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Interview: Natalie from Front Room Theatre

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Next week we have a double-bill of drama to mark the eightieth anniversary of the beginning of World War II. Lie Back and Think of America and Sarah, Joe, et la guerre both come courtesy of Front Room Theatre and our very own tap class teacher Natalie Wilcox. So we caught up with her to find out a little bit more about this exciting and unique project...

Rising Sun: Hi Natalie. Firstly, can you tell us a little about yourself - and about your two performances? 
 
Natalie Wilcox: I'm a graduate of Mountview Academy and have spent a number of years as an actor, singer and dancer for companies including the BBC, Channel 4, Fort Mark Films, Shared Experience and several repertory theatres and touring companies. I work in French and English as an actor and enjoy learning languages too. I wrote Lie Back and Think of America after a career advisor told me I would be excellent casting for the role of a mum in a washing powder commercial: it sounded a bit dull. So I wrote roles I would like to play. 
 
RS: What was it about the wartime setting that inspired you?
 
NW: I had been running workshops in schools on the 2nd World War and I'd also appeared in a music video for the band Athlete's track 'Black Swan Song' which featured the real events experienced by the band leader's grandfather in Arnham in 1944. There's something about the danger of being at war that makes you stop and value life more.  It was really interesting to imagine what life would have been like for those living through the war, so I did and started to write a play. I met Professor Alan Rice, from UCLAN, by chance, on a train journey back from a school and he told me about Noel Izon’s documentary 'Choc' late Soldiers from the USA', which inspired me to take a different approach and write about the relationship between a black GI and an English factory-worker. 
 
RS: And what inspired you to do two plays - or rather one play in two languages? 
 
NW: Claudia François, a language tutor at Reading University, asked me to do some theatre with the French students. I thought it would be an interesting experiment to see if my play, which is something which is quite entrenched in British - and more specifically English - culture would be something that lends itself to translation. From an academic project that I have undertaken, in which I have explored translation from English to French, it seems that works of art such as books or plays work in translation when they are examining universal concepts, such as family or love. This play explores those concepts as well as dealing with a part of history that not many people know about: 18 American men were executed on British soil during World War II. 14 of them were either black or Hispanic. I want to honor the memory of those men by telling their story. Prejudice is very sad, and very real, and comes in lots of forms. The p'ay explores it as a general theme as well as how it relates to the GI. 
 
RS: What should audiences expect from your two shows? 
 
NW: The English version is a full production and a one-woman play. It is multi-role and characters are signaled by the change of a hat or a prop. There's an adorable young Welsh policeman, Matthew Owen, who you'll love. Audiences tell us that you forget it's one person performing. It's funny while covering some serious subjects. 
 
The French version is a rehearsed reading. We've clocked up about 85 hours translating the play and we're very happy with the results. There are three of us performing the play, which is so lovely for me especially, as I'm used to carrying the whole show, alongside our fantastic technician who ensures the audiences experiences the sounds of the sirens and bombs! 
 
RS: What was it like working with the university students on Sarah, Joe, et la guerre? 
 
NW: It's been lovely getting fresh input into the interpretation of the script. Lauren, one of the actors, approaches things very differently from me as an actor, and that is a really good place to work from as we can both input something different into the direction. Claudia - the tutor - has also gone through the translation a page at a time with us, and we try and find the best idiomatic French. She has been fantastic. 
 
RS: And what makes the Rising Sun the perfect venue for these performances? 
 
NW: The Rising Sun is a welcoming venue which is open to experiment. The intimate setting is ideal for this show which deals with very raw emotions, and most importantly, the Rising Sun is an inclusive environment. The reason Front Room Theatre (our production company) exists is to produce theatre that is as inclusive and accessible as possible. We hope to bring more theatre to the Rising Sun as well as more participatory events. 
 
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Lie Back and Think of America is on Friday 22nd March - doors at 8pm, show starts 8:30pm
Sarah, Joe, et la guerre is on Sunday 24th March - doors at 2pm, show starts 2:30pm
Both performances are "pay what you feel" - advance tickets are available from ticketsource

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