Roy Hart Theatre : then and now
(In conversation with Paul Silber, a founder member)
In April 1975, when the Roy Hart Theatre performed at the Théâtre Municipal d’Alès, as “Le Cratère” was called then, they were a theatre company of 48 people of twelve nationalities. They had recently all moved from London to Château de Malérargues, Thoiras, in the Cévennes. The Château and its rambling outhouses had been in a very dilapidated state when in June 1974, a first team of eight members, had begun to clear and rebuild the estate. Over the next nine months, with the help of other members, the Château was restored adequately enough to accommodate the whole company. The building that lay at the heart of all this activity was the magnificent 18th century Magnanerie, which became the first working studio and theatre.
The dream, the vision of the company, on leaving London, was to have space and time to devote to their musical and theatrical researches on the voice. All seemed to be well for a brief moment and then a terrible car accident killed Roy Hart, his wife and another actress, in May 1975, while they were en route for performances in Spain. The strict discipline and theatre training instilled into the members by Roy Hart, himself, allowed the company to overcome their grief and literally move mountains to achieve their dream. On eight francs a day, per person, for all meals, they nearly starved for it!
Roy Hart was South African by birth and had won a scholarship to RADA in the ‘40s. While studying in London, he met Alfred Wolfsohn, a German-Jewish singing teacher, who had fled Berlin. As a result of this chance meeting and several years of work with Wolfsohn, Roy Hart was inspired to rework his own concepts of theatre and the voice. Gifted with a very good voice of his own, Roy Hart had several compositions written for him. As a teacher, he drew a number of students around him and with them, the Roy Hart Theatre was formed.
After the accident, the Theatre continued under a collective leadership and arranged performances and classes in the region of the lower Cévennes, where in those days, there were few events and next to no tourists : a far cry from now-a-days! In the years that followed, Malérargues developed as a performance and workshop centre receiving students from all over the world, as it still does today. The voice work opens the student to his or her own potential, allowing for personal development, as well as, artistic expression. See their website at www.roy-hart-theatre.com
Paul Silber was an actor in the West End of London at the time of meeting Roy Hart. He was the only survivor of the tragic accident and in order to keep Roy Hart’s story alive, he has reregistered old recordings and created an archives website (www.roy-hart.com) He is also currently singing with a Scottish pianist from Alès, Andrew Peggie, and they are proposing to come and sing “Blues and Ballads”, , songs from the thirties on, in people’s homes for small concerts and celebrations. As Paul says “I’ve come back to the songs I’ve loved, all my life, but in a new way. In order to make a song your own, you first have to make your voice your own. That’s what I’ve been up to all these years.” (Information at: email@example.com)
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