Jul 30 2019

Dr Rebecca McCutcheon, from our Department of Drama, Theatre and Dance recently developed a performance project around Mary Pix's, 'The Deceiver Deceived', and is developing a podcast based on Mary Pix called, 'Pixellated'. We caught up with Rebecca to discover more about her role within the Department of Drama, Theatre and Dance, and her current projects.

1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your role within the Department of Drama, Theatre and Dance?

I’m a theatre director and Teaching Fellow in the Department, which means that I teach across four different courses in the Department of Drama, Theatre and Dance – which is a really lively experience. The Department has such a varied range of courses which explore a rich range of performance forms, so in my day I’ll switch from teaching students about Complicite Theatre’s practise through workshops to leading seminars on feminist theatre makers and theories, with all kinds of things in between.

2. We understand that you recently developed a performance project around Mary Pix’s ‘The Deceiver Deceived’. Could you tell us more about this Comedy?

Yes! This is a wonderful play to direct – and as far as we know this was the first performance for 300 years, so bravo to Royal Holloway for that! The play is a city comedy which depicts a deceitful old miser, Bondi, who is faking blindness to avoid taking up a job – but his wife & daughter believe he is blind too, and are carrying out affairs literally under his nose… there’s a lot of very silly visual comedy and superb plotting, and Pix focuses on the agency of the women who are rebelling against being treated like chattel. It's a great play to rediscover now. An important part of my research is staging plays by women which have fallen out of the performed repertoire, and using performance to challenge the canon of male-authored texts. Directing these plays feels like such an adventure, as I get to work with these extraordinary creative worlds which have lain dormant for so long, but which have so much relevance.

3. You recently worked with Professor Dan Rebellato to create a version of this Comedy which was performed in the Cary Churchill Theatre by Drama students. How would you describe the experience of seeing this Comedy being acted out?

That's right – Dan is a very talented playwright, and also very funny, so he’s the perfect person to work with on this. He created a shorter version of the play to make it manageable for the students to learn (they didn’t have very long…!) and he also re-drafted the prologue. Pix had written a stinging prologue, detailing how the play had been stolen from her and plagiarised – but it was quite difficult to follow this without a lot of context. Dan took this and updated it so that it responded to contemporary events – we thought Pix’s fight to claim her play back from plagiarists struck a chord with women today looking to have their voices and stories heard. It felt wonderful to create this performance – our drama students worked so hard to make this play come inventively to life, after 300 years.

4. How do you plan to develop this project further?

Making this version with our very talented drama students has let me get to know the play really well as a director, and proved that it is robust, funny and relevant. I’m keen to do more with it and I’m currently proposing further development of it with various theatres and spaces – including the RSC, where I’ve worked before, and the Old Hall at Lincoln’s Inn Field (which is close to where the play was originally performed). Watch this space….

5. You are also developing a podcast with Christopher Hogg and Professor Dan Rebellato about Mary Pix which will be called ‘Pixellated’. What do you hope to convey through these podcasts?

Yes that's right – the story around the play is fascinating. The fact that Pix wrote the play, submitted it to the Drury Lane Theatre only to have it stolen and half of it lifted and performed under another name really exemplifies lots of the challenges and barriers to production women have faced in the past. The fact that Mary managed to turn that around – she took the play to the rival theatre at Lincolns’ Inn Fields and persuaded its star actor-manager Edward Betterton to star in it and produce it – shows impressive resilience and resourcefulness. It's a story I’d love to explore, through a podcast based in and around Lincolns Inn Field where it all happened. Christopher Hogg works in the Media Arts Department, which is now part of the School of Digital and Performing Arts, so it's a great opportunity to work with him – he’s also an award-winning podcast maker, so that helps…!

6. What do you enjoy most about working at Royal Holloway and within the Department of Drama, Theatre and Dance?

My students and my colleagues. There is a lot of warmth and humour in the Department which makes working here a pleasure. There’s a great deal of creativity too – so as a director there’s lots of opportunity to make unusual work.

7. Do you have a favourite theatre production?

That's is a great question – so many! Most recently a show called Electrolyte by Wildcard Theatre. It's a piece of gig theatre, which means the whole performance feels like a gig – there’ was a brilliant raw energy to it which has stayed with me. Another great recent show was Katie Mitchell and Alice Birch’s Maladie du Mort at the Barbican, which was incredibly brutal and powerful, and also so inventive in its work with camera.