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Phat Swan students not afraid of a challenge

Phat Swan Performance Company students from Stratford-upon-Avon College are rehearsing in preparation for their performance of ‘Shooting up in Shops’; a piece of work that is not afraid to challenge and question society as we know it.

The Phat Swan Performance Company course aims to provide training and experience that will prepare actors for drama school and beyond. Students often stay at the College after their Level 3 course or A-Levels to hone their skills ahead of applying to university or stage school the following year.

Kerry Downing, director of the company, chose this production as the shocking themes and stories within allows the performers to be stretched and taken out of their comfort zones. “This piece allows the actors to explore the psychological complexities of a whole range of characters. The more exposure and exploration time they have here within Phat Swan, the more confidence and relaxation they can have in an audition or rehearsal room. Actors tell all kinds of stories – and this can help them prepare for that.”

The piece is in the style of ‘In yer face’ theatre; a term used to describe a confrontational style of drama that emerged in Great Britain in the 1990s. The subjects covered look at abuse, drug addiction and assault to name a few. Actor Daisy Clarke has found the project extremely eye opening: “It’s an incredible play to get to be able to do. I have normally been cast in ‘safe’ roles, so this gives me a chance to explore characters I wouldn’t normally get to.”

The company have taken this further by also using elements of blind casting; assigning roles regardless of age, race or gender. This is something very common within theatre today and Kerry is keen to maintain industry standards and trends. She comments: “We are a contemporary theatre group and we mirror the industry. This allows our actors to be as best prepared as possible for their future careers.”

One actor who has been blind cast was Evie Slater-Jones, who though female, will play a male role. She comments: “Though it can be hard at times, its also easy to relate. I know how these types of men would make me feel so I have to try and recreate it from their perspective. It was uncomfortable to begin with as I was acting opposite a friend, so the process allows me to learn how to separate actor and character which is such a good skill to have.”

This type of performance is valuable for many reasons. Daisy comments: “By exploring tense characters and topics we have broken down any awkwardness and this has brought us together as a company.” Evie adds: “Theatre is normally seen as something that is for comfort and entertainment but it is important to challenge our audience and shock them into feeling.” Actor Gio Sondh adds: “You can channel your own experiences. It’s incredible and an eye opener. It is empowering to be able to teach people in this way.”

The cast are currently in their rehearsal phase. We can’t wait to see the final outcome!

Find out more about Phat Swan Performance Company and other Performing & Production Arts courses at Stratford-upon-Avon College.

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