The RADA Festival 2018 runs from 27 June to 7 July, inviting graduates to present their work. We catch up with director Christopher Hurrell, bringing Hear My Soul Speak to the festival this year:

Now in its 7th year, the RADA Festival 2018 celebrates the work of its past graduates with a ten-day programme of theatre, installations and discussions. That’s ten days that centre around the school and its network of contacts, ten days of individuals who have learnt their craft in those hallowed halls, who return to take creative risks, extend their work into new territories and experiment with telling stories in unexpected ways.

Here at Miro Magazine, we are always on the lookout for the next generation of theatremaker, so where better to look than at a set of graduate artists? Throughout the festival, we will be profiling some of the companies and people bringing along their work, seeking feedback and hoping to expand their own networks through the common link of their alma mater.

RADA Festival 2018

Next up in our Spotlight feature is Hear My Soul Speak, which plays at RADA Festival on 3 July 2018. We caught up with director Christopher Hurrell:

Describe Hear My Soul Speak in three words.

‘Prospero’s secrets revealed.’

Is this your first RADA Festival experience?

‘Yes – this is an exciting culmination for us. RADA Alumnus Gerrard McArthur and I have been developing new techniques for acting Shakespeare, creating the characterisation from the emotional and dramatic implications of the sound patterns and rhythms in Shakespeare’s verse. The character of Prospero is a unique Shakespearean experiment in language as sound. His true spiritual life is hidden in the sounds he makes – in his verbal music.

‘We created this performance because we wanted to reveal to an audience both the inner-life of the character and the sound patterns that suggest it. So I worked with a really interesting digital artist, Ben Glover, to find ways of showing the sonic in the language in a visual form. Being profoundly deaf, Ben brings a unique perspective to the question of how to express the sonic through a visual medium, and his emerging body of work already engages with this question. So bringing that unique perspective to bear on the question of visually showing poetic patterns in language has been a key to our process.

‘We also work with the play’s original vocal music. It’s a little known fact that the music for some of the songs Shakespeare wrote for Prospero’s spirit-servant, Ariel, with the composer Robert Johnson, actually survive. They’re haunting and beautiful, and in the play they are the expression of his magic – which is to say the power of his mind. They reveal a completely different side to Prospero’s persona. We’ve researched other surviving songs by Johnson, to suggest a fuller account of the play’s original score, and its sung exquisitely by the operatic countertenor Russell Harcourt.’

Hear My Soul Speak RADA Festival 2018

Who else are you most looking forward to seeing while at the RADA Festival?

‘There’s a lot of exciting new writing at the RADA Festival that I am looking forward to seeing. I’ve been working on the grand-daddy of English playwrights now for so long – but my original practice in Australia was as a dramaturg and director of new plays, so I’m excited to see what young UK playwrights are coming up with. There’s also a really interesting installation response to the work of Joe Orton by Paul Westcombe that I’m really looking forward to.’

Who or what are your inspirations?

‘My inspirations are two-fold. It may sound obvious but it’s so true.

‘The first is the great writers and composers whose work I explore. Shakespeare never stops inspiring me. There’s something about the way that language unfurls itself on the page and in the mouth that goes beyond meaning and into, well, life-force. I can’t get enough. And it’s the same for me with the great composers I admire. Since coming to the UK and hearing and seeing world’s-best early music and opera specialists at work, I’ve come to think of Handel, for example, as really a Shakespeare-in-music. He was a true dramatist of the soul in sound and despite his German background, the foundation of England’s contribution to music drama in my opinion. When Glyndebourne with director Barrie Kosky did Handel’s Saul a couple of years ago – I was just applauding and energised for days afterwards, months really!

‘The second is my collaborators. That’s where the real creative energy comes from. My own creativity really fires up when its reacting to the creativity of others. Great acting inspires me, and great insight. Gerrard McArthur, who plays Prospero in this production, has been an inspiration to me for years, ever since I first worked with him and Howard Barker at the Adelaide Festival. I’ve seen him give a series of utterly enthralling performances, rich in wit and humanity. This show is a tribute to his unique talent.’

Hear My Soul Speak RADA Festival 2018

What are the future plans for Hear My Soul Speak?

‘We created this performance as a richly detailed sketch of what might be – a sketch not just because there is more to Prospero, more text that we can go on to interrogate, but also because the creation of a multimedia show independently is constrained by the availability of technology and resources. What we’ve learned from the development we’ve done this year is that there is an exciting idea here for a rich interplay between multimedia, text and music – between language in its visual and sonic forms, the body of the actor and the voices, to evoke something of the subliminal in human experience. Our dreams is to be able to collaborate with a producing partner and technical experts who can help us realise this vision in all its richest possibilities, using state-of-the-art technology.’

What is the best production that you saw in the last 12 months?

‘I was utterly enchanted by Emma Rice’s new musical at the Wanamaker Theatre – Romantics Anonymous. Emma’s work is such a beguiling blend of brilliant ingenuity and real heart. It’s when the head and heart come together like that to be utterly surprising, and at the same time nourishing to the soul, that theatre is at its best.’

Hear My Soul Speak RADA Festival 2018

Is there anything else you want to highlight about Hear My Soul Speak?

Hear My Soul Speak explores the mind and persona of Shakespeare’s most enigmatic protagonist, Prospero, by investigating the dramatic ramifications of sound patterning in Shakespeare’s poetry—what Peter Brook has referred to as the “verbal music” –  to expose the sonic portrait embedded in the play’s knotted, ornate and ethereal language.

Gerrard McArthur plays Prospero in a performance that draws not just on Prospero’s own words, but those of his alter egos Ariel and Caliban, exploring the ramifications such patterns might have for the interpretation of the mental and emotional life of the character.

‘Through live projection, video artist Ben Glover creates an intricate and expansive ‘island of language’ – a visual expression of the soundscape, and of the sonic patterning in the poetry.

‘The performance also integrates the only surviving song settings by the play’s original composer, Robert Johnson, as well as other music by Johnson to create a partial reconstruction of the original score for the play, sung by the operatic countertenor Russell Harcourt.

‘Nowhere else in Shakespeare is the action, and even the disposition of all the characters, so utterly the construction of the central protagonist. Shakespeare uses the device of a stage magician – a Faustian necromancer, to explore a single character through all the stage action of the drama.

‘This performance is the culmination of a long-term practice-research project investigating the potential implications of Shakespeare’s sonic patterning, to reveal an aspect of the play’s force and meaning which is often lost. A picture paints a thousand words, so perhaps its best to show you some pictures of the production….’



Writer: William Shakespeare

Director: Christopher Hurrell

Design: Ben Glover

Cast: Gerrard McArthur; Russell Harcourt; Alice Haig

Hear My Soul Speak runs at the RADA Festival 2018 on 3 July 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.