Niamh Cusack mentors the Grads in Stagestruck

Oct 6 2011 | By More

Quarter finals of Sky Arts’ Stagestruck this weekend

By Thom Dibdin

Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group, the Grads, will learn their fate in the quarter finals of Sky Arts’ series Stagestruck when they make their first on-stage appearance at the Royal & Derngate Theatres, Northampton, on Saturday.

The company were joined this week for a day’s workshop with their professional mentor, Niamh Cusack, in their preparation of a short scene from Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. They will perform this live in front of the three judges: actress Miriam Margolyes, theatre critic Quentin Letts and producer Bill Kenwright.

Cusack, who played Dr Kate Rowan in ITV’s Heartbeat told The Stage newspaper: “Not enough people are put in touch with how great it is to watch plays and be in plays, and one of the ways of getting people interested in watching plays is for them to get up and do it themselves.

“I am not a director, but I love enabling actors with less experience than myself.”

She told to the theatre industry paper’s Matthew Hemley that there should be more mentoring in the industry, claiming there was a place for “older actors mentoring other actors”.

She said: “I think we should do that more. It happens in ballet and it happens in opera, and I don’t think it would be a bad thing if it happened more in the theatre. I think amateur dramatics can benefit in that way.”

In this weekend’s round, the eight companies still in the competition go head-to-head, with half performing an extract from The Cherry Orchard on Saturday 8 October, and the rest performing an extract from Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People on Sunday 9 October.

The Grads are up against Bingley Little Theatre mentored by Richard Wilson, Regent Rep of Christchurch mentored by Jill Halfpenny, and Strathclyde Theatre Group mentored by Dame Harriet Walter.

The four groups performing the Ibsen are FissiParous Theatre of Wirral mentored by Roger Allam, Tell Tale Theatre Company of Liverpool mentored by Martin Shaw, Heath Players of Hatfield mentored by Julie Graham, and Crossmichael Drama Club of Castle Douglas mentored by Paterson Joseph.

Only two of the groups performing each scene will go through to the semi finals of the competition. The performances will be filmed for the screening of the show, which is scheduled for transmission next summer. They are also open to the public, with free tickets available from the Royal & Derngate Theatres box office on 01604 624811.

The ultimate prize of the competition is to stage a play in a theatre in London’s West End.

In other Grads news, the company will staging Hamlet as part of the RSC’s Open Stages project, at the St. Brides Centre, 10 Orwell Terrace, November 9-12.

Full details are on the Grad’s website and the Hamlet micro-site.


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  1. Thom Dibdin says:

    Update: details of tickets for the shows – which start at 1.30pm – are on the Royal & Derngate website: