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Little Earthquake: We’re Itching To Talk About… Beth Shouler

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.

Beth Shouler is Nottingham Playhouse’s recently appointed Artist Development Co-ordinator and she’ll be heading up Ampilfy, the Playhouse’s new programme of work which reimagines the resources and opportunities being made available to local theatre-makers.

We checked in with Beth to ask about what she and the Playhouse have in the pipeline, to find out how her background as a maker will influence what she plans to do in her new post, and to reflect on the collapse of Nottingham’s bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2023.

You can find out more about Nottingham Playhouse’s Amplify here.


Gareth: Congratulations on being appointed as Artist Development Co-Ordinator at Nottingham Playhouse, where you’ll be leading Amplify, the venue’s new artist development scheme! Can you tell us a bit more about the scheme and the ways in which local artists can get involved?

Beth: Thank you! It’s a really exciting time at Nottingham Playhouse as we begin a fresh chapter under the new artistic leadership of Adam Penford. Our region is full of talented artists and we want to help them flourish.

The scheme is in its early days but there are various things in the diary. There are Plug Ins which are opportunities to meet Adam Penford (Artistic Director) and Fiona Buffini (Associate Director) before a show. There are scratch nights to try out new work, ideas submission windows (there’s one currently open at the moment) where you can submit a script or proposal for a show, and surgeries around the business side of things. There are all sorts of plans on the horizon and it’s important to us that what we offer is genuinely helpful and not tokenistic. So the programme will evolve as we go along and find out what is needed to invest in local producers, designers, directors, theatre-makers, performers and writers.

To join, have a look at the information of our website which tells you what to do if you’re an individual artist or a company. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll also get access to discounted tickets and 25% off food and drink in the Playhouse Bar and Kitchen. Basically, all I need is a current CV and a brief letter telling me about yourself.

I think it’s important that we engage with people who haven’t just been shaped artistically by London and who have a passion and understanding of regional theatre-making ecology.

Gareth: If money were no object, which artist or company would you bring in to Amplify to run a workshop?

Beth: If I had an unlimited budget, there are various artists I’d love to bring here, partly in recognition of the broad range of artists in the region. Sally Cookson would be high on my list as a director and deviser, someone whose career is extraordinary and who came up through the regions. I’d love Kully Thiarai to do some training on visionary leadership and making things happen – she’s so inspiring. When I did the Royal Court Writers Course, Chloe Lamford came to talk about her role and completely shifted the way I think about design. I think it’s important that we engage with people who haven’t just been shaped artistically by London and who have a passion and understanding of regional theatre-making ecology.

Gareth: 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.

Beth: I remember watching A Clockwork Orange by Northern Stage at Derby Playhouse in the late nineties when I was in sixth form. I’d never seen any physical theatre or something with such a strong aesthetic, so that was a defining moment when I knew I wanted to work in theatre professionally. It was visceral and got under my skin and made me feel things. Probably the first moment I felt politically engaged. I remember not sleeping afterwards as my brain pondered so many big questions about the world.

De La Guarda at the Roundhouse changed the way I thought about narrative and the audience experience. Who knew that being drenched with water in January would be such a thrilling, nonsensical and ultimately amazing experience? The sense of theatre being a party the audience was invited to has stayed with me. I love the way that theatre brings a cross-section of people together in a shared memory. I get frustrated when the experience is elitist or requires insider knowledge or is just dull. Dullness will be the death of theatre.

Boy by Leo Butler is one of my favourite plays of all time. I’ve worked with a lot of young people over the years and this is one of the most sophisticated and subtle expressions of youth. Throughout my career, I’ve moved increasingly towards working with writers and developing voices and I’ve always had a real passion for ensemble plays with large casts. This exemplifies all that is good about writing in theatre. Sacha Wares’ production at the Almeida was stunning. I suppose this also illustrates my passion for stories about young people that don’t just perpetuate lazy stereotypes.

Gareth: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing independent artists and companies at the moment — both in the Midlands, and in general? How would you like to see the sector develop over the next ten years?

Beth: Theatre is expensive to make and the legacy of austerity is that everyone — from organisations to audiences — is strapped for cash. The other real problem is how the arts are being side-lined out of the national curriculum, so increasingly young people have no access to theatre unless their family values it. This is a real challenge if we don’t want theatres to be perpetually dominated by one type of voice. We need to find ways to get rid of invisible barriers and not let privilege be the deciding factor in who gets to make theatre.

