FEATURE: Conor comes to Hove in One Fell Swoop !

Brian Butler August 10, 2020

When Conor Baum walks towards you for the first time you know he’s someone with enthusiasm, clarity of thought and  energy. He speaks about Shakespeare with animation and a refreshing newness which he and his co-director Joanna Rosenfeld are currently bringing to theatre-starved Brighton and Hove.

The Head of Curriculum for Brighton drama school IC Theatre’s Further Education Programme, he has packed a lot into his short career on the boards.

Born in the East Midlands, he moved to London to attend Rose Bruford College and stayed in the capital in the belief that that’s where all the acting and directing work would be. But as is immediately obvious when we chat, he’s not a man to hang about and wait patiently. After doing development projects with the Royal Shakespeare Company he eventually moved to Brighton where his father was already living.

credited to Sam Cartwright Photography.

Work at the Nightingale Theatre and on the Fringe quickly followed and as he puts it ‚Äú I then fell in with a crowd of musical theatre people.‚ÄĚ ¬†The result was he played the wonderfully naughty youth Jack in Sondheim‚Äôs magical Into The Woods at the Emporium.

His restlessness seems never to have been far away and he had a very old-school idea of setting up his own repertory theatre company Рa throwback to British theatre of yesteryear where one resident company would  perform a wide variety of shows in a short space of time. “ I was also keen to do home-grown theatre, of which there wasn’t a lot in Brighton , “ he adds.

credited to Matthew Andrews / Montpelier Pictures.

So was born Brief Hiatus company which true to its name was very short-lived, but it clocked up 11 shows in 2 years using Brighton and South East based actors. His latest company One Fell Swoop is a natural result of his central idea about theatre – it should be good, beautiful but simple . But we are ahead of ourselves in his story. After mounting a highly successful run of Dracula at Preston Manor, ¬†he says: ‚Äė we got cocky and thought let‚Äôs do a big musical.‚ÄĚ

credited to Matthew Andrews / Montpelier Pictures.

Though successful the cult show Bare didn’t pull enough punters and so that project ended. And Conor took up his current teaching post with 16 to 19 year olds.

During lockdown he formed a virtual play reading group which he called One Fell Swoop: Project Lockdown and an international and disparate group of professional actors met via Zoom to read all the plays of Shakespeare in the order he is thought to have written them.

credited to Matthew Andrews / Montpelier Pictures.

When lockdown seemed to be abating, his friend and open-air theatre director Joanna Rosenfeld suggested they should mount the shows for real with a fixed repertory company and so the real physical One Fell Swoop was born. Even the meaning of the  title Рfrom Macbeth Рreveals Conor’s signature Рquick, effective and complete . And so  we have the benefit of  a Shakespeare micro-festival in  Hove for the next three Saturdays .

Connor and Joanna  are directing  Shakespeare classics, Macbeth , Richard III, As You Like It and Much Ado About Nothing in the sensory garden at St Anne’s Well Gardens, Hove.

credited to Matthew Andrews / Montpelier Pictures.

After months of performing online on Zoom, the company of professional actors will have the added excitement of only finding out which of the  plays they are to perform some 24 hours beforehand. They’ll then have 24 hours to brush up a particular bit of Shakespeare . The audience won’t know which play they’re seeing till they take their seats.

So it promises to be thrilling, unexpected and immersive theatre and it will raise funds for FairShare and local performing artists.

The company is supported by Brighton and Hove City Council, the Rialto Theatre and Gladrags Community Costume. Resource .

credited to Matthew Andrews / Montpelier Pictures.

Connor told me: “ The first show was a sell-out, with an audience of 150. All the rules of social distancing are being followed and the audience are in bubbles or households and the actors have taken ingenious methods to keep safe! “

You’ll have to go along to find out just what Conor means, but I’m sure you won’t be disappointed !

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