11 Jun The Vultures’ Song Cast Interviews: Simone Lewis
The Blahs’ Kirsty Lambert caught up with actor Simone Lewis recently, to get her thoughts on playing – among other roles – a vulture in Mike Kenny’s new play, The Vultures’ Song.
How did you first hear about The Vultures’ Song?
I had the pleasure of working with The Blahs last year on A Tale to Tell. This was a production exploring themes that were age-appropriate and relevant to young audiences, challenging children to get involved and make decisions. The feedback from teachers was nothing but positive – most of them surprised by the responses from the children they least expected to engage with the performance. Soon after the tour Deborah (Blahs Artistic Director Deborah Pakkar-Hull) approached me to see if I would be interested in auditioning for The Vultures’ Song.
What were your first impressions of the script? And how have they been born out during the rehearsal and touring period?
Mike Kenny’s written an evocative script using language and imagery that challenges young audiences, something a lot of companies would shy away from. The multi-role ensemble nature of the play has been an ideal playground for us as performers: never having to settle on one character for the duration of the piece, but instead constantly transforming from one into another vocally and physically. I’ve loved developing the iconic scavenging movements of the vultures and exploring ways to incorporate those physical traits into some of the other characters; hinting at the very nature of a desperate humanity when faced with a crisis.
School audiences have often asked, in post-performance Q&A sessions, why vultures were chosen as narrators. How have you explained it to them?
For me the characters of the vultures drive the narrative along. Importantly, they’re also comedic at times, providing the necessary light relief in contrast to the tragic nature of the girl’s story. The way they pick and poke and dine on those less fortunate, vomiting up that which they cannot stomach is a subtle comment on how the masses globally respond to those fleeing their own countries for whatever reason.
What do you think children/young people get out of seeing live performance – whether in schools or at the theatre?
I think children are naturally drawn in by the colourful and immediate style of storytelling that live theatre offers. It takes place right there, in front of them, without a screen to divide them from the performers, they can be seen, they are as present as the performers, there is nowhere to hide. As a result, it encourages children to engage in a way that allows them to use their imagination rather than sit back as a placid audience.
What do you think is particularly relevant and timely about The Vultures’ Song?
It’s the story of all those who have fled and continue to flee persecution across the globe – just like stories we see in the media every day; refugees trying to make their way across the sea on rubber boats, children who have lost their families travelling to another country hoping for a better future. Audiences who see The Vultures’ Song will walk away with questions about the world, both past and present, and hopefully will think about how we treat and see others, choosing to focus on all that we share as opposed to that which makes us different. There lies the power of theatre.
What do you particularly enjoy about performing for young audiences/ in schools?
I’ve been performing for young audiences across the UK, Europe and South Africa for over 10 years now and I can safely say they are the best audiences! They are honest, open, and undeniably charming. Whether in schools or theatres, the very joy of working with young audiences is observing how receptive and willing they are to engage in a world of make-believe, particularly when that world draws such strong parallels with their own personal experiences.
Cast: Edward Day, Simone Lewis, Richard Priestley, Ravneet Sehra.
Design: Hannah Sibai
Soundtrack: Gerry Smith
A further tour of The Vultures’ Song is planned to theatres and community venues in autumn 2018. For more details contact firstname.lastname@example.org