The Union Theatre’s Elegies Cast dedicate song to NHS Heroes and Theatre Freelancers
In response to Coronavirus and the industry’s shutdown, the phenomenally talented cast of Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens which ran last year at The Union Theatre, have recorded a deeply moving tribute to our NHS heroes and freelancers. They hope the song ‘Heroes’ from the show written by Janet Hood and Bill Russell will raise spirits and vital funds for people who are finding it particularly hard to cope in the present circumstances.
All of the funds raised will be split evenly between NHS Charities Together, and Funds for Freelancers.
NHS Charities Together is providing relief for NHS workers that regular funding doesn’t cover; this includes providing comfortable spaces so NHS staff and volunteers can have breaks, providing electronic tablets to patients, staff and volunteers so they can stay in contact with their loved ones, and offering counselling support to protect mental health, and help staff and volunteers process the issues they are facing during COVID-19.
Funds for Freelancers is a charity initiative set up by the Turbine Theatre, London (led by Paul Taylor-Mills, Helen Clarkson, Sasha Regan, and Sita McIntosh). It was created in the wake of the theatre closures mid-March to help as many people in the theatre industry as possible.
Times are uncertain at the moment for everyone, but any donation you are able to give will go a long way to easing the stress faced by performers, NHS workers and volunteers alike.
JODIE COMER, MONICA DOLAN, MARTIN FREEMAN, TAMSIN GREIG,SARAH LANCASHIRE, LESLEY MANVILLE, LUCIAN MSAMATI, MAXINE PEAK, ROCHENDA SANDALL, KRISTIN SCOTT THOMAS, IMELDA STAUNTON AND HARRIET WALTER
Filming begins today on new productions of Alan Bennett’s critically acclaimed and multi-award-winning Talking Heads monologues, which first aired on BBC Television in 1988 and 1998. Ten of the original pieces will be re-made with the addition of two new ones written by Bennett last year. They are produced by Nicholas Hytner’s London Theatre Company and Kevin Loader, and will air in the coming months on BBC One.
As the British public service broadcaster, the BBC has a key role to play in continuing to offer new programming for our audience at this time of national crisis. The contained nature of Bennett’s monologues allowed the opportunity to tell timely and relevant stories while following the latest government guidelines on safe working practices during Covid-19.
Alan Bennett says: “In such difficult circumstances, that the BBC should choose to remount both series of Talking Heads, and produce two entirely new ones, is a comfort and a huge compliment. I hope a new generation of actors will get and give as much pleasure as we did twenty and thirty years ago.”
Nicholas Hytner, Bennett’s long-term collaborator and Lead Director and Producer, says: “Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads are among the masterworks of one of the very greatest writers in TV, film and theatre history. It has been a profound and fascinating experience to work out a way of making them again, this time with a company of phenomenal actors who are the equal of those who first made them; with a group of leading theatre directors, colleagues and friends of long standing; and with a team behind the camera that represents the best of the British TV and film industries. It is a wonderful bonus that two of the 2020 Talking Heads are totally new, written only a short time before the current crisis began. And everyone involved has been working in an unprecedented way, rigorously observing social distancing, entirely rethinking ways of filmmaking that until a few weeks ago seemed routine. The shoot will never bring any of us within touching distance of each other, but I hope that in every other way it will reach out and touch millions of viewers. We are all of us beyond grateful to the BBC for setting us this challenge.”
Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, says: “Covid-19 has laid waste to drama production in the UK, but it has also posed a challenge: how do we adhere to restrictions while still offering British viewers the chance to lose themselves in great stories at this time of national need? Full of insight, wit, daring and compassion, these are stories of individual lives – but of great resonance. I am so grateful to Alan, Nicholas Hytner, Kevin Loader and the whole team for the caution, ingenuity and wisdom which they have shown in bringing these stories to the screen.”
