It’s back! After a hugely successful debut last year 5pound theatre are thrilled to be bringing back by far their biggest and most ambitious project to date… 5pounds of Repertory Theatre.
Artistic Director Jason Cavanagh is one of the founding members of 5pound theatre and owner/ manager of venue The Owl and the Pussycat in Richmond where this remarkable undertaking will be rehearsed and staged. While repertory theatre is still a marvelous devise used in both the UK and the US, it hadn't quite made its mark on our shores but therein lies the allure for Cavanagh who is now in his second year of a Rep project. "5pounds of repertory theatre is based on the 1920’s style of repertory theatre popular mostly in the UK… but it did make it out here a little," Cavanagh says. "Basically it involves rehearsing one play whilst you’re performing the one you rehearsed the week before… so in the first week we are just rehearsing 9-5 (luxury!), then the following week we are performing that show at night, whilst rehearsing the next show during the day… etc."
"I remember saying to someone in the lead up to last years repertory season (the debut of this project)- with all this enthusiasm in the industry for pushing boundaries and experimental theatre, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could actually get people excited about this ancient and slightly daggy format? Then we started to get the word out and it was easy, there was just so much enthusiasm and support for it, we were all quite overwhelmed."
"To be pushing boundaries and exploring new ground is an important part of being an independent theatre producer I think… but what often happens is that the basic tradition and craft is lost a little and that’s a shame. I have such a romantic view of theatre. It has such a rich and noble history, I love hearing old war stories from the veterans still out there stomping the boards, many of which cut their teeth on the old rep companies. 5pounds of repertory theatre just ticks a lot of the boxes- a good mix of theatre, new and old, serious and silly, it has deep roots in tradition but with a very contemporary bent."
"Someone the other day said it was like a theatrical iron man event… I quite liked that."
5pound theatre was founded in 2010 with the credo of making theatre that challenges and inspires both creatives and audience. It is Cavanaugh's view that because of the immediate nature of the work that is created in a rep. formula there is a great vibrancy to the performance. He tells me that the audience members that get the most out of the project are the ones that come back week after week. "Based on feedback we got last year people genuinely felt they where coming along for the ride with us, which is great. This style of theatre has really strong links to the local community."
"This year the attention is really on creating a fully rounded and high quality finished product. We again have some really exciting directors on board and some very talented designers too. What I really want to show the theatre community is what some hard working and committed theatre makers can do in even a short period of time."
Cavanagh is a man of many creative hats and, as such, will be directing the first show in the Rep. lineup – Noises Off – which some might describe as very challenging farce with particular set requirements. Cavanagh is not letting nay of his secrets pout of the bag but shares with me that the set was surprisingly easy to manipulate into the space. He admits it’s a different kind of noises off but believes they've made it work and that people will be pleasantly surprised.
The genesis of its inclusion in the line-up of plays seems more than a little serendipitous. "The choice to do Noises Off came about in a similar way to the project itself actually. Someone mentioned it as a crazy thing to do. Once we all stopped laughing at that insane idea, I think we all new what had to happen…. It’s just too perfect. A show about an under rehearsed set of actors the night before opening struggling through the first scene with a stressed out and tired director… of course where it goes from there we hope doesn’t happen," says Cavanagh.
"Me directing it came about through chance really… that’s just how it played out. I have seen it on the main stage before and laughed my arse off along with everyone else in the theatre. I don’t have a personal connection to the text… but I’m aware that a lot of people do so that’s something quite scary."
Cavanagh admits that the audition process this year was really quite complicated with 2 rounds of auditions plus some actors needing songs. All the directors had a wish list of skills and looks they needed and it was about who was going to work best for everyone. "We ended up getting pizza and wine and thrashing it all out together," Cavanagh says. "Actually the skill base I needed was most easily accommodated as it really comes down to good timing. And that’s something that everyone needed."
The Owl has proven to be an active hub for the independent and fringe arenas, coming about after Cavanagh returned from Europe in 2010. Cavanagh found that theatre and art as a whole is so much more ingrained in European society, and a part of their culture that it is just widely accepted… part of the main stream. "This takes a lot of the mystery and pretentiousness out of it -perceived and otherwise," Cavanagh explains. "When I came back I wanted to make a space like that… an accessible, friendly and creatively invigorating space. 5pound theatre started as an ensemble shortly after this. We got together once a week and brought in scenes to play with… the aim back then was to exercise our craft and basically just to have fun… and so that hasn’t really changed that much."
In short, Cavanagh initially saw an opportunity (and a need) to open the Owl as a cheap independent space that supported and nurtured first time and emerging artists… He now thinks that the theatre landscape has changed slightly and his focus has changed slightly to accommodate.
"We are just coming to the end of our first curated season and we have had some really exciting artists putting shows on here. It’s been a great success and I am interested in continuing on from that," says Cavanagh. "We’re looking at raising the general standard of show we have on here… still leaving space for emerging artists of course."
"5pound has grown along with me. At first we were having fun performing some of our favorite pre established texts. As time goes by the desire to push ourselves and move in new directions is growing. I think there are some exciting things in our future."
A 5 show season pass is only $75 concession or $95 full, and, says Cavanagh, it’s going to be some of the best theatre in town!
November 13th – December 14th