For a small town, St Andrews has incredible amounts of creative energy. However, quite often there simply are not enough venues and funds to get everyone’s ideas up and running.
Tasnim Siddiqa Amin is challenging the typical process of creating theatre in St Andrews. Queen of ‘Arts, her own theatre company, aims to get students’ experimental ideas off the ground using minimal funds and resources.
The company’s first production, The Death of the King, is a retelling of Persian history. Set in 642 CE, the Sassanian Empire is falling to Muslim invasion. Yazdgird III, the last king of Persia, finds death in an impoverished flour mill. Discovered by the king’s army, the helpless miller, his wife and his daughter must re-enact their experience with the king to prove their innocence – or face death.
I sat down with Tasnim, her co-director, Sam McReavy and performer, Catherine Potter, to discuss their unique vision for The Death of the King.
HJ: Why do you think The Death of the King is a relevant play for St Andrews?
TSA: It is an amazing diverse, tragic and hilarious piece of theatre. I read it as part of first year comparative literature and knew that I had to stage it.
SM: Death of the King is fundamentally about social order, class, and gender. From my experience these issues are very relevant to St Andrews. I think it is important to put on theatre that will diversify these notions within the town.
TSA: I also think race is an important theme. Our cast is incredibly diverse, our actors are from Scotland, Korea and Vietnam. I wanted to put on a play that completely avoided type casting based on race. Instead, when casting, I focused on the energy and enthusiasm of the actors.
HJ: Why did you choose Sallies Cloisters as a space over more conventional venues like the Barron/Byre?
CP: I think The Death of the King needs a more interactive venue. An atypical play requires an atypical space. The power of the script is that it can make the audience feel unsettled. The audience’s proximity to the actors and exposure to elements will create a unique and immersive atmosphere – they will really feel part of the action.
HJ: Would you say that Queen of ‘Arts has a vision/manifesto?
TSA: I love the amount of creative energy in St Andrews, however, I think students face bureaucratic obstacles when it comes to getting ideas of the ground. Queen of ‘Arts is a vehicle for students to make performance art. I firmly believe that students do not need a renowned venue and massive budget to make excellent theatre. Queen of ‘Arts encourages resourcefulness and experimentation.
I wanted to create something that was not elitist. We cast everyone who auditioned for The Death of the King. I think anyone who is enthusiastic about a project can add value in some way.
HJ: Why have you chosen to use scripts in your performance?
SM: The script is really brilliant and is honestly one of best plays I have ever read. We choose to use scripts in the performance because we want the content of the play to be the focus of the performance. We decided not use a typical venue because we want the play to have a stripped back feel to it. Having read the script several times myself, I find I uncover new levels of meaning every time I read the lines.
CP: As an actor, using the script makes me think continuously about the meaning of the lines and I feel I can produce a fresh and raw performance with every reading.
HJ: What would you say to convince students to come and see The Death of the King?
TSA: Firstly I would emphasize the fact that it is FREE! It is in a public space of the university and the performance is available to everyone.
SM: It is also an amazing piece of theatre, it can be unnerving and hilarious. We also have an incredibly diverse and talented cast who are all committed and enthusiastic about the project.
TSA: It will also be visually unique. As well as having the space of cloisters, Lucy Reis, our set designer, also has some amazing ideas of how to create a sense of ancient Persia. We have got an incredibly talented costume designer, Rasa Juras. The performance space is also unique and I think it will be a more interactive and atmospheric experience than typical St Andrews theatre.
The Death of the King will be performed on February 26th 7.30pm in Sallies Cloisters. To reserve your free ticket email firstname.lastname@example.org .