Rachael Savage: ‘My love of mask theatre was born decades ago’
As she tells Georgia Snow, a lifelong love of mask theatre led Rachael Savage to found her own company, Vamos, in 2006. Her latest show, The Best Thing, premieres at the London International Mime Festival.
What processes do you go through to create this kind of theatre?
The first stage is always research and I start by making a framework for the story. There are no words so it’s important to work out which parts of the story will tell well through mask theatre. We put this show up on its feet in a fortnight, so it was really rough at first. You immediately see what doesn’t work or what needs doing. People think that because there are no words there is no script, but the actors learn lines at first, which they later transfer inside their heads. In rehearsal the actors speak those words so that when they put the mask on they know exactly what they are doing. The aim in performance is to convey this internal monologue to the audience.
What are the ideas behind your latest show?
The idea came from an article I read about unmarried mothers in the 1960s whose children were taken away from them. In most cases, they felt they had no other choice. Over the past two years I have been researching through articles, novels, films and interviews with the women. The show is a tribute to women who have been affected by this, because many are still silent.
How do you go about casting actors for this type of theatre?
As an artistic director I want to build up an ensemble of actors because of the specialist skills involved. I work with a core ensemble mostly, but on this show the main character has never done any mask work before. But she is a very intuitive actor and also a dancer – the movement is so important. The masks mean that I can play across gender, age, all sorts of things, with my performers and that’s very exciting.
Is your background in this type of theatre?
Totally. My love of mask theatre was born about 30 years ago when I first saw a Trestle Theatre Company show. I did many school projects on the company and then got my dream job working for them. I worked for them for nine years in various roles, from an actor to leading their young people’s theatre. Mask theatre has been my specialism for the past few decades so I am massively invested in it.
CV: Rachael Savage
Training: Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, 1989-1992
First professional role: Edinburgh Puppet Theatre, 1992
The Best Thing runs at the London International Mime Festival from January 28 to 31, then touring
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