20 Jan The Vultures’ Song Cast Interviews: Richard Priestley
The Vultures’ Song cast member Richard Priestley popped into the Blahs office earlier this week to sort out contract details. While he was here, our Schools Coordinator Kirsty took the opportunity to get his thoughts on the production.
How did you first get involved with The Vultures’ Song and Theatre Company Blah Blah Blah?
“I first heard about The Vultures’ Song through my friend Simone [Simone Lewis, who played Dunyazeid in the Blahs 2017 production of A Tale to Tell]. She mentioned that the Blahs were looking for actors for a script-in-hand reading at the Take-Off Festival in Durham. I decided to take part, even though the timing wasn’t great as I was on crutches after knee surgery!”
Had you seen the script before the session at Take-Off?
“I hadn’t, it was completely new to me. But I was immediately struck by the poetic quality of the vultures’ chorus, it’s very lyrical and beautifully written. And Mike Kenny doesn’t shy away from telling challenging stories to young audiences. Sometimes theatre for young people can be a bit bland, afraid to be controversial, but The Vultures’ Song tackles some tough issues in a way that’s suitable for a younger age group.”
So, having taken part in the script reading, you decided to audition for a part in The Vultures’ Song?
“Yes, even though I was still on crutches and my physiotherapist certainly didn’t think it was a good idea! I’m really excited about the challenge of playing multiple roles in the different elements of the story – and getting into the vulture character. Deborah [The Blahs’ Artistic Director Deborah Pakkar-Hull] and I were talking at the audition about how vultures in the wild can alternate between being playful and aggressive – I’m looking forward to seeing how we can bring those qualities to life in the performance.”
You’ve worked with children and young people before, at Leeds City Varieties, haven’t you? What do you think young people get out of seeing live theatre?
“I’ve delivered workshops for the youth theatre. I’ve done a lot of work around the big musicals and well known shows – Cats, Blood Brothers and Gangsta Granny have been some of the recent ones. The workshops are a good way for schools to link a trip to the theatre with something more educational, like the TS Eliot poems which inspired Cats, but I’ve also worked on more general drama workshops for schools, looking at things like devising and stage presence.
Children and teenagers spend so much time online now, the stories and dramas they see are mostly digital, but seeing a live performance is a completely different experience. You’d be hard pushed to match the engagement and physicality that theatre can offer. The memories linger much longer after a live performance, and sadly, it’s a novelty for many young people. I’m excited about being able to work directly in schools, bringing theatre right into the audience’s ‘own space’ rather than them coming to the theatre.”
Richard and the rest of The Vultures’ Song cast are beginning rehearsals in March, and the production will be touring schools and community venues between April 16th and June 18th.