CTC Company’s new show IDENTITY will have an Off-West End transfer at The Turbine Theatre from 10th to 14th March consisting of five cast members with choreography by Christopher Tendai, directed by Denzel Westley-Sanderson, music by Sam.G (Shekinah McFarlane) and original spoken word by Caitlin Taylor. The show runs for sixty minutes combining Contemporary Dance and Afro Beats, and is about relative issues of today’s society. IDENTITY received four star ratings when the production was performed at Edinburgh Fringe last year. We spoke to the choreographer, Christopher Tendai, about taking IDENTITY to The Turbine Theatre, the experience at Edinburgh Fringe and what audiences can expect from the production.
CTC Company performed IDENTITY at Edinburgh Fringe, how was the experience taking it there?
IDENTITY at Edinburgh Fringe went better than I ever hoped for! You never know how people are going to interpret your work but the feedback we had from the audience members and reviewers was so positive! We even won an award for Exciting New Dance Work by EdFringe Review.
What was it like seeing/hearing the audience response to the show?
There’s a section in the show when our lead performer, Caitlin, falls off one of the ensemble’s shoulders and every time it happened, you could hear the gasps from the audience! Definitely one of my favourite moments! Also, hearing silence from the audience but seeing them all closely watching the cast intently, sitting on the edge of their seats… Something I’ll never forget!
Last year the show received four star ratings from many publications including Broadway Baby, how rewarding does it feel?
It honestly feels incredible to receive as many four stars as we did from numerous reviewers. It showed us that our creative direction is being seen in a positive light and is liked!
What are you looking forward to for the Off-West End transfer at The Turbine Theatre?
I’m really looking forward in being able to enhance the show again. For the show to have original lighting design, sound design and to even have haze, it’s going to be a massive upgrade! Edinburgh was a very quick turnaround so having more time to do the show again is definitely a blessing. I’m also looking forward to bringing it to London!
Why do you think The Turbine Theatre is the perfect place for putting the production on?
I feel that The Turbine Theatre is the perfect fit for the show because Paul Taylor-Mills has created a safe space for upcoming Choreographers/Directors/Producers to test out new work which is the exact ethos we were looking for. Most of the shows have been musical theatre at the Turbine, and we are one of the first productions that is predominately dance-based in the spring season. The space is gorgeous and will definitely fit the tone of IDENTITY.
How has the show changed over time and what’s it like to choreograph your own production?
In 2018, me and my director Denzel Westley-Sanderson put on the first workshop showing of IDENTITY at The Young Actors Theatre. Having seen the show develop from then to Edinburgh Fringe was a massive leap forward. I believe that the show is going to take an even bigger leap forward bringing it to The Turbine Theatre. We feel that we have made sure each time we change the show, we want to make sure that the subject raised are of most importance. The show touches on subjects such as: Mental Health Awareness, LGBTQ, Feminism and Social Media through Society. Allowing an audience member, no matter how young or old, to connect with the cast and to go on a journey of self discovery.
How was it casting for the show and have you worked with any of them previously?
Casting the show has always been really hard! The show requires so much of the ensemble from: Dance Ability, Stamina and Strength, and Acting ability. I think each time the show is enhanced, so is the specificity of the ensemble’s abilities. Every cast we’ve had, have always dove straight into the show and allowed to put all of their emotions into it.
Have rehearsals started, if so, how are they going and how are you preparing for opening night?
Rehearsals start today so we are just about ready to get started! As our cast, this time is new, we want to create a version of identity around them, allowing them to show off their strengths and their individuality! I cannot wait for everyone to see this cast! They are incredible!
What can audiences expect from watching the show?
The audience can be expected to be taken on a journey of self discovery. To connect with a cast who stand in front of them, unafraid of showing who they really are. We want this show to leave the audience inspired to be their authentic selves and know that being ‘you’ is enough.
Who do you think the show will appeal to and why would you encourage people to attend?
I feel that this show appeals to young teenagers all the way through to older adults. Everyone is going through something in this world. We’ve seen unions drifted apart, we’ve seen people feel that they can’t go on in this world because of the way that others see them. I feel that this show is so relevant to what’s going on now and to remind people that social media doesn’t define you, other people don’t define you. You define you. You create you’re own Identity. You create your own path in this world. No matter how young or old, you can change your mindset to be the best version of yourself.
Can you tell us about working with Denzel Westley-Sanderson, Caitlin Taylor and Sam.G (Shekinah McFarlane)?
Denzel Westley-Sanderson is my incredible director but also an incredible friend. We met when we were working on Jesus Chris Superstar at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. I was a swing in the show and Denzel was on the stage management side. We both really hit it off and both felt a creative connection. Six months after the show finished, I asked Denzel if he wanted to create a show with me and the rest is history. His creative mind astounds me and pushes me to be the best version of my creative self.
Working with Caitlin has been an absolute dream. When she auditioned for CTC Dance Company two years ago, she completely stood out to me. She had a natural artistic instinct that you can’t help but watch. The fact that we get to combine this show with her original spoken word and live music has been fantastic. Caitlin dives into anything and everything she is set and excels every time. She is definitely a force to be reckoned with.
Sam.G, also known as Shekinah McFarlane, is one of my best friends. We have been friends for over ten years and we have always had each other’s backs and applauded each other’s growth and progression within the industry. Shekinah is both a Musical Theatre Performer and Singer/Songwriter. All of the Music dubbed over has been written and sung by Shekinah. All of her music is open, honest and resonant. Shekinah is currently performing in SIX the Musical UK Tour as Anna of Cleves… and will hopefully be making a royal performance at our press night on Wednesday 11th March.
Do you have plans for IDENTITY for after the run at The Turbine Theatre?
Our plan after The Turbine Theatre is to apply for funding (hopefully through the Arts Council) and take the show on a UK Educational Tour in 2021. I believe this has the power to help others in this world, and I want to make sure I do my bit to make this world a better place.
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