moments between characters of different social status, who are exchanging a moment of intimacy. In the original script by Arthur Schnitzler the audience watched characters like The Whore, The Soldier, The Poet. But in ours the audience will meet The Doctor, The Prostitute, The London Bus Driver, etc. There are ten characters in total, and I can’t tell you who I’ll be playing…because I have no idea! We are a cast of four learning every part and we will find out by way of a roulette which character we’ll be playing before each scene throughout the performance. It effectively means that any character can be played by an actor of any gender or colour.

What was your initial impression of the script?

After reading the play, I was struck by how the play accurately brings loneliness to the surface and the transaction of contact – are we ever really equals when we have sex? What happens when you are desperate to be touched? And to what extent do we wish to be dominated in love, to be destroyed by another in order to feel something? It’s a brilliant script – I was blushing while reading some bits and felt quite miserable in other moments.

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

I’m hoping the audience will think about what they consider a ‘normal’ relationship, what we demand from relationships, what boundaries have been formed by what society tells us is acceptable. I hope they will be able to think about what discrimination they have while watching it; do they judge that character more because of their physique, or sexuality? I also hope that the audience will be intrigued by the thought of a different combination of actors playing that scene – would it have changed their mind about the narrative of that moment if they looked different, or their sexuality were different?

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

I’ve just been concentrating on making these ten characters so individual and detailed. And embracing my body. This is not a gender or colour blind production. In fact, it’s the opposite. The audience will be acutely aware of my gender and colour. So it’s about not shying away from that.

How does the space lend itself to the piece?

The bunker is a brilliant new space and very intimate with 110 seats, which is perfect for this play because you’ll be able to see us sweat… probably want you want in a production like this!

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

This could be the most unique show you’ll see because there are six versions of every scene, and therefore thousands of versions of this show. Every performance will be different. If you are looking for plays with more equality and diversity on stage, then come and watch this. We are a cast of four. Two women, two men, two white, two non-white. And we can play any part if the roulette picks us in a performance. Now that’s the kind of show I’d book to see.

Thanks to Amanda for an insightful interview, wishing you every success with the rest of the run.

Spotlight On… Writer of Muted, Sarah Henley

Interval Productions present  Muted A New British Musical
The Bunker, 53A Southwark Street, London SE1 1RU  Wednesday 7th December 2016 – Saturday

Use the following contact details to book tickets: http://bunkertheatre.com/ and 0207 234 0486.

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I chatted to Sarah about the piece…

Tell me about Muted and your inspiration for it

Muted came about in a fairly round about way. It started as a show called After the Turn and, unlike a lot of musical theatre projects, began with the music and the book came second. Tim (Prottey-Jones) had a great album and an idea of some characters and storylines – particularly the fact that the leading man didn’t speak. This obviously came with its own challenges in terms of writing – dialogue is not that easy when one character can’t say anything! However, it’s interesting what comes out when someone is trying to fill the silence. Since After the Turn and the workshop performances at The Courtyard, it’s been through a lot of development. Music and lyrics have been re-written and added to help blend the story more – Tim and Tori Allen-Martin (music and lyrics) have worked hard with me to make the show feel ‘whole’ so you wouldn’t be aware as an audience member that the songs came first.

In terms of inspiration I love the idea of intimate, personal stories and how characters can mentally affect one another – I hope everyone will know someone like one of the characters in Muted and can relate to it in their own way. I was keen to write an ensemble piece rather than have one great part and a lot of ‘supporting actors’ – I like everyone to have a story arc.

Was it easy to put it all down on paper?

The first draft came very quickly – in about two weeks! However, as they always say, ‘musicals are rewritten’, so the difficult part has been getting it right (or as right as it can be!). I’ve had loads of support on this – both from actors who’ve been involved from the start, Tori and Tim, Jamie Jackson the director, as well as the Bunker team and various other industry friends. I’m hoping that we’re getting to a point now where it’s the best that it can be!

How will The Bunker lend itself to the piece?

One of the great things about The Bunker is its intimacy – the audience are on three sides and are so close they can see everything. Muted is a piece where you really get to witness the psychological impact people have on one another, particularly when they’re suffering themselves. I think the Bunker will make Muted feel really immersive and enable the audience to get really close to the characters.

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

Well, firstly – and I know ‘entertainment’ can be a dirty word in this industry – I’d love the audience to come away having had a brilliant night. In terms of a ‘message’, I think the overall message in the piece revolves around forgiveness both of self and others, and how far that’s possible depending on the gravity of the act that requires it. Also, there’s two very manipulative characters in the story and re-reading it now it’s interesting to see ‘how’ that manipulation happens and to look at where it occurs in your own life.

Finally, any advice for budding writers?

I’m still a budding writer! I guess one of the best things I’ve done is to collaborate with others and make my own work. I put on my first play, Getting Out, on the fringe 8 years ago on no budget; the experience of working with actors and a director is invaluable. There are a lot of ‘schemes’ out there for young writers, but if you’re not careful you can find yourself spending so much time applying for them and writing ‘three scenes’ pandering to briefs that fulfil funding requirements etc., that you never actually get the play that you want to write heard. As a playwright you need to hear voices on your plays – it’s no good on your computer, so do whatever you can to make that happen. I’ve been going for 8 years – support is not readily available and often the gatekeepers aren’t looking for work like mine, but I’m not going to stop… a DIY attitude is something to nurture!

Thanks for a fascinating interview, Sarah!

