The Pantaloons Theatre Company – an interview with director Mark Hayward

Pride & Prej

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by THE PANTALOONS THEATRE COMPANY comes to KETTERING ARTS CENTRE on JULY 25th.

Preview:

A PART IN THE PANTALOONS THEATRE COMPANY

THE CAST

Narrator:                             Pete Austin

The Manager:                    Mark Hayward

ACT I SCENE 1

The time is the present

The setting is somewhere in England

The house lights go down and the stage lights fade in to reveal the interior of two separate rooms in two distinctively different houses. A curtain hangs between them to signify the distance between them.

Enter THE NARRATOR (Stage left) and THE MANAGER (Stage right).

Both sit down and open up laptop computers.

THE NARRATOR opens his Kettering Arts Centre account and THE MANAGER his own account.

NARRATOR:  (Speaking aloud to himself) let’s see. I wonder if I have had any emails today. (PAUSE as he taps the keys) Yes! Mark has replied.

(THE NARRATOR mumbles to himself while scanning the document).

That’s brilliant. He’s answered every question and in depth. It’s just, well, more than I could have expected from such a busy chap. He didn’t have time for a telephone interview but the way he has written things down is just as good. I think it will make a great read and if I present it in the format of a play no one will know we were not speaking directly to each other.

 

THE NARRATOR settles down into an easy chair close to the curtain and on the opposite side of the curtain THE MANAGER also seats himself in an easy chair. The curtain lifts and both can be seen facing each other and are already in deep conversation

NARRATOR: In five words, how would you describe The Pantaloons Theatre Company?

Mark HaywardTHE MANAGER: Chaotic clowns contemporising the classics

NARRATOR: Whose idea was it to form The Pantaloons Theatre Company and the why and when?

THE MANAGER: The Pantaloons originally formed at the University of Kent in 2004 to stage an all-male outdoor production of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Steve Purcell, then a young MA student with a passion for Shakespeare and a flair for comedy, decided to direct and produce the play as a kind of companion piece to his Master’s degree. It was so well received by the people of Canterbury that there was no question about it – The Pantaloons would stage another production the following year. One thing led to another and now we are an unstoppable force of theatre, touring the country for around six months a year.

NARRATOR: How many people are involved in the company?

THE MANAGER: The Company is owned and managed by founding Pantaloons Mark Hayward (that’s me) and Catilin Storey. The aforementioned Steve Purcell is now the company’s artistic director and a pre-eminent Shakespeare scholar based at the University of Warwick.

Steve and I take charge of writing duties – sometimes tackling individual projects, sometimes writing as a team. We also share directing responsibilities.

We have a core ensemble of actors – a pool of talent that we draw from regularly. We are incredibly lucky that people want to come back and work with us time and time again. The performers really are fantastic. Some of them are stalwarts from our days at Kent, others have been picked up over the years from various auditions and open workshops we’ve held.

NARRATOR: Which has been the hardest play/challenge for you to adapt to the Pantaloons style?

Stephen PurcellTHE MANAGER: Every project is challenging in its own way. Although we have a particular style we try to approach each show differently as, for instance, the silliness you can get away with in a Dickens adaptation is not the same as the silliness you can get away with in Austen. We try hard to be faithful to the spirit of the original material whilst teasing out all the opportunities for humour. It’s about having fun with the text without undermining it.

THE NARRATOR and THE MANAGER each pick up a cup and take long sips. It could be coffee it could be tea, the fact it did not really happen is immaterial but it gives the audience the opportunity to take a breather, digest the details that have been shared so far and to prepare themselves for the next exchanges of information. The fact that the audience has not been offered any refreshments bypasses THE NARRATOR and THE MANAGER and the conversation continues. 

(If needs be the audience is reminded they can actually stop reading now or at any time to get themselves a drink and continue whenever they are ready –neither THE NARRATOR nor THE MANAGER will be any the wiser so long as you do not tell).

