Collaborating with Leicester’s Curve theatre is an annual highlight for De Montfort University (DMU) Drama students, who are set for a physical comeback after two years of virtual shows during Covid.
Students are taking centre stage for their co-production of a new version of Joan Littlewood’s satirical masterpiece Oh What a Lovely War, from Thursday 19 to Saturday 21 May.
The ensemble cast follows in the footsteps of the original performance of the musical at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in 1963, which was inspired by Charles Chilton’s radio play The Long Long Trail.
In addition to working with acclaimed theatre director Lilac Yosiphon and music director Ben Garnett, students have also benefitted from a wide range of ensemble-building workshops with Curve professionals and local practitioners.
Thanks to the university’s valuable partnership with Leicester’s landmark theatre, the experience is part of DMU’s Drama curriculum, enabling second and final-year students to audition for the elective module.
For final-year student Chisenga Malama, it’s been an opportunity to build on skills she developed during last year’s Curve collaboration, Blood Wedding.
“Personally, this year has felt a lot more intense. We’re multi-roling and on stage at all times, plus there are the added nerves of performing live. It’s exciting too and the intensive experience will really help us when we leave university and start our careers,” said the 23-year old from Zambia.
“Thanks to the context of the play, we all got to have a say in the direction of this production, and it feels good to be part of such a collaborative process.”
Like final-year Romy Payne, some students found the musical element of the production daunting at first. The 21-year-old from Shropshire said: “I was a little bit nervous, but it’s actually been a nice process as we had a music director who was helping and individual training with soloists.
Photo by Kieran Vyas
“It’s been exciting for me as I’ve not been on stage in many professional theatres, so working in a setting like Curve and being treated like a real actor has been amazing.”
Second-year Rob Hart is enjoying his first collaboration with Curve. “It feels like forever since I’ve been out in front of a live audience after two years of Covid, so I’m looking forward to getting back out there as it’s something I really enjoy,” said the 19-year-old from Lincoln.
“The whole experience has been really professional. I only knew a few others when I joined the group, but it didn’t take long before we felt like a close-knit company.”
For Sandija Misika, a second-year Drama and Media joint honours student, having a mental health specialist on site was invaluable.
The 21-year-old from Latvia said: “We started our intensive rehearsals just as the war in Ukraine broke out and with Latvia being so close it was so scary. But at the start of the week we talked openly about how we were all affected and it really helped. Having a dedicated person to chat to anytime we were feeling anxious about anything was very reassuring.
“I’m just so grateful for this opportunity. Curve is amazing and so is our director, who has pushed us to achieve everything that we wanted to gain from this experience.”
Dr Elinor Parsons, senior lecturer in Drama at DMU, said: “This year’s co-production with Curve builds on our performance project modules and there’s an excited buzz amongst the students about performing in Curve’s studio theatre.
“The chosen text is both hard-hitting and playful, with an evenly distributed cast, allowing everyone to contribute in a rewarding way. It’s been very heartening to see the students developing such a strong bond as a group.”
Curve’s Chief Executive Chris Stafford and Artistic Director Nikolai Foster said: “Joan Littlewood created the ultimate paean for peace with her mighty anti-war play Oh What a Lovely War. With her Theatre Workshop, Littlewood’s seminal work has sadly never felt more relevant or urgent than it does today.
“We are thrilled our collaboration with De Montfort University continues to go from strength to strength and the talented Drama students will breathe new life into this work, reclaiming the play for these troubled times. And we are pleased to introduce our Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme director Lilac Yosiphon, who leads this project.”
Posted on Wednesday 27th April 2022