Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Elizabeth Rose: Director of Peter Pan

"It's been such a disappointing summer full of rain that you should treat yourself to something fun and come see us in action!"

Stafford Gatehouse Theatre's Summer School rehearsals have started and the building is already buzzing. Director Elizabeth Rose has returned to direct this year's show, Peter Pan. We met with Elizabeth to find out more about her work and to discuss the timeless magic of Peter Pan.

Hi Elizabeth, let's start by discussing how your theatre career started?

I was pretty shy until I got to secondary school, where I got involved in Drama Club and really enjoyed it. I spent 3 years in the Derby Playhouse Youth Theatre and absolutely loved it, and a lot of my peers from that time are still in the industry doing amazing things. I trained as an actor at Bretton Hall and have worked professionally in theatre and television for over ten years. I now also work as a workshop leader, Youth Theatre teacher, role-player, facilitator, and in Stage Management. I can’t imagine ever not working in theatre, and am very passionate about what I do, which is important as it influences your whole lifestyle. I have worked a lot with children and young people and have a particular interest in what theatre can offer them in terms of education, entertainment and skills development.

Elizabeth during rehersals
How are preparations coming along for Peter Pan?

Very well thanks! However prepared I am I know I’ll be nervous on Day 1, but that’s part of the fun. I like to have an overview of the whole show in my head before we start, although if something doesn’t work in rehearsals or a different idea is suggested then obviously things change. I think it’s really important that every member of the cast feels they are a part of the team, so we all work hard to make sure everyone has plenty to do and a lot of that happens now, before we start rehearsing. I also work out how much material we need to cover each day in order to stay on target to begin the technical rehearsal having already run each act at least once. My script is already covered in scribbles and sketches and I met with Tim Murley, our set designer, in February, and with Measure for Measure, our wardrobe department, a month ago, so you can see how far back preparations begin. We generally start discussing the next Summer School as soon as one is finished, so we can be sure to choose something everyone will want to do.

What are the challenges of directing a cast of children ranging from 7-18 years of age?

Picking a story which will interest a wide age group is probably the most challenging thing, but Peter Pan is perfect. The children and teenagers themselves are great and the older members, or those who have more experience, are great at looking out for the younger ones. We are very lucky to have such a great Chaperone, Lesley, who keeps everyone safe and entertained when they’re not working, but we try to make sure everyone is as busy as possible. We also treat the cast as professionals and find that they respond by behaving as professionals, whatever their age.

What other summer school shows have you directed?

The first Summer School show I directed was Bugsy Malone, in 2009. I’d been Associate Director for three previous shows but it felt like a big leap to becoming Director, albeit a very exciting one. Since then I’ve directed Just So and The Adventures of Mr Toad, and can honestly say Summer School is one of my favourite projects of the year.

Bugsy Malone 2009
Peter Pan is such a magical story, do you and the creative team have some exciting plans in store?
Of course, but I can’t tell you what they are, it would spoil the surprise! Peter Pan has to encapsulate everything children want and make adults feel like they are children again, so that is what we’re aiming to achieve. We’ve a few tricks up our sleeves but you’ll have to wait and see what they are. The music is stunning and the show will look beautiful, so once we’ve added a sprinkling of fairy dust we’ll be away!
What is it about Peter Pan that you think has engaged and captured audiences for so many years?

It’s got all the ingredients of a classic story – good vs bad, adventure, suspense – but also a huge amount of humour. The book itself (although it was originally written as a play) is very funny, and most of the jokes in the show are from the original story. The element of fantasy is also massively important – who wouldn’t want to fly if the opportunity was there?! Wendy, John and Michael experience so many amazing things and audiences, whether reading the book or at watching at the theatre, love to go on their journey with them.

As you said earlier, you have directed a lot of shows for summer school and were also Assistant Stage Manager for the Christmas rock n roll pantomime Dick Whittington. What is it about the Gatehouse Theatre that keeps you coming back?
I have nothing but good memories of working at the Gatehouse – and can’t believe it’s six years since I first worked here! There’s a great team here all year round, from the Administration and office staff to Box Office, the Technical Departments, the cleaners – it sounds clich├ęd but it really is one team working together which is why it works. I couldn’t do Summer Schools without Verity, Michael and Richard, who all make it so much fun. It’s a great job and I feel very lucky to be a part of it – and of course the Summer School casts are so enthusiastic and so much fun that there’s never a dull moment!
What have been your highlights so far whilst working on shows for the Gatehouse and what are you most proud of?

There’s so much that I’m proud of, but sitting in the audience for the first performance of each of the shows and seeing everything come together is always a thrill. There have been times when we’ve had standing ovations and it’s amazing to see the cast look so elated at their hard work being rewarded. As for highlights... the countless occasions on which we’ve laughed until we’ve cried, or seen someone achieve something they didn’t think they could do, or watched people grow in confidence and go on to train and work professionally. All those things are great and make my job an absolute pleasure.

What are your next projects once Peter Pan has finished?

I’m back on tour in the Autumn, working for a company called Big Window on a show for children aged 2-4. There are very few companies catering for such young audiences and it’s brilliant to watch the children’s reactions. If you find that we’re nearby come and have a look! After that there are a few possibilities, but I’ll keep them under my hat so as not to jinx them!
How would you sum up this years summer school show in 3 words?

One big adventure!


Peter Pan will be performed from Wednesday 8 – Saturday 11 August 2012 and are available from Stafford Gatehouse Theatre Box Office on 01785 254 653 or by clicking here. 

Tickets cost £9.50 or £8.50 for concessions for the 7.30pm shows and £8.00 and £7.00 for concessions for the 2.30pm matinees (no matinee on Friday 10th August)

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