The arts are being side-lined out of the national curriculum, so increasingly young people have no access to theatre unless their family values it. This is a real challenge if we don’t want theatres to be perpetually dominated by one type of voice.

We’re going to have to get creative about building interesting partnerships and opportunities that think outside traditional structures. The growth of digital technology offers new ways to engage and interact with audiences and potentially offers new ways of working that we’ve not thought of before.

As the world increasingly becomes less personal, with fewer opportunities for people to come together in a space to tell stories, there is something incredibly profound about the theatre experience that no other art form quite replicates. That USP is something we can really promote. I grew up in a family where hospitality was a key component of our values and, as people are increasingly hungry for human connection in actual time and space, theatre can grow community in a new way where hospitality and relationships are key, rather than something that is transactional. It’s about the experience.

Gareth: Through our work with East Meets West, we’re interested in reducing barriers between theatre-makers and venues within the entire Midlands region. What challenges do venues in particular face in offering support to local artists?

Beth: There are general challenges we all face such as limited funding and a risk-averse climate. Specifically at the Playhouse we have a 90-seater studio and then a 750-seater main house so finding opportunities for artists who are ready to make work for a space that is bigger than a studio but aren’t quite ready for a 750-seater is something I’m aware of. Sometimes the decisions a venue makes can seem baffling to those outside, so trying to make processes and decisions that affect freelancers clear and manage expectations are priorities for me. The other side is I get to advocate for freelancers in our building and to other organisations which is great.

Gareth: A lot of your work to date has been around developing new writing. Which writers should we look out for who you think are currently producing the most interesting new writing, and what is it about their work that excites you?

Beth: Mufaro Mukabika and Jane Upton are two local writers whose work is incredible. Both just won major awards and I am so proud as I’ve known them since they were starting out and watching the way they’ve developed their process has been fascinating. Their stories make me feel things. I respond to some writers quite cerebrally but their work always punches me in the gut. I’m looking forward to reading more scripts and championing new talent from this region. I’m bored of UK culture being defined by the North / South divide. There’s a distinctive Midlands voice to be heard.

Gareth: You grew up in Nottingham and have been visiting the Playhouse since you were a child. Tell us about the most memorable experience you’ve had there.

Beth: The first piece of theatre I ever saw was the Panto when I was two. We went every year and I desperately wanted to be one of the dancers. I was so jealous of those being ‘on the inside’. My first assistant directing job was on A Day in the Death of Joe Egg and I specifically remember this feeling of butterflies and excitement the day we started tech and I was sat in the empty auditorium as it all came together, feeling like I belonged.

Gareth: Brexit has meant that Nottingham’s bid to be the 2023 European Capital of Culture has been stopped in its tracks. What would being Capital of Culture have meant for Nottingham — and what would it have meant to you, personally?

Beth: Oh, it’s just frustrating and sad. It would have been an amazing opportunity for Nottingham. There’s so much potential in this city. It’s vibrant and exciting and full of creatives plotting and doing amazing things.

The first piece of theatre I ever saw was the Panto when I was two. We went every year and I desperately wanted to be one of the dancers. I was so jealous of those being ‘on the inside’.

Gareth: Throughout your career, you’ve worked a lot with youth groups and children, as well as with professional artists. Are there any ways in which your work with one group has influenced your work with the other group, and vice versa?

Beth: In a practical way, it started out as a way for me to make theatre and climb the ladder in a city where very few directing opportunities existed. I found out very quickly that I really love working with young people. There’s a fearlessness in the creative process I find inspiring. They assume you know what you’re doing and embrace risk with real enthusiasm – I’ve flooded rehearsal rooms, created food fights on stage, worked in the dark, set up all sorts of mess and chaos and they’ve brilliantly just gone with it. They’ve shaped me as much as I’ve shaped them.

Increasingly, there are a number of artists like myself who make professional work with young people and are blurring the boundaries of what can be made. This has allowed me to work on a much bigger scale earlier in my career and create a different kind of experience for the audience. I remember watching the first performance of Girls Like That by Evan Placey down at Theatre Royal Plymouth and the energy of the 20 in the cast was something else. It made the hairs on your neck stand up. They had 5 performances to get across this story that really mattered to them and they went for it. However, there are limitations in terms of content, rehearsal time and ability when working with younger actors.

