Last weekend, we were lucky enough to get to go to London’s VAULT Festival, and we will be sharing our experiences here on Theatre Trip through three different blog posts. On our first night of the VAULT Festival, we checked out Counting Sheep and Balaklava Blues. And on the second night of our festival adventures, we got the chance to check out A Wake in Progress, by Fine Mess Theatre and Leila Sykes!
Location: London, England
Our experience seeing A Wake in Progress:
A Wake in Progress stood out to me from the beginning because it’s a play that openly deals with the concept of dying. In this show, the cast combines interactive elements with a serious subject matter. At the beginning, the cast explains that it’s totally okay for us to leave if we feel uncomfortable. But nobody left. It was a comfortable environment, and the room seemed to be filled with openness.
They went on to explain that they will regularly check in with the audience to grab ideas from us. And they kept their promise! They used so many sparks of audience inspiration throughout. But it was also a comfortable level of audience participation. Nobody seemed to feel bothered by it in the slightest.
Based on input from the audience, our protagonist was chosen. This was one super interesting part about the show! Every night is a completely different experience. We then learn that this protagonist is sick. And that they only have a certain amount of time left to live.
You would think that the show gets dark from here. And to a certain extent, it does. But there is also a certain weight that’s lifted through the telling of this story. There’s a new sense of understanding that drifts through the audience. As the night goes on, we learn that our protagonist’s dying wish is to actually witness her funeral. She wanted to have a “funeral dress rehearsal” if you will.
And that is exactly what we as an audience experience together with her. But it’s no ordinary funeral. There’s champagne and candy (for everyone), lyric sheets (that we all sing with), poems, and party hats (for all of us, of course). It’s the most beautiful version of a funeral that you can imagine. A Wake in Progress was written by Joel Samuels. The cast consisted of Andrew David, Molly Small, Stella Taylor, Daniel Ward, and Amy Fleming, who was our host on the specific night that we saw the show.
And as a special surprise for our readers – here’s an exclusive interview with Amy Fleming!
Theatre Trip’s Interview with Amy Fleming:
Theatre Trip: At what point did you first discover your love for acting?
Amy: I always loved doing school plays. But the first time I really remember falling in love with it was while auditioning for Baloo the bear in an Irish language version of The Jungle Book. I was quite a shy kid, and I just remember feeling confident and in control for the first time. I only wish I felt like that in every audition I go to now!
Theatre Trip: Can you tell us a bit more about what sparked your career transition from science into theatre?
Amy: I always knew that I wanted to be an actress, but I also knew that I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence and that I was quite sensitive. I heard lots of horror stories about drama schools knocking you down to build you up, and I didn’t feel ready for that. I always loved science in school, and all my family thought it would be good to have a back up plan in case a career in acting never happened. So I decided to go to university and study molecular medicine. Although I loved my course, I was always popping home to do plays with my youth theatre, Kildare Youth Theatre➝, throughout my degree. I eventually became part of their mother company, Crooked House Theatre Company➝, so the plan was always to end up working in theatre.
After I finished my degree, the plan was to move back home, get a job and save for drama school, but sadly it was a bad time for graduates in my town, so I didn’t end up getting that job. Instead, I ended up emigrating to London and discovering that drama school is an absolute fortune and way out of my financial reach. So I decided to work my way up instead. A much slower, harder route, but I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences and roles. So I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
“Being creative is one of the best things you can do for your brain, and immersive/interactive theatre really offers audiences a chance to be creative.”
Theatre Trip: What is it that attracts you to interactive/immersive theatre?
Amy: For me, it’s building the story with the audience and allowing them to taste even a smidgen of the joy and satisfaction I get from storytelling and performing. I think being creative is one of the best things you can do for your brain. And immersive/interactive theatre really offers audiences a chance to be creative. The best interactive/immersive shows offer audiences a true choice, and I love that you can never predict what audiences will say or do. Keeps you on your toes!
Theatre Trip: If you could give one piece of advice to those who are brand new to acting, what would it be?
Have a side job that gives you a sense of job satisfaction. There are so many gaps between acting gigs. And unless you are lucky, you may have to have two more jobs. But it can often feel like you are waiting for your career to happen while you are in those jobs. And that can really affect your mental health. As I get older, I realise that your side job should be just as rewarding to you so that you don’t feel like you are spending your life waiting for it to happen.
Theatre Trip: What’s next for you?
Amy: Next up is actually a project which blends science and interactive theatre! My two worlds colliding at last. It’s a project called Vector➝, which uses elements of performance, game, and integrated technology to open up dialogue and shed light on the ethics that society faces when using animals as part of medical research.
Vector is a public engagement project that has been created by interactive and immersive performance makers The Lab Collective, in partnership with the Animal Research Nexus, an interdisciplinary research group that seeks to deliver new thinking, research, and engagement that explores the social, cultural and ethical relations around animal research.
I am also going to be performing in another show at VAULT Festival – Jamie Saves the World 3, which is a pop culture ridden comedy storytelling show. The third in a trilogy and I get a nerf gun, so no bad news there!
And I am also going to be performing in Knightmare Live. If you don’t know what Knightmare is, then you had a terrible childhood! It’s a really fun comedy show based on a children’s show from the 90’s. So lots of fun, exciting, and different projects coming up!
Have you gotten the chance to see A Wake in Progress?
Or have you ever seen a show at the VAULT festival? We’d love to hear your own thoughts and reactions in the comments below!
* This post’s featured image is by Ali Wright Photography➝.
* A special thanks to VAULT Festival and A Wake in Progress for inviting us to the show!
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Author: Stacy Karyn
Stacy Karyn is the founder of Theatre Trip, author of The Thespian’s Bucket List, and creator of The Cast Album List. She holds a BA in theatre, a TESOL drama certificate, and has worked and interned with Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters.