Monthly Archives: April 2011

Off Stage & On-line: Off Stage & On-line 2011-04-30 11:14:40


The New Vic's production of Spring and Port Wine.
Image by Andrew Billington


Again I’m struck by how warmly plays about working men and women are received by the New Vic’s audience. Spring and Port Wine opened tonight to a terrific house and a terrific response.

It was clear that audiences were identifying with the people and the place – the interior of a working family’s terrace in the 1950s – and emails and phone calls over the next few days reinforced that. People recognise the yellow and green sugar canisters; the old telly; the snap tin dad brings back from work; and the characters, too. And it’s a surprisingly wide age range talking to us about how this show hits a chord: not just people who lived through the Fifties, but younger people too, who recognise their parents and grandparents. Dad banking his family’s wages certainly resonates with me: although, whereas in the play Mr Crompton has a locked tin box in a sturdy wooden bureau, my own dad’s system in the days when pay packets came in cash was to sit on the floor in the bedroom, with half a dozen empty coffee jars marked ‘rent’, ‘electric’ he’d taken out from the bottom of the wardrobe, divvying up the money for the week’s bills and giving mum her housekeeping.

Come to think of it, I’ve only just figured out why they were kept in this curious place: he must have felt it was the safest place to hide them from potential burglars…

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Commentators: Royal Wedding

The Commentators were delighted to be part of the Royal Celebrations today. Although it turned out that the parade did not require an emergency diversion along The Embankment, The Commentators were pleased to have been asked to cover for this eventuality by ‘Auntie Beeb’ and hope that it the first of many such prestigious engagements.

mid * point: Open Space – A Mid*Point Event

In 2009 mid*point ran a Open Space Conference called the Challenge of Change for people working, engaging, studying, teaching etc… in the area of theatre in the West Midlands, the event was very well attended and highly successful, with many practical outcomes. You can find out more about the event by visiting: http://thechallengeofchange.toyoutome.net/

A follow-up Open Space event is currently being planned by the mid*point steering committee, and a formal invite will be issued soon.

Knowing how busy people often are we thought it was important to share the dates of the conference as soon as possible.

The conference has been scheduled for:
Thursday 23rd June 2011
Friday 24th June 2011

And will be held @AE Harris, 110 Northwood Street, Birmingham, B3 1SZ

Please add these dates to your diaries / wall-planners / calendars / overloaded brains! We really hope to see as many of you there as possible.

FORMAL INVITE AND FURTHER DETAILS TO FOLLOW ASAP.


Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Schools Work

wilnecote

Today Craig and Jack were in Robin Hood Primary School working with the students on final arrangements before a big Scalextric track is built in the school hall on Wednesday. Meanwhile over at Wilnecote High School in Tamworth it was a teacher training day and I was having a fantastic time cooking up plans with teachers there.

The idea is simple. The teachers all worked with a member of Stan’s Cafe last term teaching their usual syllabus in a new way, this term they are going to extend their new philosophy but on their own, with just an initial conversation from me to help set them off in an exciting direction. I love the challenge and the discipline of it. We have to find a new way of delivering whatever their scheme of work says they have to teach next, it has to be done in the same amount of time that would normally be allocated to it and draw on no extra resources. We have one hour together to agree on the new approach.

So in consecutive ideas I helped develop plans to teach Classification in Biology, the topic Holidays in French, Athletics in P.E. and Slavery in History. I have all the fun of coming up with the ideas and none of the drag of actually having to deliver those ideas into practice, it’s a dream job, especially with teachers as enthused and enthusing as these.

Pentabus Blog: The fair rolls in…..

A quick writers’ week update. It is now Wednesday. The end of day 2. OK, so the weather has not been quite as glorious as last week, but close. Our 5 writers arrived on various trains yesterday, and after much ferrying to and from Ludlow station, we all gathered in Bromfield to talk about all things May Fair. Hurrah. And what better way to kick off the week than a visit from the Ludlow Mayor himself, who very kindly came and gave a brilliant insight into Ludlow town, and the nuts and bolts of ensuring the May Fair is a successful event. We rounded off the day with a very civilised drink in one of the town’s many pubs, and enjoyed the quiet before the fair began to roll into the very narrow streets of Ludlow today. Before the huge vehicles made their appearance however, the writers had a chance this morning to get a sense of the town pre fair-with a delightful historic chat from a man named Roger, who runs the town tours all year round. Then, a chance to reflect on things so far, another meeting with a resident whose house during the fair becomes a backdrop to some pretty hairy rides and then home for one more sleep before the fair officially begins.

