After the Dance - Sedos Production at Bridewell Theatre London
After the Dance - Image by Clara Euler. Sedos All rights reserved
After the Dance, a comedy by Terence Rattigan, is a Sedos production at London’s Bridewell Theatre from 9th-13th April 2019.
Following its critically acclaimed premiere in 1938, Rattigan’s play was almost completely forgotten with the declaration of war in 1939. It enjoyed a highly successful revival at the National Theatre in 2010 and now Sedos, one of London’s most respected amateur societies, have given us their outstanding production of this thought-provoking play.
The Self-indulgent Life of the ‘Bright Young Things’
Set on the eve of World War II, After the Dance looks at the lifestyles of the so-called ‘bright young things’ of the 1920s and 30s through the themes of love, ageing and the ability of people to change.
What leads to that change? David Scott-Fowler and his wife Joan claim they married for amusement as is demonstrated by their hard-drinking, hard-partying lifestyle. However, everything changes when a third party enters the equation forcing David and Joan to acknowledge the truth of their situation with devastating consequences.
Director, Jon Foster, Speaks Exclusively to HubPages
HubPages: What inspired you to direct this production?
Jon: Without wanting to sound too clichéd, it really was the script! I was looking at a couple of different things to potentially direct and a friend recommended it.
I had never read Rattigan before and I absolutely devoured it – it’s a play that has everything. It’s rip-roaringly funny and absolutely heart-breaking with these wonderful sparkling characters at its heart.
When I first read those lines, I was just desperate to start playing around with them and trying different things. Also, the challenge of directing a period piece appealed - it’s this glamorous 1920s/1930s lifestyle that has been idealised in recent years which, like most glamourous things, is covering up for something tragic and rotten.
Also, I was really interested in the troubled production history of the play and the chance to direct something that was so beautiful and yet lay forgotten and neglected for so long.
HubPages: You directed A Doll’s House for Sedos in 2018. After the Dance is a very different type of play so how does your approach differ?
Jon: It has been such an interesting experience going from one to the other – in tone, theme and character absolute opposites but with some stark similarities – all set in one family’s living room with a couple at the heart who completely misunderstand each other. That was a fascinating challenge, because on the face of it, you’re starting from the same base.
A Doll’s House was a marathon for the actors, full of long, incredibly complex scenes where you are plumbing the depths of the script, so throughout our focus was on character and that is where we spent a lot of time. After the Dance is more like a tennis match between the characters – its speedy, bouncy, with lots of back and forth and needs to almost career out of control. Whereas A Doll’s House required the world to feel real, the characters in After the Dance are a little too perfect. They think a little too quickly and seem a little too glamourous so we spent a lot of our time on establishing the tone, and the period. A Doll’s House really focused on a character trying to break out into the real world, After the Dance is full of characters trying to barricade themselves in to escape it.
After the Dance - Image by Clara Euler.
HubPagesl: Where you looking for a particular set of skills at the auditions?
Jon: As unhelpful as it is to actors, it’s often so hard to actually put your finger on what you are looking for at auditions!
With After the Dance, we really wanted people who had digested it and then came in and showed us their version of these characters – even if it was a version completely opposite to what we were considering up to that point. We wanted people who had gone away and thought about it because they are the people who bring ideas to the rehearsal room. They come up with those crucial gestures and changes in intonation that really make a scene. Rattigan’s writing is so restrained, with so much going on under the surface, that we needed people who brought those subtle, intelligent choices. That and people who could deliver a joke! It’s viciously funny in places!
HubPages: What fascinates me is how a Director plots out a show. Everyone has their own way of doing things. How do you do it?
Jon: By the skin of my teeth and with lots of help from people who are far more talented! It is genuinely about getting a great team of people in place both on and off stage – I like to think of myself as a quite collaborative director (you’ll have to ask the cast if it’s true!) and I like having people to bounce ideas off, especially in pre-production and the early stages of rehearsal when you’re still establishing the parameters.
In terms of plotting the show as a whole, I generally like to start by identifying what I think the ‘big’ moments are – the crucial points that change things or that grab the audience’s attention and then work out how the ebb and flow of the play needs to fit around these moments in terms of tone, pace and aesthetic.
With this show in particular we knew that things needed to start slowly on a hungover morning and then gather pace and become more chaotic until it careers out of control at the start of the second half.
The other important thing I always stress is that right through rehearsals, and to be honest the entire run, is that nothing is set in stone – the joy of doing a play is you get to tweak and change and experiment each time you perform it.
HubPages: What particular challenges does this show bring?
Jon: Argh so many! It’s quite a big cast and you want to make sure every actor is enjoying it and getting the direction they need, even in those smaller roles. It’s period which has been a new and fascinating challenge for me – from the minutiae of what each individual prop needs to look like to the bigger things like posture and intonation.
I think the biggest challenge has been doing justice to the beauty of Rattigan’s writing – he’s so controlled, so restrained and you really have to work with the actors to get to grips with the subtlety of the language and the pacing to then be able to knit it together as a whole piece. Thankfully, we have had a cast brimming with ideas and the most amazing backstage team to bring it together (particularly my incredible Assistant Director Chloe Baker!).
A Night to Remember!
Authentic period set design and costumes, coupled with brilliant repartee between characters, has created another outstanding production. Definitely a night to remember!
Sedos has a challenging and adventurous programme planned for the remainder of 2019 including:
How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying – 15th-25th May
Soho Cinders - 9th-13th July
Arms and the Man – 17th-21st September
Dangerous Liaisons – 15th-19th October
Jerry Springer The Opera – 20th-30th November
If you’re interested in amateur theatre Sedos is the society to join. Through a variety of workshops and events members are offered every opportunity to acquire stage skills in every aspect of performance. Full details can be found on the Sedos website.
After the Dance (NHB International Collection) Paperback
Finding the Bridewell Theatre
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Frances Spiegel