Speed Death of the Radiant Child, the Term One production for Warwick University Drama Society (WUDS), has been a dream two years in the making, and is a jouney for its cast as much as for the audience.
The play is centred around Charlotte, a girl who’s just come out of hospital following a suidice attempt, and the people who surround her. It’s much like a hospital drama, with emotional and chaotic undertones.
It all began with a late night reading of the play, written by Chris Goode, at 2 o’clock one morning by director Ben Kulvichit
It all began with a late night reading of the play, written by Chris Goode, at 2 o’clock one morning by director Ben Kulvichit. “It’s my radiant baby,” he said. “I’m a big fan of Goode and his work. He wrote the play in 2007 but it remained pretty unheard of. I happened to find the script attached to an obsure blog on the Internet. That was two years ago, it feels great to finally be putting it on.”
Ben is delighted with the reality of his 2am dream. “The main thing for me is the cast: they’ve made such a difference, especially for such a character-driven piece. These guys have shaped the show just as much as my discovery of the script has.”
WUDS’ production is the first revival of Speed Death, which has added pressure to the cast as well as excitement
WUDS’ production is the first revival of Speed Death, which has added pressure to the cast as well as excitement. Steffi Felton, who plays Charlotte, said: “There are very few photos or clips for us to work with as there aren’t any previous productions.”
But the cast have found this liberating as well as challenging. “It’s been so freeing to be able to be creative, working with Ben’s crazy ideas and each bring ourselves to the characters. We can be ourselves rather than having to work within the limits of what previous productions have done with the material”, said Joe Mathews, who plays Ash.
Supporting each other has been essential to the happiness of the cast and the success of the production, both of which are treated by the company with equal importance
The excitement of the cast about the script is palpable. “The text itself is beautiful, which takes the pressure of us. The text does the work and all the characters fall into place by themselves,” Joe added.
Supporting each other has been essential to the happiness of the cast and the success of the production, both of which are treated by the company with equal importance. Dealing with mental health issues, including suicide, it is difficult and at times draining for the actors. At the beginning of each rehearsal they run a ‘Check In’, where each member of the cast can share as much or as little as they like. “It’s important that we properly ask each other how we are and we have so many cast cuddles”, said Steffi. Support for the audience has also been considered: the play is doing a Relaxed Performance, the first in the history of student theatre at the Arts Centre.
“What’s got me through the worst moments of being homesick has been these people and this play”
Considering the group have never worked together before, their connection is genuine and meaningful – the process of creating the play and working together is just as important for them as the final product. First-year Steffi said Speed Death had defined her university experience so far. “I auditioned on my second day and it has meant everything to me. I would be questioning what I was doing without this play. What’s got me through the worst moments of being homesick has been these people and this play.”
The play is a technical feat. Director Ben said: “I’ve never done anything on this technical scale before. We have a huge team with stage managers, set designers, lighting and costume as well as the cast. It’s a difficult thing to get all the branches to come together.”
Perhaps the most complex and technical aspect of the play is the music. The whole production, lasting about 1 hour and 50 minutes, is underscored. “It all must be tied to the show, queued and be appropriate for the scenes, which has been quite the feat,” said Ben.
“We’ve all related in different ways to the texts, but it’s as much about emotion as rationality and reason”
The play has been a learning experience for the cast. “We still don’t understand everything, and that’s okay,” said Heather Milsted, who plays Justine. “It’s a play about connection for the characters and the audience. We’ve all related in different ways to the texts, but it’s as much about emotion as rationality and reason,” added Joe. Fluidity and ambiguity are accepted and encouraged from both the cast and the audience.
The play has been entered in the National Student Drama Festival, much to the team’s excitement. “They’re coming to watch our first night. We get feedback which is always well received. We’ve entered to receive their feedback and anything else we get is a bonus,” said Ben.
All in all, this promises to be a fantastic production. Care and consideration has gone into every aspect, from thoughts about the presentation of the characters to ensuring the cast feel cared for. This production is setting the groundwork for another brilliant year of theatre at the University of Warwick.
Speed Death of the Radiant Child is on 9-11 November at the Goose Nest