Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Interview: Ellise Chappell, starring in the NYT 2015 West End REP Season

Ellise in Wuthering Heights
Ellise Chappell is currently appearing in the National Youth Theatre’s 2015 West End REP Season at the Ambassadors Theatre.

She is playing Amanda in new play Consensual, Isabella in a new adaptation of Wuthering Heights and Duke in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice which has been especially abridged for schools by Tom Stoppard.

Ellise chats to West End Frame about the excitement surrounding the season, what each piece has been like to take on and why she feels so lucky to be a part of the National Youth Theatre…

What were your first impressions when you looked at the plays and characters you would be taking on as part of NYT’s 2015 West End REP Season?
I was incredibly excited to get started and put everything we’d learnt during our 10 weeks of training into practice. My three characters are all so different, from a high-status and powerful Duke in Merchant of Venice to a 15-year old teacher’s pet schoolgirl in Consensual. I also found that I really liked my parts, which I think is so important! It meant that I couldn’t wait to explore, play and build up three well-rounded characters that on first impressions seemed strong, endearing and funny. 

Each piece is so diverse – they couldn’t be more different! How has the rehearsal process been for you? I imagine it must be thrilling but also a little crazy?
Exactly! To be rehearsing three completely different plays simultaneously has certainly been a challenge but also an incredible and unique experience. I’ve learnt so much, and admire my peers more than ever for their positivity and focus throughout the process. However, what I’ve found most exciting is the opportunity to work with three completely different creative teams. Every director/movement director/music director has their own way of working, and it’s been invaluable to learn how to adapt and focus to each.

Consensual sounds like an incredibly relevant piece. Do you think it’s going to open audiences’ eyes? 
Definitely. Consensual raises so many questions and points that I had never even thought of before. For example, Evan Placey highlights how students see teachers “more hours every day than their own parents”. This is probably just me, but I never actually clocked this! It made me think about the teachers I had at school, and question whether they actually contributed to the person I’ve become today. 

What can people expect from Stephanie Street’s new stage adaptation of Wuthering Heights? 
I completely admire Stephanie Street and, along with Emily Lim’s direction, you should expect a beautiful, poetical piece about the all powerful, other-worldly and eternal nature of love and the soul. 

The Merchant of Venice

What has it been like to take on Tom Stoppard's adaptation of The Merchant of Venice? 
I adore Shakespeare, so it’s been brilliant! We had a number of guests come in during our training to do Shakespeare workshops with us, so it’s been great to put that work into practice. I have also taken on a role that is traditionally played by men, which has been so interesting and exciting to explore. 

Do you think it's important to make Shakespeare’s work accessible for younger audiences?
Absolutely. I think that Shakespeare’s work is timeless; his plays highlight so many issues that are still relevant today. However, I remember when I was about 15, we went to see a Shakespeare production and everyone was very bored up until the lead actor spat all over a woman in the front row! If that production had been more attuned to a younger audience, perhaps we would have picked up on the issues Shakespeare was highlighting. 

The National Youth Theatre’s reputation goes from strength to strength, what is it like to be a part of? What’s the atmosphere like amongst the 2015 West End REP Season company?
How am I even going to be able to put this into words?! I feel so, so incredibly lucky to be a part of NYT. They offer so many amazing opportunities where you not only get to do what you love; you meet incredible people, learn about yourself and make friends for life. REP is only one of these opportunities, and it is brilliant!! I could not put it on a high enough pedestal. I feel like we are one big family, who have learnt and grown together. 

Interview by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Consensual, Wuthering Heights and The Merchant of Venice run in REP at the Ambassadors Theatre until December 2015. Please visit for further information, performance dates and tickets. 

Photo Credit: Helen Maybanks

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