Ferment Fortnight kicks off its biannual explosion of work-in-progress and scratch performances from 26 Jan. Here Fen give us an inside look into the world of WULF. Catch it on the Bristol Old Vic stage Tue 31 Jan.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved with Ferment
Fen is an interdisciplinary collaboration of artists from the South West. Although we formed as a new company last year, several of us have worked with Ferment before on separate projects including Sharp Teeth’s ‘The Fox and the Child’. Ferment has been involved with WULF from the outset of the project, giving us advice and support from the initial funding phase right through to the two weeks of research and development at Trinity Centre and Bristol Old Vic in Nov-Dec 2016. They’ve been a wonderful catalyst in getting the project on its feet, so it’s exciting to be showcasing what we’ve made so far at the festival.
How would you describe your latest show in the Ferment Fortnight?
WULF is the adaption of an eleventh-century Anglo-Saxon poem known as ‘Wulf and Eadwacer’ that combines choreography, bilingual poetry and an original score. The poem is one of only two in the language written from a female perspective – a fragmented, lyric narrative about a woman’s loss in a hostile landscape. Our show follows her story, focusing on her conflicting relationships to the wilderness and to her human community, and on the birth of her child who becomes a feared outcast. It also imaginatively reassembles on stage the flooded landscape of the Somerset Levels, through design, sound and projection.
What do you expect the audience will take away from your piece?
We hope they will come away with a sense of atmosphere and of place, and with a feeling for Anglo-Saxon. It’s an ancient language with a beautiful, earthy texture that people don’t often get the chance to hear. WULF is quite a dark piece and the music aims to be expansive and overwhelming, but there are passages of stillness and space as well. We hope audiences will take something positive from the experience of watching four strong women on stage, too. The cast are normally panting and out of breath by the end of the performance, and we hope the audience will feel like they’ve been taken somewhere with them.
What’s been the biggest challenge/most exciting moment so far?
The audition process for WULF was challenging. We had an incredible shortlist of female performers from all over country and it was an amazing experience to spend a day working with around 25 women. It made us realise how rare and beautiful it was to see a large group of females moving through a space together. It also made narrowing down our selection difficult, but assembling our cast has been really rewarding and it was wonderful to have so much interest in the project. Securing funding from Arts Council England for the R&D period and getting the project into the rehearsal space was wonderful. WULF had been planned and discussed in abstract for a over a year before, so it was a joy to begin the R&D with our cast and creative team who brought so much energy and dedication into the room.
What are you looking forward to most over the Fortnight?
We’re very excited about seeing Jack’s beautiful projection on the main stage, we took several trips to the Somerset Levels to collect field recordings (sound and visual) of the landscape, so it will be really exciting to see in a theatre environment. Also finally sharing what we have been making with the public! Being able to get feedback is going to be integral to the development of the full show. It’s so exciting to be part of a platform that brings the public and theatre makers into one space to allow discussion over new work being made in Bristol and the South West. We’re also really excited to see ‘Thank you for the Tragedy’ by Ben Osborn, Nik Partridge & Emma Keaveny-Roys which explores masculinity through the incredibly beautiful poetry of Sappho.
Ferment Fortnight takes place at The Wardrobe Theatre 26-28 Jan before returning to Bristol Old Vic 31 Jan-2 Feb. For more info and to book tickets, click here.