Leeds Arts Centre Winners of Royal Shakespeare Company’s #Dream16
[Images courtesy of Bradford Theatres]
Fantastic news for Leeds Arts Centre – its cast of six has been selected as the Yorkshire winners of RSC’s nationwide Dream 16 competition. Directed by Ken Taylor, the cast will have chance to perform at The Alhambra Theatre in Bradford and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, playing the roles of the ‘Mechanicals’ in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
TSOTA sits down with Director Ken to find out more about the fascinating project…
TSOTA: How did you first hear about the project? What inspired you to want to take part?
KT: I heard about the Dream 16 project from our Chairman Zoe Friedman. The Alhambra Theatre had selected and sent out invitations to local amateur groups and we were delighted to be one of those groups.
My motives for pursuing this were twofold. First, involvement with one of our most prestigious local theatres, the Alhambra. Second, the chance to get six of our actors involved in workshops and training from the Royal Shakespeare Company.
TSOTA: Is this your first time directing a Shakespeare piece?
KT: I have directed Shakespeare before. Twelfth Night, and All’s Well That Ends Well.
TSOTA: Did you encounter any challenges along the way?
KT: The main challenge we faced was that the LAC was putting on another production whilst I was trying to put a team of actors together. That production had a large cast, and involvement in that prevented many from taking part in Dream 16, especially as the week of performance was the week after the Alhambra auditions. As it turned out, LAC has a deep pool of talent, and I was able to find enough fantastic actors to take on the roles.
We have a great cast: Barry Green as Bottom, Tazmin Bennison as Quince, Ben Hopwoood as Flute, Fiona Galloway as Snout, Ed Corbet as Snug and Rachel Brewin as Starveling.
TSOTA: Have any of the actors performed professionally before, or is this a first?
KT: Professional actors were barred from taking part in Dream 16, as the cast had to be comprised of amateur actors. None of our actors are professionals, though most are very experienced. I think the difference between amateur actors and professionals is often only that professionals get paid, and they have the time and facilities to put together a more polished performance. I have seen some stunning amateur performers, who are perhaps amateurs because they didn’t get the lucky breaks that are often needed to make it as a ‘Pro’.
TSOTA: The audition process seems rigorous, please can you tell us a little more about it?
KT: The audition process was testing, as we knew from the off that we would be competing against other groups. I was also aware that the piece we were to present needed to be good enough to prevail, but not ‘over-directed’ so that the RSC team would be able to easily make changes, which they in fact did. Everybody got on very well during the workshop sessions, and were very co-operative together. The RSC were great to work with.
The wait to hear of our success, or otherwise, was nerve jangling. We were successful, and together with ‘The Kings Troupe’ from Hebden Bridge, our team was invited to The Theatre Royal, Nottingham, for the final round, having been given further pieces to work on. We again found the process very enjoyable and, though the process was absolutely serious, we had great fun with everybody. As with the first round, and no doubt in common with anybody auditioning, we came away knowing that we absolutely couldn’t have done anything any better.
TSOTA: The performers get the chance to perform with the RSC at The Alhambra Theatre in April, how does the rehearsal process work?
KT: The rehearsal process now takes the form of local rehearsals at the Carriageworks Theatre run by myself, together with occasional ‘down the line’ direction from Stratford, and one or two visits from Sophie Ivatts (the Associate Director to overall Director EricaWhyman.) Those rehearsals take place during the Autumn of 2015. We then start rehearsals with the RSC Professionals during January 2016, culminating in the week before the production in April 2016, with full cast rehearsals at the Alhambra.
TSOTA: What’s been the most enjoyable thing about the Dream 16 project so far?
KT: The most enjoyable thing about the scheme so far has been meeting so many great people, including those at the RSC, at the Alhambra, and from the other groups that were involved. Principally though, I am very proud of my actors, and pleased at the joy they have so far gained from the experience. It’s also been great to gain experience in theatre skills, which we are now able to pass on to the Leeds Arts Centre in a series of Acting Workshops.