'This Is My Bed' goes to Luxembourg: Q and A with the cast

Thursday 28 June 2018

Written by Elijah, Work Experience.

This week, I’ve been catching up with the cast and director
of this year’s opera for audiences with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
(SEND). This Is My Bed is being taken to Luxembourg to be performed in the
Philharmonie theatre hall. This follows an extremely successful tour of the UK
from March 2018 to June 2018 in more than 12 different schools.

I caught them during their rehearsal as they were two week
run at Polka Theatre in Wimbledon – a stone’s throw away from the Perseid
school – a day school for learners with severe learning difficulties which
helped develop the show. There is a fantastical feel to the show which incorporates
everything from water antics to musical hair. 
The cast consists of 3 singers and 2 players. The singers that will be
travelling to Luxembourg are Bradley Travis, Abigail Kelly and Emma Watkinson.
Their director is Tim Yealland, a man with upwards of 15 years’ experience
working with the English Touring Opera. I asked them a few questions regarding
the show – which began this week and is to be performed in front of the Hereditary Grand
Duke of Luxembourg – at their final translated rehearsal and this is what they
had to say.

 A –
Abigail Kelly   B – Bradley Travis   E – Emma
   T – Tim Yealland

Q: What’s it been like touring this show around the UK?

A: It’s a lot of fun to take on tour. Especially when you’ve
been touring in operas in the evening; we were doing The Marriage of Figaro and
Gianni Schicchi and Il Tabaro which is quite dark and serious. It’s quite fun
to do something like this in the daytime where you get to interact really up
close on a personal level with the people that you’re performing for.

B: It’s been fantastic. It’s really interesting because we
devised this piece in a special school near Wimbledon and then toured it to
lots of different special schools around the country. It’s always a different
show because you get different interactions with young people and it’s a lot of
fun to do.

It’s always a different show because you get different
interactions with young people and it’s a lot of fun to do.

And what’s most amazing about it is to see reactions of
young people who are often almost non-verbal, so to see they might make eye
contact with you or they’ll do something really great with one of the things
we’ll take into the audience.

A: Yes, very often we have teachers that will come up to us
afterwards and say “This child does not interact with anything, it’s very
difficult and he has been so engaged by this performance” which is something
quite special – to be involved in giving people experiences like that.

E: And, like Bradley says, as a performer, every show is so
different – you never know what you’re going to get in this kind of context.
Because this is so interactive, that makes it really exciting for us as well.

Q: Is there still that differentiation when working at one
theatre: the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon?

B: Yeah, that’s quite different because it was really lovely
to do it in one place but then that was far more driven towards 2-5 year olds.
We then tailored it far more to be like a big playtime with the kids. But then
– even in that bracket – every show was different because you never know what a
2, 3, 4 year old might do!

E: They could come with their nursery or their parents so
you get a very different dynamic then. There are different relationships
(between children and their elders) so kids react differently.

B: But it was really nice because, in a school setting, we
might just be in a school hall so we transform that space into our play space,
but then being at Polka, it was lovely because we had lighting and it was
professionally done and we had full houses every time, which was amazing.

Q: Now, why Luxembourg?

A: Whichever SEND show English Touring Opera are touring
along with the main stage shows that year, we will take that to Luxembourg and
perform it there, at the Philharmonie.

B: Then we go and do it a large number of times in a small
number of days so we’re doing it 10 times in 3 days in the Philharmonie and –
to make it understandable to the audience – we’ve changed all of the dialogue
to Luxembourgish rather than English, which is a little challenge but it’s also

Q: How long have you had to learn that?

A, B, E: Three weeks.

B: We decided on a final version which takes everything from
the English that we need but makes it really clear, succinct. It’s got exactly
the same story and then we will slip into singing in English but all of the
direct interaction with the audience will be in Luxembourgish.

Q: Has it been a challenge?

B: Yes, it’s a little bit of a challenge.

A: Yes, because it’s – more than anything – an unknown language.
As singers, we sing in French and German and Italian and various languages,
but, with Luxembourgish, it’s very rare that you’ll ever going to need it.

A, B: Unless you do this project.

[They all laugh]

A: It does provide a bit of a challenge.

Q: Is there anything different associated with performing in
Luxembourg other than the language?

T: What’s different is that the performers are in the
Philharmonie in Luxembourg! They’re in this unbelievably state-of-the-art,
modern concert hall – it’s a very big, beautifully made, modernist structure.
It’s quite an unreal, weird environment but a beautiful space nevertheless; it
couldn’t be more different from a little theatre called Polka Theatre on the
high street in Wimbledon. It’s completely different – it’s high-tech Europe.

It’s quite an unreal, weird environment but a beautiful
space nevertheless.

A: I think – from previous experience – had we not done
Polka shows in between going to Luxembourg, jumping immediately into doing it
at the Philharmonie would be very surreal indeed.

E: There’s a similar environment.

A: We’ve gotten used to a similar environment and making
sure we know the practicalities like lighting.

B: Two shows a day as well.

A: Yeah, two shows a day so we’ve gotten used to that. So,
yeah, the difference isn’t going to be as dramatic but it will be quite

T: And then the audiences are wildly different in
Luxembourg. Adults can watch the show in beds! Then you have very young
autistic kids and older autistic kids and then you have families. It’s a very
mixed audience – it’s great really.

Q: Speaking of the audience, I’ve heard you’re to perform
for royalty. Is that added pressure or just excitement?

B: I don’t think pressure, I think it’s just exciting that
he’s coming and recognising how important it is that we go and do these shows.
I think it’s really fantastic that he’s coming to experience it for himself.

A: And hopefully it will also mean that the relationship
between English Touring Opera and the Philharmonie – being recognised now by
royalty – will continue and carry on for the next few years. Yeah, no added
pressure. But we’re going to squirt him in the face with our water gun.

This piece was written by Elijah, who joined us for work
experience. If you are interested in volunteering or joining the ETO office,
please contact Sascha, Reach Coordinator on Sascha.kelly@englishtouringopera.org.uk

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