Ferment Fortnight Preview | Plow

Ferment Fortnight kicks off its biannual explosion of work-in-progress and scratch performances from 11 July. Here, Sharon Clark gives us an inside look at her play Plow. Catch it at Arnolfini on the festival’s opening night.

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I am a Bristol-based playwright and Creative Director of the theatre company Raucous, a resident of Pervasive Media Studio and lecturer in Writing for Performance at Bath Spa University.

At this summer’s Ferment Fortnight Nel Crouch will be directing a rehearsed reading of my latest script, Plow, which recently made it to the top 5 of the PapaTango Award. With my company Raucous I write for immersive, site-specific theatre that fuses film, music and digital technology, The Stick House was our last production. But Plow is another side of my writing, a contemporary political drama that follows the journey of a woman as she silently treks her way across four states in America. She unwittingly becomes a social media darling, a saviour for the lost and a government headache, but can she ever be what everyone wants her to be?

Plow is based on an article I read in a newspaper a couple of years ago and which stuck with me as one of those tales where fiction cannot compete with the truth. I didn’t set out to write a play set in the States but with what is happening over there at the moment, and what is happening on a bigger global stage, I just wanted to write something about how those events can directly affect a small, seemingly insignificant character – a kind of Everywoman.

With this play, Ferment gives me the all too rare opportunity of hearing it for the first time in front of an audience. I can gauge the moment when the play works, by watching the audience as they imperceptibly shift in their seat and the moment when the story loses them. It is also allows me the opportunity to face the audience after, to hear first hand what they thought, to gather feedback, comments and suggestions. This is a rare luxury when often the first time you see an audience interact with the play is the first night of the production – an incredibly exposed place for the writer to be.

I wrote Plow to be a large play – not in terms of building something epic for the Olivier stage (I wish) but in terms of the variety of voices, the distance covered, a wide range of characters, ever present music and spanning space and time. I want to see if this works in how the audience follows the story and if it gives them enough time to engage with the characters and care for them. It’s really only when an audience is in the room can you make the crucial discoveries that take a script onto its next, and hopefully stronger, stage.

Ferment Fortnight takes place at Arnolfini 11-13 July before returning to Bristol Old Vic 18-20 July. For more info and to book tickets, click here.

INKBLOC Ensemble Cast Bio | Maddie

Ahead of their debut show, LEGO Beach, we sat down with INKBLOC Ensemble to discover a little more about this year’s Made in Bristol troupe.

Here we caught up with Maddie to find out all about her Bristol Old Vic theatre background.


What have you been involved in at the Bristol Old Vic and outside of Made in Bristol?
Outside of Made in Bristol I work for Bristol Old Vic as a Box Office receptionist, and prior to this year I was part of Young Company, which I joined when I was twelve.

Where have you studied?
I came to Made in Bristol straight after my A-Levels.

What is this year for you?
For me this year was always something I knew I wanted to do, because I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. As I’m undecided about where (if) I want to go on to higher education, I can’t really call this a gap year – at the moment it’s looking like I’ll have a gap of two or three years. So far Made in Bristol has been invaluable to me, as it has let me experience what it is like to rehearse in a working theatre.

Favourite thing about Made in Bristol/ INKBLOC?
My favourite thing about Made in Bristol is how we have the freedom to create anything we like. We’re not limited by usual logistical worries like hiring a rehearsal space or gaining the approval of a funding panel or a venue – we get a lot of support for that from the building and the Engagement Department. This allows us to concentrate on being creative, and seeing the variety of topics and styles that we have been able to experiment with is partly the reason INKBLOC has been so interesting this year.

Tell us something interesting?
I used to be a foil fencer…. En garde!

LEGO Beach is INKBLOC Ensemble’s debut show, on Walkabout at 1532 Performing Arts Centre 19-22 July. For more information and to book, click here

INKBLOC Ensemble Cast Bio | Amy

Ahead of their debut show, LEGO Beach, we sat down with INKBLOC Ensemble to discover a little more about this year’s Made in Bristol troupe.

Here we caught up with Amy to find out all about her Bristol Old Vic theatre background.

AmyWhat you have been involved in at the Bristol Old Vic and outside of Made in Bristol?
Back in 2013 I did a work experience placement at Bristol Old Vic. The next time I was back was in 2015 when I played the role of Ann in the Young Company show Life Raft that was directed by Melly Still. This led me to discover the Made in Bristol program, and here I am!

Where have you studied?
Last Summer I completed my final year of A-Levels in Theatre and Performance, English Literature and Geography. I have also trained at the National Youth Theatre as an actor.

What is this year for you?
This is my gap year before I enter the world of university education. I wanted to utilise the opportunity to experience setting up a company and work with amazing people to do so, with the intention of carrying this on into future. I want to explore a variety of different theatrical ideas and styles by creating a show from scratch.

Favourite thing about Made in Bristol/INKBLOC?
I find it amazing how we devise as a twelve strong ensemble and are able to making decisions and explore all together to create work and build our company. I love when we are creatively bouncing off each other, saying yes to everything in order to explore all possibilities.

