The ‘Our Town’ cast and team from Sheringham Little Theatre’s production.

14 Aug

Here are the brilliant team who created Our Town this July and August in Sheringham. 23 actors, 2 technicians, 1 stage manager, admin staff, directors, costume designers and makers, volunteers, cafe staff – a creative team making a very special show here in Sheringham at the Little Theatre. It was a pleasure and a privilege to work on this piece.

This was the perfect piece to open the theatre after months of lockdown. This Pulitzer prize winning play was adapted to North Norfolk and Grover’s Corners became Sheringham. The community cast from the town working alongside the professional team was a real joy to witness. The entire team was from East Anglia and all the cast from Norfolk and Suffolk. This meant a real connection to the work as well as the town and also the opportunity to create and make a new piece together that highlighted what it means to be alive. How we have to make the most of each and every moment of our lives. The making of this play was filled with such moments as the cast and team came together to make something truly special for, by and with the people of Sheringham.

Photos by Mark Benfield. Megan Artherton and Marcus Romer

‘Our Town’ by Thornton Wilder – opening at @SheringhamLT this August – directed by @marcusromer

1 Jul

Our Town is a Sheringham reworking of a classic play, written in the 1930s by Thornton Wilder, winning him an internationally-acclaimed Pulitzer Prize and was later staged on Broadway and had a televised film version starring Paul Newman.  It focused on the cranky characters of Grovers Corners in America between 1901 and 1913.

Now it is being given a home town setting by Sheringham Little Theatre – where we are re-locating Grovers Corners to North Norfolk – It is a story of life, love and all the millions of moments that make up a lifetime. It follows the stories of two families and their friends and people of the town and how they cope with the ups and downs of their every day lives. It is a heartwarming and really touching play that will connect with audiences today.

I am looking forward to working with the combined cast of professional performers and members of the community cast. It will be a real privilege to work together and share this story for our audiences, and to celebrate what it means to be part of a community coming together after the periods of lockdown we have all been through.

It will run from August 7th – 14th and we are starting community rehearsals this Saturday July 3rd.

Tickets and information can be found at the box office – details here

Provenance – the new film with integrated live theatre performance created by @mutinyprojects

29 Jun
Marva Alexander as Ms Kenny Jimoh – in front of the three screen installation – photo by Matthew Usher

As a co-founder and one of the directors of Mutiny Projects I was really delighted to be able to work across the three new writing and tech projects as part of the UEA’s Future and Form programme. All three of our works were presented as part of the programme for the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. One of these was Provenance, a new piece of work written for the project by Ayòbámi Adébáyò, which I was to direct for Mutiny.

This vivid and emotional multiscreen installation and live performance, tells the compelling story of twins separated by death. We follow the journey of the sacred ibeji artefact from its creation in Benin City, Nigeria, in 1895, to present-day Norwich in a story that spans continents, cultures and lifetimes.

Amongst the Yoruba of southwest Nigeria, twins are traditionally revered as gods. If a twin dies, the parents commission a sacred wooden sculpture of memorial— the ibeji. This figure is cared for as if it were a living twin.

With Marva Alexander, playing the role of museum curator Kenny Jimoh, the narrative unfolds over three simultaneous screens as we follow the 120-year journey of this sacred object from its creation in Benin City in 1895, its capture during the 1897 British invasion, Nigerian independence in 1960, to present-day Norwich, revealing how a seemingly anonymous museum artefact – the ibeji – can hold the hopes and emotions of a family and even of a nation.

We shot the film at Riverside Studios in March, with the Mutiny team of Simon Poulter as Art Director and Sophie Mellor as storyboard artist and editor of the film. The film was shot using two cameras as we built up the images and sequences to play out across the three screens. The actors and crew were all socially distanced and screens for the shoot.

The shoot at Riverside Studios with Jumoké Fashola and Suzann McLean – photo by Rich With

We also worked with a brilliant Nigerian Artist – Osaze Amadasun who created all the original drawings within the film. The full list of credits and cast can be seen below. For more info about the project check out the micro-site on our Mutiny Website

Please click to view in full screen for the video of Provenance below.

