Alra:Article Issue 7

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this issue


Graduate news P.2 Line Up—Abigail Moronkeji P.3 MonoBox—Larner Taylor P.4 Gavin Shankland—Article P.5


Blind/ Doing the Business P.6-7

Industry Insight: Roman Stefanski Associate Director, Polka Theatre

Getting into Children’s theatre Performing for a younger audience first and foremost is exactly the same as performing for any other audience it’s just they need an extra microsecond to take it in and they have smaller bottoms so you can fit more of them in! Also the laws of mass hysteria accounts very much with a child audience, you can make them laugh, you can make them cry but if one loses attention then you’ve lost the whole heard. There are various tools in the toolbox that are needed to make a competent actor that can do children’s theatre, but primarily I need the ‘Good Actor’. -Obviously you have worked lots with our lovely Rob Saunders, do you think ALRA equips our actors to work in children’s theatre? Yes, but at the same time, Rob is a superb actor for multi-role, with budget cuts we call it economy acting not doubling-up! We need an actor that is versatile and seeing Rob’s work at ALRA straight away I realized his aptitude for versatility. It is his bigness of acting that I loved; it’s not the TV actor we need it’s the stage actor with the magnifying glass. Continued on back page

What we’ve been up to recently: To welcome in the new year and another action packed term at ALRA, we decided to shake things up and get our lovely students involved in writing and contributing towards the ALRA:Article, plus it’s high time Maddy and I stopped hogging all the limelight and let you the students and graduates decide what we write about! So to kick start 2014 we have called upon the talents of Jess Nesling and her sharp reviewing skills, plus Abigail Moronkeji, Larner Taylor and Gavin Shankland who highlight the best new writing schemes, where to find those meaty monologues and directing workshops that will knock your socks off! So what’s been happening at ALRA Towers over the past couple of months? Well we bid farewell to our PG students and released them in to the wondrous world of acting, but to console ourselves we will be falling in to the Dickensian world of Oliver Twist directed by the stupendously gifted Roman Stefanski. Our BA students in the North have just completed their showcase which was attended well at both Trafalgar Studios and The Royal Exchange, not to mention their cracking review from The Stage! Audiences will then be flung in to the fantastical world of jolly hockey sticks for Daisy Pulls It Off which will perform in the South and at The Courtyard theatre in central London.

We also have our two productions in the North; The Mandate and The Beau Defeated which promise farcical fun and plots as twisted as a session of Ashtanga yoga, plus it will perform at The Kings Arms theatre in Salford. On a sadder note the school will be saying goodbye to a key member of staff who has helped reinforced our mission in producing experienced television and radio actors. He has made the graduate films the slick and polished products they are today and we will miss him dearly, Good luck Dan we wish you the best of luck! Our graduates have been as busy as ever with Liam Jeavons due to appear in WPC 56 - a five part drama on the BBC and Nicole Black who is currently appearing in The Woman in Black at the Fortune Theatre. We hope you enjoy the new structure of the article and please let us know if there is something you are burning to write or shout about.

Article: Maddy Anholt


It’s the age-old irony isn’t it… ‘we want experienced actors’… but if you don’t employ me how am I ever expected to get that experience? What about if an actor doesn’t have an agent.. Well then they need to get into something they can be seen by an agent in… it only runs for three nights and the agent missed it? Well, better luck next time. Frustrating, isn’t it?

Graduate news: news: Graduate A brief selection of notable graduate news since the last edition...

Nicole Black (3Y 2012) Nicole graduated in 2012 and has recently landed the role of The Woman in Black at the Fortune Theatre in Covent Garden. The show will run from 14th January until 18th October 2014. Congratulations Nicole, we are all really proud of you!

As with dieting, the acting game has no quick-fix. Unless you’re phenomenally lucky or have bags of cash lying around then there is no easy route. It’s any man’s game, you always have to be on your toes, writing letters, sending emails, researching.

Nicholas Agnew (3Y 2008) We caught Nicholas Agnew in BBC’s Call the Midwife, also starring another ALRA graduate, Miranda Hart. Good to see grads working together!

