Extracts from Chi and I by acclaimed actor, director and playwright, David Wood : Part 4, A Leading Role, 1980
In 1980, Peter Dews offered me the role of Birdie Bowers in Terra Nova, a play about Captain Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic. This truly epic play was remarkable in that it was written for only seven actors. The playwright was a young Canadian called Ted Tally, who later achieved fame for his screenplay of the film Silence of the Lambs.
My agent, John Miller, told me, with a note of surprise in his voice, that I didn’t have to audition for the role of Birdie – it was an offer. I picked up the script from the Festival Theatre Londonoffice above the Queen’s Theatre and read it with increasing excitement. Birdie was an endearing character, arguably the most good-humoured of the five who reached the South Pole after an arduous journey, only to find that Amundsen had beaten them to it. The journey home proved impossible and all died tragically in their tent, apart from Oates, who had walked out with the immortal lines, ‘I may be some time’. Ted Tally had introduced some brilliant theatrical moments. At the beginning of the second act, we all celebrated our successful venture at a special London hotel dinner party which, of course, turned out to be imaginary. The journey itself was intercut with flashback scenes featuring Scott and his wife. Continue reading “Chi and I… Part 4”→
Part of my job involves a fair amount of detective work (sadly no deerstalker and pipe needed – although working in a theatre means props are never far away if dressing up is called for, which of course it always is). I was recently asked to track down some press cuttings regarding a production of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads performed in the Minerva in 1991. This production saw the playwright himself reading through his own monologues and pieces of prose alongside CFT stalwart, Patricia Routledge. All our press cuttings from 1970 onwards are currently organised by years (albeit non-chronological) into File Express boxes which are kept at a secure warehouse where we can recall them if we need to take a look at what’s inside.
I managed to find the cuttings relatively quickly which revealed a great critical reverence to the playwright and his brave decision to perform his own work. Not only do press cuttings allow for an understanding of critical reception, but also show the breadth of press past CFT productions have attracted. Tracking which publications have reviewed shows is very interesting, particularly in terms of the reach of a regional theatre over London venues, as is looking at the social history whereby writing styles and presentation vary year to year. As lovely as these press cuttings were (and at which point I could have hung up my metaphorical deerstalker) something else in the box caught my eye. The press cuttings are generally all gathered into plastic wallets; amongst these was a rather tatty looking ring-binder folder labelled ‘PRESS CUTTINGS: 1980’. Now it’s inevitable that with the sort of work that we do, certain productions stick out for certain reasons and a play called Terra Nova is one such production – mainly because it sticks out for lots of other people. Continue reading “Surprise finds from the archive”→
Volunteers are crucial to the success of Pass It On, they’re creative, organised and passionate about the Theatre. One of our current volunteers is Alex Wilcox whose first introduction to the project was through our Out Of the Archive performances in October 2014. This sparked an interest for him in the burgeoning CFT archive and Alex has been gaining in work experience with us since January 2015
I started volunteering on the Pass It On project at CFT in January of this year, and have been working primarily with the Oral Histories strand of the project. Trained volunteers and some members of the Chichester Festival Youth Theatre have been interviewing people with close ties to CFT about their experiences and memories of the Theatre. Clips from the interviews can be found here.
As I have been working, it has been impossible not to be engrossed by the rich lives of the interviewees, but what I’ve found truly amazing is how the Theatre has acted as a catalyst to create these memories. Chris Larkin, an actor who started out as a stage hand in the tent where the Minerva is now, says “you think gosh yes, I’ve come back here again . . . and it’s a really nice feeling. It [CFT] will always be here . . . and that grounding never goes away, and there’s something really nice in your life, to come back to where you started.” You can hear more from Chris Larkin here.
Over the summer Creative Arts student Alice Du Port spent time researching and exploring her interest in Theatre Design by delving into the items in our archives. During this time Alice also had the opportunity to talk with world renowned scenographer Pamela Howard who explained more about her designs for the 1980 production of Terra Nova, staged at Chichester;
In the summer of 1980, Chichester Festival Theatre’s main stage was transformed into a barren ice land, representing the stark and freezing Antarctic, for Ted Tally’s Terra Nova. In the archives is a selection of Pamela Howard’s designs for her Chichester Festival Theatre productions; including this one. Continue reading “Exploring Theatre Design”→