Constantine Gras: "This film is a creative record of a drawing improvisation for Marie Henderson, Victorian actress of melodrama, 1841-1882. She was a theatrical star of the Britannia Theatre in the East End, before becoming actress-manageress of the Elephant and Castle Theatre. When the E&C theatre burnt down in 1878, the press reported that Marie went mad as a result of losing her costumes. She was in reality suffering from the unknown and untreatable effects of syphilis. Marie Henderson died in Bedlam mental hospital in 1882 and is buried in an unmarked grave at Brompton Cemetery.
This is the first time I've attempted to psychically engage with my subject of research akin to method acting. Drawing is a durational and psychological process. I make use of line and colour in the medium of oil pastels to render the invisible visible. I have also used a technique of reverse image making using a mirror to search for a lost soul in the passage of history. The drawing started as a sketch presented to the People's Theatre Company ensemble in which a sheet of paper was placed on the ground between the actors and myself. I attempted to draw everything in reverse for me, but normal for them. This was like stumbling in the dark of a haunted castle. There was a historical precedent to my folly as I was inspired by Pepper's Ghost, a holographic ghost effect involving glass, that was produced in 1863 with Marie Henderson acting in one of the first productions. Drawing myself into that glass darkly, I seek out a dim and distant life force. It may not have any corporeal form. Yet we can still feel the after shock of pain and tragedy in a mind reduced to delusional ramblings. However let us also celebrate the brilliance of a woman who shone out amongst her peers and brought play and joy to the lives of her local working class audiences."
Barton Williams: "Ahhh an English Summer is upon us and hence a small class size tonight of People's Company candidates, a sum of seven people ended the year tonight with a sense of inspiration, motivation and determination. Clearly size doesn't matter when it comes to performing!
Tonight saw the screening of several week's videos captured beautifully by Constantine's camera. The highlight, the final art piece by Constantine where mirror madness captures anyone's imagination whilst morphing us into the historical facts of the Coronet theatre.
Next, the curtains were pulled back dramatically to reveal the original art murals by Constantine completed over the last few months. One can only define the unveiling of Constantine's artwork as simply amazing. A myriad of historical timelines images, a snapshot of surrealism versus Marie Anderson's psychic battles with her illness and the clever use of mirrored images.
Fuelled by a visual smorgasbord of artwork from Constantine and expertly facilitated by John Whelan, the Company then got busy performing some improvisation work around Marie Henderson's theatre, now a cinema, being transformed into a bomb shelter during WW2.
Sheer terror, ghosts and historical facts were all played with tonight, in a collection of dynamic ensemble movements. At the end of the night the People's Company were certainly more empowered on the facts of the Coronet theatre and the reasons why Marie Anderson's legacy needs to be performed and never forgotten!"
The People's Company will be taking a short summer break and returning in full force on Tuesday September 5th starting at 7.00pm 2017 at Southwark Playhouse.
Reflecting the views of artists, actors, residents
and participants in
The Melodramatic Elephant in the Haunted Castle.
An art project about the Coronet from 1872-2017.
Directing and acting
Jacko at the Coronet?
Ale and steak pies
This Is Where I Came In
Pollock's Toy Museum
Adventure with the Mayor
Reach for the stars
Ghost of Marie Henderson
Shop till the zombie drops
Faith, Hope and Charity
Singing and sketching
History and legacy
Dark Side of Metropolis
Walworth Street Festival
Interview with Sam Porter
Blood and Thunder
Culture and Capital