NARRATOR: How long, on average, does it take to create a Pantaloons production from concept to performance ready?

THE MANAGER: We usually decide on a title about a year before we go into rehearsals for it. During that time we come up with a way to tackle it and write the adaptation (while working on our other projects at the same time). We now give ourselves twelve days of rehearsal for any given project. It seems to be just the right amount of time to come up with ideas and implement them. We do the ‘polishing’ while the show is on the road – our performances rely heavily on audience reactions and involvement so adapting it as we go, based on responses, is very much part of the creative process.

END OF ACT ONE

During the interval the audience is reminded that THE PANTALOONS THEATRE COMPANY is currently touring and on SATURDAY 25th JULY will be appearing at KETTERING ARTS CENTRE with its new production of Jane Austen’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

Tickets for this performance cost £10 (Concessions £9) and are available HERE.

Doors open at 7pm for a 7.30pm start

 ACT ONE SCENE TWO

A few seconds later

NARRATOR: Why did you choose to take Pride and Prejudice and give it the pantaloons treatment?

THE MANAGER: Anything in the literary canon is fair game for us and we have a list of works we’d like to adapt at some point. Austen was on the list so we thought we’d go for arguably her best work. We love taking popular titles and giving them a bit of a spin that people won’t have seen before whilst also referencing the much-loved adaptations that they are already familiar with. There’s a certain bit involving Mr Darcy and a lake we just couldn’t avoid nodding towards in our own special way.

 

NARRATOR: Is there any play you would like to do that you have yet to tackle?

THE MANAGER: We have a whole list and we’ll get round to them all at some point.

Of Shakespeare’s plays we’re really keen to take on Othello. I can feel a gothic horror adaptation bubbling up, too…

NARRATOR: You are well-known for adapting the plays of Shakespeare – why do you think his plays have endured so long?

THE MANAGER: I’m the wrong Pantaloon to ask. My colleague Steve could write a book about it. In fact, he has written a couple.

I would say that Shakespeare’s plays have endured for three reasons.

  1. They’re really good. Like, really good. Steve would say it better.
  2. They have actually aged well. It helps that a large proportion of the texts are poetry. As verse is stylised anyway it doesn’t age like prose. And I would definitely argue that Shakespeare’s prose is much harder to get across.
  3. They have passed into the folk tradition. They exist now in the cultural consciousness of the whole world. Romeo and Juliet, for example, is no longer just Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It is a ballet. It is West Side Story. It is Gnomeo and Juliet. It is the saying that a romantic guy “is a real Romeo”. It is people unavoidably shouting “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” when they’re standing on a balcony. It’s Leonardo Di Caprio defying the stars. Once something has crossed over into folk tradition nothing short of the collapse of civilisation can stop it.

NARRATOR: Your productions are very family friendly. Rightly, or wrongly, Shakespeare and the other classics are considered by some to be ‘heavy going’ so how important is it for you to introduce the younger generation(s) to these works through the Pantaloons shows?

THE MANAGER: It is a bonus if we can get young people interested in the classics but one of our main objectives is to get them interested in theatre in general. We also quite want to expand the horizons of more conservative theatregoers who expect their theatre to stay safely contained behind the fourth wall.

NARRATOR: Away from Pantaloons, how do you spend what little spare time you may have?

THE MANAGER: I am the father of two children under 3 years old. Tell me more of this ‘spare time’ of which you speak…!

(INSTANT BLACKOUT)

THE END

We hope you have enjoyed this preview production, don’t forget to book your tickets for the real thing – PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by THE PANTALOONS THEATRE COMPANY comes to KETTERING ARTS CENTRE on JULY 25th.

For further information please join our mailing list, visit us on our website at: www.ketteringartscentre.com and follow us on Facebook for regular updates.

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One Response to The Pantaloons Theatre Company – an interview with director Mark Hayward

  1. Pingback: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE |

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