The Talking Heads monologues were first broadcast on the BBC in 1988 and 1998, breaking new ground for television and widely celebrated as Alan Bennett’s masterpieces. They had a stellar cast including Patricia Routledge, Maggie Smith, Stephanie Cole, Julie Walters, Thora Hird, Eileen Atkins, David Haig and Penelope Wilton, alongside Bennett himself. The monologues won two BAFTAs, an RTS award and have also since been included on the A-level and GCSE English Literature syllabus.
The monologues which will air on BBC One in the coming months are as follows:
[Listed in alphabetical order]
Jodie Comer in Her Big Chance (1988), directed by Josie Rourke
Monica Dolan in The Shrine (2019), directed by Nicholas Hytner
Martin Freeman in A Chip in the Sugar (1988), directed by Jeremy Herrin
Tamsin Greig in Nights in the Garden of Spain (1998), directed by Marianne Elliott
Sarah Lancashire in An Ordinary Woman (2019), directed by Nicholas Hytner
Lesley Manville in Bed Among the Lentils (1988), directed by Nicholas Hytner
Lucian Msamati in Playing Sandwiches (1998), directed by Jeremy Herrin
Maxine Peake in Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet (1988), directed by Sarah Frankcom
Rochenda Sandall in The Outside Dog (1998), directed by Nadia Fall
Kristin Scott Thomas in The Hand of God (1998), directed by Jonathan Kent
Imelda Staunton in A Lady of Letters (1988), directed by Jonathan Kent
Harriet Walter in Soldiering On (1988), directed by Marianne Elliott
Filming is taking place at BBC Elstree Studios using existing sets. The Talking Heads production team are following the latest government guidelines on Covid-19 to ensure that the series is made safely and responsibly.
Talking Heads will be produced by London Theatre Company for the BBC One, with BBC Studios providing the studios facilities. The series will be produced by Nicholas Hytner and Kevin Loader for London Theatre Company and co-produced by Steve Clark Hall. Executive Producers are Nick Starr and Anthony Jones for LTC, and Piers Wenger for the BBC. The series has been commissioned by Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, and Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content.
Some Enchanted Evening: A free online concert celebrating the music of Rodgers + Hammerstein was streamed last night by Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester
Available until Sunday 3rd May
Last night Hope Mill Theatre streamed a special online concert featuring an array of musical theatre performers, celebrating the much-loved music from legendary songwriting duo Rodgers + Hammerstein.
The concert saw the cast perform their songs at home, with performances edited together into a complete concert experience, hosted by Hope Mill Theatre’s founders William Whelton and Joseph Houston.
The line-up featured West End stars Maria Friedman (Ragtime, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) Louise Dearman (Wicked, Sideshow) and Sophie-Louise Dann (Lend Me A Tenor, Bend it Like Beckham)
The venue was also thrilled to introduce cast members from the cancelled forthcoming production of Cinderella, Matthew Blaker, Julie Yammanee and Cinderella herself, Georgie Buckland. Buckland is a recent graduate from Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and was found through the venue’s open call for the role which received of over 500 submissions.
The concert also included performers from past Hope Mill Theatre productions – Joel-Harper Jackson (Little Women), Laura Harrison (Parade) and Simbi Akande (Putting It Together). As well as Any Dream Will Do contestant Keith Jack.
Songs by the legendary Rodgers + Hammerstein performed included Shall We Dance (The King and I),Edelweiss (The Sound of Music), I Can’t Say No (Oaklahoma!), and of course, Some Enchanted Evening (South Pacific), as well as a ‘singalong’ version of Do, Re, Mi (The Sound of Music). Plus a moving version of You’ll Never Walk Alone (Carousel) reflecting on the current situation and paying tribute to the NHS.
Some Enchanted Evening also featured some special guest hosts and familiar theatrical faces who introduced the songs and paid tribute to Hope Mill Theatre.
These included Hope Mill Theatre patrons Tracie Bennett, Russell T Davies and Denise Welch, director and choreographer Andrew Wright, writer Jonathan Harvey and many supporters of the theatre including Hayley Tamaddon, Sally Dynevor, Nick Winston and more.
The concert was free, but donations can be made by audiences to raise money to help the venue to reopen when the time comes, and to get back on its feet. Full details of this can be found here: https://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/support-us
A video of one of the numbers from the concert – A Lovely Night from Cinderella – can be downloaded and shared here: https://we.tl/t-bMP0FZdBSR
A Lovely Night features orchestrations by Jason Carr, Musical Direction Leo Munby. Cinderella – Georgie Buckland. Charlotte – Helen Aylott and Gabrielle – Eliza Waters
Joseph Houston, Artistic Director of Hope Mill Theatre, said: “We have worked so hard to bring together our first online production. It is so important to us that we continue to share work and keep engaged with our wonderful audiences. We have had so much support since closing and we are extremely grateful. Theatre is such a powerful art form, so it is important that for now, we continue to bring escapism & entertainment online. However, I think it proves even more the importance and sheer joy that live theatre gives and certainly makes me so excited to be back in a theatre seat. We hope you enjoy our concert and can keep supporting us through these difficult times.”
Like many theatres across the country, Hope Mill Theatre has been closed since Tuesday 17th March due to Covid-19.
The venue ceased all productions and made the difficult decision to cancel their first in-house production of the year, which was to be the UK theatrical premiere of the Broadway version of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, which was due to open in May.
NOËL COWARD FOUNDATION MARKS CENTENARY OF PLAYWRIGHT’S FIRST PRODUCED PLAY WITH £50,000 DONATION TO ACTING FOR OTHERS COVID-19 FUND
In the centenary year of Noël Coward’s first produced full-length play, I’ll Leave It To You,
the Noël Coward Foundation is donating £50,000 to Acting for Others, an organisation founded in 1963 as The Combined Theatrical Charities. Coward was an early champion of the charity, alongside Richard Attenborough and Laurence Olivier.
The donation is being offered in response to the extraordinarily difficult circumstances that the theatre profession is currently in, and will be distributed to two of Acting for Others’ member charities – the Actors’ Children’s Trust, formerly known as The Actors’ Orphanage, of which Noël Coward was president from 1934 to 1955, and the Royal Theatrical Fund in support of those working off-stage, either in front of house or backstage roles.
Noël Coward said on the opening of his play Blithe Spirit in 1941:
“It’s a special occasion because it proved that in spite of blitzes, discomforts, inconveniences and alarms, the theatre can still function. How proud I am to be able to make even the small contribution of this play towards our universal valiant determination to get on with the job.”
Alan Brodie, Chair of the Noël Coward Foundation, said today, “This current crisis has caused us to postpone events we had planned to celebrate the centenary of Noël Coward’s first play. Noël was a leader in the theatrical community organising events and bringing together his colleagues and celebrity friends to fundraise in support of the industry, so it feels fitting to use the available funds during this time to support the theatrical profession he loved so much. It’s not just actors but everyone connected to the theatre from the creative teams to back stage and front of house workers who needs help and we are therefore pleased to support Acting for Others which has been doing so much to help the many individuals and families in our profession most financially affected by Covid-19.
Noël’s connection with Acting for Others goes back a considerable way and the Noël Coward Foundation looks forward to further collaborations in the future.”
Stephen Waley-Cohen, co-Chair of Acting for Others added, “We are delighted that through the Noël Coward Foundation, Acting for Others has generously been awarded £50,000. Noël Coward was one of our Founders, and 55 years later, recognising this connection, we are deeply grateful for this support which will be of great benefit to those in need who are supported by our Member Charities.”
Sonia Friedman Productions today announced that Nicole Raquel Dennis will play the role of Effie White in the first ever UK tour of Dreamgirls.
A finalist on ITV’s The Voice in 2019, Nicole wowed viewers and judges at her blind audition, performing Dreamgirls mega-hit ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’ alongside team mentor Jennifer Hudson. Hudson won an Oscar (Best Supporting Actress) for her portrayal of Effie White in the 2006 Oscar-winning motion picture adaptation of Dreamgirls, which also starred Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Foxx.
Before opening in the UK Tour of Dreamgirls, Nicole remains in the original West End company of Dear Evan Hansen (Nöel Coward Theatre) in which she plays the role of Alana Beck.