Spotlight On… Tonight With Donny Stixx’s Sean Michael Verey

Metal Rabbit presents 

Tonight with Donny Stixx

by Philip Ridley 

The Bunker, 53A Southwark Street London SE1 1RU 

Tuesday 8th November – Saturday 3rd December 2016

You can book your tickets here: https://www.bunkertheatre.com/whats-on/tonight-with-donny-stixx

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I caught up with Sean Michael Verey from the show to find out about Donny Stixx:

Tell me about Donny Stixx?

Donny Stixx is a young person who sees the world in a different way from most people. He takes everything for face value. Donny doesn’t aspire to be the best magician in the world, he is the best magician in the world in his eyes.

What was your initial impression of the script?

When I read the script for the first time, my mind was blown! I couldn’t think of a more relevant piece of writing to highlight how a large part of our society has become driven by fame. From purely an actor’s point of view, I had that feeling most actor’s get if they’re lucky enough to be handed such a gem of a piece: pure excitement! Like a kid in a sweet shop. My mind was racing with ideas on how to portray Donny and all the other characters in his life, itching to get in to the rehearsal room!

Was it easy to translate from page to stage?

I think it was quite straight forward to translate from page to stage. We had a clear idea on how we saw Donny’s story play out, and with no props or set of any kind, I was free to move around the space how I saw fit. The main challenge was making sure I was portraying all of the characters correctly, as there aren’t many clues in the script on how they should sound or what they look like, leaving it up to imagination of the actor and director.

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

The main thing I wanted to make sure I was bringing to the role was the constant innocence Donny has. For us to believe Donny’s story we must understand that he doesn’t get irony, he has learnt to believe what someone says is always the truth. This then makes the final couple of scenes almost unbearable to witness.

How does the space lend itself to the piece?

I can’t wait to perform this piece at The Bunker. Not only is there more space to play with than we did it in Edinburgh or Soho Theatre, but the layout of the audience is slightly raised from the performance space. So you get this sense that the audience are on top of you looking down. It has a slight court room feel about it. Phillip Ridley described it as “Walking in to a bear pit” and that is just perfect for Donny’s story!

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

I would say that seeing Tonight with Donny Stixx and hearing Donny’s story is an experience you most certainly won’t have had before and you definitely won’t forget in a hurry!

Thanks for your time! Break a leg!

Spotlight On… Writer of Skin A Cat, Isley Lynn

Semi-autobiographical, Skin a Cat is a personal and ambitious story of sexual discovery and dysfunction, exploring the challenges and consequences of not having a ‘normal’ sex life. Alana’s journey is unique and yet Skin a Cat speaks to our shared experiences with joy, candour and levity making a difficult subject more accessible. It will run from 12 October to 5 November 2016 and you can follow this link for more information and to book tickets: https://www.bunkertheatre.com/

I interviewed Isley about the piece, here’s what she had to say:

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg. Tell me about the piece and the inspiration for it.

I’m basically fixated on new stories and fresh perspectives – I wrote Skin a Cat because I didn’t see my experiences of sex reflected in the media around me. It felt important to put a story out there that was honest and unflinching and not the same old representation of female sexuality as a binary of repressed vs rampantly promiscuous. Alana, like most of us, is somewhere in the middle and it’s complicated.

Was it an easy play to write and how has it translated from page to stage?

It was easy to write and easy to stage – it was just getting the right team to do it with that took a long time. I’m picky about who I work with but once Blythe Stewart took hold of the text and we found three fantastic actors to bring it to life it took off in ways that surprised everyone – but that’s definitely because we took our time finding the right people to work on it in every aspect. And when everyone wants to achieve the same thing and we all have clarity about what that is then the work is straightforward and intuitive.

What were your main considerations when casting it?

When casting (and choosing directors) I always look for people who have the same ideas about the text as I do, who are likeminded in what they see in the script and have the same motivations for doing the play. That way everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet from the beginning and rehearsals are a collaboration where everyone’s creatively contributing. For Skin a Cat we looked for actors who were talented, adventurous, playful, and hard-working – and we got them!

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How does the venue lend itself to the piece?

The Bunker is very hip and cool so I guess that means the play is very hip and cool and for someone who has spent their whole life being very unhip and very uncool that’s pretty nice. Apart from the space itself being ideal for large audiences without sacrificing on intimacy, The Bunker are also great allies and are actively involved in the mounting of the show, very supportive and responsive to our needs and keenly interested in hosting an event that expands the experience of the show beyond its running time. It’s very exciting to be the first show there, we all feel like rock stars.

What do you feel the main theme might evoke in audience members?

I remember watching an audience member’s reaction to the penultimate scene at one of the Vault shows – they were bent forward, eyes fixed on Lydia Larson (who plays Alana), nodding and grinning almost furiously, physically willing her to make an important realisation in the play’s final moments. It was so inspiring to see because it meant the play had taken them on a journey that they were totally immersed and invested in. And they weren’t the only one. I can’t wait to see those reactions again.

What would you say to encourage audience members to come?

It’s very very funny. Lydia is hilarious and heart breaking, Jassa (Ahluwalia) is silly and sexy in equal measure and Jessica (Clark) is totally endearing and compelling in whatever role she inhabits – those who saw her in Jon Brittain’s Rotterdam will know what I mean. Plus there’s plenty of willy jokes. And there’s the added prestige of being at the first show of what is set to become the coolest theatre for adventurous new work – definitely “I was there” material.

Thanks so much Isley, wishing you all the best with the production.

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