CAST

  • photo of Marva Alexander Kenny Jimoh – Marva Alexander Marva Alexander trained at Rose Bruford Drama College of Speech and Drama. Marva’s most recent role has been in the TV drama, It’s a Sin by Russell T Davies playing Mrs Ngomo. Her other TV credits include Doctors, BBC Walking with Caveman, Silent Witness and The Bill. For two years she trained with Black Mime theatre company performing in two of their productions Dirty Reality Two and Mourning Song. She has appeared in many Theatres productions including Salisbury Playhouse, Manchester Library Theatre, Young Vic, Birmingham repertory Theatre and Northampton Theatre Royal. 
  • photo of Jumoké Fashola Mrs Jimoh – Jumoké Fashola Jumoké Fashola is an award winning Radio & Television Broadcaster, Jazz Singer and Actress. She currently presents J to Z on BBC Radio 3 and Sunday Breakfast – Inspirit for BBC Radio London. Her theatre credits include Temi Wilkey’s The High Table (Bush Theatre/ Dir, Daniel Bailey) and Zawe Ashton’s For All The Women Who Thought They Were Mad (Hackney Showroom/ Dir, Jo McInnes). She is the creator and host of the Jazz Verse Jukebox which had a 7 year residency at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, London.
  • photo of Golda John Iya Agba – Golda John Golda John, a Nigerian born veteran award-winning Television, Stage and Film Actress has appeared in numerous theatre productions in Britain and internationally. She played lead roles in Wale Ogunyemi’s The Divorce, Wole Soyinka’s Death and The Kings Horse Man, Opera Wonyosi, Bertolt Brecht’s Good Woman of Setzuan, directed by Dr. Bode Osanyin, to mention a few. Golda was a famous face on Nigeria’s Television Authority in the 90s with plays such as Mirror In The Sun, Checkmate, Village Headmaster and Family Ties. Golda is one of the pioneers of Nigeria’s fast growing film industry, Nollywood, with such films as Ti Oluwa Ni Ile, Suspicion and Ahon among others.
  • photo of Diana Yekinni Adesuwa – Diana Yekinni Diana Yekinni’s theatre credits include: Oyiri di ya in Three Sisters (National Theatre); Mum in I’ll Take You to Mrs Cole (Complicité); Nurse in The Secret lives of Baba Segi’s Wives (Arcola), Tituba in The Crucible (UK Tour); Molly in Drafts(Southwark Playhouse); Expensive Shit (Traverse Theatre / Royal Festival Hall); For Coloured Girls Who Have Considered Suicide (Lagos, Nigeria); London Life Lagos Living (Lagos, Nigeria) TV & Film credits include: Dolapo in For Love (BBC Films); Skin The Documentary (BeNaya/Netflix); Medium(CBS); and Wonu in The Mrs (Africa Magic) Lunch Time Heroes (Netflix).
  • photo of Oliver Alvin-Wilson Jide – Oliver Alvin-Wilson Oliver Alvin-Wilson’s credits include, for the National Theatre : All Of Us, Nine Night, The Red Barn, Emperor and Galilean and All’s Well That Ends Well. Other theatre includes: The Doctor at the Almeida; The Twilight Zone at the Ambassadors; Hamlet for Hamletscenen; A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Young Vic; Othello at the Stafford Gatehouse; A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice and Henry V for Propeller; Antigone, Romeo and Juliet and This Child for Pilot; Doctor Faustus for West Yorkshire Playhouse; Blue/Orange on UK tour for ATG; Antony and Cleopatra for Nuffield; To Kill a Mockingbird for Theatr Clwyd on tour; Pigeon Lover at The Space; and Much Ado About Nothing for Derby Live. Oliver appeared in the films Wonder Woman 1984 and The Huntsman.
  • photo of suzann mclean Nurse – Suzann McLean Suzann has worked extensively in both theatre and television she is the winner of British Arrows Gold Award for her performance in the BUPA for living advert and won the African Film Best Actress Award in 2011. Other acting credits include Pennyworth, Good Omens, The Honourable Woman, Dr. Who, Little Miss Jocelyn, Measure For Measure (National Theatre) A Raisin in the Sun (Synergy Theatre). Suzann is artistic director of Theatre Peckham Directing credits include Offie Nominated Extremism (Theatre Peckham), Driving Miss Daisy (York Theatre Royal), Robin Hood (Theatre Peckham), Catcher (Pilot Theatre). 
    For ‘Provenance’ Suzann was also 1st Assistant Director. 

