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  • Cyphers Theatre Company

Actor’s Insight: Howard Horner on Northanger Abbey R&D.

Northanger Work-In-Progress

Northanger on the board at the Proteus Creation Space

Getting to be back in the rehearsal room with Cyphers was something I had been looking forward to for a long time. I first worked with Cyphers last year on The Three Musketeers, but this would be different – then I was stepping into a show that already existed, but here I was getting in on the ground floor, and getting to build the show from scratch.

One of the things I found most enjoyable in this process was seeing a new group of actors introduced to the Cyphers’ style. I was the only ‘veteran’ in the cast who had worked on a Cyphers show before. Back then I was the novice joining an experienced cast. Here, however, the roles were reversed; I was the experienced one, helping to introduce the style to a new group. I found watching the other actors discover the Cyphers’ style and way of working hugely fun.

Chorus Work

From left to right: Helen Raynham, Abigail Morgan, Toby Vaughan, Luke Lampard and Howard Horner.

This all culminated in our work in progress that we shared on Sunday at the Proteus Creation Space in Basingstoke. Cyphers’ shows always come to life in front of an audience – much of the focus and work done in the rehearsal room is on sharing the story, and when you first get the opportunity to perform the show it always adds to the magic. It is also the first real test of the work we have done! So getting to watch the scenes from behind the audience when I was off stage was fantastic, as in only a week the cast had discovered the same playful, accessible style and joy that first drew me to Cyphers, the style that makes watching (and performing!) Cyphers’ shows so enjoyable.

The work in progress was a performance of the first half of the show, when the action takes place in Bath, and so we had focused predominantly on that half of the show. It is in the second half that the ‘gothic’ element really enters, so I’m really excited with working on what is the more unusual, theatrically challenging scenes that occur at the abbey. Something we had begun to explore was the possible use of sound – we had a wonderful workshop with the musical director Kate Smith, in which we played with the atmospheres we could create using our voices, and I think developing this aspect of the show going forward will prove very exciting.

Ball Games at Proteus

The traditional Cyphers ball game warm-up.

Audience Reaction

Our lovely work-in-progress audience discuss our first half.

Howard Horner studied English Literature at UCL, and then trained at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. For Cyphers: The Three Musketeers (Pleasance Theatre, London). Other theatre credits include: By Proxy the Darkling Beast Shines (APT Gallery/Art Licks Weekend) Fingertips (C Venues/In The Attic Productions), Blue Stockings (Bridewell Theatre/Mountview Academy), The Massacre at Paris (The Rose Playhouse/The Dolphin’s Back) and How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found (ZOO Venues/UCLU Runaground).

Howard will be appearing in Northanger Abbey at:

WINCHESTER | Guildhall | 13 October LONDON | Pleasance Theatre | 28-29 November


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