An epic frontier comes to Malvern Theatres
PUBLISHED: 12:56 26 August 2014
What’s eighty-four miles long, two-thousand years old, and will soon be stretching across the stage at Malvern Theatres?
Writer in Residence at Malvern Theatres Nick Wilkes doesn’t make things easy for himself. Having recently produced a play which saw a classic Morgan Motor Car on stage for the very first time, he’s going one step further; his next production will feature a Roman Wall winding across the theatre!
Adrian’s Wall has been written specifically for the Forum Theatre in Worcestershire, a very versatile space that lends itself well to the new production.
Wilkes explained: “The play is set upon Hadrian’s Wall, which is a long, thin and stony set piece. Rather than trying to create that picture on a tradition proscenium arch stage, we are going to build the wall down the middle of the theatre with audience on either side, and play the piece in traverse. It’s a perfect way to set the play and will see the audience more engaged and far closer to the piece than normal. It is also something that has never been done at Malvern theatres before, and will be very exciting for the audience the venue and the actors alike.”
Wilkes is not a man adverse to a little hard work; as well as writing and producing the piece, and changing the venue around into a new configuration, he also walked the entire length of Hadrian’s Wall in order to research the play. He said: “Myself, Bod (Designer Paul Ralph), and Adrian (actor Adrian Ross-Jones), walked all the way from Tynemouth on the north-east coast, to Heddon on the Wall just east of Carlisle, a distance of ninety-three miles in total. It took us six days, we faithfully followed the course of Hadrian’s Wall and saw some amazing sights. We also did the walk to raise some money for Help for Heroes, an amazing charity that we are supporting with this production. One of the characters in the play is an ex-serviceman having trouble adapting back to civilian life after serving in the army. It seemed both appropriate and very worthwhile to include Help for Heroes in this way.”
There hasn’t been a resident playwright at Malvern since the 1930’s when George Bernard Shaw alongside Sir Barry Jackson created the Malvern Festivals. However, despite nationwide cutbacks in arts funding, Malvern Theatres, in association with Wilke’s company Malvernbard, is once again producing new and original theatrical works.
Wilkes continued: “It’s very brave of Malvern Theatres to be moving back towards production, as for many years it has been solely used to stage touring theatre. It’s even more daunting to be doing so with new writing, but as someone once pointed out to me, without writing their own material, The Beatles would have just been a covers band!
Yes, I do feel that a little on my shoulders, but the truly great thing is that the theatre itself can now work hard to eke out it’s own revenue stream, rather than relying solely on arts funding.
Isn’t that what theatre’s do? Create theatre? Well, no, most venues are just that, ‘venues,’ and do not have a production arm or any creative facilities. It’s tremendous that we’re working hard to buck that trend, and that the plays we are producing are of such a high standard. Long may it last!”
For more information on Malvern Theatres and Adrian’s Wall, visit: www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/events/event/adrians-wall