WEB EXCLUSIVE: No need to mask big issues as mask-based company Vamos Theatre bring palliative care comedy/drama Dead Good to Eden Court, Inverness
It's no big m-ask to get Vamos Theatre back at Eden Court – the mask-based theatre company have brought the plaudits during their previous visits to Inverness with Finding Joy and A Brave Face. Now, ahead of their third trek north with new show Dead Good, Kyle Walker caught up with the company to find out a bit more about the company behind the masks
Q Hi folks, thanks for answering these! How are you doing today? And whereabouts are you answering these from?
A Hey there, this is Josh, James, Angela and Aron. We’re all currently sat in the Bridge House Theatre auditorium in Warwick, helping set the stage while Paul is focusing the lights from the gantry.
Q You’re back in Inverness again with your new production, Dead Good. It continues Vamos’ dedication to tackling weighty topics with a deft lightness of touch - how did this production come together for the company? What was the inspiration behind this particular topic?
A The inspiration came about when Dr Maggie Keeble, a GP and Chair of the Worcestershire Palliative and End of Life Care Network and long-time supporter of Vamos, sat down with Director Rachael Savage to talk about death and how everyone is connected to it. From there Rachael began a journey researching and meeting people with terminal illnesses and hospice workers to understand the topic more. She was blown away by how welcoming hospices were, how jolly and friendly the atmosphere was, and how happy people are there. Two and a half years later, Dead Good is now on tour!
Q Considering the weightiness of the topics that Dead Good covers, I’m sure that audiences have been keen to share their insights and opinions on the subjects. Have there been any memorable or poignant discussions that you’ve had with people about these end of life matters?
A We’ve had post-show discussions in Worcester, London, and Malvern, all of which have had audience members sharing thoughts about the show, their personal journey, and the relevance of the subject matter. The discussion in Malvern also saw Nick Moss, one of Dead Good’s advisors, join us on stage to share his journey with the audience. That was a lovely moment.
Q Vamos, of course, is notable for its mask theatre, and I’m keen to get some insight on that if that’s okay. I’ve been lucky enough to see a few Vamos productions at Eden Court and I always marvel at how expressive the characters are even as their expressions are frozen - those expressions can convey so much! What are the challenges as actors and physical performers to embody these characters, their emotions and their stories while bemasked?
A With mask work the phrase "Actions speak louder than words" is very prominent. Wearing a mask removes words and replaces them with movement, and sometimes the tiniest gesture can speak volumes, but you have to find that gesture! Finding the right gesture to suit what you’re trying to say can take a lot of time, there’s a lot of trial and error and repetition. We record our rehearsals so that we can watch them back (seem as we can’t see ourselves when wearing a mask) to observe how we portray our characters to make sure we convey the emotions and intentions clearly, so that the story we tell to the audience is clear. It’s very challenging and takes time, but it’s a magical result when a piece of plastic over our face can move an audience to laugh and cry!
Q What has been the greatest challenge for Vamos Theatre in creating and putting on Dead Good? And what has been the greatest reward?
James: One of the greatest challenges for me was running the play in rehearsal and pretending to die in front of an audience that included people who were actually dying, who had terminal illnesses. That’s quite sobering. The reward is that they didnt mind and were very encouraging.
Josh: I play quite a few characters actually, so backstage is quite challenging for me as it’s a lot of different props, costume, and many quick costume changes in very short amounts of time! And the reward is the audience reaction: so many laughs and so many cheers!
Angela: The most challenging thing for me has been to overcome my phobia of dying. And the greatest reward for me is to have met and worked with some inspiring people who are living day to day with life-limiting illnesses.
Dead Good comes to Eden Court on Wednesday night. The show starts at 7pm and tickets cost £15 (£11 concession). Go to www.vamostheatre.co.uk