Q&A: Blue Apple Theatre
For anyone who doesn’t know anything about Blue Apple, can you give us some history on the company?
The company was started in 2005 by co-founders Jane and Tommy Jessop as a response to there being little provision for adults with a learning disability to get involved in high quality performance. At first it was part of Mencap with a part time drama teacher but it has grown a lot over those intervening years.
We now have a pattern of two major shows a year (summer and winter) which are supported by a fully professional team, but we also have lots of other projects, some for performers who have lots of skill and confidence who want to work at the highest level and also for those just stepping into acting, dancing or singing for the first time who might need lots of support.
The company is a really important part of the cultural life of the city and county, our aspiration is very high and our support from local audiences is really strong.
The title of this show (Winchester! The First 100,000,000 Years) seems to suggest that audiences will see a massive sweep of history – you must be leaving some bits out?
I am tempted to say that we are leaving nothing out but the truth is that we’re leaving almost
everything out and just focussing on a few salient facts for a few minutes.
It’s a big tale that starts even before the cradle of civilisation – yes the Pterosaur and mammoth are on the poster for a reason – so we have been selective on what we look at.
Why create a play about Winchester?
For the past year we have been looking at the notion of ‘home’ and what that can mean to all of us. Places like Winchester don’t arrive fully formed, they emerge from all sorts of influences and our play takes a light-hearted look at how a place like this gets knocked into shape.
We started the process by looking at where the parents and grandparents of the cast called ‘home’ and it is very interesting to see how many different people from so many different places make up a city.
Can we expect historical accuracy?
More than you might think you might get from what is, frankly a comedy about a place. There are all sorts of truths hidden in morass of liberties which we take with the official version.
I think audiences will leave having been entertained and informed about a place they thought they know. I am tempted to offer ‘your money back if you don’t learn a thing’ but that sounds very poor business practice.
How has the show come together?
We started out by being very wide-ranging and then focussed in on a few tales which we thought lifted the lid on the history of this place. We found some parallels between ancient an modern history which we thought were worth examining. Sometimes it shows that we have learned something along the way, others indicate that we still have some way to go to learn lessons from our
We decided early on to take the long view so expect to see a version of the world from before the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.
The company is mostly made of adults with a learning disability – is this a show which makes any political points about that area?
We believe that having learning disabled actors on stage make a point the moment they walk out from the wings. We’re not trying to say anything overtly about the experience of the learning disabled community, but rather ask audiences to come and see what can be achieved by a cast like ours and judge for themselves.
Our cast bring a special something to live performance – it’s different from a touring professional show, there is a sense of raucous live-ness about an evening with us, something anarchic which you won’t get from every cast.
We think that the politics can be delivered almost as a by-product of our audience simply having a good time.
How are the cast feeling about the show?
Here’s a few quotes…
“I feel excited about the show and I am also looking forward to making the audience feel that its worth their while and going to be a funny show for them to go away and say ‘I really enjoyed ‘Winchester: The First One Hundred Million Years’ because it’s so funny.”
“I can’t wait for the show, for one reason…in the lines there is something about burned cakes.”
“Excited, getting a buzz to go on stage. I can’t wait to do my dancing and to do my lines as well.”