One of the amazing things about this company in particular is that they are all either Edge Hill alumni (graduates) or lecturers at Edge Hill. I had the opportunity to speak to them all about what their experiences were like and what Edge Hill has given them as performers. I first asked them to introduce themselves and the character they played:
RM: Rachael Mutch, playing the character of Holly.
KHC: Kylie Heron-Cadwallader, playing the role of Susan.
SR: Sam Rushton, playing the role of Sam.
LAD: Lisa Adams-Davey, I play Doctor W and the Vicar, and I am the Director.
JB: James Burrows, and I play the character of Phil.
DHJ: Danielle Holland-Jones, stage manager.
EC: Elric Cadwallader, I play the character of CP.
CR: Christopher Roy, I played Richard.
CF: And Cat Formby, playing Mo/Double Gusset.
Rhiannon Thomas (me): Ok, right, so the first thing I wanted to ask is; you tackle really sensitive subjects, obviously, not just for this show, I’ve seen for your show They Shoot Dogs, that’s obviously another sensitive subject. What was your main motivation to create such pieces and do you ever hit a block in the creative process whilst assuring the topics are handled correctly?
LAD: Well, the main motivation has been a research initiative, in the first instance, then from the initial research initiative we created the company with a view to tackling subjects, such as… well, with a view to tackling mental health, and we feel that the work that we put on is politically charged, it’s relevant, it needs to be heard, and yes it’s very sensitive, as you say, very sensitive… but necessary in order to support people, to generate an understanding as to what it’s like to have a mental health condition. So, that’s the main thing really, was a research initiative of mine, and I’ve taught all these wonderful people, and we work together on relevant topics, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Clinical Depression, Suicide… Often topics, well, they are topics that are surrounded by stigma, and it’s about getting rid of that stigma and saying ‘hey, you know what, this is real, people do take their own lives, people do suffer with depression, people do suffer with anxiety, bipolar disorder, and so on and so forth, post-traumatic stress disorder, and this is reality’. And it’s relevant, it’s important. And it’s also to say, you know, it’s ok to talk about it, it’s important that we do talk about it, cause so much is swept under the carpet and we don’t want that.
RT: Ok, bit more of a trivial question, describe the Rose Theatre and Edge Hill Arts Centre in 3 words, cause I’ve seen that most of you are graduates…
EC: In three words?
EC: It’s our home.
LAD: It’s our home!
RT: Ok, so again, because a lot of you are graduates…
LAD: All of them are graduates.
RT: Ah ok, all of you are graduates [laughter]… do you think the courses here and the University gives you what you need to follow a creative career path?
CR: Damn skippy it does.
SR: I think it’s hard to put a definitive answer on that question, cause courses are ever fluctuating and ever changing, from my personal perspective it gave me the most amazing grounding in who I am as a practitioner, who I am as a person, and it gave me everything I needed to be an independent, forward-thinking, critical analyst. It gave me all the skills that I needed to take my own practice and take my own place in the world and my own place in the industry and it gave me a great springboard for that as well as making magic… This place is an amazing place; the supportive tutors, the facilities, it’s ever developing, ever expanding and I think in an industry that’s ever developing and ever expanding that’s really important from a University course and a University as well.
EC: Considering how big the course is now and how it expanded, like all the different things you can do, you can do musical theatre and you can do all these other things that weren’t available when we were first coming here, we’re so shocked that you can come here and you just say ‘I’m an ex-student’ they will give you a room and say you can rehearse in there, you can use the resources…
LAD: It’s very generous.
EC: So, like, they’ll do anything for alumni, for current students, they’ll bend over backwards to say ‘we’ll look at the set’ and, you know, where you are, and the techies are fantastic.
LAD: I think what’s been really interesting within this project is even though this is an alumni company, we’ve been employed as a professional company to come in and produce this work, on top of that we have had the facilities to rehearse in, and I know I’m a member of staff, but it is a privilege to have that, because actually it’s very expensive to hire rehearsal rooms, and technicians and, you know, all the things that we have here, and it’s a real privilege, and these guys have put in an inordinate amount of time to make it happen as well.
