Today's topic of conversation is a political bloodbath with lots of swordplay and Elizabethan costumes. No, we're not talking about GAME OF THRONES. We're talking about ROSE RAGE, The Hidden Room Theatre's daring new adaptation of Shakespeare's Henry VI Trilogy.
I recently got to chat with James Callás Ball from ROSE RAGE who filled me in on all the epic Shakespearian fights and the unorthodox rehearsals that were conducted internationally via Skype.
ROSE RAGE features three actors from Great Britain and marks the first time that Ball, a UK native, has performed in the United States. He graduated with a BA Drama degree from the University of East Anglia (UEA), Norwich, UK. He then completed the 'Foundation in Acting' course at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London, UK. He has also performed with David Tennant in BBC 1's 'United: The Busby Babes'. Theatre includes: Anthony & Cleopatra; Welcome to Thebes (RADA); Don Juan in Soho (Minotaur); Mary's Steps: The N-Town Mystery Plays (UEA); Relish; Ghost Office (National Youth Theatre of GBR); Taming of the Shrew (Blackout); Henry V (SMProductions).
JD: Thank you so much for speaking with me today. I really want to ask you a few questions regarding ROSE RAGE, which sounds like an exciting production, but before we get started, how would you describe ROSE RAGE?
JCB: I would describe ROSE RAGE as an adaptation of the Henry VI trilogy but with a modern audience in mind. It's an adaptation by Edward Hall and Roger Warren, and they were looking to drive the narrative and get the plot and the exciting bits and all of the best of Shakespeare's poetry all sort of wound into one so it flies off the stage.
JD: What do you think a modern audience would find interesting about the Henry VI trilogy?
JCB: It's a fascinating story and it's constantly, hugely political. People are trying to usurp each other and change who's in control and who's not in control. There's a lot of scheming and it's very complex and quite a crazy story. The fact that it's based on what actually happened and on the histories of England make it a bit more spicy. It's a brilliant story, and I'm not sure the history plays are as well-known as Shakespeare's other plays.
JD: I'd agree with that, especially here in the States, but the history plays really are fascinating. Now what do you think Shakespeare purists will think of ROSE RAGE?
JCB: Well, obviously the text has been abridged and cut down, but the original language remains, so this will please the purists amongst us. Beth Burns has directed the whole thing according to traditional, original practices, so there is period costume and music, no artificial lighting, and an all-male cast. There is a strong focus on the shaping of the text and what we can take from the original writing. I'm sure Shakespeare Purists would be really pleased with what she's done. However, with that in mind, I still maintain the adaptation of the scripts has been made in order to engage a modern audience. The cut is fast paced, brutal and constantly moving! It's epic!
JD: And what roles do you play in ROSE RAGE?
JCB: I play the Duke of Somerset and I also play Lady Jane Grey in the second part.
JD: What did you do to research those characters?
JCB: For both of them I did various research, just online and in books and all that jazz. For Lady Jane Grey, I found a book that was based on fact all about Lady Jane Grey and her rise and her story but I noticed some of the facts in that book and the way in which it was written and represented Lady Jane were different to the way in which the facts of the script played out. So, I had to make a choice whether or not I went with what is said in the play or whether I go with some of the research, and I had to go with what was said [in the play]. So my research, um, it was useful but in the end I just had to use the information from the play and use that as my research if that makes sense.
JD: Definitely. Now I heard that you had a very unorthodox rehearsal process with this show. Can you tell me about that?