Red Rose Chain’s Theatre in the Forest is all in a day’s work for Edward
Say clowning school and most people picture pratfalls, pies, really unreliable cars and what look like really comfortable shoes. But as Edward Day – Malvolio in Red Rose Chain’s production of Twelfth Night – explains to entertainment writer WAYNE SAVAGE, clowning is serious business.
Adopting the mannerisms of a chicken at one point during our chat, I’m afraid Edward’s going to peck me; but let’s rewind.
The first thing that strikes you about the 26-year-old is his height, 6ft 4in. At more than a foot shorter, I’m glad we’re conducting this interview sitting down.
“As an actor you have to look at yourself objectively and go ‘oh yeah, this is how I look‘. Dressed in that kind of skin tight thing with the yellow stockings [more on that later] and everything you see the body makes a much more gangly, mad image when you move around so that’s quite cool,” he says. “Physically I’m very acrobatic and do all this physical stuff, a small body is generally more proportioned to do acrobatic type things.”
What’s most striking is his tenacity, which has seen him spend two years working said yellow stockings off and learning French so he could achieve his childhood dream of attending L’�cole Internationale de Th��tre Jacques Lecoq in Paris.
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It was founded by the renowned French actor, mime and acting instructor Jacques Pierre Lecoq, famous the world over for his methods on physical theatre.
Edward is studying alongside about 50 people encompassing 25 nationalities which, he says, is good for learning how to work with people and explore what theatre means to different cultures.
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“I‘ve always wanted to go but when I was younger my parents were like ‘oh, just go to a normal drama school’ because going to Paris and learning another language it’s very daunting,” he smiles.
“I went to normal drama school and thought ‘well, I can learn the physical stuff, the clowning, on the job; and to an extent I have.
“I’ve done lots of jobs with companies where there’s a little bit of that and a little bit of mask work, but I found all the time I’ve only ever got a taster of it.
“I was in Edinburgh a couple of years ago and saw a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream by a French company who all trained at Lecoq and it was just incredible, it was the most magical thing I’d ever seen. I thought ‘right, I’m just going to save up, learn French, go to France’.”
That was quite a plunge.
“It’s quite a mad thing, yeah,” he says. “When I got there I could speak it enough. You get there and you’re like I haven’t got a clue. You’re like I understand…” and launches into French, not my forte.
Want me to ask where the castle, beach or post office is, fine; I can even order for you in a French restaurant… as long as you want chicken and chips.
“All those little things,” he says lapsing back into English. “As soon as you get to people actually speaking it they go…” cue an all too familiar impersonation of a French person mumbling at high speed. “It’s when someone gives the response that it gets hard.”
The biggest challenge for him though was putting down roots for nine months in one place, unusual for a jobbing theatre actor.
He is enjoying Paris; exploring the museums and theatres as part of his two-year course at the school.
“When I went first I had these images of Paris with these golden streets and this magical-ness and came and
found it was incredibly polluted and full of rude people,” he laughs.
“Like London you check the areas that are good and bad and in Paris there are little gems in streets. You’ll find a wonderful little caf� or something and when you do it sort of lights up. The magic is there, you’ve just got to find it.”
His first year’s not quite what I expected.
Gesticulating all the time, he talks about exploring how the body relates to space, animal study and mask work. There’s no mention of juggling.
“It’s very hard; people go ‘what’s physical theatre’ but it’s basically all theatre - people just tend to neglect it; especially in this country where there’s a huge vocal history of theatre, especially with Shakespeare.”
While the first year is about building technique, the second is about breaking it down, learning different styles of theatre and trying to create your own.
A huge part of the course is centred on creating your own stuff. Each new week brings a new, often incredibly vague, laughs Edward, assignment.
“The teachers will say something like ‘there’s a situation, something happens’ and then we go and work on it. It’s a horrible, frustrating process but from that we create - sometimes - incredible things and at the end the teachers would usually tear it to bits and you learn from it,” he smiles.
Edward started work on the music and then rehearsals for Twelfth Night just weeks after finishing his first year.
It’s his second time with Red Rose Chain – he played Bottom in last year’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – and is enjoying putting his new skills into practice; one closely guarded moment in particular stands out.
“When I just come out, looking all mischievous and the music’s playing and then I’m just like ‘I‘m just made about saffron…’ and people go ‘ah ha’ is always great.”
If you want to know what he’s talking about you’ll just have to see the show.
“Coming from Lecoq I’ve learned all these things in quite a technical way and I’ve thought well maybe this will be applicable for this or this part will be applicable for this and then I’ve come back and immediately I get to try it all out and see what works.”
Like everyone, he plays two roles; that of the put-upon steward Malvolio and the shipwrecked Sebastian. They’re very different characters.
“You’ve got to come up with a way of presenting the two characters in such a way they don’t look the same. I mean the audience is obviously going to tell that guy is obviously that guy; unless you’re incredible or have a mask or something,” he grins.
“It’s like a physical challenge for Malvolio in this. He’s very kind of straight and angular and some of his stuff I’ve kind of based on like a chicken; it kinds of moves its head and upper body in one way and its feet which kind of go in a slow way,” he says adopting said bird’s mannerisms and pecking the air.
“Whereas Sebastian, I’ve tried to make him kind of much looser, kind of more grounded and weighty.”
Edward - who also serves as musical director - loves the company’s openness to ideas; where everyone’s invited to say ‘what if we did it with stilts or just jumped around’.
“Jo [Carrick, artistic director] will just go ‘yeah, cool, it’s fine’ and if it doesn’t work out she’ll go ‘never mind, let’s chuck it in the bin’.”
Twelfth Night, sponsored by Ashton Graham, continues its run in Rendlesham Forest until August 28. If you haven’t already seen it do it before you miss out on a treat.