Nicole’s other London stage credits include The Book of Mormon (Prince of Wales Theatre), Waitress (Adelphi Theatre) and the West End production of Dreamgirls (Savoy Theatre).
This sensational, multi-award winning new production of Dreamgirls had its critically acclaimed West End premiere in December 2016 at London’s Savoy Theatre, 35 years on from opening on Broadway. The UK tour will begin this autumn and visit Bristol, Milton Keynes, Blackpool, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Sunderland, Hull, Nottingham, Liverpool, Norwich, Canterbury and Leeds. Further venues and dates are to be announced.
Nicole Raquel Dennis said:
I am so thrilled that I can finally speak about something I’ve been holding onto for the LONGEST time! I will be playing Effie White in the first ever UK tour of ‘Dreamgirls’.
Also, I cannot wait to be back with my ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ Fam on the stage at the Noel Coward once theatres reopen and so thrilled that following that, I will be going on tour in this mammoth role!
Effie has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl and now I will get to share her with audiences around the UK. To say I’m excited is an understatement.
Producer, Sonia Friedman said:
“We are delighted to be able to announce that having wowed viewers on ITV’s The Voice, as well as audiences in the West End, the incredibly gifted Nicole Dennis will be re-joining the Dreamgirls family to play Effie White on tour throughout the UK.
The multi-award winning Broadway classic Dreamgirls is an empowering and hugely entertaining story of hope, redemption, sisterhood, and resillience with an uplifting, and extraordinary score of now-classic hit songs from the golden era of American soul, R&B, and disco. It is a shining example of the best of American musical theatre, and the escapism that we will all need soon.
Nicole Dennis will play the role of Effie White in the Dreamgirls UK tour at certain performances with further casting to be announced soon.
This award winning production is Directed and Choreographed by Olivier® and Tony® Award winning Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Mean Girls, Disney’s Aladdin and Something Rotten!), with Set and Costume Design by Tim Hatley, Lighting Design by Hugh Vanstone, Sound Design by Richard Brooker, Hair Design by Josh Marquette and Music Supervision by Nick Finlow.
With Book and Lyrics by Tom Eyen and Music by Henry Krieger, with Additional Material by Willie Reale, the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls, Directed and Choreographed by Michael Bennett, opened in 1981 and subsequently won six Tony® Awards. The original cast recording won two Grammy® Awards for Best Musical Album and Best Vocal Performance for Jennifer Holliday’s ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.’
The Original London Cast Recording of hit West End musical Dreamgirls is available via Sony Masterworks Broadway.
The UK Tour of Dreamgirls is produced by Sonia Friedman Productions, Greenleaf Productions, Fakston Productions, Rupert Gavin, Tulchin Bartner Productions, Griffin Dohr, Adam Blanshay Productions in association with 1001 Nights Productions, Steven Rivellino, Glass Half Full Productions.
Due to current government guidelines resulting in a delay to the production, the producers of SISTER ACT announced today that performances in London and on tour have now been rescheduled.
SISTER ACT was due to open at Curve, Leicester this month with a London run at the Eventim Apollo from 21 July 2020 to 30 August 2020. The London run at the Eventim Apollo is now rescheduled to open 20 July 2021 where it will play until 29 August 2021.
All the latest tour news, along with full details of future productions, will be announced in the coming weeks and ticketholders for the tour will be contacted by the venue they purchased tickets from. Casting for the tour will be announced soon.
In London, the show will star the previously announced Whoopi Goldberg as ‘Deloris Van Cartier’ and Jennifer Saunders as ‘Mother Superior’. Further casting for the London run will be announced soon.
Whoopi Goldberg, who is also one of the producers of Sister Act, said today, “We are thrilled with the overwhelming support from people all over the world who have been buying tickets for Sister Act. We are all disappointed not to be able to do the show this summer, but Jennifer and I can’t wait to see you all next year”.
