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Issue 5 (2014)

In this issue we hear from eleven practitioners working in theatre, music, and the visual arts. Follow the links in the boxes below to access these interviews and essays.

Jeannette Nelson

Jeannette Nelson

Jeannette Nelson is Head of Voice at the National Theatre. She has worked extensively as a voice coach in theatre, film and television. Jeannette worked at the National Theatre from 1992 to 2001, at Shakespeare’s Globe for the 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2001 seasons, with the Royal Shakespeare Company from 2001 to 2005, with Sydney Theatre Company in 2006, and at the National, as Head of Voice, from 2007. Other voice and dialect coaching in London and the UK includes work with the Royal Court, Young Vic, Donmar Warehouse, Shared Experience, Out of Joint, Complicite, Sheffield Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, Birmingham Rep, Nottingham Playhouse, Liverpool Everyman, English Touring Theatre, Oxford Stage Company and the West End. Jeannette was in charge of the company voice work for the recent National Theatre production of Euripides’ Medea. The production starred Helen McCrory in the role of Medea, was directed by Carrie Cracknell, and used a version of the play specially written by Ben Power, Associate Director at the National Theatre.

In this interview with Chrissy Combes at the National Theatre on 14 August, 2014, Jeannette speaks about the role of a voice department in a theatre, and about her work with the actors on the production of Medea


Gillian Bevan

Gillian Bevan

Gillian Bevan is an actor who has played a wide variety of roles in West End and regional theatre. Among these roles, she was Dorothy in the Royal Shakespeare Company revival of The Wizard of Oz, Mrs Wilkinson, the dance teacher, in the West End production of Billy Elliot, and Mrs Lovett in the West Yorkshire Playhouse production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Gillian has regularly played roles in other Sondheim productions, including FolliesMerrily We Roll Along and Road Show, and she sang at the 80th birthday tribute concert of Company for Stephen Sondheim (Donmar Warehouse). Gillian spent three years with Alan Ayckbourn’s theatre-in-the-round in Scarborough, and her Shakespearian roles include Polonius (Polonia) in the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre production of Hamlet (Autumn, 2014) with Maxine Peake in the title role. Gillian’s many television credits have included Teachers (Channel 4) in which she played Clare Hunter, the Headmistress, and Holby City (BBC1) in which she gave an acclaimed performance as Gina Hope, a sufferer from Motor Neurone Disease, who ends her own life in an assisted suicide clinic. During the early part of 2014, Gillian completed filming London Road, directed by Rufus Norris, the new Artistic Director of the National Theatre. In the summer of 2014 Gillian played the role of Hera, the Queen of the Gods, in The Last Days of Troy by the poet and playwright Simon Armitage. The play, a re-working of The Iliad, had its world premiere at the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre and then transferred to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London.

Chrissy Combes spoke to Gillian at the Globe Theatre on 27 June, the day before the final performance of the play. 


Deborah Bruce

Deborah Bruce

Deborah Bruce is a writer and director. As a writer, her first play Godchild was staged at the Hampstead Theatre in 2013, her play The Distance was shortlisted for the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, and her play Same was written for the NT Connections Festival in 2014. She has directed many pieces of new writing for theatres across the country, including Scarborough by Fiona Evans at the Edinburgh Fringe and the Royal Court and Blame by Beatrix Campbell and Judith Jones at the Arcola Theatre, London. Deborah's new play The Distance opened at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, on the 8 October. The production is directed by Charlotte Gwinner. In 2011, Deborah directed The Mysteries in the Tony Harrison adaptation at Shakespeare’s Globe, London. Two years earlier at the Globe she had directed Helen by Euripides in the Frank McGuinness version. In this interview, recorded by Chrissy Combes at the Globe in 2013, Deborah Bruce recalls the pleasures and challenges of directing this rarely performed play.

Photograph: Lesley Bruce.


Andrew Simpson

Andrew Simpson

Professor Andrew Earle Simpson is a composer and pianist based at the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music of The Catholic University of Washington, DC. His most ambitious classically inspired project to date is his operatic reception of Aeschylus’ Oresteia, created in collaboration with his wife, the classicist Sarah Ferrario, who wrote all three libretti. The first part of the trilogy, the Agamemnon, was written between 1999 and 2001, and was followed by Libation Bearers (2001-4) and The Furies (2005). He has composed two pieces inspired by the material culture of ancient Rome: Tesserae: Six Mosaics of Ancient Rome (2003-4) and Four Views of Pompeii (2004) and a musical-theatrical piece, Orpheus and the Secret Road (2012). He has also written and performed music for silent films that portray classical antiquity. Interview by Anastasia Bakogianni.


