9:57am Friday 25th May 2012
THE 2012 TakeOver Festival has been taken over by a Transylvanian as the York Theatre Royal goes international in its fourth year.
University of Durham student Andra Catincescu, 24, is the artistic director for the three-week period when the theatre is run by a board and creative team all aged under 26.
Andra is in the last year of her English Literature degree, having moved from Transylvanian Romania to England five years ago. “Originally I came to study for drama school, but having done acting training and two years of trying to get into drama school, there came a point where I decided I’d rather see other people on stage, so I switched to writing and directing,” she says.
In 2009, Andra attended the Royal Court Theatre’s Young Playwrights programme, working with resident playwright Leo Butler. The following year, she came to York Theatre Royal for the first time and it was to be the start of her progression to TakeOver’s directorship.
She met Damian Cruden, the theatre’s artistic director, when her friend Julia Watson was in The Seagull. “I asked him if I could some shadowing and he said he was about to start work on three productions; which one would I like to do? I said all of them!”
Andra’s pluck was rewarded by shadowing the director on the Waterloo Station production of The Railway Children in London; the in-the-round The Wind In The Willows on the Theatre Royal main stage; and the touring co-production of To Kill A Mockingbird.
“I feel I know a lot about York audiences and the building already,” she says.
“I especially felt it was really important that young people are given a voice, because TakeOver is a truly exceptional festival and opportunity. There’s nowhere else in Britain that allows people under 26 to run a theatre.”
When pitching for the artistic directorship, Andra’s vision was clear. “The difference is, I suppose, that I wanted TakeOver 2012 to address the role of young people in society, which is something that’s important to York Theatre Royal in all the work they do.”
For the festival’s productions, she wanted work that featured young characters, hence the inclusion of Evan Placey’s Scarberia (see separate story) and Andra’s own production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, which will play to her roots by giving it a Romany Gipsy re-working.
“Aside from that we really wanted a lot of involvement of young people, even though we didn’t want the whole programme to be addressed just to them,” says Andra. “Our mission is to achieve a bond between young people and the rest of the community.
“At the Theatre Royal, theatre is for families; they want to engage with stories that comment on differing stages of life, whether it’s something you’re yet to experience or are looking back on experiencing.
“That’s what TakeOver stands for: it doesn’t condescend to young people.”
INTRODUCING… first-time playwright Kate Tempest, whose play about love, life and losing your mind, is visiting the TakeOver Festival 2012 in York
At York Theatre Royal tonight and tomorrow, Paines Plough, Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company and Roundhouse Theatre present Wasted, Kate Tempest’s tale of three friends, Ted, Danny and Charlotte, for whom life will never be the same again after one remarkable day. On a day-glo trip through the parks, raves and cafés of south London, the Deptford writer paints a picture of lives less ordinary in an unforgiving world. York Twenty4 Seven talks to Kate.
As a poet and performer, how did you come to write this play?
“James Grieve from Paines Plough knew my work as a poet and commissioned me to write a new play. I’ve always been interested in theatre and have read the plays of some of my favourite writers, but it always felt like a form that was beyond me.
“I had been quite intimidated by it, and in fact, still am, even now that Wasted is finished and going on tour, but when the opportunity came up I was dead excited by the idea of it.”
Is it becoming easier for someone known for one art form to move to another?
“I’m not sure – it depends what the forms are. For me, I’m known for my poetry, but began as a rapper, and am working on a novel. To write a play, although it was a departure in terms of form, it’s all writing. And all the work I’ve been doing in different areas is hopefully helping me find an overall strength when it comes to my writing.”
How did your work as a performance poet and rapper with Sound Of Rum help? And how does it feel to hear your words being spoken by actors?
“It’s been an amazing experience working with the actors. At first it was strange hearing my words spoken by others, but as we’ve moved through the rehearsal process I’ve been blown away by the nuances they find in the writing that I didn’t even know was there.
“They really question their lines and try and understand how one thought leads to another and why something is being said. It’s been like nothing else I’ve ever been involved in really, watching these characters coming to life.
“My background as a poet and a rapper has helped with the rhymed bits of the text; it’s been fun helping the actors find their flow when it comes to delivering those bits especially.”
Wasted tells the story of three friends in their mid-twenties making life-changing decisions. What drew you to this point in their lives?