I’m in the same boat at the minute, thinking of ingenious ways to raise the money I need to take my next show to the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Where there’s a will there’s a way I keep telling myself. What I’ve come to realise more and more since graduating from ALRA is that nobody will care about your place in the industry more than you. Sure, an agent, a friend, a family member will be pleased to see you doing well but when you aren’t, when things go a bit quiet, then you realise just how lonely it is out there. When I graduated I was told time and time again “sorry, we have someone like you on our books already ”. It was frustrating but then I took a long, hard look in the mirror and had a little think about who I was and what mark I wanted to make on the industry. That’s when I made the conscious decision—if no one will give me work, I’ll give myself work! And once you have those first few jobs under your belt, self-created or not, your confidence grows and you understand a little more the steps you need to take to start heading in the right direction.

Liam Jeavons (3Y 2012) ,

It seems Kelsi hasn’t stopped working since she graduated in 2011! She has taken jobs with Holland Park Theatre, Lyric Theatre, Apollo Theatre, TARA Arts and Theatre Royal, Plymouth and now she has already cemented work as ASM with the English Touring Opera! She will certainly tell you hard work does pay off!

Well done Liam, we couldn’t be prouder!

Congratulations Kelsi, we’re finding it hard to keep up with you!

Felicity Elder (PG ALRA North 2013) and Barney Cooper (3Y ALRA North 2013) Two of our ALRA North grads have already struck work in Design 4 Living at the King’s Arms, Salford. Design 4 Living is a reworking of Coward’s seminal tale of the upper class dealing with their reason for being. It’s Coward’s comedic foray into existentialism stripped of its grandiose setting. It’s Coward after the fall of the banks and the rise of the welfare debate. It’s Coward without Class. Good work guys!

When you jump back on those metaphorical scales and see there hasn’t quite been a miracle but there has been progress it makes it all worth while. It’s all about funneling the frustration and using it to fuel self-belief. Quietly showing people, “no, you most certainly don’t have someone like me on your books.”


Kelsi Lewis (SMTT 2011)

The immensely talented Liam Jeavons who graduated from the three year course in 2012 has done extremely well for himself and landed the role of new recruit PC Tommy Perkins in the second series of BBC One period drama WPC 56. Liam is in all five episodes and plays on BBC One at 14:15 from Monday 10th February – 14th February.


Autumn shows at ALRA

Finding it hard to get work? Ever heard of

Line Up?

So you've graduated from ALRA and thought work would be a little more available? Unfortunately this is sometimes not the case for some. Never the less, there are still GREAT opportunities out there for you, so do not be disheartened! Have you ever thought about making your own work? Well get writing as this could be the start of something fantastic. Vertical Line Theatre (awardwining company formed in 2010) presents Line Up this coming March; a bi-monthly platform for innovative new writers. Here's how it works, each event is made up of around 20 performers; show casing 5 short pieces under 20 minutes each. Each piece is selected by a panel and given performers and a director to work with in order to bring the pieces to life. These pieces are then proudly presented in front of an exciting audience in a great location, Greenwich Theatre. Not only is this an amazing way to show case your work, but also a wonderful way to partner up with others and network. Sound good to you? Well get down to see the Line Up event this March and if you fancy it; GET WRITING, GET INVOLVED! If you would like more details check out Vertical Lines website and other social media. Vertical Line also have other ways to get involved in writing and also performing, so it is worth Verticle Line Theatre website: facebook: Vertical Line Theatre twitter: @vertical_line To book tickets to see Line Up presented by Verticle Line Theatre on Monday 3rd March 2014 please visit the Greenwich Theatre website. All tickets are ÂŁ6, so you won't break the bank. If you do choose to get involved, all the best and for others just going to watch, enjoy the show. Abigail Moronkeji (Current PG Acting student, ALRA South) Casting Call Pro: view.php?uid=220794 A short review of her work- http://`/


