Rumpelstiltskin | One Year On with the Cast

It can't come into the light, and the light can't come into it...


A year ago our production Rumpelstiltskin took place in the atmospheric New Room, Bristol - the world's oldest Methodist chapel hidden in the heart of Bristol's busy shopping district of Broadmead. Since then the world has been turned upside down by the Coronavirus pandemic and the future of theatre remains in jeopardy.


Director Hannah Drake caught up on Zoom with cast members Norma Butikofer (King/Rumpelstiltskin), Katie Tranter (Millie) and Dan Wheeler (the Miller) to find out how they've been getting on in this extraordinary year: talking Lockdown challenges, favourite memories and legacy...

Hannah

So… dare I ask how have you guys found the last year?!

Norma

Such a year! I think, like everyone, I’ve had extreme highs and extreme lows - I don't even mean career wise. I just mean emotionally!

I've been in London the whole time; I was furloughed from my job at the yoga studio but to start I was doing OK. And then there was a lot of nothing and a lot of going on runs, a lot of cooking...And then I did some voiceover jobs as well. So that's kept going because it's quite safe. You know, you’re just in a studio by yourself and so that's a good thing to have. In July, the yoga studio opened again so I just started going back to work, which was so weird and worrying because it was all very..."I don't think England is ready to open up again" and yet it still is. But that's been a sort of slow reintegration....I live a sort of half normal half not normal life right now.


Hannah

Katie you were you were by yourself for the majority of official Lockdown…

Katie

Yeah. You know, I actually sort of miss those days. There were elements of it that were really difficult - I was lonely and I did hug trees in the park! Because I was just like…I need to feel a living thing in my arms and the closest all I had was the trees in the park!

But I was really lucky because I was in my own flat and actually, having nowhere to be and nothing to do allowed me to do some amazing resting - I've never been so healthy! No one could make me go and audition in London at the last minute or, you know, no one could email you and say, “right, we need you here tomorrow to do a thing…” It was quite nice to be left alone for a while.


Sometimes it was lonely and frustrating and weird but I kind of wish we were back there in a way because at least it was clear what it was and what we were doing. And no one in our industry could work. It was an even playing field. And now it is not like that. Some people's careers are fine. Some people's are completely non-existent and I feel like mine is somewhere in the middle.

Hannah

Did you pick up any new hobbies in Lockdown? With all that time…

Norma

I haven't really been taking up other hobbies or anything but I've started taking screen acting classes.

Hannah

Oh cool – very appropriate!

Norma

Most of my experience is in stage, so I thought it would be nice to explore that. But that's the only sort of new thing I've been getting up to. Really.

Hannah

Dan what about you?

Dan

I've been spending a lot more time sat in front of a computer screen; partly I had to try and find some way of making some money so I've been doing proofreading and editing, which has been really interesting, something I haven't really done much of before. It's nice to have a mix of different stuff to work on. I told you the other day Hannah that I wrote a play! It's a one man show that's been ticking around in my head for ages, which is something that I would like to do one day.

But I'm sort of feeling….I think maybe, a lot of us are…I'm feeling so detached from the industry; that there isn't really much industry. I was quite passionate about writing [the play] and I'm actually not as passionate about performing it as I thought I would be. Maybe that will change as things start to open up a bit more.


In terms of hobbies, I'm doing a weekly online roleplaying thing called Call of Cthulhu. It’s something I did once or twice ages ago, but became something you could do socially without actually being with each other (because there's only so many Zoom quizzes you can do!). Zoom is quite a good format for roleplaying games. It's also been a really good creative outlet that doesn't feel like it's got any purpose beyond having a good time: not about “how is this going to further our careers?” It's just sort of telling stories together. So that's been great. And I think I'll keep that up for as long as possible.

Katie

I went through different phases during lockdown… near the beginning I went through a phase where all I wanted to do was to record songs and put them online. That's all I wanted to do. Or do little clown challenges and film them and put them online. That was all I did. And then I went through a phase of teaching online where I was like, OK, I'm going to teach clown online, teach mime online. And then I got really into going to classes: actually, just like training online. And things where you're not retraining, but things like the Insane Root Play Reading Group - that's one of the big ones that I've just held onto. Dan hit the nail on the head there it's not about product, it’s about community.


You can go to big Equity or Theatre Bristol meetings where you will have big chats about the future of Theatre but I find those distressing because I have to sit on a call with, like, one hundred and fifty people, all of whom are sitting there looking back at you with all their anxieties too. And I'm not sure that this meeting is actually going to help any of us.

Hannah

I've been to a lot of those on behalf of Insane Root, and I think that the difficulty in a way is we're still in the middle of it all.

Katie

Yeah.

Hannah

So we're having to keep reacting to what is present as opposed to really be able to think forward. And you can be in those meetings, but you can have no power to actually make a change. At Insane Root we have a small amount of money but we don't have the power to really influence the rest of the industry or ...to save people. For us, it's just about whether we can survive and keep going? So, at some point, we can come back with a show.

Katie

It’s tiring trying to navigate the situation. [That said,] I've just been really excited by how you can do things that you normally wouldn't have access to. So I've been training with a mime teacher in Barcelona because I can do it from my room, you know, some really cool things.


Hannah

Tell us a bit about Witcheroo.

Katie

Witcheroo is a Covid Secure act. I'm not going to call it a show at the moment, I'd say it's an act. Me and Robyn, who I run my theatre company with, we play two witches both called Miriam and we go out doing “spell deliveries”. We started out with someone on a street booking us for their community and we would just go and do a 20 minute kind of clown ritual. We’d use some music, draw out things on the pavement, and then people bring offerings. We'd say “dig deep into your soul”... And they bring out fluff from their pocket and put it in the circle and it's just a really stupid thing but people love it. It's quite personal.

So we're starting to get bookings for it. But it's that classic thing. We're just developing it with no money. Every time we make a bit of money from busking, or we're paid a fee, we just put that straight back into the show to get it to the next level. It's a labour of love.

Norma

It sounds great though

Katie

Yeah. It's good. Now we've got a version that's good for the park, and a version that's more child friendly that we could do birthday parties with or like a walkabout. We did Bedlam Fair in Bath a couple of weeks ago, and we had to develop a circle show for it, which is a bit different again.