Jamie Wilson said today, “Due to COVID-19, We have made the very difficult decision to reschedule our London run of Sister Act to 2021. By rescheduling the production exactly 12 months later to the same performance dates, meaning ticket holders keeping their same seats, we believe we have made the best decision open to us. I would like to thank the team at the Eventim Apollo, Whoopi, Jennifer and everyone involved with the show who have reworked their schedules to make this move possible.We can’t wait to open the convent next year and share this incredibly celebratory musical with you all”.
Whoopi Goldberg plays Deloris Van Cartier for the first time on stage having played the part in the hugely successful films Sister Act and Sister Act 2 – Back in the Habit. Whoopi is one of the few people to hold the distinction of winning the four major American awards – an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony. As well as Sister Act, Whoopi’s other film credits include Ghost and The Color Purple. On TV she has hosted the Oscars four times and is a moderator and co-host on The View. On stage Whoopi has appeared in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Xanadu on Broadway, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and her own acclaimed one-woman show.
Jennifer Saunders is a multi award-winning actress, comedian and writer. She is one half of the successful comedy duo French and Saunders and also wrote and starred in five series, three specials and a feature film of her hit comedy Absolutely Fabulous. Her many other TV credits include writing and starring in Jam and Jerusalem and guest starring in Friends and Roseanne. Film credits include the voice of the evil Fairy Godmother in Shrek 2. On stage she has appeared in Lady Windermere’s Fan at the Vaudeville Theatre and Blithe Spirit at Bath Theatre Royal and Duke of York’s Theatre in the West End. Sister Act the musical will mark Jennifer’s musical theatre debut.
SISTER ACT has direction by Bill Buckhurst, choreography by Alistair David, Set and Costume Design by Morgan Large, Lighting Design by Tim Mitchell, Sound Design by Tom Marshall and Musical Supervision by Stephen Brooker. Casting is by Stuart Burt.
SISTER ACT features original music by Tony® and 8-time Oscar® winner Alan Menken(Disney’s Aladdin, Enchanted), lyrics by Glenn Slater, book by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner with additional book material by Douglas Carter Beane. SISTER ACT is produced by Jamie Wilson and Whoopi Goldberg. Tom Leonardis, Head of Whoopi’s production company, is also on the producing team.
Based on the iconic movie, this sparkling tribute to the universal power of friendship, sisterhood and music tells the hilarious story of the disco diva whose life takes a surprising turn when she witnesses a murder. Under protective custody she is hidden in the one place she won’t be found – a convent! Disguised as a nun and under the suspicious watch of Mother Superior, Deloris helps her fellow sisters find their voices as she unexpectedly rediscovers her own.
the theatre industry’s morale-boosting music video
– available to watch online from Friday 24 April 12:00 BST –
Dame Vera Lynn extends her personal message of love and best wishes to the theatre industry in a new and exclusive free online film. “We’ll Meet Again” will premiere on Friday 24 April at 12:00 BST on Official London Theatre’s YouTube Channel: https://youtu.be/dTWy9jim7Mw. The video shall then remain on OLT’s platform to be viewed at any time.
Alfie Boe joins the previously announced cast of West End stars featured in this special collaboration produced by Dominic Ferris, with creative direction by Martin Milnes and visual direction by Tom Large.
The video features socially-distanced West End stars united in reassurance that West End and UK theatres shall once more rise and thrive – some sunny day.
“We’ll Meet Again” stars Alfie Boe, BLAKE, Gyles Brandreth, Sharon D. Clarke, Jonah Collier, Bill Deamer, Louise Dearman, Kerry Ellis, Shaun Escoffery, Ferris & Milnes, Maria Friedman, Bradley Jaden, Cassidy Janson, Joe Pasquale, Hannah Waddingham, Layton Williamsand Michael Xavier.
The sixteen-strong choir provided by Capital Voices, features John Addison, Katie Birtill, Mary Carewe, David Combes, Yona Dunsford, Lance Ellington, Kate Graham, Matt Little, CJ Neale, Andrew Playfoot, Lucy Potterton, Annie Skates(who also created vocal arrangements), Patrick Smyth, James Spilling, Laura TebbuttandStephen Weller.
