Words: Sarah Munday
Through blood, sweat, but no tears, our community production was a big success, in more ways than one.
More than 240 participants took part in The Rights Of Others, which played to full houses earlier this month (8-11 July).
As The Marlowe’s Press Officer and mum to one of the younger participants (more from him later), I guess I have a unique take on the piece. But it doesn’t matter which hat I wear, my resounding opinion is the same: what an amazing feat! How did it all come together so smoothly …
One of the people responsible for this is our Arts Management Trainee, Emma Nicholas, who produced The Rights Of Others. Two mornings after the night before, she described herself as “the legs of the swan under the water.”
The production was a steep learning curve for Emma, who only joined us in September. “Even though I worked on things like The Marlowe Young Musician Of The Year and Canterbury Children’s Festival, this was a huge leap for me, mainly because of the scale of it,” she says.
“It was stressful but I relished that. So much rested on my shoulders and there were a few moments where I wondered how we’d pull it off. Seeing it all come together was so satisfying.”
Chairing production meetings, organising schedules, licencing and risk assessments are some of the more practical aspects and even at this point, Emma still doubted her abilities: “I was a little unsure of my role and I thought I’d just listen and learn. I like being terrified!
“It wasn’t until the dress run when I realised I ‘did a thing’. And then when I saw the audience on opening night …”
A tearful moment for some, but not Emma: “I never cry!”.
On performance days, Emma’s focus was on Desperate Measures, the Studio play, rather than the promenade performances. She left the latter in the capable hands of Rose Bonsier, our Theatre Technical Trainee.
Andrew Dawson, our Head Of Creative Projects, has praised Rose for her “excellent and gracious approach to production management”.
I caught snatches of The Rights Of Others through the week (and before), but it wasn’t until the Saturday that I watched the promenade all the way through (twice) and Desperate Measures. The atmosphere around the building, in both the public and private spaces, was great: a real buzz of nerves and excitement.
My lasting images: the whole company kitted out in their boiler suits; the bloodied face of Justice; the young dancers; the comradery; Robin Hood in the On The Banks Of Runnymeade scene; many stand-out performances in Desperate Measures.
But what did those taking part think? I briefly chatted with some of them and just loved their enthusiasm, honesty and dedication.
Henry Deighton, one of our more senior participants, belongs to our adult acting class The Marlowe People’s Company (and has done for some time; he took part in last year’s inaugural community production, The Garden Of England): “Yet another great experience for everyone – those taking part and hopefully, those watching. Andy’s vision is amazing.”
Another member of The People’s Company is Ryan Hill (29): “What I’ve liked is that it gets me out of my normal life [Ryan is a lifeguard]. I’ve had a lot of worries in the last few months, but thanks to this I’ve been able to forget them for a while. It’s been great meeting so many different people, and getting to know them.”
Connor Fentiman (19) is a member of The Marlowe Senior Company: “It’s the first time I’ve done anything like this and it’s been brilliant. The best bit is that we all came together and were able to express ourselves without being judged. It’s been hard work but in the end we have produced something that touches the heart.”
Holly Lobban (11) is a member of The Marlowe Junior Company: “I play King John and had lots of lines to learn. It took me a while to learn them but now I know them without thinking about them. It’s really exciting, especially when it was being filmed.”
Edward Mairs (my boy) is nine and also a Marlowe Junior: “It was really interesting and I learnt a lot, especially about the Magna Carta. I liked working with Martin [Gibbons, practitioner] and I learned a lot working with the older ones – that they can be really sweaty!”
The last word is from our Head Of Creative Projects Andy, the man behind the vision for the project, and the writing and directing of Desperate Measures: “These projects are never easy and yet the invasion of 240 non-professionals across the theatre site was welcomed with generosity – it really is a privilege working with such a diverse group of participants. We all can’t wait for the next one, which will be even bigger and better!”
Finally, some advice for our Finance Manager, Paul Turner: you can’t always have your cake and eat it (especially when it’s a prop for Desperate Measures!).
Find out more about the project here.
The Rights Of Others was developed with the support of The Kobler Trust, Furley Page Solicitors and The Marlowe Theatre Development Trust.