Feature: Interview - Breaking Bard

Pete talks to the Breaking Bard Theatre Company; a company of Theatre Arts students from the University of Derby.

The 'Breaking Bard Theatre Company' (and yes, the name is inspired by a certain, very popular American drama) is a company of third year Theatre Arts students from the University of Derby. This weekend, they'll be presenting a new production; 'Vice and Other Bard Habits' in association with the university, at Derby Theatre. I spoke to Breaking Bard's Sean Kelly to find out a little more about the company and their latest production.

HM:  Hi Sean! Tell us a bit more about 'Vice and Other Bard Habits'.

Sean: We’re in our third and final year, doing our ‘Shakespeare in Performance’ module and this is the first year they’re running it like this. It’s a really exciting way they’re doing it, which is to take three of Shakespeare’s plays, analyse them and then find key scenes and characters to effectively design our own new play, which is what we’ve done. We’ve taken ‘Measure for Measure’, ‘The Tempest’ and ‘Anthony and Cleopatra’, then taken key scenes from all of them and pasted them into a cohesive storyline and come up with a brand new play.

HM: So, this isn’t just for fans of Shakespeare?   

Sean: No, it’s a chance for people to see Shakespeare in a contemporary setting. I’ve billed it as “Shakespeare as you’ve never seen him before”, because no one has done Shakespeare in this way before.

HM: How many people are involved in Breaking Bard and do they all have specific roles?

Sean: There are 20 people in the group and our lecturer, Darren Daly, so 21. All the roles have to be undertaken by members of the company. Two of the group, David Reeve an Sean Harris have had to write the script, so they’ve found the key scenes and put them together and what they’ve done is brilliant; they’ve written links between the scenes in rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter as you’d expect to see in a Shakespeare play. So they’ve effectively written new lines of Shakespeare, which is wonderful!

Adam White is directing the piece, I’ve taken on the marketing, there are people doing stage management and we have our own Deputy Stage Manager, Emily Dibble who has DSMed productions for us in the past. Darren, our lecturer, is overseeing the whole project and all the roles are being undertaken by the students.

HM: Whose idea was it to start the theatre company?

Sean: Darren was involved in actually writing the new module and he took over as the Shakespeare lecturer in January last year. He has revolutionised the module and he came up with the idea of creating a theatre company to put on the plays.

HM: How important is it to students to gain practical experience in this way?

Sean: The course is all about that. The course is called ‘Theatre Arts’ and we were told from day one that it wasn’t like a drama course; not training to be an actor. What this course is giving you is practical skills to work in a theatre. So in the first year we did a lot of theory-based work, going through all the different practices. Then we get to put that into practise, so in the second year we do a huge module wherein we write a new piece to put in the main theatre house, which we did last year called ‘Blonde: The Life & Times of Marilyn Monroe’. It was an enormous success and a huge amount of fun to do and within that, students take on all the roles like we have with this current project.

In the third year we’ve taken that up to another level again. We split into two groups and do two plays which we have to direct ourselves, finding and sourcing the rights as well, so we’ve just done ‘How To Disappear Completely’ and ‘Oh What A Lovely War’, which were both very successful. Doing this Shakespeare module that we’re doing this year is just an extension of what we’ve already done, using the skills we’ve already picked up. Not everyone has to act if they don’t enjoy it; you can learn all manner of news skills to take into a real career.

HM: What would you say to encourage people to come and see the show?

Sean: It’s a very exciting new show and I think it’s absolutely brilliant that we’ve been able to create a new piece using three of Shakespeare’s texts and the combination of characters is hilarious. It’s billed as a story of “seduction, skulduggery and sin” so make of that what you will! This weekend, Studio One at Derby Theatre is going to become a high class, yet dilapidated brothel – which will be the setting of our play!

The show makes use of lots of local talent. We’ve got lots of local students from Derby, Chesterfield, Ilkeston and Langley Mill involved, so it’s all about Derby students, in Derby creating original theatre for people from Derby to see. That’s what we’re striving for.

Vice and Other Bard Habits will be at Derby Theatre on Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd March. Tickets can be purchase from the Derby Theatre website or you can call and quote the word 'PROSPER' for buy-one-get-one-half-price tickets.

Tags:  Breaking Bard Theatre Company Vice and Other Bard Habits University of Derby Theatre Arts Derby Theatre Stage Shakespeare Derby Derbyshire