School’s film and TV and production design courses collaborate with award-winning director
The Northern School of Art‘s Film & TV and Production Design degree students and staff have joined forces with an award-winning theatre director on a film for a new production in a successful series of online monologues.
The Covid-19 monologues, devised by Jake Murray of Durham-based Elysium Theatre, are specially commissioned pieces of new writing by contemporary playwrights, the first series of which won a 2021 Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB)‘s Olwen Wymark Award for support for new writing.
On the back of this success, Jake, who co-founded Elysium in 2017 to bring the best of world theatre to the north, commissioned a second batch for this year and approached the School for support with the set and filming for one of the films called ‘Blackmail: A Reiver’s Tale’ written by Steve Byron.
Having visited the School’s Hartlepool campus pre-Covid and met the School’s Production Design lecturer Norman Austick, Jake explained that the Chinese Apothecary set, pictured below, created by the Production Design degree students he had been shown would be perfect for the piece.
“When I saw it as part of my first guided tour I thought it was incredible. My mother was a high powered theatre designer so I know my way around set boxes and design and can happily say that I was very, very impressed by the standard of work I saw.
“I told Norman that I’d love to create an ongoing relationship with the School so that we could offer shadowing and training opportunities for the students. Our original plan, a production of ‘Look Back In Anger’ was kiboshed by Covid, but we kept up the conversation.
“As these monologues approached it occurred to me that ‘Blackmail: A Reiver’s Tale’, which is set in Northumberland in the 1600s, would be a wonderful one to do with the School’s students and Norman immediately suggested that we filmed it in the apothecary set.
“‘Blackmail’ is set on the farmstead of a humble farmer in the dying days of the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1. This farmer is facing off the vengeful forces of the Reivers, lawless gangster families of the Borders, and their allies among the local authorities whose job it is to oppose them but who, more often than not, were in their pockets.
“Norman and the students set about adapting the set to double as the barn of 17th Century Northumberland farmer which worked brilliantly. It looks a million dollars. The students’ work looks fantastic on it and they get a thank you at the end of the film in the credits.”
Second year (Level 5) Film & TV degree student Rhys Bruce, pictured below, and the course’s Creative Technician Lee Charnley then filmed the production.
Rhys, from Epsom in Surrey, said that he had put his name forward to be involved with the filming adding: “It gave me some good experience and I enjoyed the work very much. It was my first experience working on my own without my fellow students and I got to listen to an excellent monologue.
“Everything I did I had already been taught and had done before but it was a bit unorthodox having a theatre director on Zoom so that was something I had to adapt to!”
Jake added: “It was a real pleasure working with Norman, Film & TV Senior Lecturer Mike Boyle and the film students. It has given that monologue an air of real truth. It has a great atmosphere and really helps the actor and the text.
“We have big plans going on into the future, including a live streamed performance of Fugard’s ‘Hello And Goodbye’ in the School’s theatre in June, which will involve students designing and building the set. We’re already well on our way with that and, once again, the standard is incredibly high.
“If it’s all as good as this we look forward to collaborating with The Northern School of Art for years to come!”
Find out more about Jake Murray and Elysium Theatre Company here
Further details of the School’s Film + TV and Production Design degrees are available here
‘Blackmail’ by Steve Byron performed by Micky Cochrane is below