Off to The Globe this evening, with our Applied Theatre Programme Director, Julie Spencer, to see the dress rehearsal of Muse of Fire, a specially commissioned immersive theatre experience for children, which takes them round the exhibition space and ends up with a sensational fire breathing finale in the main auditorium.
The show won a heap of awards the first time it played earning rave reviews in The Guardian and What's On Stage.
It's been brought back for this half term and Julie had managed to get audition calls for several Drama St Mary's students which has, in turn, resulted in no fewer than eight of them taking key performance roles as tour guides, puppet masters and a pair of terrified builders who disappear mysteriously. Our job, as audience is to find out where they've gone before confronting and driving back whatever it was that took them in the first place.
We're quickly split into four teams, each of which guided by a leader heads off in different directions to look for clues and possibly an escape. My team, led by the very able Emma, are taken into a tent like tiring house where we're introduced to an Elizabethan stage hand. The very man responsible for setting off the cannon that four hundred years ago set fire to the thatched roof of the original Globe during a performance of Henry VIII. Terrified that we'll blame him for this new disaster he presents us with risk assessment documents - Tudor style, a series of weather reports and news of an unusual siting, in the theatre's roof.
We move on a meet an archivist sitting in room filled with dancing books and self opening draws. Pulling clues from these he begins to piece together a synopsis for Julius Caesar, told by a storytelling puppet, who describes the supernatural events that seemed to occur after the murder of the emperor.
On we go to a dark, dank cave, to find the very foundations of the theatre. Here a voice from a glowing furnace deep beneath the city speaks to us. She is Muse, the last spirit of fire, and is reawakening after four hundred years of rest.
Our mission is clear now as we head of to meet two more tour guides, who, having heard that all the staff of The Globe have now disappeared, are busily trying to rehearse a two man Romeo and Juliet for this evening's performance. We agree to help out and are quickly cast as Montages and Capulets, biting thumbs and taunting each other.
But time is pressing and we're rushed into a magical forest for our final stop to meet a very modern magician dressing in a boiler suit who introduces himself as an 'ethereal exterminator.'
'Ever seen a flying pig, madam?' he asks one of the audience members.
'No,' she says 'I can't say I have.'
'That's right.' he replies 'And that's been the case since 1993.'
Finally all four groups, each of whom has ordered their journey differently, are led back into the auditorium, beautiful and eerie on this cold February night, ready for the final battle...
Half an hour later Julie and I are in the bar with the students who are really buzzing. The dress has gone well and there's a real anticipation about the week ahead. The Globe are happy as well, full of praise for the talent and professionalism of the Drama St Mary's students, who have picked up the roles so quickly and are doing themselves and St Mary's proud. They aren't just spear carrying or playing extras in a crowd scene, but vital components in a very engaging and exciting theatrical event.
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.