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Inside the Pretenders…

Actress Rowan Alexandria, who plays Snout the tinker & faerie Moth, in the Marvellous Pretenders production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, gives us a little insight into life as a ‘Pretender’ …

I had an unconventional childhood – my father was in the Merchant Navy, (and in those days, before ‘Health & Safety’, & stricter School attendance rules took over) we were allowed to accompany him on some voyages. My early childhood was pretty much spent with my mum and little brother, half on board a ship -traveling the world with him and half at home in my Mum’s home-town of Barry and going to school like a ‘normal’ child.

When I got older, despite having relatives in ‘the business’, I was discouraged from pursuing Drama in school in favour of getting a ‘real job’. I spent all of my spare time writing, reading plays and books on acting, theatre and film and performing with South Glamorgan Youth Theatre, run by Theatr Iolo in Cardiff, and performing in and helping to produce variety shows within our local youth club circuit in Barry.

After 20 years of ‘real life’ thinking I found myself back in Wales, and in a short-term seasonal job, which involved quite a bit of acting. That job suddenly reminded me that I’d been putting off my calling to act for far too long...

That was a couple of years ago, and since then I’ve had the privilege of meeting, working and learning from some amazing actors, directors, film and theatre-makers in south Wales. I’ve done some work on a few TV productions and last November, I won a Best Supporting Actress award for a short film as part of “It’s My Shout”, a scheme for training and giving experience to up-and-coming filmmakers from South Wales.

I joined some acting for screen workshops and one of my classmates there contacted me, knowing I now live in the Valleys, and said that the Director, Suzie (Rees) was looking for people for a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Newbridge Memo.  I knew the venue, so was excited to get involved. They put me in touch with Suzie and before long, she offered me the part!

For some of the company, this is a first foray into Shakespeare, but luckily, not only are there experienced Shakespearian actors involved, there’s also a former English teacher in our company which has been a great help! There have been a lot of laughs… in my opinion the casting is spot-on.

The whole cast have put a lot of work into fully understanding the text, the period and therefore the context in which it was written, with the aim of being able to interpret the play in a way that's understandable and inclusive and enjoyable!

Shakespeare texts will always be studied and stored in volumes in libraries and on hard-drives, but nothing really comes to life until you hear it and see it for yourself! It’s a bit like the old adage about languages – or really, anything – “Use it or lose it” … we need to carry on bringing classic texts to life so that they are not forgotten in some dusty corner only to be studied by academics in years to come.

The beauty of the auditorium in The Memo immediately struck me when I first visited, and I wondered what it would be like to get to perform there. I’m a Barry girl originally, but my husband’s family all originated from Blackwood and the surrounding areas; I now have family living in Crumlin too, so getting to work and perform very close to where I’m now based is lovely! Not only that, but it’s thrilling to think we’re getting to have a hand in bringing this theatre to life; and helping to breathe new life into live theatre in the Valleys. We’re so excited for local people to come and enjoy our performance, and the theatre itself, not only for Midsummer Night’s Dream, but hopefully, for many more productions to come.

Added 01.03.2017