Plans for the future?
From October I will begin studying at Central School of Speech and Drama on the Applied Theatre and Education BA (Hons). I would love to continue with INKBLOC after our July show and grow the company with more exciting projects. My aim is to ultimately become a professional creative producer.

Tell us something interesting?
I am splitting my time between Bristol and London over my gap year, and in London I work at Little Angel Theatre, which is a puppet theatre. I have seen a potentially unhealthy amount of puppet theatre over the past year and am surprised when I see a show that doesn’t contain puppets!

LEGO Beach is INKBLOC Ensemble’s debut show, on Walkabout at 1532 Performing Arts Centre 19-22 July. For more information and to book, click here

INKBLOC Ensemble Rehearsal Diary – Week 4

As INKBLOC Ensemble hurtle ahead with their theatrical vision we get a Week 4 update from company member Casey Lloyd. Here we find out all about their preparations ahead of their debut show LEGO Beach

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As we approached the final week before intensive rehearsal, the excitement and buzz has certainly entered the rehearsal room for INKBLOC.

Having created some rather interesting work last week, we took focus on creating work based around the character’s given circumstances and whereabouts during the cargo spill. Claire and Krista, Our Director and Assistant Director, had instructed the members to create a free-written solo piece, answering questions such as “Where were you when the spill happened?” and “How has this event affected your life?”. We then took all these characters different stories and looked at bringing them to life in small ensembles. This particularly brought light to some of the questions surrounding character interaction, characterisation within an ensemble and narrative storytelling, with all members amalgamating a plethora of theatrical devices and techniques to stage each character’s journey.

On Friday, we spent the afternoon discussing all things plot, character and narrative with Tom Morris, the Artistic Director of the Bristol Old Vic. Tom in particular lead discussion from a “what if” and “why” perspective, really helping us to develop and finalise our plot and characters. This had particularly helped unpick any current confusion within the narrative and gave us a specific and clear focus for the next week ahead.

Stay tuned next week as we enter our intensive rehearsal period, as I’m sure as ever that through the great works of Claire, Krista and all members, there will be lots of exciting progressions made, as we hurtle towards our production of LEGO Beach!

INKBLOC Ensemble are this year’s resident Made in Bristol company – Bristol Old Vic’s theatre training course for ages 18-25. For more information about the programme, click here.

Building the ‘Junkyard’ set with Chiara Stephenson

With the set now built and rehearsals continuing to heat up, we jumped at the chance to catch up with Junkyard Set and Costume Designer Chiara Stephenson. Here she reveals the inspiration behind the show’s interactive set and how it all comes together.

Hi, I’m Chiara and I’m fortunate enough to be the Set and Costume Designer on Junkyard.

The thing I always enjoy when working on any new production is carrying out all the research. I love letting new ideas stew in my brain and with Junkyard that’s basically meant marinating in all sorts of old books and images of the 70s to really understand the look and feel of the time. It was a delight to discover all the bonkers structures and playgrounds the kids of the 60s and 70s created, well before ‘Health and Safety’ kicked in. The precarious and dangerous nature of their constructions was what I found most inspiring, as was their fearlessness in jumping off them from ahigh.

Following a visit to the Lockleaze playground the play is based on and talking with some of the old workers, I was also really inspired by the way they’ve reincarnated ‘The Vench’ over the years. Each time the playground got damaged or vandalised, their attitude was just ‘f**k it, let’s rebuild it bigger and better’. That defiant attitude is something we’ve really tried to capture in the show, along with that sense of danger and precariousness.

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I actually used to play at an adventure playground myself as a youngster. The Battersea Park playground in London was always my go to. I don’t know if it’s because I was a lot smaller, but I remember the playground being epic in size and much more dangerous. In fact one of my earliest memories at my nursery as a 3-4 year old was being given a few bits of small wood and a hammer and nails. The freedom and trust was great and something I think you don’t find so much these days.

Junkyard is unique to anything I’ve ever worked on because we’re giving our actors similar free-reign to build the whole set themselves. The show starts with what is seemingly a pile of junk on the ground but, over the course of Act 1, each of the kids get to channel their madly creative spirits into constructing the junkyard playground itself. The design relies on huge levels of interaction from the actors. It’s a real logistical challenge for everyone so if we pull it off its definitely a salute to the cast more than me.

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Working on this show with Director Jeremy Herrin has been amazing. He’s a heavyweight really and I’ve had the amazing chance to throw all sorts of ideas his way, trusting that he’ll sieve out all the dodgy ones and pick out the keepers. He’s totally game for lots of play and experimentation. The one thing we are not short of in the making of this show is ideas, and silly ideas at that. Which ones will actually end up in the show, we’ll just have to wait and see…

I’d love to tell you the funniest moment so far, but with this production it really is impossible to answer! These moments are all too frequent due to the playful nature of the show and everyone working on it. It really does feel like we are all a bunch of kids mucking about in a playground as we weave the show into something explosive and exciting. Hopefully that will all come across on-stage and the audience will enjoy everything we’ve created!

Bristol Old Vic’s Spring Season continues with Junkyard 24 Feb-18 Mar. For more info and to book tickets, click here.