English, Rose (10 of 13). National Life Stories: Artists' Lives
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2005-12-08, 2006-02-03, 2006-04-11, 2006-05-08, 2006-06-05,
Interviewee's home/studio, London
English, Rose, 1950- (speaker, female)
Dyke, Anna, (speaker, female)
Part 10: [1:00:57] 1980s, RE’s work moving into domain of theatre, until 1988 ‘Walks on Water’, made specifically for proscenium arch spaces; needing to know techniques of theatre, stagecraft. Mechanics of stage; sought to improve skills as performer. Voice training; previously performing in small spaces, without microphone. Through LD, met and worked with voice coach Patsy Rodenberg, 1987. Acting in others’ work; agent Charlotte Kelly; RE took acting jobs to earn money; eg. ‘A Flea in her Ear’ at Old Vic, directed by RJ; 14-week season; designed by The Brothers Quay; costumes by Sue Blane. RE enjoyed the high production values, being inside show of large scale, watching the technical teams. Learning from the audience. Audience expectations of RE as a performer; (start of 1990s) RE wanted to surprise herself and audience, eg. being ‘in it’, not always be commenting on the action. Thinking about theatre differently; also led to new collaborations, eg. MH, then with Michael Clark Company, saw ‘Walks on Water’; MH appeared in ‘Double Wedding’. Association with MH brought RE deeper understanding of world of dance. Proscenium space; black emptiness, the void; placing some thing in that emptiness; conventions of representation inside theatrical space. Dance classes at X6; at Hillview, took kung fu, tai chi, ballet classes. [13:25] Design, costume - came with bigger budgets; was always interested in stage design. Used ‘found scenery’ for ‘The Beloved’. Set design for ‘Thee Thy Thou Thine’. ‘Walks on Water’; new management, Nicky Childs of Artsadmin. Male chorus included SV. SV’s ambitious set for ‘The Carrier Frequency’ by Impact Theatre. SV designed ‘Walks on Water’; first time RE worked with designer on own show. SV’s design for ‘Double Wedding’ informed by ‘Walks on Water’ collaboration. [19:35] Use of music; early shows used excerpts from classical music, eg. Bizet’s Carmen in ‘Adventure or Revenge’; cello in ‘Berlin’. Live music came with IH’s accordion in ‘Walks on Water’. IH at the Hillview Festival; also played for children’s dance company - so they also appeared in the show. IH and Aleks Kolkowski composed music for ‘Double Wedding’. ‘Tantamount Esperance’ music composed by IH; the show informed by IH’s love of tango music. ‘Walks on Water’; singer Phil Minton, cellist [Teresa Blake [TB]] was also RE’s acrobatic double. Use of excerpts in earlier shows. Accordion’s associations; variety, dancehall, accompaniment to dance. [27:05] Physical aspect of performance; kung fu classes taught by Raymond Leung of Hillview Estate; RE felt fit, unafraid. [Pause] Ballet; spatial relationship to stage; consciousness of tradition. Teacher Fergus Early, late 1970s at X6. [Pause] [32:20] Developing interest in people who dedicate their lives to physical discipline; eg. circus; neighbours JG - books on acrobatics, also Sue Broadway [SB] and Dave Spathaky, their company ‘Ra-Ra Zoo’. RE being asked to host award ceremonies; loved being in these variety shows; led to making work for numbers of performers, eg. ‘Walks on Water’, performers with different disciplines. Compered Time Out theatre awards, benefits etc; RE seen as entertaining, philosophical, slightly risqué, guaranteed to wear extravagant costume. Dealing with difficult things whilst on stage; eg. excited horse performer in ‘My Mathematics’; who also headbutted RE off stage. ‘Walks on Water’; incorporating different performers, so RE’s role had to develop; more scripted. ‘Tantamount Esperance’ was entirely scripted. Making work for proscenium stage; intimacy with audience, eg. ‘Thee Thou Thy Thine’ at Bloomsbury Theatre. [43:06] Lighting; ‘Berlin’. ‘Walks on Water’; lighting design by Steve Whitson. Hackney Empire; taken over by Roland and Claire Muldoon from Mecca; New Variety programme; using the stage to the full, flying etc; love poem to the stage; expensive show. Illusion; stage flying; SB, JG’s expertise; also developed with TB, RE’s stunt double, eg. jumping through flaming hoops. Working with TB. Three acts; scenery, costume, 28 performers; describes three sets; using a ‘reveal’ through gauze. Performed over four nights. RE’s speech. Long show. Deciding duration of performance; presenting the argument; hour and half with interval. Since ‘Tantamount Esperance’, no intervals. [57:06] SV’s background; interest in theatre from young age; story of SV complaining about quality of plays coming to his school; studied theatre design at Wimbledon; known for interpretations of new work. SV’s appearance; uncompromising character; ‘philosopher of space’. FB dancer and choreographer, member of company The Featherstonehaughs. [1:00:57]