Interview with Amari Harris and Andy McKeane, Storyteller and Director at Streatham Space

"Unscrupulous landlords and people struggling to make ends meet – it sounds like Victorian London, but it’s the reality of today. All of that sits underneath an uplifting and highly silly show where we invite the audience to play along and, hopefully, send out a positive message."

Interview with Amari Harris and Andy McKeane, Storyteller and Director at Streatham Space

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

Hi! We are Storyteller Amari Harris and Director Andy McKeane from Streatham Space Project.

Describe your work “Xmas Carol” in 3 words.

Ghostly | Festive | Superfun

What is the premise of “Xmas Carol” and what inspired this work?

One man. Four ghosts. 17 Characters. That’s where we started!

When it’s cold and dark outside, what's better than gathering together for a story? Xmas Carol felt just right under the current climate, with all the doom and gloom around politics and the global outlook. We felt it was important to tell a classic story of hope and redemption, in an updated way that grabs 21st Century audiences and feels relevant to modern London.

Unscrupulous landlords and people struggling to make ends meet – it sounds like Victorian London, but it’s the reality of today. All of that sits underneath an uplifting and highly silly show where we invite the audience to play along and, hopefully, send out a positive message. 

You have chosen to take a 21st Century twist on Dickens’ work, and the story is now told by South London storyteller Amari. Explain why you made this choice.  

We’re a South London venue and we wanted the work to speak to the people who come through our doors. We wanted all the characters to be people you might recognise on the street or know from your school or your workplace. Whilst having lots of fun with the audience, we also aim to maybe make them think twice about the people they walk past on the street every day.

This is a one-man show, in which Amari plays 17 characters. What challenges did this bring?

We actually love this challenge. Creativity thrives in restrictions. For this show, it meant simplifying, paring back and getting to the real heart of what the characters were about. We asked questions like, ‘if they could say one thing at this point, what would it be?’

We also realised that the show takes place in the imagination of the audience – rather than on stage. So everything we did we thought of as a spur to the imagination, rather than just showing the audience an object or an idea.

How did you go about creating a modern soundtrack in keeping with the Dickensian elements of the show?

Our promo photos are Scrooge in a three-piece suit and a pair of Adidas sambas – and we’ve taken this as our steer for the soundtrack. We’ve themed different characters to different genres, and used them to cross-cut and guide the audience through. We can move from a joyous classical Tchaikovsky to a grime instrumental, and work that into the story context. Weirdly it works really well!

What was the creative process like when creating and writing the script for this show?

Andy firstly read the novel, cut together all the best Dickens lines, and then during the rehearsals we’d improvise the bits in between, which we would write down and refine. Having the Dickens there definitely puts you in a certain mode. We wanted our improvisation to match the sparkiness and add some South London elements, while retaining that delicious Dickens language.

Other than Charles Dickens, Have any particular artists inspired or influenced your artistic work?

We’ve both got into colour recently so lighting-wise Olafur Eliasson, I guess that’s a bit geeky. 

Otherwise, Hamilton is a definite inspiration. The way the creative team took the historical Hamilton storyline and adapted it in an irreverent and poignant way was awesome. Plus their use of space and the pace of the storytelling was impressive. 

Loads of the artists we’ve had here at Streatham Space Project also inspired us.  Strictly Arts used slick and powerful storytelling in Freeman. Blackboard Theatre’s Stardust inspired us through their combination of serious subject matter, gripping storytelling and a good sense of humour.

Did you face any major challenges during the project?

Striking the balance of classic vs modern. We didn’t know how much of the original to retain while still wanting to bring it up to date and make it exciting for today’s audiences. I reckon Charlie D would approve.

Do you have any advice for young people interested in doing your kind of job?

Just start doing it! Find great collaborators. And do stuff because it would be cool or fun or interesting rather than because you think you should or it’d be good for your career - that's where the really good stuff comes from.

How can people find out more?

Head to our website for tickets, in the link here

https://www.streathamspaceproject.co.uk/whats-on-calendar/2019xmascarol

Also follow us @streathamspace on Instagram and Twitter and @streathamspaceproject on Facebook for updates and behind the scenes stuff! 

Author

Sienna James

Sienna James Voice Team

Sienna is the Voice Assistant Editor and author of the Creative Education series. A de-caf coconut-milk latte gal who spends most of her time in Cambridge cafes, Sienna is currently on a gap year before studying History of Art at the University of Cambridge.

Instagram: sienna_jamez

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