Thursday, 23 December 2010

Introducing...Veronica Mary Hare

'Back in May 2009 I joined Belt Up as an ensemble member for their production of The Tempest to be performed in Stratford-Upon-Avon that July. At the time I had little idea what sort of work Belt Up produced, having never seen any of their shows. As a first year at York University I was already involved in the University Drama Society and had recently signed myself into two shows heading to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe that summer. I had heard mixed things on the grapevine about Belt Up's work from fellow students, and if I'm honest had previously been somewhat put off finding out any more for myself.

However, about a month or so before they opened auditions for The Tempest I'd learned who each of the directors of the company were. I hadn't realised it, but I had met James in my first week of university when he had led an acting workshop for the freshers wanting to get involved with the Drama Society. He'd been very friendly and encouraging and I'd not thought twice about auditioning for the society afterward. Dom was the current chair of the Drama Society and I'd auditioned in my first term of university to be in a play he was directing (I was not aware that the play had any links with the infamous Belt Up at that point) and although I had been unsuccessful I saw him around quite a few times and we’d chatted occasionally. I have a distinct memory of being on a bus going back to campus after I'd finished a shift at work and I’d insisted on giving Dom and Marcus Emerton some chocolate I didn't want that I'd got at work... Toward the end of my second term I was rehearsing the musical I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change with the Drama Society when I met Jethro who was doing our lighting design. At the time he was going through some “emotional torment”, and I found his decision to go from veganism to all-out-carnivore in the space of 2 weeks rather amusing. However, he filled me in on more of the ins and outs of Belt Up, and that was when I learned their success stories (so far) and their intention to be innovative and challenge the way that theatre works. Finally I met Alexander who was coming in to help out the company of ILY,YP,NC in an improv workshop because for whatever mad reason we had decided to perform An Improvised Musical as promotion for the show later the following week. Alex ended up being in the Improvised Musical with us, and thus No Shoes Theatre began, but that is another story.... By this point I knew all of the co-directors of Belt Up, but still had absolutely no idea about what their work was really like. The interesting thing at this point was that they were just fellow students, not that dissimilar to anyone else I'd met, but what I did know was that they were doing something different, and that it was exciting.

When the boys opened up their auditions after the Easter break I became perhaps a little too willing to throw myself blindly into it and come to my own conclusions about the company's work. I was aware that the boys were in their last year at university, and that this may have been my only chance to work with them before they got into the big wide world. To be frank I wanted to take what others may have called ‘a risk’.

Over the following couple of months we had various workshops on the different skills and methods that Belt Up use. This was a wonderful chance to get to know all the cast and company members as well as the way they worked. All of this was in preparation for specific production rehearsals later. When it came to putting the Tempest together, we had little more than a week to actually block through the show - an intense period where concentration and trust were key. We were told what we needed to do, and it was up to us to get it right.

What I learnt early on with Belt Up is that a huge amount of their work relies on trust within the company. It is vital that you learn to work well and work quickly with other people and that in the end the only mistakes that can happen are your own. The company was of course interested in talent, but they looked for the individual's ability to work well within a group, and whether the person is confident enough in themselves to realise their own potential and be open to new experiences. Friendship was important in an often close environment, but you have to maintain your professionalism if ever personal problems arise. The nature of Belt Up's work often involves an ensemble, and allowing personal issues into the work can make it an unpleasant experience for the cast and more importantly the audience!

Over the year and a half since I first joined Belt Up, I have worked on a number of projects with them. At the Edinburgh Fringe 2009 I was involved in a number of Squat Nights as well as the "secret" show Persephone. Following the Fringe I was in The Trial and Tartuffe in the Take Over Festival at York Theatre Royal from September-October 2009, and in May 2010 was invited back for the final Tartuffe in York Theatre Royal's main house. In April I spent a week as a mournful, lonely girl desperately hoping to find her family all day every day while we worked on 'The Atlantis Project' as visiting artists at NSDF 2010.

For Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2010 I was invited to perform in The House Above season in three shows. This was by far to be the biggest project I couldn't have anticipated being involved in. The House Above saw 9 shows go through it (7 daily) as well as various bar nights featuring various events. The House was built from scratch by the ensemble, following a 3 week rehearsal period. Time was limited, and much of the work was rushed or squeezed in wherever possible. The fringe itself was incredibly tiring, and perhaps for the majority of the month my body worked on adrenaline alone. But it was the most incredible experience! Spending 2 months surrounded by people I would trust with my life (quite literally considering some stunts involved in certain shows) and some of my nearest and dearest friends made it simply wonderful.

Since working with Belt Up I’ve worked with some brilliant people. I’ve made friends that I hope to keep for a lifetime. I’ve had my view on theatre challenged and influenced in ways I’m not sure I could put into words. I’ve been pushed to my limits and laughed until I’ve cried. I’ve been tired, I’ve been encouraged, I’ve been confused, I’ve been helped, I’ve wanted to go home, and I’ve not wanted to be anywhere else in the world. I’ve had so much to be thankful for.

Now, my next project with Belt Up is as an ensemble member for The Beggar’s Opera and quite frankly I cannot wait!'

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