The Slovenia Times

There is but a Step from Murder to Education



BEST Theatre was established in July 2005 by its artistic director, the English actor David Hampshire. He first came to Slovenia because he "followed his heart", but the little country soon got under his skin and he has been living in Ljubljana for 18 months now. Being a creative soul, he realised it is impossible to live on just love and savings, so he started exploring the options of working professionally in Slovenia. As an English actor, he had become thick-skinned and well accustomed to rebuffs, but to his surprise - and great delight - Slovenia had a empty niche on the theatre scene, waiting to be filled by a person just like him. Unlike many other European countries, Slovenia had not previously benefited from the existence of a dedicated English-speaking theatre company. Having forty years of acting experience up his sleeve, a good sense of DIY, a healthy dose of managerial skills and an upbeat attitude to life, David decided to establish the British English-Speaking Theatre of Slovenia (BEST), Slovenia's first and only professional English-speaking theatre company. Because a large percentage of Slovenia's population and theatre actors understand and speak English, one of BEST's principal objectives is to collaborate with the Slovene actors and directors and to provide theatre productions for English-speaking nationals and expatriates. "We are focusing on commercial, accessible theatre: comedies and musical theatre. We also present Murder Mysteries, which is a very English theatre concept. It is not a traditional theatre play, but a staged event with interactive audience participation. Over dinner, the actors mingle with the guests, dropping clues, flirting, giving them word games and information sheets on the characters and revealing information as they act out a murder scenario, which includes things like a fight, throwing something to the floor, angrily rushing out of the room, a person being shot or strangled; dramatic scenes like that. By the end of the evening, at least two of the characters have been murdered, and the guests have to work as detectives to determine in teams who has done what, to whom, and why. Prizes are awarded to the top three teams, making Murder Mysteries highly suitable for corporate team-building. These are very funny and entertaining evenings, lasting up to four hours. I use both Slovenian and English actors, depending if the performance is to be in Slovene or English. "We perform at private and corporate events, and if it's the latter, we can theme the event for, say, a car company. We've done murder mysteries for companies like Nokia, Novo Nordisk, Peugeot, Sanolabor, Ericsson, etc. I write the storyline for each Murder Mystery, so each company gets its own story, which is related to what the company does. We also have some set stories that can be played at any company or private event. Although the story is the same, it's always different for the actors, because the audience is different. What makes it work is the interaction with the guests. "I have a working association with Sava Hoteli Bled, which is where our first Murder Mystery was performed to great success with the well-known Slovenian actress Violeta Tomic and Simon Fisher-Becker, who appeared in the Harry Potter films and is the managing director of UK events company Murder Etc. "The Slovenes are a bit reserved as a nation, but once they get understand the concept, and after a couple of drinks, they love it and we have a lot of fun. My next project is with Violeta, in summer we will act in the drama-comedy "A State of Affairs", which will be for the general English speaking public," explains David Hampshire. Educating the students through plays To assist secondary school students in their study of John Osbourne's "Look Back in Anger", BEST is offering them an abridged (1 hour 45 minutes) adaptation of this classic play performed by professional English actors. Furthermore, it is worth noting that one of the troupe's cast, Gregory Cox (playing the role of Colonel Redford), worked with John Osbourne in the 1960's. BEST's actors are highly experienced in Theatre in Education (TIE), having performed to schools and universities in the UK and the USA. "We wish to help the students improve their spoken English comprehension through accessible English language drama. This play is ideal for us, because it requires five actors and a minimalist set, so we can easily travel around the country. Our tour lasts until 12th April and we will visit 25 secondary schools around Slovenia. We are introducing a new concept to them, because they will be able to see a classic English play performed by professional, highly motivated English actors. "As added value, the performance will be followed by a one-hour interactive drama workshop (if desired), during which the actors will stay in character and the students will be able to ask them more about the personality and the background of the character, so they can put the whole performance in the context. At the same time, the informal conversation with native English speakers will help students improve their confidence in speaking. We give them the programme of the play, which includes the description of the cast, gives a bit of a background to the play and includes a 90-word glossary with words from the play that may be new to them. I didn't know how it will be received, because it's a totally new concept here, but so far, we have received lots of praise and support for it, both from the teachers and the British Council," concludes David optimistically.


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