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Interview with Christina Tedders – Oranges and Elephants

Oranges & Elephants. Christina Tedders (Nellie) & Sinead Long (Mary). Credit - Sharron Wallace
Oranges & Elephants. Christina Tedders (Nellie) & Sinead Long (Mary). Credit – Sharron Wallace

The world première of Oranges and Elephants is the first production in Hoxton Hall’s all-female spring season Female Parts.

The musical centres on two rival female gangs in Victorian London blending Music Hall, Fairground and Musical Theatre storytelling. Susie McKenna directs a cast of actor-musicians: Kate Adams (Flo), Rebecca Bainbridge (Ada), Susannah van den Berg (Chair), Rosalind Ford (Nora), Liz Kitchen (Annie), Natasha Lewis (Violet), Sinead Long (Mary), Kate Marlais (Maggie), Christina Tedders (Nellie) and Sarah J Warren (Minnie). The production opened on the Thursday 25th January and runs until Saturday 10th February 2018.

Christina Tedders plays Nellie. Her theatre credits include Once the Musical (Phoenix Theatre), A Little Night Music (The Watermill Theatre), The Commitments (UK tour), Calamity Jane (The Watermill Theatre, UK tour) and Putting It Together (Belfast Lyric Theatre).

Christina recently answered a few questions that we put to her about the production.

Q: Can you tell us about Oranges and Elephants?
Christina: This is the story of rival female street gangs in 1800s London, set against the backdrop of the Victorian Music Halls.

Q: You play the part of Nellie – can you tell us about her and how she fits into the storyline?
Christina: I was so excited to take this role on – Nellie is a brilliant character. She’s the best thief in her gang – The Elephants and isn’t afraid of a fight. She’s feisty and at times violent and frightening, however as the play goes on we discover that her dream is to leave gang life, and pursue her dream of working as a singer in the music halls. Without giving too much away, her story involves a deep betrayal of her family, and a love story which ultimately results in her downfall. She’s a bit of a tragic hero – I love her!

Q: Oranges and Elephants is a season curated and performed by women. How important is ‘Female Parts’ to you?
Christina: The concept of ‘female parts’ is important in many ways, and for myself is implicated across all areas of the creative process; it’s important to see women in new writing, as well as women forming formidable creative teams as directors/choreographers/musical directors. Furthermore, as an actress, good stories about women offer opportunities for ‘female parts’ to really come into their own. Oranges and Elephants is in many ways atypical in its portrayal of ‘the female’…and to echo the words of my fellow colleagues across the industry; it’s about time!

Q: Can you tell us about rehearsals?
Christina: We are lucky to have a brilliant creative team behind this production, who have been totally constant in their generosity. We have laughed a lot, and in general I would describe the rehearsal room as being characterised by total joy – it has truly been a pleasure to spend time with these women!

Q: Thoughts on performing at Hoxton Hall?
Christina: Hoxton Hall speaks for itself – it’s totally beautiful and completely authentic in terms of its ‘music hall’ construction. As an actor it presents an interesting challenge – everything has to be sent up to the heights of the hall and therefore delivered in a slightly different way. It’s a very beautiful surrounding to find myself in, and I feel lucky to be part of the all-female season here.

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The narrative follows Mary’s arrival in London and her introduction to gang life. How will she make her life expectancy of twenty-five when the two gangs are after owning her? Mary wants to be a Music Hall star. Nellie of The Elephants falls in love with Mary and they try to escape from thievery to the bright lights of Piccadilly. Are the gangs going to allow that to play out?

This is a story of how important your wits are to survive if you are a poor woman in Victorian London. How you play the fame game set against a backdrop of a West End pickpocket turf war and an enormous divide between the rich and poor. “Same ol gravy, different flavour.”

Listings
Hoxton Hall
130 Hoxton Street, London N1 6SH
www.hoxtonhall.co.uk

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