The NHS and me: Why is This May Hurt A Bit an important play?

“Every audience member will have had an experience with the NHS, whether as a patient or working within the organisation. When we’ve had predominantly NHS workers in the audience it has been, for us, overwhelming at the end. I remember one lady who was in tears, I saw her afterwards in the foyer, and she said ‘You’re talking for us, nobody has spoken for us’.”
- Stephanie Cole, Actress

Out of Joint theatre company (Our Country’s Good, Dreams Of Violence) have embarked on a subject for their most recent production that is close to the heart of our nation: the NHS. But why is theatre an important place to discuss the contentious issues surrounding this organisation? We spoke to the cast of This May Hurt A Bit to find out why they feel this play is important.

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Stephanie Cole
I’ve had a lot of contact with the NHS over the last few years – my husband dying of cancer, my mother of strokes, my brother has schizophrenia; so I’m very much aware that all is not well. I’m also aware that there are wonderful people working in it on the ground and that there are not so wonderful people running it which is happening in many areas of our lives, from the post office to the railways to the NHS.

Plays are there to make you look at things afresh and of course to entertain you but also to make you think and in this case it’s a very entertaining play, a very moving play, it’s very funny but along the way you glean information, a lot of it – rather like burrs on a country walk. At the end of the walk you suddenly find yourself stuck with burrs all over which you didn’t realise you’d acquired as you brushed through the edges.

My character has the last line of the play which is ‘we mustn’t give up Gina, we must fight, there’s still time’ and I think that’s really important.

Natalie Klamar
It’s so rare to be a part of a project that can change the way people think about such an important issue. Sometimes when you watch the news you can feel distanced from what they’re talking about if you’ve not been directly affected by it, but by creating characters that the audience can identify with and warm to; the subject matter can hit home in a way that facts and figures sometimes can’t.

Jane Wymark
What worries me is sleepwalking into losing the NHS because we’ve had it all our lives. So we take it for granted and we don’t know what it would be like without it and we’re brainwashed into thinking it’d all be marvellous and it wouldn’t.

As it stands, the NHS is still the best in the world for acute medicine. Where the system tends to fall down is chronic illness, when things go on and on. I agree with the message of the play it’s just so frightening about private finance initiatives and being stuck into this debt. I’m so shocked to see it happening here.

People forget the enormous numbers of people who have very good treatment on the NHS every day, that aren’t dying in Mid Staffs and aren’t complaining about their GPs. There is a hell of a lot of extremely good care and that just sort of fades out.

Brian Protheroe and William Hope
I was 4 years old when the NHS came into being. It has benefitted me for the whole of my life and to find that private organisations are gradually being allowed to profit from this public service is both personally bewildering and distressing.

William Hope
As far as I know it’s the first theatrical production that has addressed the Health and Social Care Act, which is so complex and detailed. We’re slowly learning more but the principal fact is that it’s laying the ground to privatise as many components of the NHS as possible. I’m not sure that people are aware of the extent of it and probably this play will provoke a huge number of questions and shine a light on some of the murkier areas that the media should be picking up, on as well as members of the public.

Frances Ashman
Everybody knows that the NHS has been going through some really difficult times but somehow it goes over our heads because when we’re ill, as long as we’re treated, we’re “alright Jack”. I think this play’s important because nobody’s talking about it. There is nobody in this country not affected by what is happening to the NHS. All you need to know is you’ve been lied to. It affects all of us and I think we all have a responsibility to try and get together and stand against the people that are trying to take an institution that we’ve had for 65 years.

Tristram Wymark
The play is important to me because my sister (fellow cast-member Jane) and I have spent the last 7 years very involved with my mother’s health care. We’ve experienced the National Health close up and they have been wonderful, virtually every stage. Of course everyone has some bad experiences but those are outweighed by the amazing things these people do. I’m constantly heartened and overjoyed to see how much people in the health system care because it’s certainly not the money that keeps them going. The piece is important because there is a brilliant message in there that we need to get out there.

Hywel Morgan
Aneurin Bevan? Architect of the NHS and my political hero?! I’ll bite your arm off.’ That was what I told my agent before I’d even read Stella Feehilly’s script for This May Hurt A Bit. Despite having died twelve years before I was born, coming from South Wales, Nye Bevan is a massive figure. Robert Thomas’ life size bronze at the end of Queen Street in Cardiff appeared during my teenage years and his legacy was emblazoned across the plinth: Aneurin Bevan 1897-1960: Founder of the NHS.

The truth is if we lose the NHS we lose the greatest thing this country has ever created. Most of us won’t realise how important it is until it’s gone

This My Hurt A Bit is in our Theatre 29 Apr-3 May. Tickets and information here.
Photography by John Haynes
Content provided by Out of Joint, original online publication can be found here. Join the Out of Joint mailing list here.

Crafting The Tinderbox with Luyanda Ngodlwana

Bristol Old Vic Young Company projects have always involved a rich mixture of talent and inspiration from the cast members to the creative team. One recent addition to this melting pot is the creativity from Luyanda Ngodwana of Handspring Puppet Company (War Horse, A Midsummer Night’s Dream). In February Luyanda was resident here at Bristol Old Vic and worked with The Tinderbox company to create puppets for the production. Before he escaped back to South Africa he told us some highlights from his time here.

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I started as an apprentice puppet builder at Handspring Puppet Company. The first project I worked on was the build for the life sized giraffe puppet for Franco Dragone’s The House of Dancing Water in 2009. After this I worked on puppets for War Horse, the first of these were for the New York and Toronto productions. Under the direction of Thys Stander I sculpted the heads of the horses by stripping the centres out of pieces of cane and manipulating them into place. I have absolutely loved working with Handspring and I would like to say thank you to Adrian Kholer and Basil Jones who have taught me so much. Adrian knows how much I feel deep inside by his work, they are both wonderful and I enjoy working for them so thank for your support!

Being at Bristol Old Vic has been so amazing from day one when I arrived here and Alan Wright came to collect me from the airport. Even though I can’t find suitable words I would like to say thank you for this opportunity and welcoming me to Bristol, it’s been beautiful and wonderful and I appreciate it.

The first day I arrived at Old Vic theatre Lucy Hunt introduced me to the Old Vic staff, I met lots of people and all of the Young Company. I enjoyed watching rehearsals and seeing different projects like Minotaur, Jane Eyre and The Tinderbox. To watch three projects in one building theatre – that’s one of the things that makes me excited. It makes me feel proud to have worked with Bristol Old Vic and I feel like there are a lot of potential opportunities for young artists in Bristol.

The Tinderbox is a fascinating story. I always love the stories that involve animals like the dogs that we see in The Tinderbox; they play an interesting role. During my stay I created the three dog heads for the production and sculpted and painted them. These animals are cleaver and crafty and controlled by evil magic, I wanted to create puppets that showed this and reflected the darkness in their characters.

Most of the characters in this story seem to be interested in money – when the soldier loses his wealth he loses his friends. That’s what happens when the days are dark. There is even a shoemaker who raced off to give The Tinderbox to the soldier because he wanted the money (four shillings!). Greed is a main theme throughout the story; greed for money or possessions or greed for love. The magical Tinderbox is a key symbol of this greed in the story.

There are lots of things that I have learnt from the experience and I will take with me back to South Africa. The way Bristol Old Vic operates and runs as a theatre is inspiring. The different sessions the theatre offers are fantastic. The Old Vic involves so many different groups of people through projects like Young Company and Adult Company, everybody learns so much from these shared experiences. Each and every play I have watched at Bristol Old Vic has inspired me and it makes me feel strong and positive.

To the leaders of the young company I solute you: Lisa, Lucy and Sian you are amazing and I am proud of you. I’m inspired by the work that you do for the Bristol theatre. There are a lot of expressions describing how I feel about being in the theatre. Well done people of Bristol, keep on going and let the sky be the limit!

The Tinderbox is showing at Bristol Old Vic Studio from 23-26 Apr. Tickets and information here.
Photography by Catherine Vaughton and Patrick Graham

Minotaur: a note from writer Adam Peck

It’s less than a week until Minotaur returns from its voyage around schools in Bridgewater back to our Studio for a week of performances in our Theatre. Before we encounter the Minotaur first hand we thought we’d better gather a few tips and insights into what we can expect from this ferocious beast. We spoke to writer Adam Peck to hear how he has created this latest adaptation of the ancient myth.

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What do you love most about writing for theatre?

Its immediacy. When I’m writing I imagine how my words will be spoken, what the actor will look like whilst they’re saying them, how the stage space will be configured and lit etc. I see the play in my head as I write and I find that very rewarding. Just as we play as children – making imaginary worlds – I write plays and do the same kind of thing.

What has been the most memorable moment of your career?

There are a few, and I remember them for different reasons: stepping onto the Quarry stage at the West Yorkshire Playhouse aged 15 (my first proper acting job); having my play, Bonnie & Clyde, published by Oberon Books; Cinderella: A Fairytale being nominated for an Olivier Award. I think I’m always seeking recognition!

How did you first approach Minotaur? What made you want to adapt the famous legend?

In my head it seemed to fit with the whole idea of taking a play into schools in Somerset. Lots of the children who would see the show there were highly likely to have never seen a piece of professional theatre before, and are also statistically likely to never live anywhere other than their hometowns during their lifetimes. I decided to use a story that I felt could exemplify the excitement of theatre, and also explore the themes of leaving home and finding your independence.

Minotaur is quite interactive with its audiences, is this something you thought about while you were writing the script?

Definitely. As I said I wanted this piece of theatre to be exciting, and keeping the audience guessing what might happen next was part of that. There is no defined acting area, and the audience are always in and amongst the action of the play. Sometimes the audience are cast as Athenian children, other times they are sitting in the heart of the labyrinth. Things often happen in plays at a distance; this time I wanted the audience to feel included, if not immersed.

You’ve written for younger audiences and worked with youth theatre before, how do your experiences on Minotaur compare?

Most of my work is devised and made in collaboration with other artists: my role is usually to contribute ideas, to write down what is improvised and then to edit and refine the script. Minotaur is the first play I’ve written from scratch in two years. I love collaborating and making work in the way I’ve described above but in writing Minotaur I had complete control over the direction the story took and that felt very freeing. I spoke often to the director, Toby Hulse, and he was a great help in formulating the play. We also had readings and workshops where actors would share their thoughts and responses to acting out the play, and that informed how and what I wrote. Ultimately though, the play is my vision of the world of the Minotaur.

What has been the most enjoyable part about working on this project?

Working out why and how the story of Theseus and the Minotaur speaks to us today. I felt sure when I settled on this story that it was right for this project and seeing the young audiences responses I think I was right. That feels very rewarding. The fact that audiences enjoy the play is the most enjoyable thing for me.

What’s next in the pipeline? What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently writing a script to accompany Coppelia for English National Ballet, helping two playwrights complete their own scripts, preparing myself to write the sequel to Minotaur, and this Summer will start work on 101 Dalmatians – this year’s Christmas show for Travelling Light and Tobacco Factory Theatres.

 

Minotaur is showing in our Studio from 1-9 April. Tickets and information can be found here.

Gloriator: bravery, honour, and costumes made out of cardboard

Adapting films to the theatre stage is always a daunting feat whatever the subject or the context. Adapting a blockbuster hit like Gladiator is a challenge beyond reckoning. However, this is exactly what French actress Gloria Delaneuf and her UK tour manager Josephine Cunningham have undertaken in their creation of Gloriator. The production values might not be quite in the same league as Ridley Scott’s cinematic epic…but their comedy fueled partnership is epic nonetheless! We talked to Pauline Morel (Gloria Delaneuf) and Susie Donkin (Josephine Cunningham) of Spitz & Co. about their journey to the stage.

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Can you tell us a bit about Gloriator and your journey from the idea to the stage?

PAULINE MOREL: Gloriator is a about a pretentious French actress Gloria Delaneuf who decides to stage her own version of Ridley Scott’s film Gladiator with the help of her over-enthusiastic British Tour Manager – Josephine Cunningham.

SUSIE DONKIN: Pauline and I had never worked together before; a lot of the journey from the idea to the stage has been about getting to know each other.  We’re both very different – Pauline is incredibly organised and I am chaotic – and there have been ups and downs as with any partnership – but the show would never have got to the stage without the brilliant Aitor Basauri who spent a week working with us, Angus Barr who has been a fantastic, and very patient, director, and designer Sue Condie who has been so inventive with cardboard!

From a practical point of view we couldn’t have done it (or certainly it would have taken a LOT longer!) without funding from Theatre Gloucestershire and Parabola Arts, Bristol Old Vic Ferment, and the Arts Council England, as well as invaluable support from Tobacco Factory Theatres, Stroud Subscription Rooms, and help from incredibly talented and generous friends.

How, when and why did you decide to tackle this story?

SD: Having met at a Spymonkey workshop in London in 2012, Pauline bravely came to stay at Pool Cottage in Stroud to see if we could work together.  After three days of improvising in my sitting room, we realised we needed a place to start.  There was something immediately ridiculous about two woman trying to stage Gladiator, so it seemed as good a place as any…plus we both liked the idea of wearing armour!

PM: As two women, the idea of messing around with a film starring a male stereotype with big muscles had potential. I thought Susie would look really funny in an armour, or running around. Susie just thought I was very French!

What do you love most about creating theatre?

SD: Creating something out of nothing, and working collaboratively with hugely talented and inspiring people.

PM: I’m fascinated by what’s funny or not funny. Why some people laugh at something and others won’t. What I love about creating theatre is that however “good” your original idea was, embracing the unexpected is fundamental because it will give the best moments of your show. It’s a form of not knowing what’s next, and not knowing what’s next is being fully alive.

What has been the most memorable moment of creating Gloriator?

SD: We did our first showing of Gloriator – a ten minute excerpt at the beautiful Parabola Arts Centre in Cheltenham. It was the first time we had ever performed together and we had no idea whether people would laugh – it was terrifying! But the audience loved it and it was a wonderful feeling to know that all those hours of improvisation at Pool Cottage hadn’t been in vain!

What part of the show has been the biggest challenge to direct/devise?

PM: The last 20 mins of the show have been the hardest.
SD: The ending, definitely! Ideally we would have had Gloria coming down on a wire, pyrotechnics, spurting columns, and an enormous disco ball …but our budget didn’t quite cover it!

What’s next in the pipeline? What are Spitz & Co. working on at the moment?

SD: We would like to tackle The Bourne Identity; both of us have a huge crush on Matt Damon.
PM: We want to tour Gloriator in the UK, go to Edinburgh in 2015, and hopefully abroad. Our adaptations Ben-Hur, Braveheart, and the Last Samurai are already finished!!

Spitz & Co. are performing Gloriator in our Studio from 25-27 Mar. For more information please visit the Bristol Old Vic website.

Peter and the Wolf…and me, Nick Young

When you think of the folk tale Peter And The Wolf many think of the Prokofiev’s symphony for children, the famous haunting oboe melody, the various animations, films and illustrated stories that have grown from its birth in the cold winters of Russia. Nick Young thinks of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe and Michael Jackson’s Thriller: his childhood growing up in the dusty heat of Africa. We joined him to find out how this famous musical work and his memories of his childhood have formed the bedrock to his new play Peter And The Wolf (And Me).

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Can you tell us a bit about Peter and the Wolf (and me) and your journey from the idea to the stage?

As a child in Zimbabwe I was obsessed with our family vinyl of the story, narrated by Peter Ustinov. A couple of years ago I decided I wanted to tackle the story but not head on and after a couple of false starts that led nowhere I sat down and wrote “When I was seven I owned a record…” So now it is a story of my life, the 80s, Africa and family – told through the story of Peter and The Wolf. I have been working on it in spurts in between other projects over the past couple of years. I spent some time at Au Brana in France writing and developing the story, which has led to collaboration with them on the current production. Then the lovely Ms Emma Bettridge (Ferment Producer) invited me to develop it through Ferment and here we are.

How, when and why did you decide to tackle this story?

The question of what happened to Peter after the story, the effects of his actions, had been floating around my head for a while. Initially I tried to tackle a sequel to the folk tale but wasn’t having much joy. Then I tried a few minutes of what the show has become now (using the folk tale as a backdrop to my childhood in Africa) as a prototype and it felt right, so that’s what I continued with. I’m still interested in exploring the sequel idea though.

What do you love most about creating theatre?

Mostly it’s the sheer amount of energy present. That and the balls out fun I have, even when things are not going as planned (perhaps more so in fact). James Michener said: “The Master…simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.” It’s something I aspire to.

What has been the most memorable moment of creating Peter and the Wolf (and me)?

Working with a brand new team. I have never worked with my current director (Kate Hannah Perry) or musician (Omer Makessa) on a show before, so it was a bit of a leap into the unknown but it’s working fantastically well. So I guess the single moment would be the first day of rehearsals when I realised this might just work. In the words of Hannibal, boss of the A-Team: “I love it when a plan comes together.”

What part of the show has been the biggest challenge to direct/devise?

As writer, performer and former self-director during last year’s Ferment, the biggest challenge has been bringing in a new director and then not telling her what the show should be.

What’s next in the pipeline? What are you working on at the moment?

Theatre-wise I’m working towards a show with local new writer Alice Nicholas, which I will direct in the summer. It came from Roughhouse Theatre’s 24-hour play project we were part of last year and is a nicely provocative juicy story. I am also in the very early stages of developing an idea for a show based on the true story of a man called John Tarrant aka, The Ghost Runner, but that’s very early days. There are also discussions about revisiting our take on the Odyssey that we did in The Ithaca Axis last year. Again, watch this space. I’m also training for a couple of marathons later in the year but that’s a whole different story. Unless you wanna race…?

Nick Young is performing in Peter And The Wolf (And Me) in our Studio from 28-29 Mar. For more information please visit the Bristol Old Vic website.

Phil Porter and the words behind Blink

From hit Edinburgh Fringe Festival shows to an evil, screaming and beach ball brandishing Stromboli in Pinocchio Phil Porter has grappled with the art of theatre writing through many avenues. With his latest production Blink the award-winning writer has created a charming, delicate and darkly funny story and a world where the lives of two shy individuals collide. We managed to catch Phil Porter and quiz him on how Blink made its journey to the stage and what we can expect from this highly anticipated production.

 

What do you love most about writing for theatre?
It’s hard to pick just one thing, but I think I love the theatre itself more than I love the act of writing. Working with actors and directors and designers, going into rehearsals, solving problems – I love all that stuff. And I love the adrenalin rush of putting a play in front of people for the first time. I don’t think anyone would call me a ‘luvvie’ but I do find the whole idea of the theatre very romantic. No matter how many times you’ve done it, putting a new play in front of an audience is always a thrilling, scary, humiliating, delightful experience. It’s addictive.

What has been the most memorable moment of your career?
The first night of Blink at The Traverse in Edinburgh in 2012 was pretty memorable – the feeling of relief that the audience were responding so warmly to it. And the same thing with a play called The Cracks In My Skin that was produced in The Studio at Manchester Royal Exchange. But probably my most memorable moment happened at the Royal Opera House in 2005. I wrote the libretto for their children’s Christmas show – an opera/ballet version of Pinocchio. There was a moment in the second half when a load of beach balls flew out into the audience and the evil puppet master Stromboli came to the front of the stage to demand that the audience threw them back. On Press Night one member of the audience wouldn’t return the ball and Stromboli ran out of scripted lines and began to improvise. Misjudging the occasion somewhat, the performer came out with something spectacularly filthy. Luckily, the critics chose to pretend it never happened.

Can you tell us a bit about Blink and your journey from your idea to the stage?
Blink was commissioned by the Soho Theatre in 2011 while I was part of a group of six writers called The Soho Six. The idea was that we would come into the theatre every couple of weeks, chat about our work, maybe listen to a guest speaker, and at the end of it we would write a play for the theatre. I had the idea fairly early on in the process, and I felt it was write for the Soho. I wrote a first draft quite quickly and there was a rehearsed reading at the theatre. Then I wrote a more detailed second draft. The team at The Soho seemed really keen to do it. Joe Murphy came on board as a director and it became a co-production with his company nabokov and we opened in Edinburgh in 2012.

After having such a great run at the Edinburgh Festival how does it feel to have Blink touring around the country?
It’s great. I only wish I had more time to follow it round to all the great theatres it’s playing at. It’s especially good because it means my friends that don’t live in London or Edinburgh no longer have an excuse not to see it! I grew up in Worcester, so my friends from home are spoilt for choice – they can see it in Birmingham or in Bristol.

Has Blink changed at all since last summer? Is there anything different?
The script has changed a little bit since it first opened in 2012. After the first run I felt I could improve on the storytelling in one or two places. But the changes are quite subtle – a couple of new lines and a few tweaks and cuts. I’m always very impressed if anyone spots the difference. Probably the biggest change is that we have a new cast for this UK tour. New actors will always bring their own humour and energy to a piece, and that’s really fun to watch.

What’s next in the pipeline? What are you working on at the moment?
Things are pretty busy at the moment. I’m writing a play for the RSC called The Christmas Truce which will be on in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon this Christmas. I’m also working on a new play for Plymouth Theatre Royal about cycling, heroes and performance enhancing drugs. I’m adapting Blink for the radio – we’re recording in a few weeks and it’s going out later in the year. My new adaptation of Tove Jansson’s Moominsummer Madness is on at Northampton Theatre Royal and Polka Theatre this Christmas. And my opera for children, Skitterbang Island, is coming back this summer too. Should be a fun year!

You can catch Blink in Bristol Old Vic Studio from 25 Feb-1 Mar. Tickets and information here.
Photography from Sheila Burnett.

The Music of Jane Eyre

Its just over one week until the previews for Jane Eyre begin and the cast and creative team are moving from the rehearsal room to the theatre stage to apply the final touches to this epic two part tale. Benji Bower, long term collaborator with director Sally Cookson, founding member of Unforscene and Bower Brothers and genuine all-round musical powerhouse has created the sound world to this adaptation of Brontë’s classic story. We caught up with him to find out what musical delights are being conjured.

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What has it been like working on the music for Jane Eyre?
The process started about a year ago when Sally came to me with the idea of Jane Eyre and I began putting some musical ideas together. That’s kind of how Sally and I work; she feeds off a piece of music when she’s still putting together her ideas.

How did you get involved with the production?
I’ve worked with Sally before; it feels as though she’s the only person I work with! She’s pretty much my main employer, which is great. By now she knows where I’m coming from and how to understand what I’m talking about when I talk about music. So I write a lot of stuff and play ideas to her so I can try and create the world that I’m thinking of.

What can the audience expect from the music in the show? What will it be like?
Darkness, deep; emotional; beautiful singing…with lovely twinkles.

Unlike Peter Pan and Treasure Island this is the first piece of Sally’s that is dark almost throughout – there isn’t much space for the music to lift the deep emotion which is created.  That’s where the idea to use sourced tracks came from, to lift the mood.

How have you found the process of devising the music alongside the show?
This is normally how Sally works, by devising the show and the music at the same time. Sometimes I’m a bit more prepared and create things before and sometimes I’m left to devise things with the company. Often with theatre the music is composed after the company has devised the play – so I’m always catching up.

Ultimately when we get into the theatre that’s when it really comes alive. There are areas of the music that are left with an element of freedom that the musicians and the cast can feel in the moment. It’s difficult to feel and understand this completely in the rehearsal room but when you’re in performance mode and you’re on stage you can really make it work.

I really love this way of working, I love writing and I love it when it works.

What are you inspirations and influences for the music of the show?
I have loads! We’re taking influence from old English folk tunes and then mixing that with more classical influences from that time such as Edward Elgar. (But we’re careful not to use too much of that. It all gets a bit stuffy if you use it too much.)

Instead of using lots of classical music, like you might find in a TV period drama, we’re tried to create a set of music influenced by acoustic and folk music and we’ve managed to create something different. It’s been all about trying to finding the world of Jane Eyre.

So you’re also working with Phil King who is well known on the Bristol folk scene.
Yes and he’s a good friend and we’ve worked together before on the commercial stuff we’ve done. He’s got a great voice and he’s an excellent addition to the folky elements of the music.

Another way we’ve tried to take the music out of the ‘period drama’ style is by using a lot of sound design. I really love Brian Eno and ambient artists like Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Cinematic Orchestra so I’ve created music from these influences using drones and surround sound. A lot of Jane Eyre is quite dark and there’s a ghostly, eerie theme going throughout it I wanted to try and create this in sound design.

Is the music of Jane Eyre entirely original?
Well we’re throwing a few curve balls and using popular music in some scenes. We’ve created a version of Mad About the Boy by Noel Coward and a cut down version of Crazy by Gnarls Barkley which I created with the Jazz singer Alice Russell. As a tribute to Bernard Herman, who’s another great influence of mine and who composed the original score for the film Jane Eyre, we’re stealing a bit of his music! But where we are using popular music it’s in a way that is completely relevant to the characters or to the story.

What have you found the most challenging?
Doing a four-hour show! Doing two shows is such a huge task. Because we’ve been creating the script as we go that has taken the majority of the time so when we get to insert the music it’s going to be a really fantastic moment.

As a musician it’s all about marrying the music to the piece. It’s a great feeling when an idea I’ve written a year ago suddenly comes together and it all works.

What are you most excited about when the show opens?
The performance definitely and getting a hold on it. We’re going to be live, centre stage with a grand piano and all our instruments. We’ll be in amongst the acting. When everything starts coming together it gives you an excitement to get out there and perform it. You can see the story and see how the music fits into the show.

Jane Erye opens on 10 Feb 2014, information and tickets here.
Photography by Simon Annand – Jane Eyre rehearsals (2014) Mark Douet – Peter Pan rehearsals (2012) and The Boy Who Cried Wolf! (2013)

 

Laura Dannequin talks about her Ferment show Hardy Animal

Performer and choreographer Laura Dannequin returns to Ferment Fortnight with a solo piece that discusses chronic pain and human resilience. We caught up with her to find out a bit more of what we have in store.


What is the show about?
It’s about chronic pain, dance, and human resilience

Describe the show in three words.
Raw, simple, tender

How, when and why did the company make the decision to tackle this story?
I decided to make Hardy Animal to help make meaning of my experience of chronic pain, and to find a way to keep engaging with my dance practice, albeit from a different body / perspective.  I was lucky to be offered a week-long residency by Ferment last year during which I began looking into this. Coming across David Rakoff’s The Invisible Made Visible convinced me that I wanted to create something out of my experience.

How did you approach the events in the rehearsal room?
I started with the various bits of texts I had accumulated and things started to unfold from there.

What does the story of Hardy Animal mean to you?
Hardy animal is about my own (his)story – I hope it talks about the human experience in a wider sense

What has been your favourite part of this process?
I’ve enjoyed the writing process – which is a fairly new thing for me.

What’s next for you and the company?
I’m learning how to make pots, and working as a choreographer on other people’s projects, currently on the Mechanical Animal Corporation’s Death and the Ploughman (to open at Arnos Vale Cemetery on 20th March); and assisting Dan Canham to remount Ours Was The Fen Country for an upcoming tour and with the beginnings of Running a Horses.

You can catch Hardy Animal this Thursday 30 Jan at 6.30pm as part of Ferment Fortnight.
Photography by Paul Blakemore

Clerke and Joy: theatre, storytelling and Mumbai

On 3rd December 2013 theatre duo Clerke and Joy traveled to Mumbai, India for twenty days of leading workshops, attending performances and doing research for a new project. The Stillness Of The Storm That Never Came At All is the create product of this journey to a country famed as much for its vastness and beauty as it is for its vibrancy and bustle. We caught up with Rachael Clerke and Josephine Joy to find out more about their adventure.

What is the show about?
At the moment it’s about India, specifically Mumbai, and about arriving in a new city. The eventual full version of the show will be about more, and about more cities. We want it to happen in three cities from different parts of the world. We’re not sure we’re going to be able to convince enough people that we need to travel the world on artist residencies though…

How, when and why did the company make the decision to tackle this story?
We have just got back from running workshops supported by the British Council at a theatre festival for under 25′s called Thespo in Mumbai. During our stay we also ran a residency to start creating a show which we will premiere at the festival this year in December. When we were out there we saw some fantastic work and met great people who talked to us about the way this city is changing. We met with women’s rights groups and a famous playwright there called Ramu Ramanthan (it was like having a conversation with google) who told us that there is an Indian language which is dying out with 107 words for tea; tea in the morning, tea with breakfast, tea when you’ve fallen in love, tea when the sunshine reflects directly in the cup. So we’re looking at stories that are passed down, changing times and old and new and eventually will be based across three different cities.

It’s not really a story as of yet though.

What part of the show has been the biggest challenge to direct/devise?
We’re essentially writing some big old monologues. We don’t really do that.
We also eventually want to make a Rube Goldberg machine on stage. We don’t know how to do that either.

What’s next for you and the company?
Next week we’ll be in Falmouth performing our lecture Tips For The Real World which is aimed at graduating arts students, then we are off on a (very spread out) tour of Volcano. Then of course working on this show for the premiere in December. We’re also in conversations with an Indian theatre company about their show Kabadi: Uncut which we’re trying to book for a British tour next year – it’s going to be a big project but it’s a great show with a wonderful cast and it’s in Marathi, so we’re prepared for a challenge!

You can catch The Stillness Of The Storm That Never Came At All in Ferment Fortnight Fri 24 Jan, 8.15pm. You can also see more about Clerke and Joy’s adventures to Mumbai on their blog…it’s much prettier than ours.
Photography by Paul Blakemore and Clerke and Joy

Anna Freeman on Hunting Pigs in Ferment Fortnight 2014

To conclude this January’s Ferment Fortnight Anna Freeman and Chris Redmond collaborate to bring us a comedy jam packed full of musical whit. We caught up with Anna to find out exactly why everyone needs music when Hunting Pigs.

What is the show about?

It’s a comedy about music, and the way music affects us all. It’s also about who we want to be vs who we are, and coming to terms with our own limitations.

Describe the show in three words.

Very, very silly

How, when and why did the company make the decision to tackle this story?

After Anna came and did Tongue Fu for the first time about 18 months ago, we decided to write something together.  We developed creative crushes on each other’s brains, probably because we’re so different; one of us grew up surrounded by music, the other without. We’ve looked at the music, we’ve loved throughout our lives, where it has helped us or tripped us up. As you should with all pain and awkwardness, we’ve shamelessly exploited it for comedy. We’ve thought about making it accessible and fun for everyone – you don’t need to know anything about music to enjoy the Pig.

How did you approach the events in the rehearsal room?

We kind of sidled up to them at first.  They were a bit stand-off-ish at first but after a few drinks, they soon came around.

What does the story of Hunting Pigs mean to you?

There’s a moment in any good gig when the drummer is allowed to let loose on the kit.  We call that moment ‘letting the pig out’ and if it’s good…it can lift everyone in that room, put a bit of fire in their bellies.  We’re hunting those moments in all areas of life.

What part of the show has been the biggest challenge to direct/devise?

Well, the dance routine was a challenge…

What has been your favourite part of this process?

The breaks have been fabulous.  Bristol Old Vic cafe does some of the best flapjacks this side of Stokes Croft. Aside from that, working with the band is always ridiculously exciting.

Tell us about the music of Hunting Pigs.

Oh, but that would be telling too much..Suffice it to say that the musicians are very clever boys. Their other projects include Nostalgia 77, The Puppini Sisters and Jamie Cullum.  And they have lovely faces.

What’s next for you and the company?

Immediately next is pizza and cheap beer in the park. After that, I don’t know… what’s on telly? We’re also planning a tour in the Autumn, as a double header of Hunting Pigs and Tongue Fu. Hunting Pigs is the first show to be written and devised by the Tongue Fu crew.  We hope it will be the first of many of cross art form collaborations – Tongue Fu works with spoken word artists, comedians, designers and story-tellers. We’ll be looking to see what other kinds of pig we can find.

You can catch the final installment of our Ferment Fortnight, Hunting Pigs, with Anna Freeman and Chris Redmond on Fri 31 Jan, 9.30pm at Bristol Old Vic. Photography by Bohdan Piasecki