Article Article:: Larner Taylor Finding the right monologue for an audition is imperative but the process can often feel like a box-ticking exercise; is it the right length? Does it fit your casting? Does it contrast other speeches in your repertoire? Does it contain an 'emotional journey'? Amongst all these criteria, the most important question is often forgotten - do you like the speech? It can also be a highly expensive process. One Amazon splurge later and you can often find yourself with unsuitable material from a selection of plays that you half-recollected, half-hoped would contain something that would draw you in. Whilst in search of my own 'perfect' monologue, I attended 'The Mono Box' - a project set up by actor Joan Iyiola (RSC, Young Vic, Bush) and movement director Polly Bennett (NT, RSC, Young Vic) in response to their own monologue crises. Hosting a variety of events, The Mono Box offers actor workshops, Q&As and the opportunity to perform speeches to a panel of industry professionals. Uniquely, the Mono Box also hosts 'play browsing' sessions, allowing actors to trawl through their extensive collection of plays. Donors include publishers, directors, actors and playwrights such as Nick Hern, Cillian Murphy, Simon Stephens and Michael Grandage. I met up with Joan at The Actor's Centre to talk more about the project. What prompted you and Polly to set up the Mono Box ? Knowing that there was no resource for this sort of thing. We have no play libraries but we do have bookshops. Polly and I had done quite a lot of work together with various different people and we thought that we'd present them with a letter which asked the question 'If you could donate a play to a talented, young actor, what would it be?'. It had to be a play that meant something to them; the first play that they directed; a play that launched their career; a play that they wrote. People started writing saying yes, donating plays and writing on the inside cover a note stating the speech that should be looked at. What do you look for in the 'perfect' monologue? It's got to get me in my heart. I look for something that is either a story or experience that I can relate to. It doesn't have to be me personally but I look for a world that I understand. For me, it's the text. I like words that are both natural but that I also probably wouldn't think of. I love playwrights that capture poetry in language. I like monologues that create images, that produce a different way of showing an experience, emotion or scenario. I like it to be alive because in the audition, all I have is the here and now. When choosing a stand-alone monologue do you think it's important to adhere to the given circumstances of the play? Don't take things hugely out of context because you might find you do yourself disservice. However there might be things that you can just ignore in the context of an audition because you may have to create a world to suit you. You might be able to adjust the person that you're talking to or the location of the speech. Without any reference to the context of the play within the speech, there is more license to be imaginative. It's important to have monologues going into an audition. How many do you think an actor should have to hand? I have a friend who had an audition with Declan Donnellan. He did a classical speech and Declan was just like 'Yeah great, can I see another one?' So did another one, then he said, 'Have you got anything else?' He did this about five or six times.. I'm not saying that happens all the time but it's important to have a sense of the parts that you can play and knowing some of them. You don't have to sit in your house and drill ten audition speeches everyday but don't just have one. Always have a back-up. Do you think that speeches that are regularly performed should be avoided? As a young woman, there are so few parts that we are the right age and casting for - and you have to be at peace with that. Lots of young people know Romeo and Juliet, if you are aware of other options that you could play and still connect most to Juliet then my advice would be to do Juliet. Don't worry if a part has been done a lot because the way that you're going to do it is going to be different from somebody else. Sometimes we can forget that we have something unique to offer. There's a lot of new writing at the moment, do you think there's a current trend in contemporary plays? I'm not sure. Identity crisis - I think that's something that's coming up quite a lot. Where is the young person's voice? Who is listening to that voice? The writing that I warm to celebrates and acknowledges that voice because we do have a voice and opinions. I think writers respond to what's going on around us, people like Simon Stephens, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Michaela Coel. They respond to what people's perceptions are and how they try to work that out. Blurred Lines, for example (playing at the Shed) comments on what it is to be a woman today. I'm currently working on the RSC's 'Season of Plays for Women'. There are plays from the 17th century that were looking at women in society - it's been going on for centuries. Visit, or follow @TheMonoBox on twitter. Alternatively, if you have a play that you'd like to donate to The Mono Box collection email to request a pre-paid envelope or send it directly to: THE MONO BOX, c/o HAGGARDS CROWTHER HEATHMANS HOUSE, 19 HEATHMANS ROAD, PARSONS GREEN, SW6 4TJ


