“Naming The View is riven with humour and hope” so said the 4 Star Review in Stage Talk Magazine for the opening night of ‘Naming The View’ at the Everyman Studio Theatre, last Wednesday 6 June http://stagetalkmagazine.com/?p=18183

Kate and Horton contemplating life - Naming The View

Kate and Horton contemplating life – Naming The View

In our work with thousands of children nationwide, we are often heard to say “the two most important skills of an actor are listening and focus”  and “you’ve done the work, now just go out there and enjoy it” – chickens came home to roost last week on the opening night of ‘Naming The View’ when we found our hearts beating fast and our palms sweaty with nerves! But the good thing is, we are right! Listen, focus, relax and enjoy are exactly what we did and boy, what a response we’ve had! It’s actually been quite overwhelming – I always thought Richard’s writing was beautiful (even if he had doubts from time to time), we knew we were being expertly directed by Bryn Holding (and let’s be honest, it can’t be easy for a young male director to direct two old timers, in a piece about coercive control, with such sensitivity and positivity however good he is – and, trust me, he’s good) and we knew the subject matter was relevant and very much in the zeitgeist. What we did not know however, nor could we know, is how people would respond. Here are a few words from the audience feedback sheets:

“Powerful”  “Heartfelt”  “Thought-provoking”  “Illuminating”  “Riveting”  “Eye-opening”  “Uplifting”  “Innovative”  “Absolutely bloody amazing!”

In case you’ve missed me talking about ‘Naming The View’ in past Latest News posts let me briefly explain the concept. It’s 30 years after the end of ‘The Taming Of The Shrew’ and Kate unexpectedly bumps into an old (slightly irritating) acquaintance on Cleeve Hill just outside Cheltenham. An awkward conversation ensues which gradually reveals details of both Kate and Horton’s unhappy marriages to controlling partners. There are a lot of sensitive issues within the play – coercive control, dementia, death, sexuality – but there is also humour which serves to highlight the darker moments and adds a degree of poignancy. Ending with optimism and the sentiment that “it’s alright”, the audience left with plenty to think about but also a strong feeling of hope.

Six months later

Kate and Horton meet six months later – Naming The View

We were thrilled that Helen Walmsley-Johnson, Guardian Columnist and Author (Look What You Made Me Do) came to our second dress rehearsal. Helen’s book was a brilliant resource throughout our rehearsal process. Richard had obviously done a huge amount of research prior to writing the first draft of the play, and I also spoke to women who had been victims of coercive control to find out how they had recovered from it (if they had recovered from it). However there were some startling statistics in Helen’s book and helpful insights into how a pattern of behaviour can stay with you for years after that behaviour (aka abuse) stops. Helen and her daughter were very generous with their time, comments and continued support for which we are extremely grateful.

Helen Walmsley Johnson chatting with us on the bench.

Richard, Jules, Helen and Bryn just before the 2nd Dress of Naming The View

After our four night run last week we are now looking to the future. The consensus from those who came to watch is that ‘Naming The View’ needs to be seen much more. It has ‘legs’ as they say. Groundwork is afoot to find suitable venues, funding and, fingers crossed, to put a tour together for Spring 2019. To that end, if anyone is reading this and knows of a small to medium scale venue that might be interested in taking a new play please do get in touch!

On a personal note, it occurs to me that in my thirty five year career as an actor, this is the first time that anyone has ever written a part for me. And what a role it is! I am so touched (not to say flattered) that Richard has entrusted me with the role of Kate and, although it has been a good old stretch of my performing muscles, I’m secretly a tiny bit proud (ssshhh!!!!). Mostly I am chuffed to bits for Richard’s writing, Bryn’s directing and the thousands and thousands of women (and men) whose stories and lives we have touched. ‘Naming The View’ is undoubtedly Kate’s story, but I challenge anyone not to recognise something of themselves in this powerful piece of theatre.

#Tourplease is gaining momentum – if you’re on twitter, join in the campaign!

Naming The View

Horton and Kate share a cuppa on Cleeve Hill.

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