Creative Team

Written by Ayòbámi Adébáyò

Costume and Props: Alana Ashley

Make Up and Hair: Remi Oyenekan

Director of Photography: Andrew Delaney

Sound: Graham Tobias

Gaffer: Rich With

BSL Interpreter: Sumayya Si-Tayeb

1st Assistant Director: Suzann McLean

2nd Assistant Director: Evie Nuttgens

Music and Sound Design: Sandy Nuttgens

Illustration: Osaze Amadasun

Art Direction: Simon Poulter

Editor: Sophie Mellor

Director: Marcus Romer

For Future and Form and University of East Anglia (UEA): 

CHASE Researchers: Sasha Bergstrom-Katz and Wes Brown

Provenance UEA Project Lead: Professor Jean McNeil

Future and Form Project Lead: Professor Henry Sutton

Future and Form Executive Producer: Tim Wright

Filmed at Riverside Studios, London, 2021

Making a new #theatre production of #TWO using a zoom rehearsal process and a shorter rehearsal time in the theatre.

28 Jun
Howard Saddler and Joyce Branagh as Fred and Alice in Two – photo by Mark Benfield

I have just directed a new version of Jim Cartwright’s play, TWO with two brilliant actors – Joyce Branagh and Howard Saddler. This was produced by St George’s Theatre using their Cultural Recovery Fund money. We teched, dressed and opened the show at St George’s Theatre – and then moved the show to run at Sheringham at the Little Theatre who again supported the project.

Howard Saddler and Joyce Branagh as Landlord and Landlady in TWO photo by Mark Benfield

Like ‘Ghosted’ the previous project I made with the same production team, I rehearsed for a month with the cast on zoom prior to us getting together in the actual theatre. This worked well for the monologues and for the work on character development – and enabled the actors to ‘get off book’ and know their lines prior to us meeting in person.

Howard Saddler and Joyce Branagh as Roy and Lesley – photo by Mark Benfield

We had a three day rehearsal time prior to a technical and dress rehearsal day. This is of course a really short amount of time in which to get the show on its feet. It is a testament to the skill and expertise of the actors to enable us to make this deadline – which we did and opened the show the following day as per the schedule. The fact that the actors were ‘off book’ meant we could work fast and build the interaction scenes between the characters. A bit like being on a film set and working each scene in detail. This of course meant all the mimed props and ‘geography’ of each scene needed meticulous planning and rehearsal to cement the text and character into the environments for each of these sections. This takes time and focus – and again thanks to the skill of Joyce and Howard we were able to block these out and work through them in the time.

Joyce Branagh and Howard Saddler as Maudie and Moth – photo by Mark Benfield

I had chosen to play the piece in a socially distanced ‘cabaret’ style using the actual theatre bar. So the audience would be in the pub with the actors and their characters. This worked incredibly well and the interaction between the cast and the audience was a real treat to observe.

The tech rehearsal at St George’s Theatre using the bar and the cabaret style set up. Katie Thompson Assistant Director and Joyce Branagh photo by Marcus Romer.

The planning of the production dated back to January this year when we knew we may or may not have been able to be fully open by the proposed June 21st date. This of course impacted on audience capacity for us as the social distancing rules were still in force. But we had not know this during our rehearsal time in April and May on our zoom schedule so we had to prepare the show regardless. So again in Sheringham the decision was made to move it to the theatre space to allow us to socially distance an audience capacity of 25%. This has been really hard on venues as clearly all our pre-production costs were the same to get the show ready for our June opening time. The show was really well received and played to capacity audiences at each venue.

It is again a big thanks to Theatre Director, Debbie Thompson who runs both venues in Norfolk, to support us as freelance theatre makers during this time. A big thanks also to the actors Joyce Branagh and Howard Saddler, the crew and tech team of Mark Benfield, Chris Sainton-Clark, Katie Thompson and the costumes by Libby Henshaw, and all the FOH team and volunteers at both venues.

So here are the photos from the production taken by Mark Benfield

Making #Ghosted come to life – a new #theatre #headphone show for Great Yarmouth and Sheringham

20 Jun
The cast of Ghosted – photo by Mark Benfield

Ghosted is a new play that James McDermott and I developed during lockdown, which we premiered in June 2021 on the seafronts of Great Yarmouth and Sheringham.

James and I had been working across a number of theatre projects and commissions over the last few years and we started a conversation back in October 2020 where I discussed wanting to make a ‘headphone’ show outdoors by the sea and to explore the idea of multi episode ‘Box set’ theatre project and James had been talking about creating a coastal version of ‘Skins’ so both of those ideas came to fruition as an idea for ‘Ghosted’ The piece was designed to be three episodes, and for this project we would create episode one.

We were able to devise the story outline together – where a group of young people living in Norfolk are drawn together when one of their friendship group – Ash – disappears. His discard clothes left on the beach at Sheringham. A series of WhatsApp audio messages were sent to certain individuals that contained information about what might have happened to him. So their search for the truth starts there.

We approached Theatre Director Debbie Thompson who runs both theatres in Sheringham (SLT) and Great Yarmouth (St George’s) who was really encouraging and supportive to the idea and agreed to fund the R&D for the project and to programme it for both theatres in 2021 (with thanks to the Culture Recovery Fund). So James set to work on writing the text and he and I worked together as his drafts came through to hone the characters and the storyline.

This gave us a great focus during the winter months, and provided us both with work and a new creative project to work on. As freelancers this was really important for us both at that time. The script was finalised at the end of January and we cast the show in February. All our meetings of course were on zoom. We cast the show on zoom again after meeting an amazing array of talented young actors from across East Anglia.

Our plan was to rehearse the play on zoom too. Again to use a film analogy, the actors would work on their characters with me as director, and we would then rehearse the scenes via zoom together, they would then learn their lines and be off book for the time we could rehearse in the outdoor locations. I built the route for the piece in each location and we had photos of the set areas in which the scenes would take place. The style of acting was filmic in terms of the characters having quiet conversations with each other. The actors would be close mic’ed and their conversations would be audible in the sound mix for the audience.

The map and locations are here

For the audience we used the silent disco headphone technology that allow multiple channel audio feeds – these have an inbuilt Radio Frequency receiver that picks up the audio from the transmitting base station. The audio feed from the actors was mixed with a soundtrack which included voice messages, music and sound effects to build an immersive audio environment for the audience. The reach of the headphones meant that the actors could be up to 50 meters from the audience – allowing a cinematic landscape background to be incorporated into the piece.

The audience in great Yarmouth watching Adam and Jake on the beach for the memorial for Ash
The audience in Sheringham watching Adam and Chloe discover Ash’s voicemail

The audience moved from location to location with us as we followed the cast on their journey. Working with our Tech manager Mark Benfield who built a trolley which had a lithium ion generator that enabled us to power the transmitter, the microphone base stations, the sound mixing desk, and the computer which ran Qlab for the sound scape. This was all able to move from space to space – ensuring the audience were always in full audio connection throughout.

The zoom rehearsal process enabled us to work through all the text and prepare the cast to meet in person for the first time. So not dissimilar to arriving on a film set or location and being prepped to do your scene, knowing your lines and intentions – and as a real consequence of this – being in the moment and being able to interact and react with each other for the first time made for a really strong and heightened set of naturalistic scenes. There was no need for projecting for an audience. In fact the strength of the piece lay in the ability of the cast to play the scenes for real with each other.

Rehearsal on zoom with all the team

The piece played across the seafront of both towns in June 2021. This was episode 1. James has already completed the scripting for the final two instalments – he works very fast! – and we are in the process of seeing how we can move these forward with some new funding.

Ghosted was incredibly well received and audiences really engaged with the characters and the story. The technology all held up brilliantly without any hitches. We performed in brilliant sunshine for some of the shows and a torrential downpour for one memorable one too! Again this added to the atmosphere and the crashing waves and sheeting rain did not put people off at all.

Fish and Chloe in Sheringham prom for scene 7
The same scene – but in Great Yarmouth

Again the naturalistic opportunities of this work really enable the actors to work at their best. To really focus on the scene and the text – the audience move to a point where they can see them – again keeping a distance and allowing them to ‘eavesdrop’ on the characters conversation.

It also does not disrupt or draw attention to passers by. In fact many people just passed by as if two people were just having a quiet chat on a bench. That is the beauty of this way of working.

So a big thank you to James McDermott for his skill, patience and energy in making this happen with me. Debbie Thompson for the support and funding to enable us to make work with 7 very talented local actors. Mark Benfield for the tech wizardry and Chris for opping the Qlab on the trolley too!

But of course – big thanks to the cast – Ashton Owen, Amy English, Megan Artherton, Megan Sharman, Charlie Randall, Olly Westlake and Sam Thompson.

The cast of Ghosted – episode 1
The cast and team pre-show at Great Yarmouth

Old photos found on a memory stick…

1 May

Today I found these photos on a an old memory stick in an drawer – On it were these press pack images from previous shows I directed – photos by Karl Andre

Eliot Barnes-Worrell and the cast in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner adapted by Roy Williams 2012
Eliot Barnes-Worrell and Savannah Gordon-Liburd in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner 2012
Oliver Alvin-Wilson as Romeo and Louisa Eyo as Nurse – Romeo and Juliet 2010-2011
Rachel Spicer as Juliet – Romeo and Juliet 2010-2011
Christina Baily as JJ and Suzann McLean as her social worker Davood Ghadami and Melanie Ash – Looking for JJ 2007-2008 adapted by Marcus Romer – this show won the UK Theatre / TMA best production for young people

A new way of making a theatre show – blending a Zoom rehearsal process with an outdoor Bluetooth headphone adventure #Ghosted

28 Apr

Amy English as ‘Flo’ and Sam Thompson as ‘Jet’ in the zoom rehearsal for ‘Ghosted’

There is a lot of talk about hybrid working and making blended projects – ones that are created using a mixture of online technologies and in person meetings. Last year I helped to make War of the Worlds in Norway entirely on Zoom. This year as part of the Cultural Recovery funding for St George’s Theatre, Great Yarmouth we are making a brand new piece of work as an R&D that we are rehearsing on Zoom but will be showcased live across various locations in Great Yarmouth and Sheringham in June this year.

‘Ghosted’ is a new commission from James McDermott that I have been working on and directing the cast of 7 young actors from Norfolk on this new performance piece. The audience will be able to eavesdrop, using bluetooth headphone technology, on a series of encounters of the characters who are trying to piece together the unexpected disappearance of ‘Ash’ one of their friendship group. A series of voicemails and text messages are shared between the group as well as live ‘in person’ scenes are played out as the story unfolds.

This will enable a socially distanced performance in a series of public spaces along the promenade and seafront of both of the towns. We are developing the technology to enable the bluetooth headphones to pick up the conversations blended with soundtrack as we follow the cast along the route of the play.

UPDATE Read here to see how well the show went

The actors and audience will be socially distanced and the technology will allow an intimate audio and performance experience with the backdrop of the Norfolk coast as a new piece of ‘Promenade Theatre’ unfolds. This R&D has been enabled by ACE cultural recovery funding and the support of St George’s Theatre and Sheringham Little Theatre and their Director Debbie Thompson who have supported this freelance team during the pandemic.

Tickets for Great Yarmouth

Tickets for Sheringham

Explore the scene locations on the map below

The full cast and James McDermott in rehearsal 

With Megan Sharman as ‘Fish’, Megan Artherton as ‘Chloe, Oliver Westlake as ‘Jake’, Ashton Owen as ‘Adam’ Sam Thompson as ‘Jet’ and Charlie Randall as ‘Ash’

Back in the studio again…

25 Mar

For our current Mutiny Projects commission we are making three new pieces of work for the Future and Form project – part of celebrating 50 years of creative writing at UEA. We are developing projects with three amazing writers – Ayobami Adebayo, Mona Arshi and Imogen Hermes Gowar.

For our piece with Ayobami we are making a new film and live performance piece “Provenance” that will premiere at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival in May this year.

So it was great to be back in the studio again making the film for the project. We shot at Riverside Studios in London and had a Covid secure set up – Lateral Flow tests, Face masks, visors and socially distanced shot set ups. We shot with two cameras a series of single shots – as the presentation will ultimately be on three 50 inch screens that will range from one full image to three separate images. Our crew had Andy Delaney as Director of Photography, Graham Tobias on sound and Rich With as Gaffer. I worked as Director and it was great to work with Suzann McLean again as first AD. We had Evie Nuttgens as 3rd AD and Clapper loader. Our design and props were brilliantly made by Alana Ashley and make up hair and styling was by Remi Oyenekan.

Our actors were brilliant and gave great performances for us with our set up. They were Jumoké Fashola as Lydia Jimoh, Golda John as Iya Agba, Diana Yekinni as Adesuwa, Oliver Alvin Wilson as Jide and Suzann McLean as the Nurse. For the live performance Marva Alexander will join us in May and she will play Kehinde.

Below are some screen grabs from the edit that Sophie Mellor is delivering and some photos taken by me during the shoot.

As a team Mutiny Projects will be delivering this and the other two projects as part of our commission for Future and Form

Micro Library

6 Feb

The use of the micro library as an art documentary storyboard in pictures

Casting Opportunity – for a new theatre production #Ghosted by James McDermott directed by Marcus Romer

5 Feb

A new production for St George’s Theatre and Sheringham Little Theatre spring/summer 2021

Ghosted 

Instalment One

A Promenade Play

by James McDermott

Directed by Marcus Romer

Characters

Adam eighteen, male identifying       – bisexual, worrier, works in the arcade

Jake eighteen, male identifying          – gay, a scally, works in a cafe

Chloe eighteen, female identifying    – strong, sassy, works in a pub

Fish eighteen, female identifying       – questioning, perceptive, cheeky, works in a fish shop 

Jet eighteen, male identifying             – secretive, aspiring footballer

Flo sixteen, female identifying           – naive dreamer, still at school

Ash (in video & audio only) 18, male identifying – rebel, smart, middle class

Setting

The action in this play unfolds along a Norfolk seaside promenade. The promenades will be in Sheringham and Great Yarmouth. The story explores the efforts of six very different teenage friends, after their pal Ash disappears and his clothes are washed up on the beach. It delves into their characters, romances, and secrets which could explain Ash’s absence.

This is the first play in a series of plays that tell a large serialised story. It is the pilot episode for the potential series from an original idea by James McDermott and Marcus Romer.

Dates 

Submissions by                       18th February

Casting via Zoom w/c             22nd February

Rehearsals from                      1st March (via zoom)

Performances from April      Times tbc dependent on national guidance               

Casting 

We are looking for actors who ideally are either from, based in or have a connection to East Anglia. They must me able to have excellent Norfolk accents. Playing ages for all roles are 18 with the exception of the character of Flo who has a playing age of 16. We are looking for a strong diverse cast for this new performance piece which takes its inspiration as a rural and coastal version of ‘Skins’

Notes

For a COVID secure production, the actors would all wear head-mics and the audience wear Bluetooth receiving headsets enabling them to stand at a safe distance from the cast and each other. 

Rehearsals will take place on Zoom in March in preparation for the intended performance when times allow.

Please submit spotlight links or photo and cv to marcusromeruk@gmail.com

Please mark the email ‘Ghosted’ Casting.