Musician Léon Charles, grandson of “We’ll Meet Again” composer Hughie Charles, is delighted the song has once again proved an inspiration: “‘We’ll Meet Again’ is about the wonderful optimism in the face of uncertainty that those who were close, but for now, apart, will be together again, ‘some sunny day’. I’m thrilled that my grandfather’s music, with Ross Parker’s lyrics, is being performed in the spirit in which it was intended.”
Pianist andproducer Dominic Ferris oversaw the creative collaboration, enlisting the help of producer Anthony Cherry, who rallied his Friday Night Is Music Nightteam to the cause. Dominic said: “This project started life as a simple idea, uniting this country’s wonderful theatrical talent to boost morale among theatregoers and professionals alike. Compiling a multi-layered recording comprising dozens of audio and video files inevitably brings with it some technical challenges, but it has been a rewarding process to see all these elements come together. I’d like to extend my thanks to Anthony Cherry, Susan Fleet, my fellow creatives and all the artistes involved.”
Creative Director Martin Milnes said “It has been important to convey that the theatre is timeless. Therefore, this film is dedicated to the audiences and professionals of yesterday, today … and tomorrow. Our current theatre owes so much to everything which has gone before. And the theatre of tomorrow will be shaped by what we make of it today.”
“We’ll Meet Again” was developed with The Stay Inn, an online digital entertainment space hosting theatre, comedy and live stream concerts.
“Directorial daring and a constant fleet-footedness”
The Daily Telegraph
Today, onShakespeare’s birthday, Cheek by Jowl offers a free livestream of their production of Measure for Measure on YouTube for 30 days. Directed by Declan Donnellan for Cheek by Jowl and Moscow Pushkin Drama Theatre, the production embarked on an international tour before opening at the Barbican on 16 April 2015.Performed in Russian with English subtitles, Measure for Measure joins the company’s production of The Winter’s Tale (2017) which will now be streamed until 25 May.
Vivid and uncommonly moving” The New York Times
With his unique brew of laughter and high seriousness, in Measure for Measure, Shakespeare dissects the nature of government, love, and justice – asking unsettling questions about how we are governed, exploring the “complex relationships between those in power, and ordinary citizens” (Kristina Matvienko).
Hailed in Moscow as ‘a shattering portrait of contemporary Russia’ (Novaya Gazeta), a corrupt government policing a chaotic city’s convents, prisons and brothels is explored in Cheek by Jowl’s Measure for Measure. Through ‘a series of swiftly changing spectacular scenes’ (Teatral) the production explodes as ‘a real thriller, piercing the heart of the entire audience’ (Mir 24).
Filmed in April 2015 at the Barbican, London. Produced by Cheek by Jowl and the Moscow Pushkin Drama Theatre.
h CLUB LONDON TO LAUNCH FREE ONLINE MEMBERSHIP FOR MEMBERS OF THE CREATIVE INDUSTRIES DURING LOCKDOWN
Leading arts members club h Club London (formerly The Hospital Club), are today pleased to announce the launch of a brand new free online membership for people who work in the creative industries. The initiative will last for the duration of the COVID-19 lockdown period, and will provide much-needed solace for the creative communities, which have been particularly badly impacted by the pandemic. The club, which has suspended all fees for current members, hopes to support and connect individuals during this challenging time.
This new online membership will provide creatives with much needed networking opportunities with new and existing members of the clubs in varying creative industries, both in London and LA. Members will be given access to the club’s content via desktop and app which includes: the members news feed, where people can callout for project collaborators and test new ideas; the members network, where members can directly message each other, and the newsletter, which includes news from the club, helpful content and links to contributor blogs.
Members will also be given access to the specially tailored online members event programme, which includes informative, educational, and fun programming. The first of these events is taking place tonight (Thursday 23rd April), with the club playing host to celebrities and authors who will read from much loved books for World Book Night. Those interested will need to register at https://hclub.com/general/event/booking/2389 and will be sent a link to virtually attend the event.
