Sophia explores a new performance in development Backstage!

The Marine Theatre R&D programme helps artists, writers and directors explore new work in progress. The first show of the new R&D season is by creator and performer Helen Tennison with her talented multi-media company of Eva Auster (Video & Project Design) and Matt Eaton (Sound Design). Our blogger, Sophia, went Backstage! during Helen’s R&D to see what was happening…


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Inspired by Shakespeare’s poem The Rape of Lucrece, Reading Lucrece is not a structured story and the company wants their promenade piece to appeal to everyone.

Reading Lucrece is about memories and echoes but not just personal ones, the work is also heavily linked to location, and the resonance of the theatre and Lyme Regis influence the physical performance. The Marine Theatre with its colourful history of ghosts from the past is the ideal location. Helen also said that it struck her that our theatre is ‘very British.’ She has toured all over the world.

After four days of development, Helen’s showing is open to the public, and the audience are asked to wait in the Stage Door Bar.

After the introduction, we are led downstairs to the auditorium. There is a small washing line with some hanging clothing and the friendly soundscape of low chatter in the background.

From there it’s into the Dressing Room for a moment of mindfulness and a chance to share thoughts and feelings. Then a surprise, as Helen leads us, her audience observers, to seats on stage in a reversal of what we are used to whilst she plays out a scene below on the auditorium floor.

“It felt like I was on the jury watching a witness statement” said a fellow spectator.

We follow Helen around as she blurs informal chat with scripted recitals combined by live video and music mixes, changing into different white floating costumes, and moving from one part of the theatre to another, including a very clever scene where she ‘sits’ on a projected image of a chair and even appears outside on the rocks heading out to sea as we watch from the theatre windows!

The overall effect is a provocative sensitive piece that digs into the emotions that Helen, Eva and Matt have researched in such a way that may help improve the awareness of the silence and witness of rape victims. It is a beautiful performance to participate in.

“We touch the hem of art” says Sound Designer Matt Eaton.

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Thanks Sophia, so interesting to look behind the scenes at how much a piece is developed before audiences finally see it on stage. Helen said that after the R&D with us, she would be re-writing, and continuing development before the show is ready. We look forward to seeing her company back here at some point in the future when Reading Lucrece is on tour, and what a treat to see a multi-media show with stunning live projections, and music score interacting with the performance and audience reaction.