CF: Can I just say something about the beginning of that question? When you said, and what I find interesting, I did Dance, Drama and Physical Theatres here, and then I went on to Drama School, which was more of a Conservatoire training, and the course was an MA in Professional Acting, and what I was surprised at; there was nothing that came up in that course that I hadn’t been told about, studied, or researched, or touched on, or done a workshop on, you know? There were things that we explored further in voice and that kind of stuff, but there was nothing that I wasn’t aware of, I didn’t feel on a back foot about anything, and there was a massive contrast for me in the quality of the tutors here to the tutors there. Whilst I was there in that 15 months, there were 2 tutors from here came to do workshops at that drama school and I’d been banging on about this place to the point of boring everybody, and I was delighted that two of the tutors, the physical theatre tutor and a dance tutor, both came there to deliver workshops, and I’d banged on about how great they were and I don’t think my peers there were expecting to be blown away. But they were, and the contrast in the teaching, the quality, the workshop just stuck out like a sore thumb.
SR: Yeah, I’d agree with Cathy, I went to drama school to do my Masters in London as well, and everything Cathy’s just said was exactly the same as when I went to drama school to do my MA after being here. It just gave me everything that I needed before I even got there, and when I got there it meant that I could just run, and two of the tutors here also went to Central School of Speech and Drama, where I was, to give workshops or be actual lecturers there as well, so this place is really rich.
LAD: Yeah, I think the one thing that we do hold dear, I mean, as a lecturer here, the one thing that we hold dear is the fact that we actually educate thinking practitioners, and that’s really important, and that’s why when you’re putting work on such as this, I do expect my cast to think and to analyse, and to evaluate; what is it we’re doing and why are we doing it… and they’ve had that from day dot, they’ve had that from when they walked in the door at Edge Hill. I remember… Sam and Elric were in the first cohort [I taught], I remember asking Elric, you know, what made you choose Edge Hill? Why didn’t you go to Drama School? And he said I specifically chose Edge Hill because I wanted an education, I didn’t want a Conservatoire training, I wanted an education, I wanted to think about my subject and really analyse it. It’s not good enough, I don’t think, just to be able to perform; you have to do all the other stuff as well, and really that’s invaluable to here, I believe, and to what we provide. I suppose it’s that’s very immodest for me to say that as a lecturer here [laughter], but it’s something that we do hold dear.
CR: I’ll back that up with; I agree with everything that Lisa has just said.
KHC: Yeah I agree [laughter]. Going back to your question, not only has it helped in, you know, a creative setting, but I work as a legal secretary as well, so giving you the confidence to get up on stage also gives you the confidence to interact with people in every day life, and they’re the people that we’re trying to portray when we’re onstage. We’re not portraying, like, an airy-fairy, fluffy version of life, especially with this piece, we’re looking at what makes people tick. So, in my everyday life, I work in a solicitors, so I get to see everything, you know, from birth, life, marriage, death, everything. So, it’s nice to be part of life at the same time and have those social skills to talk to people, which I’ve received from here. I’ve got that confidence from training as an actor, and then it sort of gives back; anything that I see in life, I can take that in like a sponge and portray that on the stage, so these skills are transferrable as well, cause not only do we learn about our craft, about acting, performing… to portray the human race, you have to understand about human psychology, philosophy, theology… so not only do you open up your skill-set as an actor through creative tools, you also touch upon other areas of education, so not picking on people who go “drama, that’s where you just run around the room”…
LAD: “Jazz hands!” [laughter]
KHC: It’s not just about that, we have to understand the human condition…
SR: And how to connect with another human being, fundamentally, how you connect, and get a reaction out of another human being, whatever their reaction is. Going back to Lisa’s answer about why we do this, it’s because it is an awareness, it is opening a dialogue, it is, when I was speaking to yourself before, about using theatre as a catalyst to make you think what you’ve got from that, and everybody’s opinions are valid, but that fundamental connection is really, really important.
LAD: I think also going back to what Kylie said there, you know, one of the things that we do focus on [is] employability skills, so this company itself offers employability to certain graduates who are appropriate for the company. When we did [They Shoot] Dogs I did an audition, two days of auditions to get the cast together, and then from that cast and that production, Confiança was born, and we’ve done a few other things since then. This is our second major production, but we have done other projects. And so it’s kind of… those employability skills that you were talking about, that are developed as a student, they’re absolutely invaluable, in any walk of life, not just on the stage as you say Kylie, in any walk of life; if you’re a lecturer, just as a person… You know, there’s a few lecturers in and amongst us, a few people working in different professions, etc.
CR: I just wanna put out there, I’m now also teaching Drama, and I certainly would not be doing that if it weren’t for Edge Hill. And even aspects of my own teaching practise I may have, I’m gonna use the word ‘stolen’ [laughter], I have done lessons that Lisa taught me.
RM: I have too.
