AN INTERVIEW WITH
WE DISCUSS THEATRE
Over the past year and a half, Cellar Door Theatre has pushed the boundaries of what student theatre groups can achieve with a series of extraordinarily daring and engaging plays. Their dedication and ingenuity has brought them to the cusp of what will surely be an extremely successful career. Ahead of their latest season, we ran after them in the street repeatedly and loudly until they finally gave in and gave us an interview.
1) You guys put together the company pretty early on in your University careers. What was it that drove you towards starting it? What did you hope to accomplish with it?
Akshay: Teja made me.
Teja: Akshay, do you remember what we discussed?
Akshay: Yes, dear.
Teja: You speak when spoken to.
Akshay visibly flinches.
Teja: We mainly formed the company to put on a show that we had a particular passion for (‘The Corpse Bride’). Along the way we realised that the freedom we had in our approach allowed us to really be creative and experiment. It gave us a sense of control.
Akshay: You can say that again…
Teja fixes him with an icy glare. He withers.
Teja: control and allowed us to be truly independent with our production. That, along with all the great people we met along the way, made us realise that we were happiest creating stuff together. CellarDoor was born then. In terms of what we hope to accomplish, we like to think that we’re slowly moving along the path to creating professional standard work. We try to make the most with the little we have, and always push ourselves to improve and test the boundaries of what we have. We take our theatre very seriously and expect the best from everyone involved, whether they be students or members of the local community.
Akshay: Yes… What she said.
2) Frankenstein and Corpse Bride were such fantastic debut shows. What have you got lined up for the future?
Akshay: Summer was a bit of a break for us. A break from University, work, creativity, University, productivity, University, theatre and University. But we’ve just recently awoken, rising from our beds of Dorito crumbs and empty pizza boxes like a goddamn theatre phoenix, and we’re getting ready to pull some hella good shows out of our asses.
Teja: We’ve got our next show lined up, which we will announce on our Facebook page and website soon, along with audition dates and locations, as well as a few other projects in the pipeline. We’re also planning a show for next year’s Edinburgh Fringe, so things are picking up nicely, and we have no intention of slowing down any time soon.
Akshay: We’re also gonna be dipping our toes into some filming, working with actors to produce monologues for showreels and publicity. But more information on that will be coming soon (again, keep an eye on our website)!
3) What makes CellarDoor different to other student theatre companies, and where do you see it going in the future?
Teja: As I said, we aim to achieve a lot with the little that we have. We’re different because we persevere and we’re ambitious, and we’re also connected and driven by our passion. This is more than a social activity for us, and although that element is fun of course, our aim is to be the best we can be. However, Finding funding for theatre is always a pain, so a lot of student companies tend to die out after one or two shows. We don’t plan on that.
Akshay: Also, I like to think we’re a friendly and inviting bunch.
He covers the bruises on his forearm hastily.
4) What have been the most challenging aspects of starting and running the company?
Teja: Mainly funding. We’ve been in the fortunate position of having a healthy return from our shows thus far, but seeing as we thrive on taking on challenges and being ambitious, money is always a concern.
5) How long, on average, does it take to create a CellarDoor production from concept to performance ready?
Akshay: Depends on the size of the show, really. Our ideas for the shows we stage tend to be developed very quickly, as we tend to get bored if we haven’t got something in the works. So as soon as one show finishes, we’re on to the next.
Teja: However we also like to give the shows some time to
develop, so we give ourselves a couple of months to work on the show itself, as people involved are often doing other things as well. This means that we can make sure that none of our actors or crew are overworked during rehearsals, and the cast are entirely comfortable with each other and the show.
6) So far you’ve performed two adaptations of well-known stories, and have heavily incorporated physical theatre elements. Are you planning on branching out into original writing or a new theatre style?
Akshay: Nah, we’re going to stick to Gothic plays where the main character’s called Victor and also there’s dead people. I feel like we’ve found our niche.
She glares at him with hatred in her soul.
Teja: ACTUALLY our next production is a bit of a break from the mould. It’s not new writing (though we will try that out soon enough) but it is something a bit different from what people might expect from us in terms of style. But we’re not ready to show our hand just yet!
Akshay: It’s a comedy farce called ‘Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness’ by Anthony Nielson.
If looks could kill. Akshay flinches.
7) If you had the freedom to put on any play, what would be your choice to do?
Teja: I would love to put on a big, bawdy West-end production of the Never-ending Story just to see what that would end up like. I have no real attachment to it, and I can’t imagine there’s a market for it, but I just want to see that techno 80’s charm come to life.
Akshay: Jaws the Musical. I just want to see a live shark on stage.
8) Both of your plays have been performed in the Bierkeller in Bristol. Are you planning a run at one of the Fringe’s or Theatre Festivals?
Teja: We have an Edinburgh Fringe show currently in the planning stages, and our next production(s) in Bristol won’t be in the Bierkeller. The Bierkeller is a fantastic venue with a great atmosphere and staff (big shout out to Austin who was unfailingly kind and let us rehearse there for the days prior to the shows), but this particular project requires a different space and atmosphere.
Akshay: We’ve done some great work in the Bierkeller, but we’re interested to see what we can do in other venues as well! Spread our wings a bit!
Camille and Isaac, the other co-founders of the company, who have been silent for the interview thus far (probably due to the binds and gags) nod enthusiastically, tears of fear still glistening on their cheeks.
9) And, finally, If you could be any super hero or have any super power?
Teja: Electrocution. I have my reasons.
Akshay: Aquaman, so I could teach a shark to act in my upcoming production of Jaws the Musical.
Isaac has loosened his gag, and is about to say something (a cry for help?), but before he can, he is zapped by Teja.