“We’d like you to play an oafish snob …
… and also be part of an ensemble.”
When I got this call from Saddleworth Players’ casting, while the first part intrigued me, the second left me uncertain. Not only had I not been on stage for years, the last ensemble piece I had been involved in was probably back in secondary school, for some drama club performance, where the audience most likely consisted of a few enthusiastic teachers, a handful of jaded parents and supportive fellow students. This would be very different indeed…
…Which is why I said ‘yes’ to appearing in ‘Great Expectations’ in the role of Sir Bentley Drummle, amongst several other guises. Tentatively, I also agreed to being part of ‘The Company’, a role that has provided an opportunity to work in a group and share lines in a way I’ve never experienced before.
Yet, the nature of this role might not be as alien as it first seems. Despite this particular adaptation of a Dickens classic feeling quite modern, the idea of ‘The Company’ represents for me something much older, ancient in fact. The omniscient, observing ‘voice’ inside Pip’s head during the play is arguably another rendering of a classical Greek chorus, or choregos, which the modern English word takes its name from.
After all, ‘company’, ‘chorus’ and ‘ensemble’ are all somewhat interchangeable in the sense they all share the same lines, narrate or comment on the drama in a way that is somehow detracted from the actors on stage, and normally interact primarily with the protagonist, in this case Pip. Another link is that an ancient chorus would need choreographing, as they would dance while they delivered their lines. While there isn’t any dancing for ‘The Company’, the physicality of the play means it is full in movement in parts, showing choreography is still key. I hope you’ve enjoyed my blog, and that you’ve not felt like you’ve been stuck in an English Literature lecture you’ve accidently walked in to. If you want to see ‘The Company’ and the rest of this wonderful cast in action, please come and see us at the Millgate Arts Centre in Delph, from Saturday November 25th to Saturday 2nd December.
David Lyons, Nov 20, 2017