Working with professional actors allows you to find real depth in the performance and you can really riff off the other creative expertise in the room in a totally different way – it isn’t all on you to hold it together. I also get to be a director and not have to do at least 3 other roles in the room alongside. And usually you don’t have to ask people to give the flirting a rest mid-rehearsal! Professional actors don’t leave learning their lines to the last minute either. I worked on one really physical show and one of the actors turned up on Day One with their lines basically learnt so we had real freedom to find the physical shape of that show and that was a real treat. You have the luxury of time to explore the possibilities of the play and to push everything. Actors come back in each day having worked on things at home so you’re constantly moving forward and striving for brilliance. You also get to stay in the world of the play for an extended period of time which changes your relationship with it and gives it focus.

It’s important for me to work on both. One encourages me to be risky and playful, the other pushes me for artistic excellence and depth.

Gareth: Many of our blog subscribers are performance 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?

Don’t wait for permission. Make things happen as best you can with the limited resources around you.

Beth: Don’t wait for permission. Make things happen as best you can with the limited resources around you. Take initiative (especially if you are a woman, as often we apologise for our existence). Buildings want to know you are a leader and can be trusted. I am part of collectives in Plymouth and Nottingham where we began to do interesting things and the buildings came on board to support us because we showed we were bold, resourceful and competent with what we had.

Don’t bitch about anyone – this industry is tiny, your paths will cross. Don’t be entitled but at the same time don’t be afraid to ask for help: artists are really generous towards each other.

I wish women were less self-deprecating. I get far more men emailing me about their work or things they need. Women are too scared of getting it wrong or making some sort of faux pas. Take unnecessary apologies and the word ‘just’ out of your emails.

Do something each week that is nothing to do with theatre – the bubble is not always helpful.

Sorry that was more than one!

The post We’re Itching To Talk About… Beth Shouler appeared first on Little Earthquake.

Little Earthquake: We’re Itching To Talk About… Maison Foo

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.

Image: Maison Foo’s Memoirs Of A Biscuit Tin

Maison Foo is a madhouse of mischievous theatre-making, led by co-Artistic Directors Bethany Sheldon and Kathryn Lowe, who draw on puppetry, clowning and physical theatre to create work which is surreal, soulful, satirical and sentimental.

We caught up with Bethany to find out more about the Derby theatre scene, balancing parenting with producing, and a heads-up on A Thing Mislaid which they’ll be touring in Autumn 2018.

You can find out more about Maison Foo here:

Website: www.maisonfoo.co.uk
Twitter: www.twitter.com/maisonfoo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/maisonfoo/


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

Bethany: Visual Theatre… a bit clowny, a bit puppety/objecty… often absurd with a social conscience… usually mischievous with a penchant for tickling audiences’ imaginations.

Phil: You spoke on our Organisational Development panel at the East Meets West Symposium last year, and a phrase you used really stuck with us: “Theatre can be the break that makes a difference”. Can you tell us a bit about this idea and how important it is to you as both a maker and audience member?

Bethany: That is a quote from a nurse at Derby Hospital, who stopped for a theatrical brew outside the hospital entrance at Tea Bar, our street theatre pop up cafe. She said the unexpected encounter “was the break that made a difference and she would go back to work now refreshed”. It is this kind of reaction that drives a lot of our participatory and street theatre work.

Through this work, we often look at how we can make people feel more valued, feel like they matter, gift them a moment of comic surreal escapism. It’s such rewarding work when you, as an artist, can actually help someone’s wellbeing – refresh someone, lift their spirits and make their day through a totally unexpected creative encounter.

Through our work, we often look at how we can make people feel more valued, feel like they matter, gift them a moment of comic surreal escapism.

I think this ‘making people feel they matter’ is a thread throughout all our work on some level. Even when audiences engage with us in more traditional settings like studio theatre spaces, we hope they are able to escape with us into another world, to take a break to disconnect from day-to-day life, and reconnect with what it is to be human. We hope that from that break, people leave refreshed or with a slightly different perspective on the world.

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.

Bethany: Hmmm… lots of things have an impact on me as a theatre maker, and more often than not it’s not theatre! It could be a documentary, or music, or a piece of art, or the philosophy behind an artist’s work that inspires me. For example, Dali and Surrealism — not necessarily the paintings, but the creative movement and thinking behind Surrealism. The absurdity of placing objects in a totally different place to where you would normally see them and what that does to the audience has definitely had an impact on me.

I’d say us Foos are like magpies; we take a pinch of this from one influence and blend it with a scoop of that from another. If I had to pick one major moment in my life, it would be seeing DV8’s Strange Fish as an A-Level Dance student way back when. That has to go down as a moment when my thinking about what theatre could be really opened up. Such a major impact and I only ever saw it on DVD (well probably video tape actually! Shhhh!)

