What does it take to put on a stage production from scratch?
Back in December, our second-year Acting BA students put on two musicals for their end-of-semester showcases. A total of six performances were staged by two separate groups – three performances of "The Extravagant Flauntings of Marie Antoinette" and three of "Tartuffe, the Imposter" (which you can read about here).
Marking the debut of our brand-new theatre, both shows played to a full house and brought an epic close to our first semester. Read on to hear all about the journey of our actors through the process of making "The Extravagant Flauntings of Marie Antoinette".
“What’s amazing is that before there was nothing and now there is a complete production. That’s all come from us.”
– Ilja van Ravels
Building the on-stage aesthetic
For many in the group, fulfilling the roles required to put on a stage production was uncharted territory. Although Ilja had already experimented with make-up, this was the first time doing so in a professional context. The "classic" white powdery faces of Versailles were also of a style that they had not worked with before. “This show was the perfect opportunity to force myself out of my comfort zone”, said Ilja. “The production has shown me that I have to trust my talent and myself more. So when an opportunity presents itself in the future, I’ll gladly say yes”.
Lara Peer looked back on being part of the production team, as well as the cast, as “an amazing opportunity that posed a variety of challenges”. Having worked on the set design, along with Moke Amee and Aisha Kalymzhanova, she learned how “being responsible for set design required a lot of time, energy and research to achieve the end-goal of building a fully-functional guillotine. And we did it!” She later added that “of course, the blade was fake – safety first”.
Spreading the word about the show
Next, the show needed an audience. Maya Balazs got behind the lens and planned and executed the photographic direction. In full costume (organised by Ilja van Ravels & Aisha Kalymzhanova), with a slice of cake and a flash of the camera, the actors posed in character for the publicity shots. Marketing the show was led by Marla Xaviera, who used these images for promotion in the run-up to the show and featured them on the ticketing pages she managed.
Graft transforms into three epic performances
The musical tells the story of the wealth gap in 18th-century France, on the brink of revolution (enter guillotine, stage right). Centered around the marriage and lives of Marie Antoinette (Marla Xaviera) and King Louis (Moke Mowatt and Ido Raphael), Marla described their interpretation of the musical as “very camp and the mixed roles lean into this idea”. 14 characters were played by ten actors.
Lara Peer, who played sex worker Latitia and Chef Gordon Blue, said that portraying two contrasting characters, both far from her own personality, meant that she “pushed boundaries and stepped out of my comfort zone like never before. I embraced the process of working on those characters to the fullest. I now have access to areas within me that I didn't even know existed.”