Ferment Fortnight Preview | Annie Siddons

Ferment Fortnight kicks off its biannual explosion of work-in-progress and scratch performances from 26 Jan. Here Annie Siddons gives us an inside look into the world of Dennis of Penge. Catch it at the Wardrobe Theatre on the festival’s opening night.


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Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved with Ferment
I first got involved with Ferment when Emma B, the doness of Ferment, came to see my first Edinburgh show, Raymondo. She liked it and so got right behind our second show How (not) to live in Suburbia which we did an early scratch of in July 2015 . We love Ferment and its audience so we wanted to do the earliest scratch of the new show with you.

How would you describe your latest show in the Ferment Fortnight
Dennis of Penge is about a woman at the end of her rope who meets a mysterious figure from her past in a chicken shop.

It’s about survival, poverty and ecstasy in the city. The scratch you will see is literally me reading you some poetry. The final show will involve some other performers and some live music.

What do you expect the audience will take away from your piece?
I hope they enjoy the story and the words and the way it’s told and the fact that they are the first people to see it.

What’s been the biggest challenge/most exciting moment so far?
The biggest challenge is finding time to write. I don’t have writer’s block or procrastination – I am a rigorous mofo – but I do have a tiny company – 2.5 people – with lots to do – plus two kids etc – and I have to be really disciplined about carving out writing time and sometimes it gets to be point where I am coming out in spiritual and actual hives and I just have to go away and write for a few days till I calm down.

What are you looking forward to most over the Fortnight?
We’re flying in and out – see above for the reasons why – not literally flying – we are not  grand – but there’s so much good stuff – even in the first couple of days I’d be watching House of Blakewell and Adam Kammerling for starters. I love finding new artists to be inspired by and make friends slash future collabs with.


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.

Ferment Fortnight Preview | Vanessa Kisuule

Ferment Fortnight kicks off its biannual explosion of work-in-progress and scratch performances from 26 Jan. Here Vanessa Kisuule gives us an inside look into her world of SEXY. Catch it at the Wardrobe Theatre on Fri 27 Jan.


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SEXY is a show about sexiness that attempts to get to the bottom of what that means for me as a woman, and especially a black woman. It’s a massive topic, one that I could easily write an entire pHD on. Trying to pack all of my thoughts on this into an hour has been trying. But it has been an incredibly fun and rich process – I’ve been feverishly YouTubing iconic and beautiful women: Grace Jones, Rita Hayworth, Bettie Page, Nicki Minaj and Beyonce. I’ve studied the significance of the femme fatale in film and spent hours reading up on the politics of sex-positive feminism. I’ve been a life model, taken burlesque classes, perfected the art of taking a naughty selfie and had a private twerk class from a stripper. I have interviewed female friends on their feelings around this subject – their stories have been brilliant, hilarious and heartbreaking in equal measure. Throughout this, I have had to remind myself to bring it back to myself and how all these ideas inform my relationship with my sexuality and my body. Some pretty unexpected revelations have occurred – feelings I didn’t know I’d been harbouring have come to the surface and every day there is a new discovery as to how this topic makes me feel. It has often felt like a mud wrestle with myself – my head, heart and crotch all seem to yell contradictory things at full volume. It’s hard to unearth a kernel of truth inamongst the cacophony, but I’ve come to realise that the process of untangling these threads is exactly what this show is about.

The last time I did a show for Ferment was in 2014 – a piece about love and many of the lies I felt I’d been fed by media and popular culture. It was a fun piece that I did with Joe Williams, a great musician and university friend of mine. It was one of my first attempts at working collaboratively on a creative idea. At that time, however, I primarily worked on projects that I executed alone. I’ve come a long way since then. I have reached a point where I am confident in what I can do independently – I am now more interested in seeking out people who can contribute skills and perspectives that I don’t have. It’s hard to invite other people to work with you on something that stems from your experience as the nature of my work is almost always autobiographical. But this just means it’s paramount to have a team who can help me make an internal journey translate to a story that others can lock into. It’s been a scary leap to make, but one that’s already paid off massively.

This show is, amongst many other things, a love letter to the music that has scored my life and my womanhood. There are many nods to mid noughties R&B, hip hop and pop music. I want to recreate the feeling one has when dancing with mates in a club – sometimes crippling self consciousness, other times complete joy and abandon. It’s been nice giving myself permission to be frank, lewd and crude with this piece. I don’t believe in shock value for its own sake. But certainly, a woman speaking her mind on a topic of this nature is still a shocking thing for many. I am excited to make a piece that is celebratory and fun, but I also want to find the bravery to explore some ugly and dark corners. I hope women and women of colour come to this show and feel some sense of recognition in this piece. I hope men come and are open and willing to engage in the ideas explored in this show. I am at a point now as an artist where I am no longer willing to pander to certain sensitivities – it will be interesting to see if any feathers get ruffled in the audience by some of the content. Part of me hopes they do, if only to know that something is shifting, that certain notions are being disrupted and upended. If my openness starts up some difficult but necessary conversations I’ll have achieved my aim.

I have a small and wonderful team of associates – Liz Counsell producing, Rob Watt on dramaturgy and direction and Lucy Bairstow working with me on movement. We have been devising for two days and already the show feels like a completely different beast – far more rigorous, slick and directional than I could have imagined. This show is going to encroach on the physical in a way that is new and daunting for me. But it feels like we’re encroaching on something genuinely fresh; something with a pulse. I’m really looking forward to Ferment as a pivotal stage in this show’s development – I hope the audience have as much fun with it as I have creating it so far.


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.

Ferment Fortnight Preview | The Wardrobe Ensemble

Ferment Fortnight kicks off its biannual explosion of work-in-progress and scratch performances from 26 Jan. Here The Wardrobe Ensemble give us an inside look into the world of Education, Education, Education. Catch it on the Bristol Old Vic Stage Thu 2 Feb.


Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved with Ferment
Our company, The Wardrobe Ensemble, are Bristol born and bred, having formed through Bristol Old Vic’s very own Made in Bristol program in . This is our 3rd time performing a work-in-progress at Ferment – having taken early versions of our shows 33 and 1972: The Future of Sex there previously. It has become a key part of our process, particularly the feedback we get from the Ferment audiences, which is the first thing we look at when we take the show back into development.

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How would you describe your latest show in the Ferment Fortnight?
Education, Education, Education is about the 90s, national mood, teachers and students, what we are taught and what we are not taught. It is about tamagotchis and school disco djs, staff rooms and where responsibility lies.

What do you expect the audience will take away from your piece?
We want to make a show which says something about what it means to be alive today, after the year we have just had, we are interested in the events which lead to a shift in national feeling. We hope the audience get a sense of that.

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What’s been the biggest challenge/most exciting moment so far?
Honing 10 creative voices into one show is a challenge to say the least, but there are these amazing moments in our rehearsal room where we watch something that someone has made and we all just know that it has to be in the show. Those are our exciting moments.

What are you looking forward to most over the Fortnight?
We’re really looking forward to watching the other shows involved in Ferment. There are some really talented artists showcasing their work and some great new ideas. We’re particularly excited about WULF, the first show from Fen Theatre, Dennis of Penge by Annie Siddons and thank you for the tragedy from Ben Osborn, Nik Partridge and Emma Keaveny- Roys.


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.

Ferment Fortnight Preview | Chris Fogg

Ferment Fortnight kicks off its biannual explosion of work-in-progress and scratch performances from 26 Jan. Here Chris Fogg gives us an inside look into his latest project All The Ghosts Walk With Us. Catch it on the Bristol Old Vic stage on Wed 1 Feb.


Hi. Chris Fogg here. I’m really looking forward to presenting our show, All the Ghosts Walk with Us, as part of Ferment 2017 at Bristol Old Vic. The show is a collaboration between the dancer and choreographer Laila Diallo, the musician and composer Phil King and myself.

I am a writer, director and dramaturg. In 2012 I was lucky enough to have my first book of poetry and short stories, Special Relationships, published by Mudlark Press, and this was followed by a second, Northern Songs, in 2015. With these came several invitations to do readings, which I really enjoyed, but I felt that what I really wanted to do was to try and see whether these readings could be made more performative, into theatre pieces, and so I invited Laila and Phil to join me.

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All the Ghosts… grew out of our early explorations, seeing how dance, music and spoken word might fit together and collectively fashion a single narrative arc. The narrative that has emerged arises out of the interest we each have in different meanings of home and belonging, of journeys and migrations. The question we kept asking ourselves was a simple one:

Do people make places or do places make people?

Although it might be a simple question, there are far from easy answers, and the theme has never felt more topical, teasing out those differences between where we live and where we work, where we grew up and where we are now…

I have lived in the south west, in Dorset, for many years now, but I was born and grew up in Manchester, and as the old saying goes: you can take the boy out of the north, but you can’t take the north out of the boy. Increasingly, my writing has found me returning to those early years in Manchester and discovering that it is still extremely fertile territory. I also spent a brief but formative period working in the former mining communities of Nottinghamshire, and it is these three very different locations – West Dorset, Manchester and the coalfields around Sherwood Forest – which form the heart of our stories.

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To that end we have also worked with three very different photographers to provide still and moving images to accompany us on our journey. Martell Baines captures the resonant marks we make on the land in her images of the abandoned Nottinghamshire coal mines;  Zoe Manders takes us on a contemporary journey through the former flax fields of West Dorset, while the late great Shirley Baker exuberantly documents life on the streets of Manchester and Salford in the 1960’s and 70’s at the height of the slum clearances there, in the bomb sites and waste grounds which children transformed into playgrounds.  It was near one such bomb site – known locally as The Bama, short for Alabama – on the edge of an estate called The Victory, built at the end of the 1st World War, squeezed between Irlam Steel Works and the Manchester Ship Canal, where I grew up and went to school, and which forms the starting point for All the Ghosts Walk with Us.

Laila, Phil and I are delighted to have been invited to be part of this year’s Ferment, and we are looking forward to seeing the range of voices and ideas on show throughout the fortnight.  We hope that All the Ghosts… may resonate with all who come to see it, and we look forward to continuing conversations about people and places.


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.

Photography: Zoe Manders

Ferment Fortnight Preview | House of Blakewell

Ferment Fortnight kicks off its biannual explosion of work-in-progress and scratch performances from 26 Jan. Here House of Blakewell give us an inside look into the world of Thor and Loki. Catch it at the Wardrobe Theatre on the festival’s opening night.


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Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved with Ferment
We’re Harry and Alice aka House of Blakewell – we’re a duo that make alternative musical theatre with a strong comedy-cabaret flavour. Harry is from Salisbury and Alice trained in Bristol, but strangely we never performed in the South West until now, so we were really excited to be included in the Ferment Fortnight programme. It’s such a great opportunity for us to share our work with an audience while we’re still in the process of making it.

How would you describe your latest show in the Ferment Fortnight?
It’s loosely based on the Norse gods Thor and Loki, as described in the Eddas (collections of myths written by Icelandic poets in the Middle Ages.) It’s about the two characters and their attempts to prevent the day of Ragnarok – the end of the world – but really it’s about destiny, choice, friendship and embracing change, in order to create a better world. With tap dancing Vikings.

What do you expect audiences will take away from your piece?
Hopefully they’ll leave with a smile on their face, humming the tunes!

What’s been the biggest challenge/most exciting moment so far?
We normally work as a duo, but in this show we have a cast of five. It was initially slightly intimidating allowing other people into our creative process, but the first time we had the full company in a kick line singing in four-part harmony was amazingly joyous!

What are you looking forward to most this Fortnight?
We’re really thrilled to be performing at the Wardrobe Theatre – it’s a space we’ve wanted to visit for ages. The programme also looks amazing – performing straight after us is Annie Siddons with her show Dennis of Penge, which we’re really looking forward to.


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.