I have just finished writing a play 'The Life of Heinrich Von Biber, the Bohemian Baroque Star' inspired by my love of playing his violin music which began while studying at the Royal College of Music. Something about the wildness of the music caught my imagination and I felt I could be free when playing it; it arrested me and took me into another world, to an extent that I had not found with other composers. At that time, in 2004, Biber had a celebratory year, but is still, I believe, relatively unknown today. As his music and character seemed so vivid in my mind and as I love the theatre as much as I love Biber, I thought of joining the two together and making a theatre piece about his life.
I began writing the play in early 2015 and had the chance to do a short course in Theatre Music at the Globe in the autumn of that same year, led by the inspirational director of music, Bill Barclay. This opened up all sorts of doors and questions arose in my mind about the possibility of making a play where the musicians were able to act as well and were no longer a separate entity entirely or where character doubles were needed, one for the actor and one for the musician or singer. I wanted to see if a new genre of ‘musician actor’ could be born alongside the already existing ‘actor musicians’.
I have based the play on the facts which are known and recorded about Biber. As part of the research I am hugely thankful for the inspiration of my partner Romain Malan who took me on a wonderful road trip last Easter, crossing France, Germany, Austria and into Czechoslovakia in search of Biber’s birthplace the village of Straz Pod Ralskem and then on to the Castle of Kromeriz which I had dreamed of visiting since first discovering Biber’s music.
Sheila Burnett photography
Playing in 'All the Angels'
at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Title page of the play
As an actress I have played lead roles such as Bernarda Alba in 'The House of Bernarda Alba' by Lorca, Blanche Dubois in 'A Streetcar Named Desire' by Tennessee Williams, Scout in 'Popcorn' by Ben Elton and Vera Claythorn in 'And then there were None' by Agatha Christie. I attended the Bridge Theatre Training School as a postgraduate and played the roles of 'Salome' by Oscar Wilde and 'Portia' in Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice'. Later I joined the professional acting company at City Lit playing the Princess in 'The Snow Queen' by Ron Nicols.'
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