Reality Rating: 4/4
Fidget Factor: 0.4
Academy of Melancholy, a lesson well taught.
You know something is a success when you can’t wait to get back to write about it, tweet about it, shout about it! Most of this review was poured out on the tube journey home, I was so riveted by the performance.
The Old Operating Theatre in London Bridge is gruesomely enchanting. Adding significant detail and history to this story whilst providing an eerie back drop for the performance. It was no surprise that this theatre inspired writer, O’Leary, to create the ‘The Academy of Melancholy’. It suited the piece too well to have been an after thought. Exploring the museum before the action began really got the Dream Team’s audience in the mood; alarmed by the equipment used for child birth and chilled by the cool steel of the operating table.
After just 8 days of rehearsals, the Dream Team have accomplished a theatrical treat for all. Director, Guy Watson, delivers an exciting atmosphere, believable characters to adore and loath, and a playful style of performance. I was pleased to see the use of plastic limbs and empty tea cups, pleased and thankful, I am fearfully squeamish at the slightest sight of blood. Often props can be overly fussed, with attempts of making an authentic look but instead churning out implausible efforts.
The cast of this show were superb. Oliver Longstaff performed a diverse set of characters; I particularly enjoyed his Hugh Grant charm as Dr Haighton, a preferable man to the vile Porter he also portrays. I was surprised to read that this was Nadine Ivy Barr’s first professional role. Performing as Flossie, she was comic, full of energy and created a real desire for the audience to adore her. The constant offered cups of tea and biscuits to solve the worlds problems are endearing. Ivy Barr may need to work a little harder on ‘being dead’; I can’t say for sure but I’m pretty certain dead bodies don’t wriggle! Arguably, with the theme of make belief and empty tea cups, this could all be part of the style.
The Musician in this piece, Olivia Warren, added texture, drama and atmosphere to the performance. A multitalented young individual who impressed the audience with her ability to mimic the voices of Flossie and Margaret, imitate a new born babies cry (that had people studying for a recording) and play the violin with power and elegance.
The fidget factor at o.4, had nothing to do with my mind wondering in this piece but rather the hard wooden seating of the operating theatre. Keeping authenticity is appreciated but I wouldn’t have objected to a cushion.
I felt the cast have suffered their own amputation, with this play showing for just 3 nights, a performance deserved of much, much more.
The Academy of Melancholy’s Musician
You play the violin beautifully. As the musician in this piece, you take the audience on their journey, setting the scene, adding tension to displays of amputation and tie the piece together. Was this music previously written or created during rehearsal?
Thank you! The music was all written by me throughout the rehearsal process. It was based on a little tune I had circling in my head, a Russian folk theme that I must have heard years ago. I began fiddling the little tune and it naturally fit the style of the piece that was starting to develop so naturally. The making of the show was so collaborative that the violin sort of became another character in the play very organically and we were amazed to find how one instrument can create such a terrifying soundscape. Musically, it’s been such a fantastic play time for the whole team.
Your accents in the show are extraordinary, you mirror the voice of Flossie and Margaret perfectly. Was this a difficult part of your role? How did you rehearse to get them so accurate?
The accents were one of my favourite parts of the show, I have always been fascinated by dialects, languages and voice qualities. I think I am very fortunate to have quite a good ear for them, but really it’s like playing an instrument.
Each accent has a notable colour and personality, and unlocking what that is is the first step, the rest is just being playful and lots of trial and error. I find imitating a specific person rather than an accent makes it a lot less overwhelming, as does having a few good trigger words to help to leap into it. They’re such good fun though because speaking in a certain way can change how you feel, how you hold yourself, how you move, almost everything. It’s like putting on a brilliant mask.
It must have been great fun working in the Old Operating Theatre, did you get spooked at any point? Im sure there are plenty of ghost stories given it’s past.
The Old Operating Theatre is simply wonderful. It is full of little oddities and treasures and you can feel the history just pouring through the walls. It made existing in the world of the story incredibly exciting because so much of it is real and every single sense is stimulated! Many of the characters are based on or have links to real people, and of course, much of what occurs in the play is exactly what would have taken place in that very space, so it’s all quite haunting. I would have been terrified to have been in there alone, I’m sure there are a few little ghoulies milling around in there. It was such an incredible place to perform though, such a once in a lifetime opportunity.
I can tell you have thoroughly enjoyed working with the Dream Team, how did you come across the company? What advice would you give to other young actors starting out in theatre?
The short and intensive period of rehearsal and performance has been some of the best fun that I have ever had. The Dream Team is exactly that. We are fortunate to have become truly great friends and have found a collaborative team that just works. I trained at Drama Centre on the Foundation Course in 2013 whilst Guy (Director) was in his first year of the BA Directing course. We got along incredibly well and always said how much we would love to work together. I bumped into him at a show last December after years of not seeing one another and a month or so later, he asked me if I wanted to be involved. I absolutely jumped at the chance. The entire cast are made up of Drama Centre graduates through the ages and from many different courses. It’s been amazing creating something together with so much love and a constant bubbling excitement. We have all been so passionate about the project from day one, that watching it grow has been incredibly thrilling.
For any young actors out there, I would say this: Be interested in everything. Every building around you has a story, as does every person that you come across. Go to the theatre, but venture elsewhere too. Museums, sporting events, galleries, coffee shops: these are all opportunities to watch life and put it in your bank of things to draw upon. A great teacher of mine once told me that “An interesting person makes an interesting actor and the way to be interesting is to be interested.” Curiosity is our greatest friend and listening and asking questions lead you on the most exciting adventures. I would also say, never underestimate what passion and boldness can create! Be fearless, kind and playful, say yes more, and put love into everything that you do.
♥ Thanks to Olivia Warren for introducing me to the Dream Team’s work and spending her time to interview with Scatter.
Time: 1 Hour and a few minutes, no interval.
Previously @ Can’t find newer than this.
Running: Just 3 nights, 4 MAR 15► 6 APR 15