“Well, mainly because it’s where I’m at now, and where my pals are at. And also because it seems to me that a lot of people who I care about and who are around me are stuck in the same moment as they have been for ages. A moment of decision-making that never seems to lead to a decision being made.
“I believe everybody has the potential to live the life they want to. It’s just a question of being honest about what that life might be, and then having the guts to go after it.
“I was drawn to this stage in people’s lives because I think it’s an interesting time and I don’t think people at this stage of their lives are often told that they deserve to be happy and that it’s not too late to make changes.”
Anything else to add about the show?
“Only I hope people enjoy it. It may not be what they are used to, from me, or from theatre, but it’s been an amazing experience for me, and hopefully it will be an amazing experience for the audience. Which, I am well aware, does sound a little far fetched, but regardless – what’s the point of something being on stage if it’s a chore to watch?”
Wasted, York Theatre Royal, TakeOver Festival 2012, tonight and tomorrow at 7.30pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk
Only One Question for… Canadian playwright Evan Placey
Scarberia, Evan Placey’s new play for the Forward Theatre Project at York Theatre Royal, is about the fleeting moment when we cross the line from child’s play into adulthood. He builds that moment around two connected stories that ask: can an event on the other side of the world affect a town an ocean away?
In Scarborough, North Bay, Yorkshire, two teenage boys discover a woman’s body; in Scarborough, Toronto, Canada, two boys are questioned about the disappearance of a woman.
North American town meets English seaside as two boys try to keep a secret buried, while two try to solve the mystery.
What do you recall of your experience of crossing from child’s play into adulthood?
“I can remember Year 9 – which is when we start secondary school in Canada. One of my best friends since childhood fell in with a very different crowd to our group of friends and became heavily involved in drugs.
“And I really felt like our friendship and my choices were challenged and they were ones I had to make on my own. There also came this vivid realisation that we’d grown into different people and that sometimes friendship can’t always sustain as we grow into adults. And I can acutely remember the feeling of loss and a sense of nostalgia for childhood, even at the age of 14.”
Forward Theatre Project presents Scarberia at TakeOver Festival 2012, York Theatre Royal Studio, tonight until June 2 at 7.45pm, plus Thursday matinee at 2.30pm and Saturday matinees at 2pm.
Cross-dressing comedy is TakeOver choice
WHEN choosing As You Like It as her production for TakeOver 2012, Andra Catincescu had one key reason for picking Shakespeare’s comedy of cross-dressing and love-making.
“Like TakeOver, it involves young people taking charge,” she says. “As You Like It is, at its heart, a story about young men and women taking over an outlaw society in the Forest of Arden.
“It subverts old-fashioned rules from the etiquette of wooing to the tyranny of imposed gender roles. As such it is the perfect choice for the TakeOver12 resident production.”
The casting of Eleanor Thompson as the banished, risk-taking Rosalind is a case in point.
“I’m 19 and I’m playing Rosalind and no one has said I’m too young to do that,” says Eleanor, a first-year English Literature student at the University of York.
Why did Andra choose Eleanor for the role of the young woman who takes refuge by disguising herself as a boy in the Forest of Arden, where she offers to coach the man she loves in the art of wooing his beloved?
“Because we always knew that Rosalind was going to be a fun and exhilarating but difficult challenge, and the advice I received from a lot of sources was that if you get Rosalind right, every other role falls into place – and that advice was right,” she says.
“I strongly believe that typecasting leads to boring theatre, so I wanted a good, truthful actor, which is always going to be more interesting than someone who just looks the part.”
That something, or someone, was Eleanor.
“I hadn’t done any acting for a while but I’ve always loved As You Like It – I saw it at the Royal Shakespeare Company with Katy Stephens as Rosalind – and when you read the play, part of everyone wants to be Rosalind,” she says.
“She goes through so many transformations: she’s a banished courtier; a woman who disguises herself as a man; a lover; and a poet. And she’s so strong but not afraid to show her weaknesses too. You can let raw emotion completely take over.”
TakeOver12 presents As You Like It at York Theatre Royal, June 1, 2 and 6 to 9 at 7.30pm, plus 2.30pm matinees on June 2 and 9 and 2pm, June 7. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk
• See takeoverfestival.co.uk for the complete programme.
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