Monthly Archives: May 2018

Women and Theatre: Women of Longbridge Research Blog

Katie Haviland has been volunteering with us on our community musical theatre show Women of Longbridge, here she talks about W&T research process and what she’s learnt so far. 

Hello! I’m Katie and I’m the volunteer for Women of Longbridge.

The first time I met Rachel (project manager) and Jo (co-writer and co-director), they told me Women & Theatre love to meet people and have a chat.  From what I’ve been involved with so far, they could not have been more right! The research process for Women of Longbridge has involved countless conversations (and what feels like a hundred cups of tea) as we have visited several locations in and around Longbridge to talk to some incredible women.

On day one of our research week, I was excited to meet the team and hear more about the project. Almost immediately, I knew this was going be something completely unique to anything I’d done before.  It was so refreshing to enter a creative process with such a relatively blank canvas, as the material for the performance would come from these conversations. There was no agenda or plan, other than to listen to the women of Longbridge and hear their stories. So, after a brief meeting, we packed up lots of paper, pens, voice recorders and a washing line (there was logic behind this), and headed to Frankley Library for our first session.

Usually, the idea of going up to a stranger and saying ‘Hello, tell me all about your life please’ would terrify me, but as soon as we began chatting to the lovely women of Frankley, all those nerves went away.  The power of conversation really did shine through, and around three hours later we already had some great stories! One particularly sticks out in my memory: Val told me the story of her, at the age of fourteen, buying a train ticket to Liverpool and stealing a used milk bottle from outside Paul McCartney’s house. She managed to make it all the way home with this precious bottle, and treasured it in her bedroom for weeks. Unfortunately, her mum found the bottle, washed it and put it out for the milkman to collect! Val never told her mother this story, as she was still nervous to tell her that she had skipped school, despite this being fifty years later!

As the week of research continued, we delved into the heart of Longbridge to speak to women in the Extra Care retirement village, attend a tea dance at the Austin Social Club and pay a visit to Meadow Rose Care Home. It was such a heart-warming process to see the women we spoke to gradually opening up about their lives. So often, women apologised for ‘being boring’ or ‘going off topic’ when they had just shared a significant memory from their past or an exciting hope for the future.  We weren’t after showbiz drama or celebrity stories! Instead, we were meeting real women with just as important and interesting stories to tell, and it was a privilege to be able to hear just a handful of the stories the women of Longbridge have to offer. Thank you to all the women and organisations for sharing your stories, time, tea and biscuits with us!

Unsurprisingly, many of these conversations were centred around the history and eventual closure of the MG Rover plant.  To be completely honest, I knew nothing about the factory before I began working on this project, but am so glad I do now. The impact the closure had on so many lives was overwhelming to learn about, and the regenerated town is still extremely mindful of its history.  The location of the performance itself is taking place where the factory once stood. Below the performance space are the factory’s tunnels, used to ensure manufacturing could continue during the war. References to the town’s history are scattered all over the shiny new shopping development (which includes the biggest M&S I have ever seen…). It is wonderful to see how Longbridge has continued to grow and expand despite the turbulent period of the factory’s closure, but continues to remember its legacy.

These weeks of research for Women of Longbridge have been unique and inspiring. The way the team at Women & Theatre are able to take real-life stories and transform them in to a performance is, quite frankly, awesome, and it has been fascinating to be a part of this process. I’m never quite sure what’s going to happen next when I go to the Women & Theatre office, and I absolutely love it! It’s been amazing to work with such enthusiastic, creative and generally lovely people and I can’t wait for rehearsals to start.

I hope to see you at Women of Longbridge on 23rd June! Performance times are 11am, 3pm and 6pm outside The Cambridge Pub in Longbridge. And it is FREE, so no excuses!  

For more information on Women of Longbridge click here 

MidlandsImprov.com: GIG GUIDE: JUNE 2018

30 shows this month across the Midlands, covering  BirminghamCoventry

NottinghamLeicesterNorthamptonWorcester.

 

Mischief Move Night cutdown

 

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BIRMINGHAM

THURS 7TH – CHERRY REDS

Freewheelers:  Come and enjoy another packed show of experimental improv from the Midlands and beyond.  This month features local duo Squidheart.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/Freewheelersimprov/

THURS 7TH – MAC

Edinbrum:  Jarred Christmas, the quick witted master of improv, is a TV regular and Chortle award-winner.  See him & Viv Groskop in this preview of their Edinburgh Fringe shows.

https://macbirmingham.co.uk/event/edinbrum-jarred-christmas-viv-groskop

SUN 10TH – PATRICK KAVANAGH

The Documentary:  Showcase for graduates of the Fat Penguin Level One improv course.  Go and see Birmingham’s newest improvisers in their first public performance.  

https://www.facebook.com/FatPenguinImprovComedy

TUES 12TH – PATRICK KAVANAGH

The Armando Diaz Experience:  Fat Penguin Level Two students show off what they have learned using Chicago’s most famous improv format.  

https://www.facebook.com/FatPenguinImprovComedy

THURS 14TH – PATRICK KAVANAGH

Fat Penguin Improv:  The house team Bunkum Factory will amuse and delight along with stand up comedian Craig Dixon.  

https://www.facebook.com/FatPenguinImprovComedy

SAT 16TH – OLD JOINT STOCK

An Audience With Henry VIII:  Two shows with your chance to ask questions Henry VII himself about his reign, wives or ANY related subject…there may be some surprising answers! 

https://www.facebook.com/pg/oldjointstock

MON 18TH – BLUE ORANGE THEATRE

Box Of Frogs: Monthly show in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter where audience members can join performers on stage.

https://www.facebook.com/BoxofFrogsImpro/

WEDS 20TH – THE VICTORIA

The Kneejerks: A night of comedy and theatre, featuring sketches and scenes and all completely free.  

https://www.facebook.com/thekneejerksUK/

THURS 21ST – PATRICK KAVANAGH

Fat Penguin Improv:  The house team Bunkum Factory create comedy scenes based on the musings of a stand up comedian.  

https://www.facebook.com/FatPenguinImprovComedy

 

TUES 26TH/WEDS 27TH – BIRMINGHAM HIPPODROME

Mischief Movie Night:  Direct from a sold-out West End run and their return from six months on Broadway, Mischief Theatre bring you an improvised movie live on stage  

https://www.birminghamhippodrome.com/calendar/mischief-movie-night/

THURS 28TH – PATRICK KAVANAGH

Fat Penguin Improv:  A stand up and an improv team combine to create double the fun.  

https://www.facebook.com/FatPenguinImprovComedy

THURS 28TH/FRI 29TH – BIRMINGHAM HIPPODROME

Mischief Movie Night:  Six more chances to see the new show from the creators of the smash hit comedy The Play That Goes Wrong.  Starring them, directed by you, every night is a guaranteed comedy blockbuster!

https://www.birminghamhippodrome.com/calendar/mischief-movie-night/

SAT 30TH – CHERRY REDS

The Improlectuals:  See this improv supergroup perform spontaneous and hilarious on-the-spot comedy from audience suggestions.

https://www.facebook.com/improlectuals

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COVENTRY

FRI 8TH – ESQUIRES COFFEE

Coventry Improv:  A free family friendly evening of improvised sketches and games.

https://www.facebook.com/CoventryImprov/

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NOTTINGHAM

SAT 2ND – NOTTINGHAM PLAYHOUSE

Rhymes Against Humanity / The Vox Pops:  Improv double bill featuring a musical created on the spot from audience suggestions.  

https://www.facebook.com/missimp.co.uk

THURS 14TH – THE MALT CROSS

Gorilla Burger:  Theatre karaoke where you can be the star.  Or you can just sit back and enjoy an evening of unplanned, uncensored improv comedy.

https://www.facebook.com/missimp.co.uk

FRI 15TH – THE PORTLAND BUILDING

UoN Improv:  The last show of the academic year for the student group will have a few surprises, plus the usual range of comic scenes and games.

https://www.facebook.com/UoNImprov/

MON 18TH – BUNKERS HILL

The Cat’s Pyjamas:  The Nottingham Improv Comedy Experience host a night of fun and games, including a chance for audience members to perform.

https://www.facebook.com/improvnottingham/

WEDS 27TH – THE ANGEL MICROBREWERY

Smash Night: Multiple acts spontaneously turn suggestions into scenes and stories bound to be breath-taking and bloody hilarious.

https://www.facebook.com/missimp.co.uk

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LEICESTER

SAT 2ND – CRITERION FREE HOUSE

The Same Faces: Brilliant comedy sketches live on stage, in the style of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”.  Special party to celebrate the group’s 5th birthday.

https://www.facebook.com/TheSameFaces/

MON 18TH – UPSTAIRS AT THE WESTERN

Uncle Armando: Themed show where the group perform scenes inspired by stand up comedian Andy White.

https://www.facebook.com/TheSameFaces/

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NORTHAMPTON

SAT 30TH – THE BLACK PRINCE 

The Same Faces:  Monthly Northampton show, taking ideas from you to make brilliant comedy sketches live on stage.

https://www.facebook.com/TheSameFaces/

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WORCESTER

FRI 1ST – THE SWAN THEATRE

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical:  The show that has to be seen to be believed.  Olivier Award winning display from Britain’s most talented performers.

http://www.theshowstoppers.org/upcoming-shows/

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Have I missed a show?  Get in touch and let me know.

facebook.com/midlandsimprov/                                    @MidlandsImprov

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Casting

You’ve heard it here before any other source, we’ve just opened casting for our brand new studio theatre show THE CAPITAL. As usual we are devising the show between us all, so we’re looking for actors who have good experience of working in this way, if you need a script shoved in your hand on Day 1 then forget it, in fact doubly forget it because there aren’t going to be words at all. No words means we’re after actors who are skilled at visual story telling. This doesn’t mean years of mime training, but it does mean knowing how audiences read images and how as an actor you make images. The show is about life in a modern diverse city, so we are encouraging applicants from all sectors of society. All the details are in a PDF document here.

Please spread the word.

NB: loyal fans of familiar Stan’s Cafe actors needn’t panic you’ll see a number of them on stage too!

Graeme Rose's Blog: Bells are ringing…

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There were plenty of excuses NOT to come to see us in Engine Brake at Salisbury Playhouse last Saturday afternoon, (19th May.) The much-touted ‘Making of the Mayor’ parade was bringing the sun-drenched Wiltshire streets to life with its celebrations; whilst footie fans were busy clearing the mart-shelves of Carling in readiness for the Cup Final. Meanwhile, down the Thames Valley the fairytale nuptials of the sometime-reluctant Royal – Prince Hal – and his American-born actress bride Meghan Markle, were pulling at the Nation’s fickle heartstrings whilst earning a tidy bob or two for the UK tourism industry. Some of the coolest-staged, and genuinely heartfelt looking photos emerged from the House of Windsor that day.

Back in Brum with my mind bent on the Fred Jeffs Project, I finally find something that has been eluding me for months. The above picture.

It is 70 years old, and shows Fred Jeffs and Betty Marshall on their wedding day, 1948. The best man is my grandad, Doug Rose – Fred’s elder, half-brother – and a maid of honour whose name I have not yet found, perhaps Betty’s sister?.

Betty herself looks happy and radiant; my grandad looks joyful; Fred looks… frankly, a little stiff, uncomfortable.

Barely three years before the two brothers, Doug and Fred, were occupying dorm space in Stalag VII, where they were likely marched Eastwards from their respective POW Camps in Poland. My grandad, captured in Crete 1941, wound up in BAB21 (Auschwitz-Bleckammer). His younger brother Fred, captured at Dunkirk 1940 at the age of 21, ended up in Posen (Poznan) Stalag XXI-D. They return to Civvy-street with hopes of a return to ‘normality’ in a ‘land-fit-for-heroes’. They also, very likely, opt to keep schtumm about the horrors that they have witnessed in the theatre of war, in the POW Camps and on the west-bound Death Marches prior to liberation.

 

 

 

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Catalogue d’Emoji

Should you be planning on drawing up a list called “The most playful, iconoclastic and talented artists currently working in Birmingham” we can help you out with a name… Michael Wolters.

“But surely” you protest “Dr. Wolters is Deputy Head of Composition at the Royal Birmingham Conservertoire and therefore, inevitably, a boring deadbeat”. “Wrong!” we cry “That shows how much you know about these things – nothing!”

We met Michael on a blind date. We were set up by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and it worked out, a few months later I See With My Eyes Closed was born. In 2012 we made sweet music together again (The Voyage, a 12 minute opera scored for many recorders of varying sizes and a double bass).

Since 2012 we’ve been stalking Michael. Annoyingly his collaboration with Alexandra Taylor, Ava’s Wedding was a very engaging, genuinely funny and way more clever than anything we managed with him. A couple of years ago we were thrown a bone and helped stage his hour long solo compositions Requiem: To Let. Last year we were there, watching from the back as he and Paul Norman staged a piece called Worries, which I had my concerns about.

Now he’s back with another Paul Norman collaboration; Catalogue d’Emojis. Emojis appear to be the motif de jour (crying with laughter face). I’ve just returned from two weeks of Emoji script work on Live From The National Theatre (shocked face, wink face, thumbs up, love heart eyes). It will be fun to see them deployed in a new context.

Hand on heart, I can’t promise you’ll love Catalogue d’Emojis but what can anyone ever say that about? It’s sure to be serious and teasing and thought provoking and immediate. It will be a one-off, a thing to say you’ve seen, a thing you’ll no doubt remember for years. I’m putting cold hard cash where my mouth is. I’m spending a tenner. I’m buying a ticket. Join me. Start composing that list: M…I…C…H…A…E…L…new word…W…O…L…T…E…R…S.

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Inspired Illustration

Thursday evening started five weeks ago, maybe two months ago. Thursday evening started when I sent a speculative message to our friend/collaborator Mr. Courage. It started when I first thought that publishing all Stan’s Cafe’s old scripts would be a fun thing to do, but only if they appeared in a set of 22 very slim volumes.

“[Gareth] If you were teaching design at university would it be an interesting / useful / mutually beneficial / noteworthy undertaking for Stan’s Cafe to ‘commission’ you and your students to design the set”

On Thursday evening @ A E Harris over forty first year illustration students from Birmingham City University exhibited their response to our front cover design challenge. Each book in the series was allocated to two students who were furnished with scripts, essays and notes on influences from music, film, the visual arts, history and science. They had five weeks to explore, experiment and deliver a cover inspired the something in that content. The results were spectacular.

On show were prints, A0 photocopies of designs and, most compelling of all, sketch books in which it was possible to trace thinking and inspiration, experiments and blind alleys. To see so much enthusiasm and time and effort and imagination and passion invested in reinterpreting our back-catalogue was very touching.

Some designs were very simple to link to shows: A portrait of Franz Ferdinand with an overlay of dominoe shards and blotch of blood. Paper airpalanes throwing fighter jet shadows on a children’s playground. A Who’s Who of rice grains dressed up for different jobs. A crown hovering above a crowd. A minuscule row of tulips set in a tiny bottle.

Some designs were more tangential – a rat in a blindfold (The Black Maze), JFK in the Oval Office flanked by the flower filled silhoettes of women (The Cleansing of Constance Brown), A series of cartoon ghosts each with a Z on their floating white sheets (Tuning Out With Radio Z)

Some required you to know a show quite well. A paranoid interior finds a hand descending on a cactus (Memoires of An Amnesiac), Satanic blood soaked stag antlers (Finger Trigger Bullet Gun). A text “We’re Spilling Blood” (Voodoo City)

Still others required deep investigation into the workbooks: a host of papier-mâché eyeballs (weirdly spot on for Simple Maths). a collage including a robin was hung for Twilightofthefreakingods where the workbook showed more apt images.

I loved it, we loved it, it was loved. When the books are published we will try to remount the exhibition and share it more widely, then you can love it too.

MidlandsImprov.com: TRUMP & BREXIT GAGS BANNED AT BIRMINGHAM COMEDY SHOW

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A comedy group has banned references to Donald Trump and Brexit at their Glee Club show later this month.  The rule has been introduced to ensure there is a wide range of laughs available to all at their live comedy show.

The Box Of Frogs sketch group are based in Birmingham and have been performing improvised comedy for 9 years.  The group relies on audience suggestions to create scenes and songs on demand.  However, on 27 May they will be telling comedy-goers that the show is a Trump-and-Brexit-free-zone.  The night will be the first time local improvisers have put on a full length show at the region’s premier comedy venue.

Jon Trevor, leader of comedy group Box Of Frogs, said, “We want our show to be fun for everybody, and that isn’t possible if you spend half the time making jokes about people who think differently to you.  We should all be able to laugh together, not just by poking fun at others.  The show will focus on the comedy in everyday things and seeing the funny side of life.”

Having this rule also means the performers are guaranteed to perform new material at every show.  Eliminating comedy topics covered by many stand-ups means the improvisers are forced to find humour in unexpected places.

Adam Jaremko of the Glee Club said, “We aim to have something for everybody at The Glee Club, from household names to underground comedians.  We love putting on improv shows as it’s a chance to showcase a different type of humour and attract audiences that are sometimes put off by traditional stand-up.”

Improv comedy has been growing in popularity across the region in recent years.  2016 saw the first Birmingham Improv Festival, headlined by local star Josie Lawrence.  In 2017 there were 275 improv shows across the Midlands, up 57% on the previous year.  There are a dozen acts based in Birmingham but this is the first time one of them will run their own night at Birmingham’s premier comedy club.

Box Of Frogs are performing at The Glee Club on Sunday 27 May.  Tickets cost £7 and are available at glee.co.uk.

MidlandsImprov.com: REVIEW: THE IMPROLECTUALS

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The Improlectuals are an improv supergroup who come together to create slick comedy sketches.  In this performance there was Richard Baldwin (Wow Impro), Robert Lane (Foghorn Unscripted), Matthew Dibbens (Coventry Impro) and Nathan Blyth (Birmingham Rep), each one bringing their different comedic strengths to play in this satisfying full length show.

The show is made up of a mix of quick-fire sketches, each one following a set comedy format.  “ABC conversation” had two characters starting each sentence with alternating letters of the alphabet, in this instance holidaymakers endangered by a volcano.  “Dolphin trainer” had a lone performer on stage using just audience boos and cheers to guide him into performing a secret task they had chosen in advance (the Macarena).  “Lines from a hat” involves the performers taking lines of dialogue written by the audience before the show and fitting them into a single coherent scene.  From the off it was clear to the audience that they were in safe hands, with confidence and energy on display from all performers.  This reflects the years of experience on stage and an understanding of what makes a good game work well.

Each performer had several great moments in this show.  Richard’s wordplay was a joy throughout, most impressively during the unhappy bride song which rhymed “mental health” with “on the shelf” which fit the scene perfectly.  Robert kept the scenes coherent and grounded, explaining away apparent inconsistencies so that the comedy could grow organically from what had come before.  Matthew played with the fourth wall and was wonderfully honest on stage, admitting in one scene he was just copying everybody else and he didn’t have any other ideas.  And Nathan showed off a wide range of characters using great physicality and accents throughout.  Overall, a great blend of performers who worked together well to create a great night of comedy.

Graeme Rose's Blog: We Design, You Desire

ENGINE BRAKE opened last week at the New Diorama Studio in London NW1. The process of making has been hugely enjoyable one, with a bright and talented team of collaborators assembled by The Plasticene Men director Simon Day.

Show premieres are terrifying things at the best of times, but if you are devising new performance work, you can find yourself plagued with doubt. As a maker (or performer) you have to trust your instinct, but you are always looking for some fresh perspective and a reassurance that the ideas of the show find an effective conduit through the form that has evolved through rehearsals. The process of arriving at this is messy and non-linear. Show content is a sublimation of the universal and the personal – woven into a complex tapestry of threads in which coherent patterns can become lost. In this frenzied atmosphere critical feedback from audience and/or reviewers can expose personal insecurities and vulnerabilities in unhelpful or destructive ways. Recognising this, I have learned to take reviews, whether positive or negative, with a pinch of salt.

A well written analysis, however, is such a breath of fresh air – for audience and creatives alike. Rosemary Waugh writes eloquently and sensitively about the show, ENGINE BRAKE in this Review in Exeunt (14th May 2018). For me it is a reassuring confirmation that the complex ideas and conversations that informed the making process have percolated through into a poetic form that – even though the threads are ‘unhemmed’ – has a coherence to it.

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We enter the second of four weeks’ touring, with the show moving to Salisbury Playhouse this week (17th – 19th May), then Plymouth Drum (28th May – 1st June) and finally Bristol Wardrobe Theatre (6th – 9th June).

photo by Matt Cawrey.

Simon writes about the development process of ENGINE BRAKE in this Blog post from The Plasticene Men.

Engine Brake press review: exeuntmagazine

 

Little Earthquake: We’re Itching To Talk About… Laura Ryder & Company

We’re Itching To Talk About… is a series of blog posts in which we feature some of the brilliant work our theatre-making friends are creating within the region and further afield.

Photograph by Luke Galloway.

Laura Ryder is a Derby-based theatre-maker who collaborates with other independent artists to make much of her work. She is mid-way through a regional tour of The Bee Project which will soon bee buzzing into Derby Theatre (8th June 2018) and the Belgrade in Coventry (14th – 16th June 2018).

We caught up with Laura to find out more about apiary, the environmental impact of touring theatre and what makes her so proud to be an Eastie theatre-maker.

You can follow Laura on Twitter here, and The Bee Project on Twitter here.


Phil: How would you describe your work for somebody experiencing it for the first time?

Laura: A mixture of storytelling and dance — I love finding ways to tell stories through movement and physical theatre. My work is messy and rough around the edges. I enjoy exploring different ways of telling stories, particularly about environmental issues, in ways that are entertaining and engaging with audiences. My current show, The Bee Project, has a real focus on care and what it means to look after each other and the planet.

Phil: Who else forms the Company in Laura Ryder and Company?

Laura: We’re a collective of artists based in the Midlands; we’ve been working together since 2016 and work through a collaborative rehearsal process. Myself and Freya Sharp perform in the work, Maria Terry is production designer, James Varney is dramaturg and Luke Galloway is sound designer. We devise the work together, with each of us taking lead on different ideas and looking at how we can integrate our various backgrounds of theatre making into the work.

Phil: Tell us about three pieces of theatre – or theatre makers – that have had the biggest impact on you, and tell us why they made such an impact.

Laura: I love Chris Thorpe’s work. I saw his show Confirmation at Edinburgh Fringe in 2014 and I couldn’t get over how it stuck with me. It made me reflect on my own opinions and politics, my own bias. It was a masterclass in making theatre which is challenging, funny and genuinely political. I recently did a workshop with him about making political theatre and I’m still processing all the thoughts bouncing round my head from that.

Key Change by Open Clasp was an astonishingly good show, it was devised with women in HMP Low Newton prison and toured male prisons. It felt like it gave a platform for voices which are often silenced, without ever feeling exploitative. The movement sections of the piece fed into it so beautifully, really lifting the stories. I think it was a perfect example of how art can be both brilliant and moving as well as useful and a tool for change.

I love Chris Thorpe’s work. Confirmation was a masterclass in making theatre which is challenging, funny and genuinely political.

I recently saw Gecko’s The Wedding at Derby Theatre which just blew me away. The end of the show had this incredible energy that I think you can only achieve in live theatre. You could feel the audience wanting to join in by the end, the whole auditorium was just alive. I’ve seen a few of Gecko’s shows and it always astounds me how they explore these huge ideas through movement and images.

Phil: Tell us a bit about your current show The Bee Project. What inspired you to make it and what can audiences expect?

Laura: The Bee Project is a piece about friendship and care as much as it is an environmental piece about bees. I’d been interested in bees for a while, I love how honey bees dance to communicate and as a dancer I thought it was brilliant. I started researching more about their environmental importance and their decline and all of a sudden the show seemed quite political and urgent. I had a really interesting meeting with a beekeeper, and the way they described their hive made it sound like an excellent party. A hive is dark and sticky, full of noise and dancing, it really sparked our imaginations. We wanted to make a piece which looked at how we can help make a difference to our environment: as a collective, we want to leave the audience with a sense of hope. Audiences can expect a story about two friends, one which looks at the importance of caring for each other as well as the planet. Oh, and also plenty of energy and glitter!

I had a really interesting meeting with a beekeeper, and the way they described their hive made it sound like an excellent party. A hive is dark and sticky, full of noise and dancing, it really sparked our imaginations.

Phil: Would you ever consider getting some bees yourself and looking after a few hives? (You could end up with some theatre honey to sell on tour!)

Laura: I would love some bees! I worked on a farm in Italy where they kept bees and it was so exciting to learn about how a hive works and how to look after bees. I helped plant a wildflower meadow when I was there to help feed the bees.

Theatre honey sounds great! One of my favourite bee facts is that they keep bees on the rooftop of Paris Opera House, I’ve always loved the idea of the bees listening to opera!

Also not all bees live in hives, you can support wild bees by planting flowers in your garden, it’s like an invite for wild bees to come and visit. I would definitely like to keep bees in the future!

Phil: What’s unique or special for you about how theatre can get people thinking and talking about environmental issues?

Laura: Theatre is an amazing place to share stories that can make us question how we live our lives, you’re with an audience sharing a space and a conversation. It’s one of the only artforms where the artists and the audience are in the same room, you have an actual real interaction with the people who are experiencing your art. I find messages stick with me way more when they’re shared in an entertaining and fun way. I think theatre invites empathy and conversation which are two things needed when looking at how we can deal with environmental issues. We try and run Q&As after our shows so we can engage in further conversations about how we can look after the planet.

Phil: Making and touring theatre often consumes quite a lot of materials and resources – there’s often a big carbon footprint in terms of travel, or mountains of posters and flyers, for example. Where have you managed to reduce The Bee Project’s environmental impact?

Laura: Our show uses A LOT of golden glitter, it’s a really beautiful element to our design, signifying a party and representing pollen. We knew from day one that using plastic glitter would be terrible for the environment and looked to find alternatives. We use biodegradable glitter made from eucalyptus in the show so that we aren’t contributing to the microplastics harming our oceans. The show’s design can fit in a suitcase so we can always use public transport when touring. We’ve created e-flyers to share so that we can cut back on paper flyers.

We use biodegradable glitter made from eucalyptus in the show so that we aren’t contributing to the microplastics harming our oceans.

Phil: Why is being based in the East Midlands and working so much in the Midlands important to you?

Laura: I think the Midlands arts scene is thriving, every networking event/festival I go to I meet artists whose work inspires me and makes me want to grow my own artistic practice. Derby Theatre’s In Good Company artists’ network have supported us so much as a company, I don’t think I know of many other schemes like it. Events such as your amazing East Meets West Symposium showed me just how generous and exciting the Midlands theatre scene is.

Phil: You’ll soon be taking part in DART, Live & Local’s development scheme to introduce artists to the wonderful world of rural touring. What’s got you interested in connecting with rural audiences?

Laura: My grandparents live in a tiny village in Yorkshire, I mean so tiny they don’t have a local shop. There isn’t a theatre near them or art galleries or anything like that but they love art. I’d go to their house and they would play the piano, sing songs and my cousins would put on little comedy sketches. I think their community would love to have more access to theatre. Rural touring means we can reach audiences who might not be able to get to the theatre and have the privilege of sharing work with those communities. We’ve only ever shown The Bee Project in cities and I’m really interested to see the reaction from rural audiences, they may have totally different responses to city audiences!

Rural touring means we can reach audiences who might not be able to get to the theatre and have the privilege of sharing work with those communities.

Phil: Beyond The Bee Project, what are you planning or working on for the rest of 2018 and beyond?

Laura: The Bee Project was our first show as a collective of artists and we’ve all found that we’ve loved working with each other. There’s a really great dynamic in the rehearsal space, so we’re looking at continuing to make work as a company. We’re looking at different ways we can possibly reach new audiences. We’ve ran workshops alongside the show and are keen to keep running learning programmes alongside any work that we make.

Looking forward, I think our process will be about continuing to see where we can take The Bee Project, and how we can make it as accessible as possible to new audiences. This may include reaching rural communities, Edinburgh Fringe and even looking at more school and student engagement.

Phil: As a theatre-maker myself, I’m always fascinated to learn about other people’s creative processes. What main ideas characterise the way you go about creating your work?

Laura: One of the main things I think I’ve learnt through this rehearsal process is how important it is to find the joy in your work. We started The Bee Project by having two weeks of play, we explored how we could move like bees, what stories might come from creating work about the environment and really let ourselves find the passion in our work. I think that has really carried the show in its various stages of development. It’s meant that however the show has developed it has maintained its original soul as well as our excitement and intentions of what we wanted the piece to be about. I think it’s important for creative processes to ensure there is space to play, fail and learn. Having space to make mistakes has been crucial for the artistic development of this show, it’s where some of the most interesting ideas have come from.

I think it’s important for creative processes to ensure there is space to play, fail and learn.

Phil: Many of our blog subscribers are theatre students who plan to go on and make their own work professionally. If you had to give one piece of advice to them, what would it be?

Laura: Find something you’re really passionate about and want to make theatre about. That way even when you come up against barriers or have setbacks, you will still know why you are making that work and who you’re making it for. Everyone has setbacks: first time round we didn’t get funding for The Bee Project. The day we found this out, we made some of our favourite choreography in the show, we knew we were making something we were passionate about and didn’t let the setback stop our creativity. We’ve since gone on to receive funding and it’s been brilliant to see the piece grow. Also, go see as much work as you can, get involved in your local regional theatre and let them support you.

The post We’re Itching To Talk About… Laura Ryder & Company appeared first on Little Earthquake.