There was one particular moment in that piece that caught the attention of my inner magpie: the character ‘Nigel’ was weaving in and out of the two female performers. He was trying to talk to them whilst they tried to ignore him and get away. His dialogue was mumbled, jumbled and nonsensical, but the emotional feeling and clarity of the unsaid was so clear and resonant. BOOM! At that moment, my world changed and I’ve been obsessed with creating physical moments that speak beyond words ever since.

I think if I had to pick a third thing, I’d probably say Charleroi Danse’s Kiss and Cry which has been a recent influence. It’s a piece of object puppetry that manipulates miniature worlds that are filmed using a live camera. That sparked such excitement in me and has led to our own live camera language that we’re developing for the new show, A Thing Mislaid.

Phil: You both have children (affectionately known as The Foolets). Has becoming parents had any unexpected influences on your work, both in terms of its creative content and the logistics of running a company and touring?

Bethany: The Foolets have highly influenced how we make work and how we run a creative process. We now work in a different rhythm. We tend to rehearse three days a week over a longer period, and some days we have to finish at 5! #shockhorror! We used to rehearse and work six days a week and stay until silly o’clock if anyone would let us.

It’s interesting thinking about the discussions happening at the moment around mental health in the sector. Again and again, you hear how people are always pushing themselves beyond their limits for not a lot of money, scared of slowing down, missing out, needing to make work a priority every second of every day.

The Foolets have taught us to let go of that fear — that it is totally okay to find your own rhythm and go at your own pace. It may take us a lot longer to make work now, but we are healthier for it, and the creative process seems a lot richer too. Working three days a week on a show allows us to maintain a work/life balance. It gives us space to breathe and gain a greater sense of clarity from one week to the next. And guess what? Nobody in the industry has shut the door on us for doing so. Partners and venues are still just as supportive.

So theatre-makers without children: if you need to give yourself permission to slow down a bit and go at your own pace, maybe it’s time to get a Flour Baby!

Image: Maison Foo’s A Thing Mislaid

Phil: Your website sections are very neatly divided up into the different rooms of a house. Would you ever consider making theatre that was performed inside your audience members’ homes? Or would you ever welcome audiences into your own homes?

Bethany: I already have when training with the London School of Puppetry! I hosted an evening of living room theatre with three other puppeteers. It was great! Us Foos love performing in different spaces. One of my favourite alternative space performances we’ve created was time travel clubbing in QUAD’s lifts!

It’s interesting thinking about the discussions happening at the moment around mental health in the sector. Again and again, you hear how people are always pushing themselves beyond their limits for not a lot of money, scared of slowing down, missing out, needing to make work a priority every second of every day.

Phil: A few years ago, you became one of the very first Associate Companies with In Good Company, the East Midlands artist development scheme. In what ways did that support benefit you most?

Bethany: Wow! I don’t know where to start…

I could talk about all the amazing support we got like cash, rehearsal space, and mentoring, but that’s all outlined on their website. I could talk about how wonderful Ruby Glaskin and Emily Coleman (IGC Producers) are. Or how grateful I am to Sarah Brigham for having the vision of IGC as an Artist support scheme and making it happen, with bells on, in our region! Or Natalie Ibu for charging in with creative gusto when setting the whole scheme up…

But I think I’m going to focus on the long-term relationships it has helped us build with other artists. Before In Good Company, artists in the East Midlands were a lot more disconnected. IGC has brought us together. And the artists that were in our ‘year group’ (LaPelle’s Factory, Spiltmilk Dance, Nonsuch Theatre and Zealous Theatre) are all now genuine theatre-making friends. The type of friends that really support each other, the type you can pick up the phone and ask silly questions to, the type that are always really excited to bump into each other.

IGC led to Maison Foo being an Associate Company at Derby Theatre, who ultimately supported us getting back on the theatre horse post-maternity leave. This helped us to learn how to juggle our real babies with our theatre baby!

Phil: What more do you think can be done to support independent artists across the Midlands?

Bethany: There is so much brilliant stuff already going on to support independent artists in the region, especially early career artists, which is blooming amazing. The difference in the region from when we began is phenomenal. It’s still tough out there though, whatever stage you are at.

