This week, we’re talking to Erica Martin, creative learning associate at royal & derngate, Northampton
Tell us a bit about what you do in theatre
My role at Royal & Derngate is predominately working with community groups of all ages and I direct performances, deliver workshops, project manage festivals, provide talks and tours. This involves working with every team at Royal & Derngate from Front of House to Production teams and within all of the spaces at the theatre and off site.
I am also a freelance Director and Writer with a passion for immersive performances, storytelling and puppetry.
What does your job entail, and what is your favourite part of your job?
I know how lucky I am to do my job as there is such variety. One day I will lead workshops for our Youth Theatre, the next I’ll be supporting an artist to develop a new professional production and the next I will be writing and directing a show. I work with some of the most incredible people and they provide constant fun, constant creative support and constant inspiration.
I think there are two favourite parts to my job. One is when you work with a group of young people and see how much theatre can bring to their lives, to see laughter and friendships as well as creativity is just wonderful. The other part is that I love directing and devising and the fact I have that opportunity as part of my day to day job is just brilliant. There’s always a really sticky moment in any rehearsal room where you wonder if it’s all going to come to together and then it does and you see everything that was in your head on a stage and everyone you’ve been working with come together to create a brief moment of theatre for someone to enjoy. One of the most frightening of parts of course is see if they enjoy it!
Which productions have you most enjoyed working on?
A production that gave me pure joy from start to finish was working on “Club Wonderland” with Theatre & Creative Practice students from The University of Northampton and Composer Josh Bird. I was employed to write an adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s most famous novels and poetry. Immersing myself in Lewis’ gorgeous and extremely clever language was just an utter delight and then to work with such a talented and respectful cast who brilliantly brought the characters to life from the very first reading was astonishing. Then the total icing on the cake was the incredibly atmospheric and bold songs written by the talented composer Josh Bird. This is the first time in a long time that I had had the luxury to rehearse for a month solid with a large talented company which meant I could really get my teeth into the creative process and have time to enjoy it and actually be in the moment with it. It was a dream to create an immersive musical that turned the Royal Theatre upside down and inside out with audiences going on a bonkers 3 hour experience down the rabbit hole. I would happily re-mount this one at any time.
If you could play any role / direct/ produce and play, what would it be?
I have already been lucky enough to direct one of my favourite stories, “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens, which was a childhood favourite. However if I could direct anything at all from now, I would absolutely love to do a stage adaptation of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth but I’d worry that you could never do it justice as the film was perfect in every way and who could live up to David Bowie? The film has it all, the storytelling is just wonderful, the bonkers cast, the amazing puppetry and of course the songs! If I could do it justice that would be the one for me.
Do you HAVE a memorable story about theatre you can share with us?
I was performing in the middle of a show in London and there was a gruesome scene where I had my eyeballs popped with knitting needles. In one performance a lovely older lady starting shouting at the ‘nasty man to get away’ and telling another lady who was sat with her to ‘go and tell an usher’. She was utterly engrossed and it was absolutely glorious and heartbreaking to know she was so invested in it. I saw her in the theatre bar afterwards and she told me she glad the usher had done their job well as I seemed to be ok. I assured her I was.
What’s the best thing you’ve seen on stage?
There will be so so many that I can’t possibly list them all and I’ll remember some later and wish I’d written them down here but here’s just a few that pop into my mind for these reasons.
“Hamlet” – RSC Matthew Warchus (back in 1997!) One of the first pieces of theatre I ever saw and it captured me in every way possible. This show was the reason I got a place at University to study theatre after a lengthy conversation about the cuts and the opening scene with the tutor interviewing me.
“Shock Headed Peter” – Tiger Lillies – This started my love affair with the Tiger Lillies and the piece is just perfect. It’s a darkly comic piece which is right up my street. The songs are amazing, the staging is beautiful and the puppetry and storytelling is fun and bonkers.
“Flathampton” – Dani Parr – the sheer scale of storytelling and immersive theatre cleverly woven together, with adults and young people utterly amazed by the story, the set, the cast, the world, all pulled together by this brilliant director.
I must also mention “Enter Achillies” by DV8, “Wise Children” by Emma Rice, “End of The Rainbow” starring the incredible Tracie Bennett, “A Tale of Two Cities” by James Dacre, and “The Girl Who Became A Boy” by Jo Blake.
What do you love about your local theatre community?
I love the diversity and that you can watch or attend something every night. There is such a diverse scene from storytelling with groups like The Feast of Fools and theatre of all kinds, include performances of such outstanding quality at the Royal & Derngate, to an enormous and brilliant music and spoken word scene.
I also love and am very proud that there is such an enormous community theatre network for young people and adults which is also of such a high quality. The town should shout long and loud about the creativity in all it’s forms.
What have you been doing theatrically during lockdown?
I’m still working at the moment and delivering most of Royal & Derngate’s workshops and rehearsals via my computer at home. It has it’s challenges and takes up most of my time but i’m so pleased that we continue to engage with our audiences and the local community.
Personally I’m also keeping sane by making silly fun videos using my love of puppetry to turn anything into a playmate and I’ve been taking lovely walks around the Racecourse.
In these dark times for theatre, who would you like to encourage people to support with a donation if they’re able?
Royal & Derngate’s Back Together fundraising campaign!
many THANKs TO erica FOR taking the time for OUR INTERVIEW SERIES! Stay tuned for more…
Intermission Interviews are the work of Becki Cockcroft and Matthew Neuenhaus. Becki is Marketing & Press Assistant at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate theatres, and a freelance marketeer, designer and photographer, and Matt is Marketing Officer for Birmingham Hippodrome.