Article Article:: Gavin Shankland Gavin Shankland— Year 2 of 3 year Acting course at ALRA North Last year I attended a directing master class led by Richard Gregory (artist director of Quarantine Theatre Company). I went because directing is one area outside of acting that interests me but despite being advertised as I directing workshop it was closer to a lecture about Richard’s work with Quarantine. It was still however very interesting. He began by talking about the work Quarantine does and how they rarely employ actors or indeed anyone that is unknown to the company on a personal level. This further cheesed me off, as I realised that I would likely never be hired by this company. However as Richard began to talk us through their first production (See-Saw) I became very interested in the innovations they had employed. On the way to the theatre and around the building itself members of the cast were planted and were enacting something related to what the audience was going to see in the show but they did not advertise the fact they were in the show so most people would pass them by totally unaware. Upon entering the venue the audience was directing into either door A or door B. When they reach their seats they were greeted by a large red curtain across the stage. Once everyone had settled the curtain dropped and on the other side was the other half of the audience. The performers were planted in the audience and delivered their speeches from where they were sat. The topic of each of their monologues was themselves, they all told a true story about an event from their own life. Nearly all of Quarantine’s shows are built around the company of performers and what they bring into the space (not unlike Storytelling project at ALRA, eh?). He went on to talk about some more recent shows the first being White Trash which featured 7 stereotypical white, working class, youths. He freely admitted that they were a nightmare to work with i.e. bad attendance and timekeeping, getting baked in the toilets during breaks etc. He also threw around words like “messy” and “flawed” but as a description of the work not a criticism. He elaborated on this and talked about how he didn’t mind if things went wrong in performance or if the performers couldn’t be heard. About this time an older guy in the room asked about a show that he was unsure if it had been one of Quarantine’s shows. He mentioned a striking image of a man picking up woman who was about 2 feet tall and placing her on a shelf at the back of the stage and said that imaged had stayed with him. While he was talking Richard had started rummaging through his laptop to come up with the promotional video for the show the man had been describing (Grace). The show had been put on 9 years ago and I was amazed at how much of an effect this had had on the old man as none of Quarantine’s shows have what we might refer to as drama or a definable plot. I have been very careful in the wording of this and have avoided referring to the performers in these shows as ‘actors’ because I’m not sure it is the right term to use when someone is sharing stories from their own life, even when doing so onstage. Image courtesy of


Jim Mannering graduated from the Postgraduate course in 2012. He’s currently playing Mike in Doing the Business by Doug Lucie at the Courtyard Theatre, directed by our very own Saul Reid! I had the pleasure of meeting with him to have a chat about life after ALRA. How is life post-ALRA? It’s good, it is a bit of a shock going from having your days entirely filled with eight hours’ worth of acting-related work onto days and days on end which have nothing to do with acting; it’s an adjustment. From my perspective, I had a show that I went into maybe 3 weeks after I left, for some people it was months, for another person it was just a couple of days. So it does vary but I’m a year older now and it’s been a good, full year. Did you get an agent from the showcase? I did get an agent but I decided to switch later down the line, I mean it’s all quite tactical, you have to shift positions. I’ve been lucky to keep working and in-between I’ve been doing stand-up and stuff to keep performing, keep it fresh. Do you feel that ALRA prepared you for the industry? Is there anything that you would have done differently or would have liked more of, having had the years’ experience? I’d done stuff before, most PGs have done some acting, but I hadn’t done any training. I can easily say that having done the training I’m a more competent actor than I was and I feel a better actor – so even just that confidence that you go in with is worth having. The fact is, they tell you throughout that it’s a vocational course but there’s no guarantee of work. They can’t stress that strongly enough, it is extremely tough out there and Clive is right to keep banging on about that – because it is! But you’ll discover that within two weeks of being out there that is the reality. Moving onto the play! Can you just give a brief introduction and explain what the play’s about? So it’s written by Doug Lucie who was very prominent in the 70s, 80s and early 90s. Then he went out of fashion a little bit. I play a theatre director who has reached the pinnacle of his career, he’s got a nice little theatre that does new writing, it’s very fashionable amongst the “trendy” people. It’s never going to make loads of money but it’s got a massive deficit because, at the time it was written, the Thatcher government was taking funding out of the arts and, at that time, sponsorship from business was coming really strongly into focus and if you didn’t get corporate sponsorship you couldn’t really put stuff on because government subsidies were being slashed so much. I mean it’s not surprising to hear these days because that’s what happens all the time but back then it was quite a shock for theatre directors like me. How is it working with Saul as a director? (Laughs) When is this getting published? I don’t want him to hear me praising him!! Yeah he’s great. He’s extremely insightful. Because there’s so little action and it’s mainly text-based, he is forensic with the text, which is what you need. I think he’s an excellent director and what’s been nice is that, because I knew him before, I’m able to speak more openly with him about what I disagree with, what he’s asking me to do and vice versa. So we’ve been in a position where we can have healthy debates about what we think’s right about the piece. Which you can’t always have with a director that you’ve only just started working with or you’ve only just met. Finally, have you got anything in the pipeline for after this run? Yes, I’ve got an audition next week for Twelfth Night in Bishops Stortford, set in the 20s. Playing Orsino which would be brilliant – I’d be very excited about that! But nothing beyond that, so get back into the comedy maybe. If this year can be as full as last year then I’ll be happy with that. Interview and review by Jess Nesling—Current PG at ALRA South


