Elephant in the haunted castle
Leo The Last (2015)
Latymer Mapping Project (2013)
Pedal Power (2010)
This is an arts project exploring the film and theatre history of the Elephant and Castle in South London. It’s a site-specific installation, film and community project. The project is born out of several years research into the creative links between theatre and film, melodrama and horror. It will focus on the Coronet Club, 28 New Kent Road, which is the location for the former theatre and cinema. The Coronet is due to close in early 2017 to make way for a redevelopment of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre.
I want to reconstruct scenes from the archive, specifically revolving around the theatrical and cinematic careers of Marie Henderson and Tod Slaughter. Pathe and BFI archive footage will also be used. I will link these melodramatic traditions to the European and British 1970s exploitation cinema, including the work of Mario Bava and Pete Walker.
Detailed research blogs can be read on my website under the following headings:
The 1970s: smut, slash, awfully good.
Monster mashup at Elephant and Castle.
Marie Henderson: Victorian Actress of Melodrama
I am still mapping out artistic possibilities and maintain an open line regarding the development of this project. It might be art based (showing in a gallery or staged as a live event at the Coronet) or more community focused (a Secret Cinema type event staged at Elefest), or possibly a combination of the two. I value the input and collaboration of other project partners. The resulting art work should connect the historic and cultural conventions of melodrama and horror in a new and exciting way for modern audiences.
I am currently compiling a detailed social history of the Elephant and Castle Theatre (1872-1928) and also the buildings subsequent use as an ABC Cinema (1932-1999) and The Coronet (2003-present day). This will consider how “melodrama” and “horror” was produced by directors and actors and how it was received by primarily working class audiences and more middle class critics. On an academic level, I am working with the Melodrama Research Group at the University of Kent.
I’ve already started work on a series of narrative (storyboard) drawings and a thriller-horror screenplay based on Tod Slaughter’s landmark performance of Maria Marten at the Elephant and Castle Theatre in 1927; this was scheduled to run for one week and was a smash hit running to over 100 performances and bringing West End audiences to the E&C.
Community input to the project could be realised by running a reminiscence workshop or connecting with an older community in the Lambeth and Southwark area; this could tap into the Picture Palace project about lost cinemas of the Kennington and the E&C area. They might share memories of early cinema and theatrical traditions and be invited to recreate performances from horror and melodrama. This could be contrasted with younger and more ethnically diverse audiences. Recent immigrant communities will have a differing perception of theatre and cinema and emotions connected with horror and melodrama. This element of the project could be facilitated by tapping into online communities. Ideally the community element should be incorporated into the art work or presented as related displays.
Theatrical and cinematic performances in melodrama and horror are noted for their extremes of emotion. The characters are often “mad” in a stereotypical way. Marie Henderson in real life suffered from the undiagnosed symptoms of syphilis and died in 1882 as a patient at Bedlam hospital. A potential community arts project could relate the art of melodrama and horror to mental health issues. A local theatre group could be utilised for a performance element of the project. They might explore the acting conventions of melodrama: strong emotions, exaggerated gestures and extreme behaviour.
Potential collaboration might be forged with the following partners: Mind charity, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, SGDP Centre art exhibitions, CoolTans arts.
I also also want to collaborate with film professionals and local actors and non-actors from the community.
This work will build on my previous art projects and films in North Kensington that have used archive material, memory, history and artistic collaborations.
The completed film and project will be screened at the Coronet Club venue and at select gallery and film festivals, both nationally and internationally.