To celebrate the upcoming Write On Festival for new play writing in Herefordshire – we will be featuring each of the writers that are submitting pieces into this year’s festival. First to give us a snippet was Land of Mines director and writer, Anthony Jenkins.
Anthony Jenkins is not only a stage technician at The Courtyard, but is also a theatre graduate and enthusiast. Having been affiliated with the organisation for 12 years and performing in past production titles such as ‘The Crucible’, ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’, ‘Dracula’, ‘Fiddler On The Roof’ and ‘Guys and Dolls’, he has seen it all, from musical theatre to psychotic drama, from the lighting desk to the principal role.
After graduating from East 15 Acting School in 2008, Anthony eagerly came back to The Courtyard ready to perform, and took on the role as the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk and has been part of the crew ever since! Hereford born and bred, Anthony recognises “the Courtyard is a small yet gargantuan step for young performers, who like me, wanted to pursue this amazing subject.”
“I joined the Youth theatre in 2000 and it was great meeting and performing with guys and girls who were on the same page as me, Anthony says. Whilst being involved in Youth Theatre he claims his favourite performance as “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, without a doubt! The cast, set, the music, everything was so breathtaking. I was immensely proud to play ‘Chief’ and to be a part of that show.”
Anthony has not only been a performer in Youth Theatre drama’s and stage adaptations, but has also had his share of tongue-in-cheek Panto performances, including the aforementioned Jack and The Beanstalk, The Emperor of China in Aladdin 2010/11, The Beasts’ double in Beauty and the Beast 2009/10 and The Dragon in Sleeping Beauty 2011/12. He has also worked first hand on many performances at The Courtyard as part of the stage crew. His favourite piece to work on , he says, was “the Tommy Cooper tribute show with Clive Mantel as not only was it a brilliant piece, but working alongside such an actor inspired me to pursue my dreams within this field. It was so good, I almost missed a few cues along the way as I was that enthralled!”
In 2011, Anthony set up his own theatre company called Exit Fool Productions, a move which allowed him to explore his love of theatre and his idolisation of playwrights such as Shakespeare, Waterhouse, Steinbeck and Miller.” When asked to elaborate on why these playwrights really strike a note, Anthony says it is because “they can switch from comedy to tragedy in the turn of page. My favourite plays are Jeffrey Barnard is Unwell by Keith Waterhouse and The Crucible by Arthur Miller.”
On opening in 2011, Exit Fool’s debut production was a UK premiere of Angel: A Nightmare in 2 Acts in The Courtyard’s Studio Theatre. “I picked this play because it was a piece of writing that had never touched the English shore’s since it was written in 2004. Even though the content was about the holocaust, which can be quite a heavy subject, I wanted to make the audience feel like they were part of the show by being the jury, and having the characters use direct address to make them feel like they were at the Belsen trials in 1945,” says Anthony.
Anthony is in fact one half of Exit Fool, the other co-founder being friend and schoolmate Pete Bird. “Pete and I take it in turns to direct, and last year it was his turn for our 2012 production of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, where I played the lead role of Lennie. We chose this piece because it is a classic title, and a character driven plot that we felt could reach audiences of all levels and theatre experience, such as schools. In the end the piece even brought in theatregoers from London!”
Now Anthony puts all of his experience and inspiration on to paper, as he debut’s his first written piece at The Courtyard’s new theatre writing festival, Write-On. “For the past two years I’ve been the general technician for The Courtyard’s Write On Festival but this year I’ve decided to write and direct as part of the festival. Land Of Mines is on the 5th July and is based on true events during the Bosnian War of 1992.”
The synopsis is as follows: Set in Sarajevo 1992, four characters are trapped inside a derelict house awaiting rescue from NATO. The U.N soldier is trying to uphold the peace agreement while the Serbian and Croatian refugees argue and taunt each other as shells constantly fall around them. Among the refugees is severely wounded Muslim, whose secrets affect everyone around him. Anthony says “the inspiration behind Land Of Mines came from an acting friend who lived through the war. The idea of four characters trapped in a dilapidated house came from his personal experience. The dialog and events that unfold is authentic as I enlisted a relative of mine who was in the British army and worked alongside the U.N at the time who has helped me develop the piece and keep the script as close to the real thing as possible.”
Land of Mines is on in The Courtyard’s Studio Theatre on Friday 5 July from 7.30pm. It is the second part in a double bill. To book tickets for this performance, or for more information, contact The Courtyard’s Box Office on 01432 340555.
Interview compiled by Jennifer Booton