PRODUCTION NOTES / Big Behn

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The Independent Culture
In 1984, Jules Wright and the Women's Playhouse Trust revived Aphra Behn's Restoration comedy The Lucky Chance at the Royal Court. Ten years on, she is directing Behn's play The Rover, but this time in a film studio.

'I directed Blood Wedding for the Women's Playhouse Trust at Jacob Street Film Studios, but that only used a small area of it. I've been yearning to use the whole space ever since. It's huge, about 14,000sq ft. They film London's Burning there. It's perfect for this production, which will be filmed by the BBC for the Open University's 25th anniversary.

We've had to build a stage and we're also performing in the round, which means there's nowhere for the actors to hide. With such enormous distances to cover, they really have to move. It creates an incredible sense of energy that bursts forth. We've had five weeks rehearsal in a church hall, but it's nowhere near the true size. The cast have visited the studios, though, and had a run round so they know what to expect.

Once the play is open the cast will be performing every evening and doing it again every day, but with a crew running alongside them with Steadicams. A few performances will also be filmed to build in the live atmosphere. The cast have really taken it on.

Although it's set in 1655, I didn't want to do a 'tights job'. I wanted to create the feel of the time, but there's so much we don't know. How did they get around in Naples in 1655? I drew on India as a source of inspiration in terms of colour and heat, but rather than relocating it there, I'm using it as a metaphor.

We've imported rickshaws, I've brought over Maya Krishna Rao, a Kathakali dancer, to be in it and we're using a tent of beautiful parachute silk from Jaipur. It was cheaper to make the costumes in India, but because materials tend to have mites or fleas in them, they were held up at customs by the plague outbreak, but we're all right. The space is surrounded by a cyclorama of 28,000sq ft of cloth, and the floor is covered with red earth. So don't wear your high heels.'

Jules Wright, director and set designer, was talking to David Benedict 'The Rover' is at Jacob Street Film Studios, London SE1 to 5 Nov (071-240 4989)

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