Putting on a zero-budget production, in the midst of a pandemic, in an open-air venue, with a goal to raise money for charity is just as challenging as it sounds! But who doesn’t like a good challenge? Sophia Gunneburg and myself co-directed the production amongst trees. Those who could not be part of the in person audience were able to watch a livestream.
This unusual circumstance actually allowed us to think outside of the box in terms of our production concept, thereby creating a more unique interpretation. The set was a bed placed on a grass lawn in the centre of two trees, which marked the boundaries of the stage. We decided to ask the actors to make use of this unusual setting in their performance in order for the audience to forget their surroundings and be completely immersed in the story and action of the play. For example, at one moment an actor scraped the moss off a tree and threw it at another actor exclaiming “Look! Look at where we live! While you, you shack up in your palace in the sun.” The audience begins to see the surrounding forest as the flat - if the actors embrace it, the audience does too. In a review, the critic Dafydd White states that “even though this production was set in a garden, the intimate and beautiful atmosphere transported us to the home of Martha”. Although it didn’t appear ideal at first, the outdoors ended up adding elements of intrigue for the actors, directors and audience, pushing our show, I believe, to be even better.
My philosophy is get the actor that is best for the part, regardless of looks or gender. This meant that we ended up with an all-male cast for a play with several female parts and the audience barely seemed to notice. Gender-blind casting is something that Naked Bear will continue throughout future productions.
That Face was a fundraiser for The Zoe Sarojini Trust to enable psycho-social support for young refugees in Greece. By the end of the production, we were able to raise GBP 1,000, which went beyond expectation! The in-person and online audience were encouraged to make donations instead of buying tickets. I was touched to receive a handwritten thank you card from the director of the programme we contributed to. It feels great to have contributed to other young people in the process of creating our passion project.
- Nay Murphy