NORTH LONDON ACTORS
Due to the Bank Holidays in April and May it was decided that instead of having a Circle Reading at the beginning of the month we would move it to the end. So our first event was the semi-staged rehearsed reading of ‘The Accrington Pals’ by Peter Whelan on Wednesday 17th April. Director Monty Holender provided the following info about the piece: “It is probably one of the best plays ever about the first world war. The title refers to the 700- strong Accrington battalion that marched jauntily off to war in the summer of 1914. Spanning the period up to the battle of the Somme in July 1916, it is as much about the women left behind and their growing sense of solidarity, as they overcome their fierce sense of deprivation, and band together to learn new skills. The strength of the play, is that it captures, in essence the spirit of ‘Oh what a lovely War’, as the men rejoice in military comradeship while the women fulfil their unrealised potential.
Though full of humour and tenderness, the play leads one to rage at the tragic waste of so much local pride and patriotism. That time was important in the way society was shaken up, both for the men who marched off to almost certain death so enthusiastically and naively, and for the women who in filling in the men in the workplace, got a first opportunity to develop their potential. The play was well attended and even though ours is a small space, with the actors’ skill and Michael Murray’s talent in getting battle sounds and music of the period, to say nothing of his narration, we were able to involve the audience in the drama, humour, toughness and tenderness of this fine play.”
One of the cast members was Victoria Oliver, who is new to the group. She had the following to say about her experience: “I was really looking forward to being a part of this rehearsed reading, and I really enjoyed the whole process. Rehearsals took place on Sunday 14th April at a members house in North London. As this was my first rehearsed reading-not only with NLA but ever! I really didn’t know what to expect. Everyone was so nice and friendly, I felt very comfortable about working within the group. Especially as we all had to adopt ‘Accrington’ accents. This was a very big challenge, but as the play is so fantastically well written, I felt that the accent came quite naturally through the text. Although, I have to confess mine was a dodgy Yorkshire accent I copied from my friend from Bradford.
However, as I was playing the loud and brash character of ‘Sarah’ I felt this fit quite well and wasn’t too much of a problem. The rehearsals were great fun, and we were very free to interpret our characters as we saw fit. With Monty guiding us all about context or subtext occasionally, and Michael pointing out accent issues or pronunciation problems. This meant I felt very free to explore my character and to let the text bring my character to life. At the rehearsal there was only time to run it once, but I was assured by other members that it would be alright on the night! We performed on the evening of 17th April to a full house bar 2 seats. This turn out was great and really helped fuel our performances. I was playing a comedy character, so the great turn out really helped me with my performance. The audience were extremely supportive and I felt like all the actors really upped their game. I enjoyed exploring a new accent, and being so free to play around with character interpretation and working with such a lovely and creative bunch of people. I really want to work with North London Actors again and hope they want me back!”
This month’s Circle Reading was De Monfort by Joanna Baillie and was led by Julia Eve. Julia came across Baillie when she was studying English Literature at University, and felt that she was a neglected playwright who fitted right in with the kind of plays that North London Actors produce. Joanna Baillie was a playwright and poet who lived during the Romantic period, at a time when English Theatre was heavy influenced by the Gothic and Melodrama. Baillie wanted to write plays that showed how people really react when consumed by emotion. She wrote a series of plays called ‘Plays on the Passions’ in which she wrote a comedy and tragedy on the passions of hate, ambition, love and fear. De Monfort was her tragedy on hate and her most famous play. She takes a character and renders it as a spectacle. She wanted to exhibit people on stage how they at in their closet.
Her plays are heavy on characterisation and bare on plot. She wanted to revolutionize theatre, believing that it could be used more effectively to affect people’s lives and her discourse presented her theories of drama. She is considered a powerful force in English Literature but she was allowed to slip into obscurity. Possibly because she was a woman who wrote plays in a time that was defined by the great male poets Keats, Wordsworth, Byron, Coleridge, Shelley and Blake. And she was fascinated by the Gothic which is a genre that was considered populist and second-rate. The reading was well-attended and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. There were lots of good speeches to be read and all the men got the chance to read De Monfort and all the women read Jane De Monfort. The language of the play was rich, but even though it was in verse people remarked on how easy it was to read. This being said we did feel that although the play reads well and has some great characters, it wouldn’t work as well on stage, as not a lot happens in the plot, which could be less entertaining for an audience.
Further details of North London Actors can be found at http://www.northlondonactors.co.uk or in our Facebook group (search for North London Actors). If you are interested in joining us please email email@example.com for details.
The best way to see what we do is come along to one of our events. May’s events are: a Circle Reading of ‘Billy Liar’ by Keith Waterhouse on Monday 13th May at 7.30pm and a performance of ‘The New Woman’ by Sydney Grundy on Wednesday 29th May at 7.30pm. All events are held at The Oak and Pastor, 86 Junction Road, N19 5QZ (Nearest tube Archway. 10 minutes from Upper Holloway Overground. Bus 134 or 390, Pemberton Gardens bus stop. Parking in the area free after 6.30 pm.)