So as a company in its tenth year of survival (we are now apparently ‘mid-career’ #yowsers!), it feels right to think about what companies like us are currently up against…

There is so much brilliant stuff already going on to support independent artists in the region, especially early career artists, which is blooming amazing. The difference in the region from when we began is phenomenal.

So they are probably in their 30’s, maybe have a family or are wanting to start one, or maybe looking for a bit more stability. They are at a point where they can’t ask people to work for free and can no longer work for free themselves either, as they no longer live with their parents.

They have perhaps achieved a lot of their initial early career goals, and are maybe having or have recently had the “who are we/where are we heading” wobble!

They probably find maintaining the stamina and drive to keep the creative fire ignited very hard when they’re exhausted from the long-term struggle of making it work financially.

It’s at this point that walking away to find a ‘proper job’ (as parents call them) is often the way people go.

So my ponder is… What more can be done to support these Midlands mid-career artists so they can continue for another ten, twenty, thirty years? As a sector we are in danger of losing their experience and their knowledge.

If it’s financial stability they need and that’s something venues can’t offer, what could our regional venues to do help and support these artists move towards a more sustainable future? If match funding is needed, for example: rather than a ‘sorry we haven’t got any money to commission with’ from venues as a conversation ender, how can this be turned into a conversation starter? Could venues and companies work together to find a way of leveraging the match fund from another source through the venue, that then becomes the match for the company? Or are there ways in which venues and companies can work together to achieve collective goals like developing and delivering an outreach programme together?

I think if it weren’t for Derby Theatre, we would have been one of those companies to hang up their boots at the ‘mid-career’ door. Don’t get me wrong: we are still having our wobbles and we are currently in the midst of a massive organisational restructure post-maternity, but we don’t feel alone. We feel we have a friend to wobble with and a friend saying ‘it’s okay to wobble, we are here, our door is open and we are working it through with you’. Because of that, we actually feel excited about the future. I think the more that venues can be that friend and have a more bespoke and honest relationship with artists, then the better we will all be.

So artists: let’s not be afraid to talk about it! We have a responsibility to ask for what we need. And venues: let’s continue the conversation beyond ‘sorry we want to, but we can’t’ and think creatively around our relationships and how we can work together to sustain the future of theatre making in the region.

Phil: You first came to national attention with your highly acclaimed sell-out show Memoirs Of A Biscuit Tin at the 2010 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. How important do you think it is for artists to take their work to Edinburgh?

Bethany: Oh Edinburgh! Edinburgh, you insane, cruel, sexy, addictive thing!

I think it’s not the be-all and end-all but it’s not called the best showcase in the world for nothing. We’ve been twice and both times, we have benefited. The second time nearly killed us though and we will think hard before returning!

If anyone ever asks me advice about Edinburgh, my first question back is always ‘why?’ followed by a load of other questions like…

‘why do you want to go?’
‘why do think this is the right time for you to go?’
‘why is this show the right show to take?’
‘what do you want to achieve by going?’

There are hundreds and hundreds of shows at the festival, so the clearer you can be about what you want to get out of it, the more likely it is you will get something out of it, and not be lost in that epic sea of shows.

We didn’t rush into going. The year before we took Biscuit Tin to Edinburgh, we went up for a few days to research. We went and met with Edinburgh venue programmers, watched companies similar to us and then we made sure that the show was one we felt was good and was ready to put out there for critics and industry to come and see. It also gave us a year to raise the thousands of pounds we needed to invest (no, it’s not cheap!) and ask advice from those who had been there and done that.

Our advice would be — get a brilliant team behind you — invest in a good press officer (worth their weight in gold) — and a brilliant technician who can work quickly to make your show still look great under Edinburgh restrictions and with a five-minute get in!

Phil: Tell us a bit about A Thing Mislaid, the brand new show you are developing.

Bethany: A Thing Mislaid is a show about two lost clowns, who meet somewhere on the way to nowhere; and a thing mislaid, a thing without a flock, a thing on a journey to find home.

Oh Edinburgh! Edinburgh, you insane, cruel, sexy, addictive thing!

The show blends puppetry, objects and live camera with clowning and humour to tell its tale, travelling through miniature worlds and surreal realities.

The piece started life back in 2015 under the title The Granddad Project, when Kate and I looked further into a curious commonality we both shared — our migratory heritage. This set the seed for a new piece of work that built on our exploration of migration, journey and home, asking the question: where do we belong?

