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Acting alumni perform Bleak House – Bath Spa University

Acting alumni return to Bath Spa with David Glass Ensemble's Bleak House

Friday, 4 October, 2019

Things are about to get a little Dickensian at Bath Spa, as the acclaimed David Glass Ensemble production of Bleak House returns to the University Theatre at Newton Park for two nights, on 7 and 8 October. 

The Charles Dickens classic was the first co-production to spring from the University’s partnership with the David Glass Ensemble, and was originally performed at Bath Spa in 2017. Returning for 2019, the cast proudly features three Bath Spa alumni: Charlotte Lily-Gray (BA (Hons) Acting, 2017), Aimee Pollock (BA (Hons) Acting, 2017), and Tommy Carmichael (BA (Hons) Acting, 2016).

A powerfully physical, gothic retelling of Dickens' novel, Bleak House follows the character of Esther Summerson, as the audience is immersed in a dark and dismal Victorian London - complete with pickpockets and con artists - and a brutal legal system intent on destroying the less fortunate.

The Ensemble have been working on the play for two years, so the cast has changed and grown together. All three graduates said that Bleak House was special to them for many reasons. 

“It’s a privilege to be a part of the David Glass Ensemble and an honour to perform in Bleak House,” Charlotte said. The two characters that Charlotte plays - Miss Barbary and Ada Clare - and the stark differences between them makes the experience even more interesting for her. She explained: “They couldn’t be more different. Miss Barbary is a heartless, cold woman, and Ada is lively, naive and adventurous. To get to explore that and share it with the audience is amazing - it’s what I love the most.”

Aimee said: “[My character] Esther is a survivor, and what appears on the outside is not necessarily what is happening on the inside. Her determination to move forward, even during the darkest of moments, even though she is afraid and unsure, is a strength I admire.”

Tommy described being part of the production as “a gift”, and said it was his connection with the rest of the Ensemble that made the experience noteworthy. “The most interesting part of playing Richard to me is the opportunity to amplify the qualities of his personality, namely his incessant need to please and his overbearing over-optimism. There is something so freeing and relieving to present such explosive levels of raw emotion.”

The actors also touted the play’s cultural relevance and fearless engagement with its audience. “The piece feels more and more relevant today both politically and socially,” Charlotte said. “It doesn’t hold back; it is brutal, honest and vivid, and it makes the audience think, feel and question.To be a part of that is incredible.” 

Tommy agreed, adding: “What makes Bleak House special is not only its relevance to today, but also how true to Dickens it is. We think of his work as something of beauty, but actually his descriptions of just how filthy and visceral every class of society is often gets overlooked, and I think we bring that element to life.”

Aimee summed it up beautifully: “It’s a timeless story about family, hope, survival, corruption and power. And it’s a joy to be a part of.”

Established in 2017, the partnership between the David Glass Ensemble and Bath Spa University brings an innovative approach to how students are taught performance-based subjects at the University, placing an emphasis on the professional training which allows students to enter the creative industries as accomplished actors, producers and directors.

A second co-production, Boredom, debuted at Bath Spa in 2018, and a third project is currently in development.

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