Crouch End performer founds Lockdown Theatre Company ‘by accident’
PUBLISHED: 13:23 11 September 2020 | UPDATED: 13:23 11 September 2020
Rohan Candappa wrote and funded 20 monologues to help out of work actors during the pandemic which stand as ‘an archive of the strange days we’ve been living through’
Rohan Candappa became the accidental founder of Lockdown Theatre Company after helping out actor friends who were out of work.
Days before lockdown, the Crouch End spoken word performer had the idea of funding and recording several monologues which now stand as “an archive of the strange days we’ve been living through”.
“Before anything kicked off I had written a script,” he says.
“Instead of my own shows I was trying to write characters and was working with actors. We were about to start rehearsing but at the last meeting in March they told me all their work had just disappeared, and the jobs they had on the side had gone too. I thought if that was happening across the board it was an incredible financial cliff edge.
“It was coming up to five years of my being made redundant from which I created my first show ‘How I Said ‘F**k You’ to the Company When They Tried to Make Me Redundant’. I remember how I felt being called into an office and the world just falling away. Back then there were at least other jobs I could go for.”
For four years the former advertising executive and author of bestseller The Little Book of Stress, has taken his shows to the Edinburgh Fringe.
But with the festival also cancelled he used some cash set aside to pay 10 actors £200 to record a monologue.
“There was no grand plan. I put it on Facebook and hundreds got in touch. There was clearly a demand. Then I realised ‘Oh my God I have to write them!”.
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Candappa likens the project to “the ethos of punk rock.”
“I have no contacts or credentials. I am probably the wrong ethnicity and not particularly well known. I was likely to fall flat on my face but it seemed worth trying. I was tired of knocking on doors asking people to give me a break. There were no gatekeepers in the way and it was ‘you make something happen or it’s not going to happen’.”
They range from a Geordie baby waiting to be born, to a piece about bus drivers, a British death during the Korean War, and an ARP Warden during the Blitz.
The latter, London Calling includes darkly humorous song lyrics by real warden Ronald Fuller looking after Adelphi Station on The Strand in 1940. It was inspired by the statistic that more people died during a four week period in 2020 than in the worst four weeks of Hitler’s bombing campaign.
“It’s an incredible parallel to draw and think about. Every night the number of people who had died was on the news, but you didn’t get the size of the grief, of this many families who can’t go to the funeral or see their relative when they are dying and who won’t get the closure for the grief and pain.”
Another is inspired by the antipathy towards heavy-breathing joggers during early lockdown.
“That’s the kind of detail we are going to forget. I thought it should be an immediate response to what’s going on at this moment. I’ve tried to write about the experience honestly, and I am angry, not at the virus, but at how badly we seem to be handling it. Looking back you can be more considered, but like the ARP warden there’s a value in recording your response to a situation as it’s happening.”
Feedback from grateful actors was so positive he sourced funds on Kickstarter and Facebook to make 10 more. They were rehearsed on WhatsApp and self-taped by performers who hail from all over the UK and beyond.
“We asked how far can you go with a monologue? What stories can you tell, in what way? The actors valued the chance to practice their craft and the challenge of working on a character, and maybe people will take ideas from these alternative ways of working when theatres reopen.”
Watch all 20 monologues at https://bit.ly/2OFeuoB
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