CR: Yeah, Rach does as well, we all do, we all…
RM: And James’ lessons, I take them all! [laughter]
CR: But, you know, and it’s that sort of thing, the fact that I’m able to go ‘right, I learnt that here at this time, with Lisa as a lecturer or someone else as a lecturer’, and I’ve been able to then transfer that and repeat it, it’s meaning it’s stayed with me, and that’s what I want my students to be like, I want them to think for themselves, I want them to do their own research, I want them to be actively engaged with whatever text that they have, whether it be something that they’re devising or something that has been written down for centuries, I want them to have the experience that I had here, but a couple of years early.
LAD: Yeah, I think also, one thing that I feel does transfer is the passion for the subject that Edge Hill has. All the subjects actually, the lecturers, we’re very, very passionate about what we do, and hopefully that transfers to the students, and then they go out and they go ‘yeah, this is really exciting! We’re really excited about this, so let’s do some more!’.
EC: I’d also like to say, as well, that not only the content, but the people you meet, it’s kind of testament to that way in which we work collaboratively, that years after we’ve graduated, in different years as well, you meet people on your course here that you can collaborate with, and that you can work professionally with in the future as well, and I think that’s important.
DHJ: I think, going back to your initial question about the courses, it’s the fact that, because I studied Musical Theatre, I would never think when I graduated that this would be the sort of thing that I would be doing, but that’s because Edge Hill makes you transferrable, skill-wise, as an actor, performer… whatever you want to do, they will facilitate what you want to do, and they focus on what you really want to do on your outcome, like what kind of journey you want to take, because it’s different for everyone. People take years out before they even think about going back in to doing it, and that’s what I thought I was gonna do, and I’ve literally just graduated and I’ve gone straight back into doing the work that I love doing, and it was a privilege, but also it’s the fact that you can just go straight back into it and it’s not the fact of you have to go somewhere else, or you have to do your Master, no offence [laughter], and it’s kind of being able to go ‘do you know what, I don’t have to box myself off as a performer in one specific area, I can be versatile’, and that’s what Edge Hill, I think, is great for personally.
SR: Yeah, just to add to that before we actually move on to the next question, when I was here, I graduated, well myself and Elric, graduated in 2008, and when I was doing my dissertation here, there was no Aerial course, there was no Musical Theatre, there was not much, there was Drama, Dance and Physical Theatre, straight Drama and then a few people on a straight Dance course…
LAD: It didn’t stop you doing Aerial in your dissertation!
SR: No, for my dissertation, I wanted different levels, and I wanted to do some Aerial work, and nobody had ever heard of, well, nobody had ever done anything like that here before, and so I went to Lisa, and Lisa went to the appropriate channels, and we had discussions, and because it was relevant to my practise and it was relevant to my dissertation, the department got in one silk, a rig, and everything that I needed to be able to have Aerial performance as a part of my dissertation, and then I also went and did some workshops and training so I was safe to do it. Following on from that, they then did an Aerial module and they’re still doing it now, so even though I came to them before that was even anything that they offered at all, they gave me and provided me with what I needed because it was relevant to my practise.
LAD: One of the things that the company have also done, that maybe you’re not aware of, that actually Edge Hill have supported, they’re still invited in to do things and to work collaboratively, for example with [the] Faculty of Health, we’ve done television masterclasses with a television director and a casting director, and we’ve collaborated with media on that, so on so forth, so opportunities are given to our alumni, and also one of our guys who was filming tonight [there were some people filming the opening show on the Thursday] is a Media student, so that’s an employability opportunity for him, and I was really keen for them to get a third camera in, and I was really keen for them to get a student involved because that’s just another opportunity to enhance that person’s skills.
RT: So, a bit of a short, snappy last question; describe your show in 3 words.
CR: A hilarious play about suicide.
CAST: That’s not 3 words! [laughter]
KHC: Comical… tragic…
LAD: [whispers] Relevant… [laughter]
KHC: … Relevant [more laughter]
Overall, the cast gave me some great reasons why Edge Hill helps performers to thrive, and some interesting insight into their own personal experiences, as well as being lovely to talk to and very funny! I would like to thank them here for this and staying back after their performance so that I could speak to them, even though they were probably tired! Some of the creative team were not involved in this Q&A, so I will list the others below and say congratulations on such a brilliant show:
Mark Curtis: Playwright
Lighting Design and Operation: Dave Forrest
Psychotherapist in Residence: Cathy Vincent
Psychotherapist Supervisor for Lisa Adams-Davey: Janet Higgins
Ethics Advisor: Vicky Karkou
Filming: Alistair Emmett, Daniel Hall and Owen Wheeler