As I drove back into town this evening after a day away, there was a tangible shift in atmosphere as huge caravans, trucks, cars and trailers had popped up, roads had been closed and diversion signs put out. And there seemed to be a significant increase in people, particularly children, in the streets and around the castle square. There was a real air of excitement and anticipation and industry in the air, with a mixture of eager bystanders and efficient workers getting started on things already. Apparently they start setting up the rides at 6am tomorrow morning. We will not be there at that time. But. With meetings planned with some young people who have lived in Ludlow all their lives, the street cleaning team and watching the rides getting built, it is set to be a busy day I think, and I am very much looking forward to witnessing the transformation from market town to thriving fairground in a matter of hours! I wonder what our writers will make of it all……..

The Other Way Works: I feel like I’m in Forced Ent (in a good way)

We’ve had the pleasure of Lucy Ellinson’s company in the devising room for the last couple of days. Its been great to have another creator in the room, and we’ve enjoyed the momentum that can be created by three people taking turns rather than two (takes the pressure off, and feels more like a team effort).

Lucy brought a couple of devising exercises with her which gave structure to two hour-and-a-half improvathons. It was doing the first of these that made me feel like I was in Forced Entertainment – we set up three runways with ‘stages’ at the ends, where only one could be occupied at a time. As another person starts performing in one of the other ‘stages’ this ejects the person currently performing. Lots in common with Forced Ent’s show ‘And on the Thousandth Night’ in structure really. Both exercises generated some poignant imagery, interesting characters and situations, and entertaining juxtapositions of material.

We also started researching and playing a variety of parlour games.  The next challenge will be to get these games working, and get them to help us with our storytelling. We’re also thinking a lot about transitioning between our two worlds: 1. very present and ‘now’ and about the Avon party; and 2. a collection of magic realist dreams/images. We’ve thought of a few ‘means by which’ we could transition, so that’s really helpful, and we’ll now look to create a ‘getable’ language around these that can become part of the language and aesthetic of the show.

The Other Way Works: Fairy tales and Reese Witherspoon fantasies

Here’s an update of what we’ve been exploring as part of the development of our new production – Avon Calling…

We now have funding confirmed from Arts Council England through Grants for the Arts for this project, and are under the wing of mac in Birmingham and rehearsing in their building.

We also had our first session with our mentor Alex Kelly from Third Angel. This was a good provocation for us to develop some bits and bobs to show him, to introduce him to our thoughts and ideas. We got him playing some Avon Party Games, gave him a moisturising hand treatment (he’s a good sport) and filled him in on our ideas around the structure of the audience experience. Alex introduced us to a couple of exercises which we played then, and have modified and played since – which have helped us to access and generate stories.

In the last few weeks we’ve explored conventional story structures, created a kind of ‘wheel of experience’ for the audience, come up with ideas for our central character’s back-story, researched compulsive hoarding and made character notes from this, and moved into exploring writing our own fairy-type stories. We’ve been using an ‘automatic writing’ technique where we write non-stop for 10 minutes on a theme, which helps us not to censor what we produce. In case you weren’t aware, Reese Witherspoon is the international face of Avon, and as a result she features heavily in our tales and fantasies – I mean who wouldn’t aspire to be Reese? She’s stunningly beautiful and yet approachable like the girl next door. Its only a matter of time till you crack too…

Birmingham Repertory Theatre - Latest Posts for News: Looking For Yoghurt On The Road!

Looking For Yoghurt, a funny and touching play inspired by the imagination and wisdom of children will be on tour this May. The play returns following its world premiere at The REP in Spring 2009 and a well-received tour of Korea and Japan in 2010. A theatrical treat for children aged 6+, Looking For Yoghurt follows the adventures of a young girl Norang, who meets two other children whilst looking for her friend, a stray cat called Yoghurt. Together they explore a strange, shadowy enchanted ...

Birmingham Repertory Theatre - Latest Posts for News: Looking For Yoghurt On The Road!

Looking For Yoghurt, a funny and touching play inspired by the imagination and wisdom of children will be on tour this May. The play returns following its world premiere at The REP in Spring 2009 and a well-received tour of Korea and Japan in 2010. A theatrical treat for children aged 6+, Looking For Yoghurt follows the adventures of a young girl Norang, who meets two other children whilst looking for her friend, a stray cat called Yoghurt. Together they explore a strange, shadowy enchanted ...