My Theatre: Rose English

Feature in Issue 11-3 | Autumn 1999

What did you see the first time you went to the theatre?

The first shows I remember seeing were improvisations by dancers, musicians and singers at Ferias in Spain; Bertram Mills’s Circus; the Royal Tournament: Swan Lake; and revues like the original production of A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum with Frankie Howard. By the time I saw my first play (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) it was too late! I remember the scenery, but not Vanessa Redgrave…

What recent performance has particularly inspired you?

Ricky Jay and his 52 Assistants.

Which performer, alive or dead, makes you laugh the most?

Tommy Cooper.

Who is your favourite playwright?

Gertrude Stein.

When was the last time you walked out of a theatre before the end of a show?

When was the last time I walked in?

When was the last time you cried in a theatre?

Angela Clerkin’s Potato Soliloquy in Sods in Space. She was dressed in a large potato costume and speaking of the Irish Potato Famine: ‘They blamed the failure on the potato – but it wasn’t my fault I was sick!’ I was caught simultaneously crying and laughing.

Who is your favourite performer?

The late Ron Vawter in both his solo work and with The Wooster Group.

If you could meet any theatre practitioner, alive or dead, who would it be?

Eleanora Duse.

What productions will you never forget?

The House by IOU; Wheat by Dennis Greenwood and Sally Potter; a duet danced by Steve Paxton and Lisa Nelson both wearing false moustaches; Forest Dances Four by Simon Vincenzi and Frank Bock; Siobhan Davies dancing Harmonica Breakdown; the impeccable Tango Argentina which I saw four times for the insatiable duet by Carlos Borges and Ines; Jeremy Robins in ‘Slippery When Wet’ – it’s a long list and this isn’t the end…

What does ‘physical theatre’ mean to you?

About as much as ‘visual theatre’, ‘music theatre’, ‘dance theatre’, ‘live art’, ‘combined art’, ‘inter-disciplinary art’, and anything with the word ‘seminal’ or ‘cutting edge’ in front of it. There is usually one word that says it better. Try ‘theatre’ or ‘show.

What would you do if you didn’t work in theatre?

It’s so difficult currently to get to work in a theatre, that it would be something completely different, like animal husbandry. In spite of the prevalence of both agricultural and cultural BSE, I am optimistic that people will remember that they must eat and think.

If you could send one message to Chris Smith, what would it be?

Who?

Rose English is based at The Circus Space, London, where she is working on her next three shows. A fragment from Standing Room Only – an opera of the ordinary – will be presented at Hoxton Hall on 19 and 20 November at 8pm.

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Issue 11-3
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