The biggest influence on Californian filmmaker Audrey Rumsby has been a couple of wacky English dancers, Barry and Joan Grantham. So much so that she decided to make a film about this amazing double act.
Audrey began taking private lessons with Barry and Joan in ‘eccentric dancing’ when she was 20 years old, right after graduating from LAMDA. They were a total inspiration to her. They had been together for 70 years – since they were 14 years old – and are still married, performing and teaching. Audrey was a young actor trying to find her niche in the profession, and Barry and Joan busted through all the stereotypes.
Audrey said: “They would say things like: ‘Nothing is wrong as long as it’s what you intend’. They understood how to teach actors, dancers and musicians in a way that completely blew my mind. It was different than anything else I’d ever experienced and felt like a massive door opening.
“They gave me a sense that who I was as an individual and what I uniquely had to offer was far more important than what a casting director might have in mind, and it was those formative lessons with them that eventually led me to where I am now. I’ve stayed true to myself and become very successful, in spite of the difficulties of our profession.”
Audrey’s background is in theatre, having helped her parents set up and run American Youth Shakespeare in San Jose. Since then, she has performed, produced or directed over 75 productions for the stage, three for radio, and two films.
Audrey conceived, produced, directed, and performed in the documentary ‘Barry & Joan’. She also managed the legal and financial side of the project, and anything else that happened behind the scenes! She wanted to tell the story of Barry and Joan and share their teaching with a much larger audience.
She pitched the idea and gained a financier and executive producer, Cathy Bonwick. Audrey said: “I thought it would be a fascinating thing to see how Barry and Joan would impact a small group of young American actors from California, so our first shoot in England was focused on producing and filming a live vaudeville show with this group of young actors, led by Barry and Joan.”
The film’s cast includes Audrey, Barry and Joan, and a group of young American actors Audrey brought to London to train with the couple. Her two sisters Jeanette and Evelyn Rumsby appear in the film as singers and dancers. Also in the film are a plethora of professional and amateur actors, dancers, clowns, musicians and movement specialists from the UK. Most of the English cast knew Barry and Joan before filming, but the Americans had never met them before. Also featured in the film is Commedia expert and consultant Didi Hopkins.
The film was shot in London, on three separate shoots over the course of two years. Audrey wanted to capture different experiences with Barry and Joan, so she planned the shoots around their teaching and performing schedule.
She said: “We hope this film inspires audiences to find and celebrate playfulness in everyday life. The film also educates us on the wacky and wonderful history of comedy and performance, through the eyes of two delightful experts who have seen and experienced it all.”
‘Barry and Joan’ had an exclusive private screening in November at the Sands Film Studio in London, where most of the film was shot, and it will be featured at the North East International Film Festival. The worldwide premiere is planned for January 2022, with a Netflix Europe release in spring 2022.
Featured photo credit Ben Krantz