When I entered the operating theatre my first thought, before how incredible it is to see the oldest operating theatre in the whole of Europe, before thinking about the people who must have been healed, or who died here, before even noticing the terrifying sets of amputation saws behind me, was that this would make a fantastic performance space! Ha, yes theatre does take over your life a bit. The tiered seating, the small yet well formed performance space and the incredible natural drama of the space - everything pointed towards doing something theatrical here.
I was totally intrigued from the moment I spotted a tiny spiral staircase at the doors of an old church. Er, is this the place? I twisted round the creaky little stairs and found a small shop selling dismembered body parts (in plastic), miniature skulls (made from rubber) and various creepy sounding books on dissection and bodysnatching. Curious. After getting a ticket I wandered up another, slightly larger, staircase and found myself in a big room in the roof of the church I had entered: the herb garret. A huge mixture of different smells hit my nose and as I walked through this mysterious place, ducking under rafters and avoiding the jars full of half dissected lungs and hearts I noticed a narrow passageway with a sign above it saying 'Operating Theatre'. I carried on, regularly getting distracted by interesting facts on 19th century health care (or lack of it) and occasionally by gruesome instruments used for healing (or torture?)
Since May the project has moved forward at an incredible speed. I am so fortunate to have found such a dedicated and talented creative team of people including a writer, musician, marketing team, graphic designer... and the list goes on. The Academy of Melancholy is the first production that the Dream Team have brought to life in London and I am very excited to have the team back in action again.
The Academy of Melancholy is written by Charlotte O'Leary and inspired by real stories from the operating theatre's long history.Through the play we follow Margaret who, from the first few pages, dresses as a man, why? No women are allowed into an operating theatre in the 1820s and her life aim? To become a surgeon. The script is nearly finished - yes, I am stupidly excited to read it! - and tickets are on sale. I want as many people as possible to see this incredible space and, what we hope will be, a powerful piece of theatre. Let's keep in touch over the next couple of months.
Happy New Year everyone!