Guess who's back!
You heard it here first folks! Ben Humphrey will be returning to the stage this September as Stephano in the Worcester Rep's production of The Tempest.
We managed to grab him in between read throughs and and makeup lessons.... (who knows what these might be for!) to interview him about what we can expect from this season's opener.
The 2019-20 will be your first as Artistic Director. What can we expect?
“Putting together a varied programme is a balancing act between valuing established audiences but also ensuring that you are developing new ones. Theatre has to remain relevant to its audience, its artists and its values and that can be sometimes difficult to align. I’m hoping that this season demonstrates that the Worcester Rep is holding on to what works but is also looking to do things differently and with a much wider audience in mind. It’s very easy to say “that’s not our audience”
but I think that’s lazy. I’m determined to bring as many people to our work as possible. That isn’t just about what we put on, it’s about how we do it and what we want our audience to experience.”
What can the audience look forward to when coming to see The Tempest?
“Something completely different! The Huntingdon Hall is one of the most incredible venues in the UK and this is the first time since it was built in the 19th century that it will have been used like this. The Worcester Rep’s productions are unique and they can’t be seen anywhere else. Once they’ve gone you’ve missed something special and never to be repeated. It’s the heart of what live performance is, and I find that very exciting.”
This is the first time you’ll have directed a theatrical show in Huntingdon Hall, what are the challenges that you’ll be facing and what are the benefits of the space?
“The space is a fascinating one and being built originally as a place of worship by the Countess of Huntingdon, it has an air of theatricality even without a production company in there. Every venue has challenges, even purpose built theatres. I subscribe to the late Peter Hall’s way of thinking.
“I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage.”
To me the Huntingdon Hall is just like any other empty space, albeit a very beautiful and unique space. It also has one of the most fantastic acoustics,which means that unlike other site-specific venues, there is no danger that audience members won’t be able to hear the actors.”
The Tempest marks your first time back on stage in over a year. Are you nervous? What about being back in theatre are you looking forward to?
“Having a year off has been strange. I definitely needed it but I have felt the pull, especially when I’ve been directing. I am a little nervous and there are certain things that I will need to get back up to speed such as my voice work. The thing I’m looking forward to the most is being back with a cast. This cast especially is a superb one, without a weak link.”
You’re best known in Worcester as Dame Ginny in the Pantomime. Do you prefer pantomime or Shakespeare?
“I get asked that a lot. I think audiences who come to see the pantomime are often surprised that I do other stuff as well. In reality the two genres aren’t actually that different. It’s all about story-telling. Pantomime is definitely harder just because of the sheer physical energy it takes, day in, day out…it’s unrelenting.”
Does your return to the stage in The Tempest mean you’ll be back for this year’s pantomime at the Swan Theatre?
“I think it’s time to dust off the heels. John Robert Partridge did a fabulous job last year as Dame Ginny and I am incredibly grateful for him for allowing me to take her back. I’ve missed the mad old bat.”
You can catch the limited run of the Shakespeare’s masterpiece from the 24th – 28th September 2019 at the Huntingdon Hall.
Tickets are available online at www.worcester-rep.co.uk/thetempest, by calling the Box Office on 01905 611427 or by visiting the Worcester Live Box Office in CrownGate, Worcester.