On Friday afternoon the Drama in the Community students went for our first reccie of the tree lined Ham Avenue, the mile long stretch leading out of the South gates of the house up to the common which we hope to use for our procession. It's a glorious route regal, direct and majestic, designed I suppose to give the scrambling servants enough time, wherever they were in the house, to get into position to greet their masters and mistresses as they returned from a hunt in Richmond Park.
The magnificent gates at the end of the walk are surprisingly narrow, but wide enough to funnel three people through at a time, exploding into the wilderness at the back of the gardens. The arrival and entrance into the grounds needs to be big, baroque, theatrical. Heralds? Trumpets? Cherubs scattering gold leaf to bless the procession?
Our wandering sparked some excited ideas and conversations and I hope began to make some of the abstract plans more tangible to the students. Technicians Tina and Paul joined us and their enthusiasm for the possibilities of the work was incredibly reassuring.
For all the opportunities this project offers I'm sensing a little reticence from some of the group and the truth is we don't really have a lot of time for it. We always set the bar really high for these projects and they need the synergy of a committed team to get everything done. Last spring in Chiswick Park although only twenty students were officially part of the assessment by the time we put the show on we had a company of over a hundred with representatives from every path and year group - all there because they could see the fun and value of the show. If you don't have the desire to create a celebration then I don't think the project is for you (and there are alternative assessments possible.) I worry that unless everybody jumps on board very quickly we'll be carrying some disgruntled passengers, bogged down in a negative self-sabotaging resistance. .
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.