Review: Jess Nesling It is a truth universally acknowledged that art cutbacks are affecting us all. It is therefore an appropriate decision to stage two of Doug Lucie’s plays back-to-back; Doing the Business and Blind, whose main themes revolve around the role of business sponsorship in the arts. This particular production will be of even more interest to the ALRA community: Doing the Business is directed by our very own Saul Reid and one of the principal characters is played by Jim Mannering, who graduated from the MA course in 2012. Doing the Business hones in on a meeting between two old Oxbridge friends who have taken very different paths in life. Peter (Matthew Carter) is an archetypal yuppie businessman with garish red socks, whereas Mike (Jim Mannering) is the recently announced artistic director of a humble new-writing venue. What they both have in common is their inability to be swayed from their beliefs. Mike is in dire need of sponsorship in order to keep the theatre afloat. He visits his friend out of desperation but the terms for patronage are not as simple as he may have hoped. What unravels is a humorously awkward and often heated discussion between two opposing schools of thought. On the one hand, Mike is passionate about producing new work that provides influential social commentary. Peter, on the other hand, feels that theatre’s sole purpose is to entertain and make money. He epitomises commercialism, refusing to fund a playwright who mentions the IRA without demonising them. And businessmen do not like lesbians. Carter’s Peter is fantastically flamboyant. He is brimming with cringe-worthy business metaphors marked with a nauseating smile. Mannering provides a wonderful contrast. He sits in steely silence, carefully managing his frustration with the aid of cigarettes and whiskey. When he is able to get a word in edgeways his passion and sheer frustration are almost tangible. As director, Reid manages to bring out the humour in Lucie’s text. Despite being caricatures, he has captured believable characters who are utterly watchable for the full 45 minutes. Lucie raises interesting questions about the sacrifices that must be made for sponsorship. One has little doubt as to which side the playwright supports, but he cleverly presents both points of view with equal amounts of provocation and gives both the opportunity to have their say. Blind bluntly attacks the high end art world, run by the conniving and fickle Paul Stone (Daniel Yorke). He is tiring of his eccentric, alcoholic protégée, Maddy Burns (Janna Fox) and his attention drifts to the undiscovered talent of Alan Gillespie (Cameron Harle). Alan’s current patron, Mo Dyer, is brilliantly played by a last-minute replacement. John McKenna manages to encapsulate Mo’s nurturing nature and good intentions - despite being on-script. Unfortunately the text loses focus towards the end, and the audience soon follows. This is not helped by the clunky scene changes, accompanied by unnecessarily loud music that jolts you out of the story. It is, however, a more complex and thought-provoking examination of patronage than its counterpart. Lucie’s strength lies in creating contrasting characters. With the help of director Sean Turner, this stellar cast honours his vision. Fox is particularly captivating, with her unfaltering energy and ability to convey such a plethora of strong emotions. Although these plays were first performed in 1990 and 2002 respectively, the subject matter is by no means outdated. The woes of funding that permeate this fragile industry give a sense of immediacy and significance, albeit with a pinch of humour. Blind/ Doing the Business runs until 23rd February 7:30pm at The Courtyard Theatre, Old Street

