Director Kenn Oldfield has been taking no prisoners as he prepares his student cast for a production of Fiddler On The Roof at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre (July 8 to 16).
The cast are Guildford School of Acting final year students; but Kenn wants them to know that it’s for real.
“My job as an outside director is to treat them as if the show were going on a UK tour or going to go into London. That’s my point in coming to it. I don’t make any exceptions. In fact, I push them harder than I would professional actors. They have got to see the standards of professionalism and commitment to the piece that are required.”
Occasionally, the response is an ar**y look, as Kenn puts it. His response is to ignore it: “I know that I was exactly like that at that age!”
But he certainly allows flexibility into the process. It’s important for students to feel they can contribute and it’s important for Kenn to listen.
Just as importantly, Kenn likes to extend that flexibility to himself, reserving the right to change his mind when instinct tells him to do so.
The students might protest: “But that’s not how we did it last week!”: “But I like changing my mind - if it feels right.”
Inevitably, his students don’t give him the full age range that the piece requires - and here Kenn is happy to make concessions.
“In the original piece, the two main characters would be in their 40s or 50s. But I certainly don’t want young actors doddering around pretending to be old people. What would a 21-year-old possibly know about how a 55-year-old would think and walk and talk.
“I have just said to them ‘Just play it as yourselves. Let’s go for youthful and vibrant.’ The story is strong enough to be played that way, anywhere, any country. It’s a story about survival.”
In the small Russian village of Anatevka in 1905, traditional Jewish father of five daughters, Tevye battles to preserve the old religious ways whilst outside influences encourage his three older daughters to fight to join a more modern world, marrying men of their choice; even if it means defying their parents - all against a background of major social upheaval.
There are dark changes on the horizon that threaten to completely overwhelm Anatevka and its people...
Tickets on 01483 440000 or website at www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk.