This is going to be a bit of a reductive post, but it’s a Sunday, it’s the end of April, and I’m sitting looking at the rain out of the window with the heating on and a soggy cat under the bed.
I’d like to take a moment to share with you some connections I’ve made over the last few weeks and months. People, some of whom I was vaguely aware of in a Facebook-type way, and some of whom I hadn’t met at all. Connections that wouldn’t have happened if this Festival wasn’t taking place. People whose outlook, skills and sheer enthusiasm for theatre in all its shapes and sizes have inspired me and spurred me on to make things better.
Phoned me up out of the blue in February, having never met me before, seen our script call-out and said “this looks great -how can I help?” Co-Director of Ovalhouse in London, she’s exactly the sort of person who should be running a venue. Open, engaging, you get the feeling she’ll bust a gut for the people and work she believes in. Her biog sums it up: “her work is full of stories and big ideas and she wants theatre full of magic and contradiction that might just change the world”. Oh, and her next project is called The Sluts of Sutton Drive. ‘Nuff said.
I know Nick primarily as a film-maker from my previous incarnation at Script (RIP). Stupidly enough, I didn’t realise she was a theatre director too. Which came in handy when one of our writers (sean burn) was looking for someone to direct his play calyx. With very short notice, very few resources, and boundless enthusiasm, Nick has thrown herself headlong into the project and has been an absolute pleasure to work with. Really happy that sean’s play is in such good hands.
Interestingly, Hannah submitted a short play for Capital’s first life in November 2010. We kept in vague touch afterwards, which mainly comprised of her sending me invitations to her increasingly successful shows and me promising to come, but then realising they were happening in Plymouth. I came across a recent blog post/ rant against the limitations of script reading – how existing structures don’t cater for writers working outside “traditional”, mainstream playwriting models. Her arguments delve right to the heart of what I’m trying to explore through this Festival – looking at writers as self-determined theatre-makers. But she says it much more articulately than I could ever hope to on a rainy Sunday afternoon, so I’m just going to link to her earlier blog.
I feel like the geeky kid who, against all the odds, has made some very cool friends. So, naturally, I’m keen to show them off. With that in mind, I’ve invited Rebecca and Hannah to take part in a panel discussion on New Writing vs New Work (is there only one way to find out?) on Friday 25th May at 4pm, alongside playwright Fraser Grace.
Nick will direct sean burn’s play calyx, which will be performed on 24, 26 & 27 May (various times) at mac.
So if you want to be enthused, entertained, enlightened and engaged by people at the very forefront of new theatre, then come along, meet the gang and share your views.
It’s been a packed couple of weeks here at Capital Towers™. Last(ish) weekend, we held a Producers’ Day at mac and invited our three selected writers to come and learn a bit more about the Festival and equip them with the tools they need to bring their shows here in May.
We had fantastic support from Pippa Frith, Rebecca Atkinson-Lord, Oluwatoyin Odunsi and Vanessa Oakes, who brought their collective expertise to the table and shared it generously with the writers.
It was a lively and productive discussion, talking about ways to find an audience and effective marketing strategies, together with more technical considerations. Each play will be sharing the performance space every evening, with a very tight turnaround in between, so it was important to work out effective ways of collaboration.
On Sunday, we had a dedicated PR Training Day with PR experts Hayes Collins Media (can’t find their website, so you can look up Phil Hayes and Sandra Collins on LinkedIn). With the Festival only 5 weeks away, the writers needed to think about how to package their shows, write press releases and engage local media. Preparations for the latter involved some frankly terrifying TV and radio interviews, during which I discovered I talk far too fast and have a habit of inserting entirely random words into otherwise ordinary sentences.
I’m told it gets better with practice.
It was a shame, in a way, to spend a weekend indoors while the sun was shining. Especially now that any prospect of summer seems increasingly remote. But the benefits were huge. The writers are a fab bunch, all up for the challenge, all keen to get stuck in and make the best show possible. I’m really looking forward to seeing the results.
You can see their plays during the Festival from 24-27 May at mac.
calyx by sean burn
A poetic and lyrical play about a girl’s transition from captivity to freedom.
Without a Hand to Hold by Rob Joiner
A tale of identity and friendship between two men living on the margins of society
Cuddles by Joseph Wilde
An horrific and darkly comic cautionary tale of control. Part acerbic satire, part psychological horror, and part domestic tragedy of almost Greek proportions.
I hope to see you there.
This morning to the opening of Jubilee 2, Newcastle-under-Lyme’s new leisure centre. Princess Anne arrives fifteen minutes early, whereupon we and the assembled dignitaries hurry to our places. We’ve been warned that her time with us will be very brief, so I’ve prepared a single sentence to speak to her: I will remind her of how she opened our Borderlines department twelve years ago, tell her we’ve worked with more than 100,000 young people since, and gesture towards some of those very young people who are rehearsing a piece to mark the opening of the centre.
Whereas meeting her mother earlier this year I was struck that I was the taller (a rare enough delight for me), Anne’s willowy height impresses. So does her warmth. She doesn’t need reminding about the previous visit; she wants a conversation, not a single sentence; and she wants to meet the young people. Despite being dumbfounded they conduct themselves well. Then they meet the High Sheriff, the Lord Lieutenant, the current mayor and the next mayor. It’s a very special day for these young people, who then go on to perform two terrific water themed performances to mark this special occasion.
Afterwards, I need to hurry back into rehearsal, but with the main staircase still closed, New Vic Executive Director Fiona Wallace and I are pointed towards the back way down from the second floor and out of the building. This back route seems to take us through every changing area in the building. Dressed in our heels and business suits, we bustle through rooms full of women in nothing more than towels and swimsuits. I’m reminded of Father Ted and co lost in the lingerie department. It’s a good tour of the new facility, though, which impresses. The ladies’ sauna is especially attractive: in blue mosaic with loungers, it looks like a holiday waiting to happen. I know where I’m coming after work next Friday.
In 2005 Theater Der Welt arranged to have 104 tonnes of rice delivered to the Wagenhalle – a disused tram shed – because the world’s population was 6.2 billion and we were about to perform the first full version of Of All The People In All The World. In 2008 we came to an arrangement with a wholesale rice supplier to effectively rent us 112 tonnes of rice. As we aspire to do a third full version of the show somewhere and the world’s population is announced as 7 billion we are looking for 116 tonnes. 12 extra tonnes of rice in 7 years at a gain per person: the logistics are getting ever more challenging and I’m not necessarily just referring to our show.
Two fantastic films from Douglas Gordon at Warwick Arts Centre from Tuesday next week. Zidane features a mesmerizing score from Mogwai too. . .
Tue 1 May – Sat 23 June
Presented in association with Artangel
Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon presents two moving image installations, both compelling portraits of virtuoso talents.
Feature Film (1999)
With mesmerising close-ups, the camera hones in on conductor James Conlon as he leads the unseen Paris Opera Orchestra in a performance of Bernard Herrmann’s famous score for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958).
Zidane – A 21st-Century Portrait (2006)
Douglas Gordon & Philippe Parreno
Eighteen monitors follow French footballer, Zinedine Zidane, through the course of an entire match between Real Madrid and Villareal. The camera never leaves Zidane and show him immersed in his own space, despite being watched by millions.