Jim Mannering and Matthew Carter

A quick word: WITH

Roman Stefanski cont’d Continued from front page…

Jude Malcomson

Graduate—SMTT course

I spoke to Jude Malcomson who graduated from our Stage Management and Technical Theatre course in 2011. I was very excited to hear she has now cofounded her own theatre company… but it is like no other! Tales of Enchantment, which she set up with her friend and RADA graduate, Frances White, who specialises in interactive fairytale and fantasy adventure. Jude says: "I’ve always wanted to take theatre further than sitting back and letting a scene play out in front of you. Even with immersive theatre, which is already beginning to push those boundaries, the audiences aren’t really ‘involved’. We wanted to add another dimension to theatre, to have the audience take part and affect the outcome of the tale. These days video games are such a big thing because people can connect through them, they are needed in order for the story to evolve. Similarly, with theatre, more and more we see live video chats, backstage tours, a desire to see how the story is made. We want to give this a real-life experience, a chance to be the maker." What’s your next step? We are now a private, limited company which is really exciting. The eventual aim is to move from being site-specific to having our own specific site. Think Alton Towers but for theatre – instead of rides you get theatrical adventures. We are just about to start a Kickstarter Project so that we can hold our first publicbased event in Central London. It’ll be done in the style of a huge Treasure Hunt, a quest, the rescue of the Prince. I won’t say too much more but keep an eye on our website:

I guess it’s almost that classical theatrical concept of really showing to the audience. It’s opening it out for the audience to see; if there is a complicated word or a direction we aren’t used to, then just slow down, present it a bit more so we keep us with you. If you are going to challenge a young audience you need to be careful because you don’t want to confuse. Challenge, yes but confuse, no. The other thing to be aware of with young audiences is the age ranges you’re playing to; so something that is exciting for a 14 year old is terrifying for a 3 year old. I mean simply, just take the blackout - plunge the auditorium into blackout, for us it’s exciting but do it for the three year old and it is upsettingly terrifying and there is no theatre involved, then you’ve lost your house. So it’s understanding those age ranges and how far you can go, and then you’ll know where to take them on the journey. - In terms of our graduates, if they are really excited by the work you do, how can they get involved? Firstly, tell your agent, agencies tend to want to keep their clients away from children’s theatre. Fortunately, that stigma is beginning to fade and the brand of Polka now carries a lot of respect, we do get character actors as well as graduates which is very joyful so I can have a balanced company. My pathway is storytelling; we all love a good story. If you can tell me a good story, Jackanory-ish or whatever, we will listen. The child will listen and the child in us will listen and that’s the kind of actor at Polka we desperately want. TOP TIP: For me the best actor is one who observes and one that can foresee. It’s a blessing in directing for an actor to be quickwitted and on the ball. An observant actor that knows how to present themselves eagerly with a positive attitude and one of a good strong vocal ability. As an actor understanding the world you’re in and using it is key.

Forthcoming shows and events at ALRA Oliver Twist Courtyard Theatre 12th & 13th Feb Daisy Pulls it Off ALRA Theatre 26th Feb– 1st March Courtyard Theatre 5th & 6th March The Mandate ALRA North, Mill at the Pier 12th –15th March Kings Arms, Salford 17th & 18th March The Beau Defeated ALRA North, Mill at the Pier 26th –19th March Kings Arms, Salford 31st March & 1st April ALRA South Showcase 7th April preview ALRA South Theatre 9th April London Trafalgar Studios Contact Theatre, Manchester 11th April Tickets £7.50 bought through Ways to: keep in touch By email: Facebook- find us on: ALRA– The Academy of Live and Recorded Arts Twitter: @ALRADrama Call: 020 8870 6475 Web: