MA Acting Classical and Contemporary Students Perform in ‘The Cherry Orchard’ and ‘Bones’ | The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

MA Acting Students Perform in ‘The Cherry Orchard’ and ‘Bones’

MA Acting Contemporary Students perform in Tanika Gupta's 'Bones'

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

In July, Central’s MA Acting Classical and MA Acting Contemporary students performed in their final-year productions of The Cherry Orchard and Bones, respectively.  

The adapted production of The Cherry Orchard, was directed by the award-winning actor and director Janet Suzman.  Setting the text in Argentina, in the languorous estancias of the Andes foothills where cherries are grown to produce Malbec wines, the production examined (as in the original) the impact of the old ways of life being ousted in order to make way for the new.  In 1997, Janet Suzman first rewrote The Cherry Orchard and translocated it to a far corner of the old Orange Free State in South Africa.  The script used for Central’s production was Simon Stephens’ adaptation, which was first performed at the Young Vic Theatre in October 2014. 

Janet Suzman, besides being an Honorary Associate Artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company, is an Honorary Life Member of the Shakespeare Association of GB and has the Freedom of the City of London.  She was honoured with a DBE in 2011.  She has nominations for Oscar and Golden Globe Awards, has twice won The Evening Standard Award for Best Actress, and started directing with a ground-breaking Othello at The Market Theatre, Johannesburg, three years before Mandela walked free.  For the rest she has appeared in many films, on television and in plays too numerous to mention. 

Of the production, Central’s Senior Lecturer and Course Leader for MA Acting Classical Ben Naylor said:   

“It’s been a huge privilege for the students to work with Janet, one of the most important classical stage actors in the English speaking world over the last fifty years.  As a theatre-maker and activist of huge energy and integrity, she’s brought over half a century of invaluable experience to the 2019 Classical cohort.  What an extraordinary opportunity, for a tremendously talented group of students.” 

Bones was commissioned by Central specifically for its MA Acting Contemporary students.  Written by renowned English playwright and Honorary Fellow of the School Tanika Gupta, the idea for Bones came from the recent exposure by local historian Catherine Corless of the discovery of babies’ bones and skeletons found in the grounds of a mother and baby home in Tuam – County Galway – Ireland.  The play is loosely based around the events and draws inspiration from the story.   

Tanika Gupta said of the production that it “is a play about loss, the punishment of unmarried mothers and the legacy of demonization of women by the Church and State, where the human and reproductive rights of women are undermined.”  

Over the past 20 years, Tanika Gupta has written over 20 stage plays that have been produced in major theatres across the UK and has written extensively for BBC Radio drama.  Tanika has won several awards, including the John Whiting Award for The Waiting Room, the Asian Women of Achievement Award, the BBC Audio Drama Award for Best Adaptation for A Doll’s House and the Amnesty International Media Awards for the radio play Chitra.  In 2008 she was awarded an MBE for Service to Drama and in 2016 was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.  She was made an Honorary Fellow of Central in 2018. 

Central’s Martin Wylde, Principal Lecturer and Programme Leader for MA Acting said: 

“Tanika provided this year’s Contemporary cohort with an exeptional new play and I am proud of the work of the students and my fellow creative team members.  This was the eighth in our series of annuallly commissioned plays and as James Dacre, Artistic Director of Royal & Derngate Northampton commented on Twitter, ‘...some of the most imaginitive new work around is being commissioned by drama schools like @CSSDLondon whose premiere of Bones by @Tanika_Gupta is wonderfully acted in a moving production’.” 

Central’s MA Acting is designed primarily for students with previous experience and/ or training; they are creatively, physically and intellectually demanding advanced-level, conservatoire acting programmes.  The Classical course follows the development of the theatrical art from its earliest ritual roots to the birth of naturalism, whilst the Contemporary course addresses the actor’s relationship with the writer, from Early Modern times to the present day.  Students hone their individual, technical crafts whilst working creatively within a small ensemble company.  Throughout the year, actors on each course perform in two fully-realised public productions and also feature in an industry showcase. 

The Cherry Orchard and Bones were the final public productions for the current cohort and concluded a year of shows including Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, King of Britain and Seamus Heaney’s translation of Sophocles’ Antigone, The Burial at Thebes (MA Acting Classical), as well as devised production The Herd and Scenes from the End of the World, a new writing piece commissioned from Chris Bush (MA Acting Contemporary). 

What an extraordinary opportunity, for a tremendously talented group of students.

Ben Naylor, Central’s Senior Lecturer and Course Leader for MA Acting Classical