What to expect from Blavatsky’s Tower

Posted on: 01 Apr 2015 by Tom Hurley

We've been chatting to Tom Hurley about his his role in Blavatsky’s Tower and what you can expect from the 3 Crate Productions play, performing at Chapter from 8-11 Apr 2015

The last time I acted in a play in Cardiff, I was on my way to Neverland in the New Theatre’s production of Peter Pan. Aged only 9, I flew through the night (on a wire) to a land where children never have to grow up. It’s an interesting parallel to now be working on Blavatsky’s Tower, where a family have deliberately isolated themselves from the outside world. Time becomes blurred as routine, habits and relationships maintain the same familiar form. Dissatisfaction in their static existence is balanced by a fear of the unknown, unexperienced and untested.

For me, working at Chapter is at once both familiar and unfamiliar. I grew up in Cardiff and would often visit Chapter to take part in some classes. Of course, much like myself, a lot has changed here in the last 20 years! To be able to return as a professional actor, after training in London, is a great honour. It has been a welcoming experience, being given the time and space to fully explore Moira Buffini’s brilliant text. It is evident that Chapter is an arts hub that attracts all ages of the community. I bumped into several children I had worked with a few months ago, for some workshops at the Sherman, where the kids had written short plays for us to develop and perform. Being recognised by a group of pre-teens as “The Sexy Lion” seems at once bizarre and inappropriate. However, the minds and imaginations of children can be incredibly free, surprising and, yes, wildly inappropriate at times! So much is driven by the desire for a reaction – learning swear words for the first time not to offend, but rather to provoke, bringing them excitement and attention.

Having been surrounded by this has definitely informed our rehearsal process. How ideas are formed/presented, how conflicts resolve and what we do to get what we want. Children connect in a way that is more direct, in both a mental and physical sense. As a company, we have been exploring how interactions for our characters play out in this way. We begin most sessions with simple ball games – connecting the mind and body, and most importantly connecting to each other.

Working on scenes, we look at what drives our characters and improvise within the given situation. Emotions can become heightened towards seemingly trivial matters. Rules that seem illogical to us as outsiders need to be rationalised and ingrained. As we immerse ourselves in the world our characters inhabit, we ask questions, return to the text, re-immerse and keep discovering.

A character on stage needs to be layered and rich. No matter how heightened the style of performance may be, there must be some tangible believability to it. For my character, Roland Blavatsky, he is incredibly controlling, eccentric and brash. He uses his intellect to outsmart and confuse others. In portraying this character, I can’t judge him. I have to understand a sound logic to his behaviour, why he has become this person. What is being presented on the outside is often not what is going on inside. I have found it useful to explore the feeling that Roland is overwhelmed with stress and it has caused a constant level of pressure. He feels a need to be brilliant, to be better than his father, but he has little idea how to achieve this. While it often seems like clutching at straws, he is doing the best he can within the confines of his situation.

This is my first project with 3 Crate Productions and it is proving to be an exciting process. The company feels like a true collaboration, as we are free to give our input into all creative aspects of the production, while being respectful of our individual roles. At this stage, we are a week away from performances and I just can’t wait to show you all what we’ve come up with!

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