Brief encounter with… Ellen CarrDate: 9 May 2012
Yours is a new young company, why have you chosen The Importance of Being Earnest as your first professional production?
Witness Theatre is about placing the audience in a theatrical world that is utterly full of life, and to giving them an experience they’ll never forget. We want to reawaken the initial thrill of this classic production that’s been done to death by offering an alternative way in than that provided by traditional theatre.
What do you mean by alternative way in?
You think of this play and you probably think of a proscenium arch and extravagant sets. We’re performing in a coffee shop with no set and no divide between audience and characters as the action takes place all around. We want our audience to feel they have walked into the world inhabited by these characters, so they can experience the play’s comedy first hand.
Can you give us any hints on what the audience can expect?
The great thing is that there’s a lot of freedom in this production to play with the audience, so every audience will have a different experience depending on their own reactions. I can say that everyone will get tea and specially designed cakes, characters may be sat with you and scenes taking place across your table. Plus I think this will be the first time Lady Bracknell has ever been seen standing on a bar!
How have you directed the show?
The show is almost site specific in its set-up meaning we can’t overly dictate where the action will take place until we’re in the space. We’ve had a couple of rehearsals in the venue so we can get a rough idea of locations for scenes, but the element of most importance in this production is the characterisation. We’ve worked a lot with caricature, characters ridiculing themselves as well as each other.
Each character has an individual theme tune that will be incorporated into the show’s live music and we’ve used physicality as a way into characterisation. I’ve really been focusing on getting the actors as comfortable as they can be playing these larger than life characters, so they can completely play with, and react to, the audience.
How would you describe the show, in one sentence?
A frivolously playful mockery of Victorian society performed with contemporary flair to musical accompaniment and real tea and cake.
The Importance of Being Earnest can be seen on 11 - 13 May and 17 - 20 May, at the Redroaster Coffee House, St James Street Brighton at 8pm (Doors and cake at 7.30pm).