We are a group of 9 actors, one director, one lighting man & one dramaturg.
2 Americans, 2 Brummies, 1 Dutchman, 6 Londoners and 1 German.
Seven of us live in a place that used to be an office and we take it in turns to cook each evening. Five actors live in another place not too far from Central station. When we move in we have no furniture so all our furniture comes from the Theatre’s storage, relics from old productions. Rehearsals start at an old warehouse in Zaargmolendrift down by the canal where we meet every morning at 10.30am and don’t finish until 6pm, every day apart from Saturday & Sunday, no one is EVER late… never.
Rod Beddall, Dracula
I cut my teeth on Dracula. I learned lots. I learned I couldn’t sing a note but I could scream and howl like a wolf, none of this was particularly impressive, If it wasn’t for a few kind words from the Mickery photographer Maria Austria, my fate with the Pip Simmons Theatre Group may well have ended here. The next show An Die Musik required no words a dumb show so I made it through.Peter Oliver and myself, none actors who were finding our way fitted in with different skills.
The entire group had been disrobing onstage well before my time, it had to happen at some point, I found the courage to bite the bullet and do it ! An Die Musik was altogether a very different rehearsal period and a true discovery for someone who had led a sheltered life … ME ! This new show required a Nazi guard, no one wanted to be the Nazi guard. The director chose Fritz to play this role and Fritz made a big fuss. He didn’t want to play it. WHY ME?! Fritz was the only German actor in the company ……. it was obvious to everyone but Fritz who should play the Nazi guard.
Chris Jordan wrote all the music for every production, he had the patience of a saint teaching people like me to ruin the beautiful songs he wrote. He re-wrote Beethoven’s Ode to Joy for 2 tin whistles, an oboe, a tuba, 1 recorder, 1 guitar and 1 violin, me on the triangle and him guiding us all through it on the piano. It sounded strange and sad and piteous ! we did our best to get it right on stage every night we performed An Die Musik.
An Die Musik poster
Rod, Sheila & Rowan
An die Musik had an ending like no other, although I didn’t realise this at the time, this was only my second show. It ended with us playing the funeral march from a Beethoven Piano Sonata sitting on wooden boxes whilst the smoke came to take us away. The director’s note when we rehearsed this last scene for the first time was simple: when you hear the hiss of the smoke machine, walk to the front of the stage, take off your uniforms & fold them neatly, put them on the floor and go back to your place. If you don’t want to do that, thats fine, just walk offstage… no one person knew what the other was going to do. 8 of the 9 actors took off their uniforms, only one walked off and it wasn’t me.
Emil, Roderic, Pete backstage
This was a show of few props and few costumes. 8 beer crates, a piano, a bucket, a trapeze, a dove, an assortment of instruments, one Nazi uniform and 8 shabby striped outfits each with a yellow star.
Sheila, Chris & Ben backstage I.C.A London
All photos © Sheila Burnett