The membership is open to people who work in advertising, marketing & PR, architecture & design, digital media, fashion, film, gaming, music, publishing & writing, sports, tech, television broadcast, theatre & performance and visual arts. Interested parties will need to fill out an application via https://bit.ly/hClubOnline, and all successful applicants will be notified within 48 hours of submitting an application.
Rob Seals, MD said:
“We are fortunate to be in a position to be able to reach out and support those in the Creative Industries and give something back in the form of this online membership. In what has been and will continue to be a period of uncertainty for many in our community hopefully this small gesture will see some people gain a big benefit.”
“In these unprecedented times, amidst a crisis, there is one thing that unites us. We are all human.”
Butterfly Theatre Company has brought together a community of 150 people from all over the world to create a unique video version of Shylock’s famous monologue from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, to be released across its social media channels to mark Shakespeare’s Birthday on Thursday 23 April, which is also the day that the first Coronavirus human vaccine trials are due to start in the UK.
“I am a Jew. Hath
not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
any human is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison
us, do we not die?”
Butterfly Theatre Company specialises in site-specific, immersive Shakespeare in the UK, Europe and beyond with the aim to make Shakespeare that authentically connects and is relevant and accessible. Recent projects include an immersive production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in an underground cave complex, Kents Cavern in Torquay, Romeo and Juliet amidst the ruins and gardens at Glastonbury Abbey, and Secrets Unlocked, an immersive telling of Jersey’s history through Shakespeare at 16 New Street, a Georgian Town House in Jersey Town centre.
Aileen Gonsalves, Butterfly Theatre Artistic Director and Company Founder said,
“I went to Terezin concentration camp in Prague. I went with ISTA International School Theatre Association with young people from around the world. To devise and respond and collaborate and make work. We heard from a 92-year-old survivor Doris Grozdanovičová – as we sat in the camp with her it was truly profound, we could not get over how humans had done this to each other.
We explored how easy it is to dehumanise each other. The homeless person who we stop looking in the eye because we’re embarrassed…can’t we just connect and say something- anything? Isn’t not connecting potentially the start that ends in the horrors that happened? Whatever people are they are HUMAN. We explored the Shylock speech and an idea started to grow in me.
I am so happy to do this project NOW as instead of highlighting our great divisions, it’s a time when we must be united, we can’t help but feel our universal suffering, discoveries, revelations, healing and our vulnerability becomes clear as we are all ’subject to the same diseases’. And today the scientists are working from round the world together. Testing on humans to ensure we are ‘healed by the same means’
Butterfly believe that truthful acting is at the forefront of what connects the actors to the audience and so during this time of social isolation, we ask ourselves, what connects us now? Not only are we interacting online with friends, family, and colleagues possibly more than we did before this crisis, but also, ironically, this global suffering has created a global unity. We are all experiencing the same situation, we are all affected, we are all vulnerable. No other Shakespeare speech could be truer to this, at this time, than Shylock’s “I am a Jew” speech. We have created a compilation video that combines individual and unique readings of this famous speech which have been altered depending on how the reader uniquely identifies as a human being.
This video is Butterfly’s response to the unique world we now find ourselves in.”
Aileen Gonsalves trained as an actor at the Central School of Speech and Drama and works professionally in film, theatre, television, and radio. She has worked extensively at the RSC across her career. Assistant Director to Tim Supple on Midnight’s Children,Greg Doran on All’s Well That Ends Welland also with Greg she was the associate director on the groundbreaking motion capture production of The Tempestin 2017. She also directed The First Encounters The Tempest for The Swan and UK tour. She has been the RSC International and National Youth Ensemble director since 2008, as well as an RSC education associate practitioner.
Aileen teaches her new method of acting The Gonsalves Method at various drama institutions nationally and internationally. She was Head of the MA in Acting at ArtsEd Drama school 2011-2015, Head of Acting at Drama Studio London 2018-19, Currently teaching actors and directors at RADA and UWL.
She directs the majority of Butterfly productions using The Gonsalves Method and is writing a book due to be published by Bloomsbury at the end of 2020 ‘Shakespeare and Meisner’ for the New Arden Shakespeare Performance Series.