SRT’s The Little Company (TLC) continues its 2014 season with a new original children’s musical, The Nightingale, adapted from the Hans Christian Andersen classic The Emperor and The Nightingale. UK-based director Kate Golledge, who previously helmed TLC’s shows Fantastic Mr Fox and Red Riding Hood, graciously granted Eliterate.Asia an interview via email on this production, which is unlike any children’s show.
What attracts you to ‘The Nightingale’ ?
It’s very different to any other story I’ve told in theatre before. There isn’t a baddy, at least not in the conventional way. It’s a drama that is quite personal about fears and growing up and learning. And the Nightingale is a beautiful metaphor for the simple things in life, sometimes we all need a reminder that what’s important is not the latest gadget but the thing that makes you stop and just BE for a moment. On a practical level I’m so thrilled to come back and work with SRT who have become like a second family to me and to work with my incredible creative team in Singapore which is such a thriving and exciting place to work.
To what extent is the production influenced by your past experiences of children’s’ plays across different countries ?
I love to travel and I try to see as much theatre as I can, all over the place. I’ve watched shows in different languages, even languages that I don’t understand – and I think it’s important to experience as much variety as possible. I love things that are visual and bold, and beautiful to look at. To pay my way through drama school I used to work as a children’s party entertainer, and I also spent two summers working with children in France and Italy. I’ve come to realise that children are children, wherever they come from. They love to laugh, and be surprised, and they really take things seriously too. I am constantly influenced by things that I see, and hear, and read, and all of that feeds into my work constantly. I love that this is an ancient Chinese tale, told by a Danish man, adapted and directed by two Brits and composed by a Singaporean.. And will be performed in Mandarin. It’s truly multi cultural and all of those experiences will come together in the production.
What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments in your artistic work /or career ?
Every day is different, so there is no time to sit back and switch off. The best days are when I feel myself working outside of my safe zone and I can feel myself meeting new challenges and growing as an artist. Memorable moments include going for lunch with Andrew Lloyd Webber at his house to discuss my role as associate director on The Wizard of Oz, the incredible feeling that I get every time the lights go down at the start of the first performance of pretty much everything I direct – and coming to Singapore for the first time – feeling truly international !
What are currently your main artistic challenges ?
Keeping on top of so many projects and giving each one the time and attention it needs. Nightingale opens at the end of July and will be the 8th show I have opened this year. I tend to get up very early these days! Also, back in London, it’s a big challenge to tell the stories I want to tell within the budgets that are available – sometimes you have to create a lot out of not very much. Although actually, I often find that makes me more creative so it’s a good challenge.
Which is more important: creativity or efficiency ?
I think there is no point having one without the other. Creativity is my lifeblood but if I didn’t keep an empty inbox and an organised calendar I wouldn’t be able to cope. I think there is a perception of creative people as being a bit chaotic and whilst that can be true at times (and certainly if you ask my mother she would say that it was!), it would be impossible to succeed in an artistic profession without great organisational skills and a structured approach to time. Creativity for me is about looking at a situation and noticing the story behind the story, looking at a table but seeing a den, a mountain, a boat, a platform over molten lava. It’s the ability to switch in and out of ‘what if’ at will. But you still have to turn up for work on time and do what you promise you will do in a day !
Can you describe how you approach bringing the play to life from being asked to direct it ?
First of all I read the script, over and over again, until I have a sense of the characters and the world. Actually, with this project, I was on board before the script was written so I got to know the tale in various versions, which meant I could have a larger input into the adaptation. I usually collect images on Pinterest ( http://www.pinterest.com/kategolledge/emperor-and-the-nightingale/ ) which is a great way to be able to keep all of my musings and internet searchings together. Images jump out at me as I start to collect things. In this case, I was really taken with the image of a bird being kept in a cage – and I collected a load of birdcage pictures. When I was travelling two years ago I visited Hong Kong and found the Kowloon Bird Market really arresting. Mike and I got onto talking about the Emperor being similarly incarcerated and my amazing designer Bec Chippendale was able to bring this idea into the set design too. Casting is always a fun part, getting to meet so many talented and creative brains who might be able to bring their experience and expertise into our rehearsal room and bring the characters to life. Once I get into rehearsal, I keep all of my planning and preparation as a version of what we might do – I will often start a rehearsal by asking the actors to help me explore a theory rather than telling them how I want it to be onstage. In this way the show comes to life as a collective creation and the actors can really take ownership of the piece. The final piece of the jigsaw is putting it in front of an audience for a first time and using their reaction to help steer the ship.
What are you most proud of about this production ?
I’m writing this before we even go into rehearsal and already I’m full of pride at my amazing team and what we are trying to achieve together. This is an ancient tale that has been completely reimagined for our young audience and we are keeping the the traditional elements we need and combining them with modern twists to create something really special. Our writer Mike Kenny has created a wonderfully topsy turvy world and Ruth Ling has composed an utterly brilliant score which combines traditional Chinese elements with hip hop and folk music and catchy singalong tunes. I can’t wait to go into rehearsal and find out a whole lot more new things.
SRT’s The Little Company brings you a refreshing new take on Hans Christian Andersen’s well-loved fairy tale. Directed by Kate Golledge (RED RIDING HOOD, 2013), The Nightingale is a joyful burst of song that reminds us all to appreciate and value the world around us.
Enchanted by the lilting birdsong of the plain-looking, brown Nightingale, the little Emperor of China captures and keeps her in a gilded cage for his daily entertainment. But soon, along with her freedom, the beautiful VOICE OF THENightingale is lost and a singing mechanical bird replaces her.
Will she survive her days in captivity? Will she ever fly freely again? Join the Nightingale and friends in their quest for her freedom ! With catchy rhymes, beautiful music and clever dialogue, it is a ‘trill-ing’ show that will definitely captivate young audiences.
Recommended for 3 – 8 year-olds.
Tue – Fri: 10am & 2pm*
Sat & Sun: 11am, 2pm
*Timing is only applicable for specific show dates.