Benjamin Jasnow and John Woodman

Benjamin Jasnow and John Woodman

John Woodman (photo, left) is an English painter who has exhibited across the United Kingdom and internationally. His most recent solo show took place at the Milton Gallery in London in 2013. Ben Jasnow (photo, right) is a Classicist and poet based at the University of Virginia. In this interview conducted via Skype in August of 2013, Woodman and Jasnow talk about their ongoing project to illustrate and translate the Idylls of Theocritus, an ancient Greek poet from Sicily (3rd century BC), credited with the invention of pastoral poetry. Each verse translation is paired with several of Woodman’s contemporary, interpretive illustrations. In April of 2013 they exhibited a selection of their work at the Bridge PAI in Charlottesville, VA, and hope to publish an edition of their illustrated translation in the near future.


David Mercatali

David Mercatali

David Mercatali is Associate Director at Southwark Playhouse. He has directed much new work including two plays by Philip Ridley, Tender Napalm, for which production he was nominated for the Evening Standard Outstanding Newcomer Award (2011) and Dark Vanilla Jungle, for which he won the Fringe First Award (2013). In the closing months of 2013 David directed a production of Our Ajax, a new play by Timberlake Wertenbaker, at Southwark Playhouse. The play, which borrows from the Ajax of Sophocles, sets the action in a modern war zone. The actor Joe Dixon played the role of Ajax. This interview by Chrissy Combes was recorded at Southwark Playhouse on 16 December 2013.


Jon Taylor

Jon Taylor

Jonathan Dryden Taylor is an actor who has recently played roles in The Captain of Köpenick and Othello at the National Theatre and who will be in the forthcoming production of King Lear, staged in the Olivier Theatre, and directed by Sam Mendes. Jonathan also writes extensively for stage, television and radio. He is the son of the playwright Ellen Dryden and of the writer and director Don Taylor who had a distinguished career in television, theatre and radio and was a prolific playwright. Don Taylor wrote 50 translations of Ovid poems, and he translated and directed Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone for the BBC in 1986 and Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis in 1990. His translation of The Theban Plays was published by Methuen and his translation of Iphigenia at Aulis, together with those of The Women of Troy and Helen, was also published by Methuen under the title Euripides: The War Plays. Don Taylor died at the age of 67 on 11 November 2003, having been suffering from cancer. He had directed his last play, The Road to the Sea, in February of the same year at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond. Jonathan acted in his father’s final production. Interview by Chrissy Combes (National Theatre, 3 October 2013). 

Photograph: Hazel Gardner.


Antony Gormley

Antony Gormley

Antony Gormley is an internationally acclaimed artist whose work centres on the human body and its relationship to space. Born in London in 1950, he studied for a degree in Archaeology and Anthropology at Cambridge University before training as an artist at the Slade. His many awards include the Turner Prize (1994), the South Bank Prize for Visual Art (1999), the Bernhard Heiliger Award for Sculpture (2007) and the Obayashi Prize (2012). In 1997 he was made an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) and was made a knight in the New Year's Honours list in 2014. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, an Honorary Doctor of the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Trinity and Jesus Colleges, Cambridge. Gormley has been a Royal Academician since 2003 and a British Museum Trustee since 2007. This interview with Jessica Hughes was recorded in the artist’s London studio in January 2013.

Photograph (c) Lars Gundersen.


Avra Sidiropoulou

Avra Sidiropoulou

Avra Sidiropoulou is a stage director and a lecturer on the postgraduate program in Theatre Arts of the Open University of Cyprus, where she is currently academic head. Her main areas of specialisation include the theatre of the director-auteur, adaptation and the ethics of directing, and theory of theatre practice. She has taught directing, acting, theatre history and theatre theory at the Theatre Arts Department of the University of Peloponnese at Nafplio, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Bosphorus University in Istanbul and at various acting schools in Athens. She has directed internationally. Her monograph Authoring Performance: the Director in Contemporary Theatre was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2011. She is also the author of the 'Greece' Chapter in the edited volume International Women Stage Directors, which has just been released by the University of Illinois Press. Her most recent directing project is Jon Fosse’s play Someone is Going to Come (Nicosia, November 2013-Limassol, January 2014).