Whipping up a storm: An interview with The Lord Chamberlain's Men
As the acclaimed troupe prepare to perform The Tempest at The Vyne on 11 August, we’ve caught up with Artistic Director Peter Stickney and actor Danann McAleer for an exclusive insight into the world of outdoor theatre, complete with pantaloons and the occasional noisy goose.
The Vyne: Firstly, tell us what The Tempest is about and why people should come and see it. Peter, as Artistic Director of TLCM and producer and director of The Tempest, we should probably direct this one at you:
Peter: The Tempest is arguably Shakespeare’s greatest play with some of his best characters and some of his finest poetry. But at its heart it is a simple story about our ability to forgive. The protagonist Prospero gets put through the wringer in many senses in this play but ultimately he manages to forgive his enemies.
The Vyne: We noticed from your performance last year you’re very hands on; you travel up and down the country, unload and assemble your stage set without any stage crew, perform to expectant audiences, often playing multiple roles.
It’s obviously a lot of hard work; what do you get out of it?
Danann: It is hard work but it is incredibly rewarding. There is a fantastic connection between us, the performers, and the audience. The open air setting makes for a very different and special relationship without the formality of the theatre and I think that the audience can feel that and get a lot out of it too.
The Vyne: You can have many costume changes, how difficult is it to get into a Tudor costume? How long does this take and which is better; a dress or pantaloons?
Danann: I haven’t played a woman yet so I couldn’t comment although there is certainly a level of freedom that wearing a dress gives you! The level of the detail in the costume always amazes me. They are handmade for the company by a fantastic costume maker in Nottingham. It really helps with the characterisation and it gives that extra layer of authenticity. I’m hoping for a dress next time!
The Vyne: We’re curious; what’s the strangest thing that’s happened to you during a show?
Danann: We have some perhaps unexpected things to deal with such as the local wildlife. At The Vyne, the geese sometimes fly overhead and make a bit of noise during the performance. Anything like that is fun when it happens and we just take it in our stride.
The Vyne: A lot of people may not realise that The Lord Chamberlain’s Men isn’t subsidised in any way. Tell us how much your following means to you.
Peter: Without being too trite they mean everything. There is no point performing a play without an audience but in this case we wouldn’t even be able to! We don’t receive any subsidy as you mention and every penny of the money we receive from the venues ticketing and from programme sales goes into paying for the production.
As you can imagine touring to 70 plus venues over 18 weeks with 7 actors and our set, costume and props costs a lot. The company is one of the highest paying amongst open air theatre companies, this ensures that we get great actors and the audiences are guaranteed a fantastic performance but obviously it comes at a cost. It is one we are happy to pay and we hope our audiences agree.
We also work very hard to keep our ticket costs as low as possible. A night of top quality professional theatre at a beautiful venue for less than £50 these days is pretty good going and we try to make it much cheaper than that. We think it is very important that our shows are available to as many people as possible.
The Vyne: Thanks very much for talking to us and best of luck on the tour!
" Open air theatre as it should be and at its very, very best."