The Durham Finalist’s Showcase

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A tradition that began in 2015, the Durham Finalist’s Showcase has been a celebration of the university’s finest actors.  The show consists of a series of monologues and duologues presented annually in the presence of both agents and industry professionals. It also serves as the last performing hurrah for those involved who will have spent a great deal of time working in productions of Durham Student Theatre. In all my candour, I must admit that the project at first appeared a daunting task: the role of directing actors from such a range of DST shows and companies, who have already grounded themselves as highly talented individuals was bound to be a challenge. I quickly had a realisation of how demanding, but also invigorating, it would be to instruct such experienced and proficient actors — and what it would take to elevate the performances from the comparative to the superlative. In workshopping pieces, each actor already naturally had an established technique, character, and performance style. As a creative team, we altered our approach to retain the cornerstone of the rehearsal to be a type selection of text that is veracious in representing both the actor’s niche and pieces that are unfamiliar territory. To see actors tap into roles that challenge their styles was the most compelling to witness; both as a viewer and as a Director. 

In our long days of rehearsing with different troupe members one by one, with every actor who stepped in the room, the energy of the room transformed

The project inherently demanded an intensely collaborative approach. The process was adaptive in order to cater to both casting types and acting styles. This was heightened by many of our troupe members having directed before, having just as much to offer in conceptualising their pieces as in performing them. In our long days of rehearsing with different troupe members one by one, with every actor that stepped in, the energy of the room transformed. I was assisted by and we found that there was no blueprint for these rehearsals, as each member thrived under their own distinctive process. Readapting was absolutely central to the approach. 

The role of directing actors from such a range of DST shows and companies, who have already grounded themsleves as highly talented individuals, was bound to be a challenge

The 2022 troupe consists of: 

Daisy Hargreaves, President of the Durham Revue, who has showcased impeccable grasp of comedy as Ugly C*nt in LTC’s ‘Original Death Rabbit’ as well as chilling dramatic presence in as Una in ‘Blackbird’; Adela Hernandez-Derbyshire, a member of the 2019 RADA Youth Company who has previously stunned in her roles of Mrs. Dalloway, Guildenstern, and Julia in ‘1984’. Ben Willows, President of 1TC, well-known for the Best Show winning ‘Cottage’ of DDF 2022, and his high energy portrayals of ‘The Player’ from ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’ and Hector in ‘The History Boys’; Ben Smart, Co-President of Suffragette Theatre Company, who in the same two plays as Willows, played ‘Rosencrantz’ and ‘Dakin’; he is a skilled performer of youthful, quick-witted types. Tom Cain, who has impressed as powerful leading men, playing Tony in ‘Bull’ and as Sky in ‘Guys and Dolls’; Etienne Currah, always a deliverer of steely control  as Angelo in ‘Measure for Measure’ and both Dorian Grey and Sardanapalus in the DUCT Classical Showcase; Sophie Alibert, who has performed both at the Royal Court Theatre and Southwark Playhouse, an integral performer in DULOG shows throughout her time here, and the sole troupe member singing in the showcase. Finally, Em Oliver, renowned for their powerful productions of ‘Medea’, and ‘Beautiful Nothing’; their impressive DDF 2022 play.  They’re also directing CTC’s prestigious Summer Shakespeare Tour, which this year is ‘The Comedy of Errors’.

Readapting was absolutely central to the approach

Expect to see some Tony Kushner, Duncan Macmillan, Helen Edmundson and Mike Bartlett throughout. Some of my favourite performances are of in ‘Mother Teresa is Dead’ and in ‘Pronoun’. Our aim is to showcase the range of each member of the troupe to display the variety of character skills they all very much have to play with. Daisy’s more comedic monologues contrast well with her intense duologue from Angels in America with Smart. Adela’s two monologues, from ‘People Places Things’ and ‘Buckets’ are very pensive and controlled, whereas her duologue with Sophie carries lightness and warmth. Directing Sophie’s musical theatre piece, ‘Quiet’ by Natalie Weiss was perhaps the most delightful for me, as I ventured into this genre for the very first time 

The Troupe is set to perform on the 18th of March in the Assembly Rooms Theatre, Durham and on the 27th of March in Camden People’s Theatre, London. 

Image Credit: Joe Haydon Photography

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