Ferment Fortnight Preview | TigerFace

Ferment Fortnight kicks off its biannual explosion of work-in-progress and scratch performances from 24 Jan. Here, Justin Cliffe gives us a sneak peek at his production TigerFace. Catch it on our stage, Wed 24 Jan. 

TigerFace Promo WO words TEXT.jpg

Tell us a bit about yourself…
I’m a South Wales based Theatre Maker involved in the devising, writing and performance phases of theatre and live art; making work as an individual, a co-collaborator and as part of Tin Shed Theatre Co.

When creating stuff I tend to lean towards unhinged, unkempt acts of joy and revelry that explore the small pockets of madness in our reality. I often end up making work that is both autobiographical and fictional, or hypothetical and actual or important and pointless. I make live work because I like not knowing exactly what is about to happen, so there’s a lot of that energy too.

What are you presenting at Ferment Fortnight?
I’m presenting a piece of work called TigerFace, which is really the name of the central character, but it’s also an idea, but is also really just me. Part kids TV show, part quarter-life-crisis-screaming-at-your-own-reflection-upon-waking-up-dripping-with-milk-in-the-middle-of-your-kitchen-naked-wondering-what-just-happened-in-the-fleeting-moment-between-being-9-and-30, I want to explore expectation vs reality, adulthood vs childhood, because when I grew up I didn’t think I’d be a man dressed up as a tiger dancing on a stage.

What inspired/influenced your piece?
An actual job I did where I had to dress up as a tiger and have my photograph taken with children. The photographer caught a picture of me on my break and it’s both hilarious and heart breaking, it captures this gut-wrenching gulf between happy tiger and miserable adult. The show is about that moment.

Now I’ve taken the idea into performance, it’s become more clown like in a way. Snatching inspiration from many places; from Andy Kaufman, to the kids TV I grew up on. It’s been a bit like putting vaudeville in a blender with Get Your Own Back.

What does the work that Ferment do mean to you?
I’ve been an artist and worked under the umbrella of Ferment three times now on various projects, but this is the first time I’m developing solo work. For me it is the opportunity to flex a more fully formed idea. TigerFace has existed almost exclusively in backroom bars, as part of cabaret, or scratch nights. Ferment offers me this amazing opportunity to develop something chunkier and more meaningful, with the support of the Bristol Old Vic and the team behind Ferment.

I’m lucky enough to be receiving a sort term residency from The Riverfront in Newport too, and matching opportunities like this with the performance platform of Ferment is an amazing opportunity for an artist like me.

What would you say the audience can expect in three words?
Optimistic joyful nihilism. Or Haha. Umm. Oh…

Ferment Fortnight takes place at Bristol Old Vic 24-25 Jan before moving across the city to Watershed and Loco Klu from 26 Jan-3 Feb.  For more info and to book tickets, click here.


Punk Rock | Five minutes with the Assistant Director

Ahead of their scripted production Punk Rock, we caught up with Claire Crawford, Bristol Old Vic Young Company Assistant Director, to find out just how the show is shaping up ahead of its debut tonight at Colston Hall


Claire Crawford, Assistant Director

Tell us about Punk Rock…
Punk Rock, in essence, is a pressure cooker of a show… bursting at the seams with teenage angst. Gritty, punchy and compelling, Simon Stephens takes us deep into the heart of a fee-paying Grammar School in Stockport, as seven sixth formers navigate through their final year. Pushing boundaries, traversing first relationships, and bristling through exam stress, Punk Rock grapples with what it means to be a teenager in an ever changing society.

As a nation, our school children are amongst the most strenuously tested in the world – with many pupils facing some form of examination every year from the very moment they start school aged 4, with the majority required to sit SAT exams at 7. This exam factory culture, cultivated over many years, has pushed our students to the edge; with anxiety levels and mental health issues amongst young people ever increasing. A 2017 study published in Teaching Supplement TES indicates that our pupils in the UK are amongst the unhappiest in the world, and more anxious about testing than their counterparts in almost any other country – including South Korea and China.

Punk Rock no title

Why do you think that this story is an important and relevant one to bring to a Bristol audience?
Whilst these statistics are worrying, they are largely unsurprising. Both teachers and students across the UK are playing against constantly shifting goalposts, as the education system creaks to prepare our young people for the world outside of it. Working for Bristol Old Vic’s Engagement department, and directly encountering young people in schools from across the city, and further afield, I see this on a regular basis. I can’t wait for a Bristol audience to experience Punk Rock, as an extremely relevant show, striking a real resonance with our changing times. A common theme amongst our young people, when talking to Bristol Old Vic Young Company members and Outreach participants on various projects, (in particular those aged 16 – 17, where our group of characters lie) is the feeling that they do not have a voice in our current society. With recent politics affecting their lives exponentially, young people in Bristol are becoming more politically aware, but still feel stifled. Punk Rock is a snapshot of school common rooms up and down the country, where the drama of teenage lives play out, and addresses that feeling of being quashed by society.

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How have rehearsals been going? How would you describe the atmosphere in the room?
I’ve felt very lucky to have been a part of this project, and to work with such a talented group of young actors and inspiring creative team. We were very fortunate to have had such a long lead in to the show (with rehearsals starting back in September), which has meant each actor has had the time and space to truly get to grips with their character in depth. Throughout our rehearsal period we have worked through the whole script in minute detail, pouring over each line as a collective, discussing each motivation, each intention and each question raised. Because this show is a bit of a departure from previous Young Company shows in terms of its cast size (seven of our eldest Young Company, one younger member, and an Adult Company actor), we have had the opportunity to create a really tight knit ensemble feeling – and a true sense of a company. There real feeling of support in the room amongst both the actors and the creative team – each team member has a real role to play within the room, which has been a joy to be a part of. As we have moved through intensive rehearsal weeks and on into technical rehearsals, this feeling of support amongst the group has been truly tangible. We are exceptionally proud of the way that this ensemble has come together, and hope that this will be really noticeable in the final piece.

Punk Rock rehearsals 4 B247

What’s your experience with Bristol Old Vic Young Company and the Engagement Department?
Last year I was selected to become a part of Bristol Old Vic’s Made in Bristol programme – a year long development course for emerging theatre artists, which offers the opportunity to train as a collective of 12 and create a company. This was a phenomenal experience, and enabled me to hone my skills as a theatre maker and creative; supported, and mentored by experienced theatre artists and practitioners (and expertly facilitated by Director of Punk Rock, Lisa Gregan). During this year, we founded our company INKBLOC ensemble, and I had my first experience of Directing. Our devised show Lego Beach was performed at 1532 performing arts centre in July and will soon embark on a South West tour in Spring 2018. The support of the Engagement team has been vital to my growth as an artist; Bristol is extremely lucky to have such a far reaching, vibrant, and nurturing department at the heart of the city. Since finishing Made in Bristol I have continued working with the engagement team as an outreach facilitator, as a co-producer for the department, and have continued my exploration as a Director on the Young Directors scheme – in partnership with Cotham School… and of course worked as the Assistant Director on Punk Rock!

Why should audiences buy a ticket for Punk Rock?
We hope that you will be as enticed into the world of Punk Rock as we have been when we first read this play. Simon Stephens’s carefully constructed narrative is gripping, thrilling, captivating and strikingly human. As the story unfolds and unravels, and our pressure cooker reaches boiling point, our characters take us on a journey through the teenage psyche. With emotional peaks and troughs, surprises, twists and turns, this show is not one to miss!

This vital play from acclaimed playwright Simon Stephens asks us all to question how young people today deal with the demands placed upon them, catch Bristol Old Vic Young Company’s new show Punk Rock 10-13 Jan. For more information and to book tickets, click here.

Ferment Fortnight Preview | Reclaimed

Ferment Fortnight kicks off its biannual explosion of work-in-progress and scratch performances from 24 Jan. Here, Wassial Theatre Company member Nick White gives us an inside look at their production Reclaimed. Catch it at Loco Klub on Thu 1 Feb. 

Tell us a bit about yourself…
Wassail Theatre Company unites communities through stories that inspire them by giving people unexpected, surprising and positive experiences of theatre.  Wassail is a charity based in Somerset and exists through a network of associate artists from across the UK interested in bringing new audiences and new ideas together.

Wassail’s Artistic Producer is Nick White who Bristol audiences will remember from four glorious years at Travelling Light!  The show we’re presenting in Ferment has been by directed by Wassail’s Artistic Associate Jesse Briton (Bear Trap, Jones Collective, egg Incubator scholar).

What are you presenting at Ferment Fortnight?
We are presenting our new show (our fifth production so far) ‘Reclaimed’.  This is our first fully devised piece and it’s also the first time we’ve made something inspired by true events.

Reclaimed was originally conceived as a show for touring into village halls but we’re excited to bring it to the Loco Klub, following the enthusiastic advice of Emma Bettridge, enabling us to test it in a non-rural, non-village hall environment.

Reclaimed is an immersive piece, placing the audience in the wellies of the people most impacted by the events.

What inspired/influenced your piece?
In December 2013 it started to rain – the most rain England had seen for over 230 years.  By early January the Somerset Levels were underwater, to an extent that no-one living in the area had ever experienced.   The floods stayed until late February. Several communities had to be evacuated from their villages.  Businesses were ruined.  People feared for their lives.  Some didn’t get back into their houses for 50 weeks.  For many, the lasting effects are still being felt today.

Our Associate Producer Emma Vickery (Motherlode Productions) was personally impacted by the events and she wanted to tell the story of what happened to a wide audience.

We were inspired by the experiences, stories and challenges faced by village residents, Environment Agency staff, the Emergency Services and the incredible actions of a group of volunteers from Khalsa Aid.  We hope to have explored how communities are strengthened or fractured by the unexpected, and what it means to be British in times of crisis.

What does the work that Ferment do mean to you?
Ferment brings the best of the south west together, offering a platform that is a genuine springboard for future development.   Being invited to take part in the Ferment Fortnight is as much of an honour as being asked to engage in any co-production – possibly even more so because you know the conversations that will happen in the bar afterwards will push you on to the next level.

What would you say the audience can expect in three words?
Dredging, Boxing, Samosas

Ferment Fortnight takes place at Bristol Old Vic 24-25 Jan before moving across the city to Watershed and Loco Klu from 26 Jan-3 Feb.  For more info and to book tickets, click here.

Ferment Fortnight Preview | Psychopomp

Ferment Fortnight kicks off its biannual explosion of work-in-progress and scratch performances from 24 Jan. Here, Co-Director Maisie Newman gives us an inside look at Fen’s upcoming production PsychopompCatch it at Bristol Old Vic on Wed 31 Jan. 


Tell us a bit about yourself…
I’m a Bristol- Based director, choreographer and digital artist. My work combines tight ensemble movement with anarchic and visceral choreography focusing on the female voice, body and the physical language of dissent.

I’m a member of Propolis Theatre, an associate director for Twisted Theatre and also currently the Bristol Old Vic’s regional associate artist for Gecko’s ‘The Wedding’ which is on this January. I’m also co-director of Fen, who are presenting Psychopomp. Fen is an emerging interdisciplinary performance company from the South West exploring the crossover between the human and the digital. Co-Driected by myself and poet and composer Rowan Evans.

What are you presenting at Ferment Fortnight?
Psychopomp, a sci-fi feminist epic inspired by Vaporwave + gaming culture. Guided to the gateway to a digital underworld, CRYSTAL must enter a place of ghosts and archival bitrot in a quest to find a cure for the destructive turn her universe has taken. Constructed in sharp, cinematic chapters and entirely sound tracked with a cyberpunk, nostalgic synth score, Psychopomp is the typical heroic sci-fi quest, cut up and redistributed with a female protagonist. The perfor-mance combines art animation, hybrid performance text and movement for an all-female cast.

Drawing on sci-fi, classic video games, the poetry of Sappho and interviews with women working in STEM and female/ LGBTQ+ gamers, Psychopomp dismantles the relationship between women and technology. Written and Directed by Maisie Newman, this is the first performance I’m making which has ties to all aspects of my work, including 3D animation, so it is really exciting to be able to present the first exploration of it to the public for feedback.

What inspired/influenced your piece?
Other than the incredible women in STEM and female gamer’s that I have interviewed for the project so far, I feel like there were different moments of inspiration, I’ve listed a few below:

  • I discovered Vaporwave and had a moment when I was watching/ listening to the music and videos where I felt completely entranced and lost in an unfamiliar world. I remember wanting to bring that feeling to a live audience in a theatre setting.
  • My love for sci-fi films and constant annoyance at female representation.
  • I read this article from a woman who used to work in tech at Uber, it really stuck with me, read the article here.
  • I read this blog post about Microsoft’s recent ad campaign targeted towards women working in STEM and realised my approach to the female STEM issue had been centred around my expectations of women, rather than reprimanding or highlighting male attitudes, read the article here.
  • I Interviewed one LGBTQ+ gamer for the project who talked about a game called ‘Gone Home’. Halfway through the game narrative you realise there is a story about a lesbian relationship. We ended up both discussing the limited representation of LGBTQ+ relationships in gaming and sci-fi. We couldn’t actually think of any others narratives at the time.

What does the work that Ferment do mean to you?
We’re a new company and the support and advice Ferment gave for our initial project WULF was essential to our progression. Ferment works really hard to support artists. A key part of Ferment is giving artists time, resources and platforms to truly experiment with new pieces of work which is so crucial for emerging practitioners and companies.

What would you say the audience can expect in three words?
Cinematic // Badass // A E S T H E T I C

Ferment Fortnight takes place at Bristol Old Vic 24-25 Jan before moving across the city to Watershed and Loco Klu from 26 Jan-3 Feb.  For more info and to book tickets, click here.

Ferment Fortnight Preview | Hollering Woman Creek

Ferment Fortnight kicks off its biannual explosion of work-in-progress and scratch performances from 24 Jan. Here, creator Amy Mason gives us an inside look at her production Hollering Woman Creek. Catch it at Bristol Old Vic on Thu 25 Jan. 

Tell us a bit about yourself…IMG_9791-2 (1) (1)
I’m a theatre maker, novelist and stand-up comic. My work is funny, dark and extremely honest. I’m interested in using personal stories to explore broader issues….in The Islanders this was love and the way we remember things, in Mass it was religion and faith.

What are you presenting at Ferment Fortnight?
My new show is called Hollering Woman Creek. It’s an autobiographical storytelling show with an original live country soundtrack, written and performed by award-winning folk musicians Megan Henwood and Jackie Oates. It’s my first new show since 2015 as I had some time off to have a baby.

What inspired/influenced your piece?
The show is about a trip to Texas I took when I was pregnant. I was researching the death penalty for a new novel. I had just been taken off my mood stabilising medication by my GP (I was being treated for bipolar 2) as she thought it may be bad for the foetus. So I turned up in Texas — this big oppressive state where women’s rights are under attack – and my own mental health began to deteriorate. So it’s this odd, funny, raw story about me on a macabre road trip, as well as a wider discussion of women’s rights and the different ways pregnancy can affect women. Pregnant women are meant to be immediately delighted about pregnancy, and to dismiss their own needs….pre-natal ambivalence and depression is taboo but is actually very common.

What does the work that Ferment do mean to you?
Ferment is where I developed both my previous shows and I owe them everything! It’s such a unique, supportive, scheme and has enabled me to make work that I’m really proud of.

What would you say the audience can expect in three words?
Storytelling, songs, Stetsons!

Ferment Fortnight takes place at Bristol Old Vic 24-25 Jan before moving across the city to Watershed and Loco Klu from 26 Jan-3 Feb.  For more info and to book tickets, click here.