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Curtain up: King’s students devise their own Little Mermaid play containing physical theatre

The KCL physical theatre piece Caged

Set free: devised drama Caged in rehearsal | Roar News / Max Barstow

A NEW act on the King’s stage is set to begin this week as the curtain goes up on Caged, the play both devised and performed by College students.

Kate Aspinall and Caitlin Evans have been rehearsing their original piece with College theatre society The King’s Players since September.

The play is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid and The Brothers Grimm’s The Raven.

Aspinall, a Business Management student, and Evans, a Philosopher have has the play in the pipeline since January in a bid to widen the range of drama staged by the College.

Aspinall: “We’re both really into physical theatre and we’d done it previously but really we didn’t think that last year there had been anything at Kings.”

Evans: “with student theatre especially, there should be some kind of…”

Both: “…experimentation”

The pair are clearly on the same page, finishing each others sentences throughout the entire interview.

Caged takes inspiration from the theatre company Kneehigh, who are known for their devised pieces based on classical stories and fairytales.

It is a format that has proved successful, with recent shows including The Red Shoes and The Wild Bride.  Evans and Aspinall are also following the fairytale route.

The cast of Caged in rehearsals

Caged is inspired by The Little Mermaid and The Raven | Roar News / Max Barstow

Aspinall: “The Little Mermaid really stood out to us because it’s so dark, really unexpectedly so, because everyone knows the Disney version … we thought that there was potential for some really nice imagery.

“A large theme is transformation, which is present in both The Raven and The Little Mermaid, so that worked quite well together.”

A “committed and involved” cast of eight, and a team of writers have been in rehearsals four times a week since September. Through the whole process Aspinall and Evans have sought to promote the talents of their team:

Evans: “It’s an ensemble…”

Aspinall: “…which is what our whole thing is based around, letting everyone have control all over the piece”

Creating an open forum for their cast began with auditions.  Rather than cast based on pre-prepared monologues, the two directors put participants through workshops to find a group who brought their own ideas and could work together, before bringing in the writers. It is here that the continuity of the project comes through,

Aspinall: “they’d work with the actors and come up with the piece, which is how our piece is actually working. Especially at the beginning of rehearsals we’d workshop a lot of stuff with the cast, and they’d come up with a lot of ideas as well.

“We like to think it’s not like a dictatorship when we direct.”

Evans: “there’s a big scene where she gets her voice stolen so we just said imagine how we can originally create a movement piece around someone getting their voice stolen, and then we start with a game, and then we let them do it on their own individually, and then bought together as a cast.”

Unexpectedly dark

Our interview is conducted in an empty classroom in the basement of King’s while the cast warm up in the next room, such is the situation without an in-house drama studio.

Aside from the difficulties in finding space to rehearse, they seem to have taken the “large commitment” of creating a play whilst studying full time in their stride.

Aspinall: “There’s so much admin that goes along with it.”

Evans: “there’s so much that you just don’t think you’d have…”

Aspinall: “…to deal with that having another person to be able to help with it is so good.”

In conversation after the interview Aspinall states that the College has been helpful the project, which has provided a chance to experience the career they both aspire to post degree.

There are currently no plans to show Caged again at KCL after this run, instead the plan is to open the door and set the play free on the real world.  The team haven’t been in touch with Kneehigh but are applying to take the play to the National Student Drama Festival.

Caitlin Evans (L) and Kate Aspinall (R) in a KCL classroom

Directors Caitlin Evans (L) and Kate Aspinall (R) | Roar News / Max BarstowÂ

For Evans and Aspinall the future seems equally promising.

Aspinall: ”The nice thing is we wouldn’t stay with this piece for three months and try and do it at every King’s Players event, we’re really excited about moving on to the next thing”

Evans: “It’s more about now that we’ve learnt how the process works properly, we’d like to be able to take that and go to other workshops and events and then develop something new.

Caged is on at the Rag Factory from 3rd until 5th of December 2014.


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