Excitingly, A Thing Mislaid has been commissioned by China Plate, Warwick Arts Centre, mac birmingham and In Good Company, and we shared work-in-progress performances last year at the First Bite and Bite Size festivals. We plan to tour the show throughout the Midlands in Autumn 2018.

You can see some pics and our teaser trailer here.

Alongside the show we are also developing a Refugee Friend Scheme, working with Derby Theatre, Derby Refugee Advice Centre, Attenborough Arts Centre, Journeys Festival and Talking Birds. The scheme will help break down barriers that refugees and those currently seeking asylum face through a program of creative participatory events.

Phil: What was the last thing you mislaid, and did it ever turn up again?

Bethany: A travel cot! Seriously, I can’t find it anywhere and it’s not exactly a small item either!

Image: Maison Foo’s A Thing Mislaid

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 a new show?

Bethany: Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration!

We spend time finding the right people to be lost with! You can’t devise without jumping into the unknown — a lot! You need people around you willing to jump off that cliff with you daily. People that are playful, generous, big-hearted and willing to give, try lots of ideas, and not get precious about discarding the ones that don’t work. And we are not just talking performers! We work that way with our designer, musician/composer, producer… Everyone.

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?

Bethany: Enjoy failing! It’s one of our mottos that we magpied from Improbable! To us, it means being open and honest and saying I don’t know what I’m doing but that’s okay. I may fail, but if I enjoy the process and let go of the fear of failure, then that is when the exciting stuff happens — when you put yourself out there, when you take risks. You can’t make things without trying things. I’d say about only 20% of ideas actually make it into a show.

Enjoy failing! It’s one of our mottos that we magpied from Improbable!

And don’t just enjoy failing at the theatre making bit. Enjoy failing at all the other stuff too — the marketing, the producing, the general management, the accounts, the van driving… When you do something for the first time, you don’t really know how to do it until you’ve done it. Learn from doing.

So try to let go of the fear and jump in! Don’t be afraid to ask people lots of questions as they were blagging it just like you only a few years previously. I suspect they still are, they are just a bit further down the road of blag!

The post We’re Itching To Talk About… Maison Foo appeared first on Little Earthquake.

Little Earthquake: Gareth Joins the Board of ITC

We’re thrilled to announce that Gareth has joined the board of the Independent Theatre Council (ITC).

ITC supports and develops the professional performing arts in the UK and represents a community of over 450 companies and producers. They offer advice on management, financial and legal matters, peer learning, training opportunities and a professional network.

Of the appointment Gareth said: “I’m really excited that I’ll get to work with such an inspiring team in helping to shape the future of an incredible organisation. Huge thanks to ITC’s Communications Co-Ordinator Thea Stanton for planting the idea in my head in the first place, and to existing board member Jenny Gaskell for her awesome moral support. And a massive thanks to the legends who nominated me: Deborah Kermode (from Midlands Arts Centre), Sophie Motley (from Pentabus Theatre), and Janet Vaughan (from Talking Birds).”

As part of the process, Gareth was asked to give a short election speech at ITC’s AGM in February. You can read about how Gareth pledged to support ITC as a board member below.

“I can still remember my first nervous call to ITC. It was about Rates of Pay and Jackie guided me through that now familiar factsheet without judgement and with clarity and kindness. For over a decade ITC has supported Little Earthquake every step of the way, and now I’m excited about the prospect of giving something back.

I only have a minute, so here are three things I’d love to help ITC achieve over the next few years:

Firstly, I’d like to push for even more training sessions and opportunities to engage with ITC outside of London, and in doing so, help to increase ITC’s visibility across the country.

Secondly, I’d like to find ways of building ITC membership amongst very new artists and companies. Those theatre-makers who are still in the first two years of making work, so they are only kept awake at night by their brilliant ideas, and not the fear of neglecting their legal obligations.

And finally, I’m passionate about building a stronger sense of community and democracy amongst theatre-makers. I strongly believe that we’re all on the same team, even if it sometimes doesn’t feel that way. I’d therefore like to encourage more interaction and peer-to-peer support and learning between ITC members themselves through social events and online platforms.

Every member of ITC is independent but I don’t want anybody to feel that they are on their own. To borrow a quote from mac birmingham’s Debbie Kermode as she spoke at our recent East Meets West Symposium: “Individually, we are all unique in our offer to audiences, but together, we are stronger.”

Thank you.”

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Little Earthquake: Grimm Tales Retold – Inside Production Week

We’ve recently finished working on Grimm Tales Retold, our latest collaboration with the Department of Drama & Theatre Arts at the University of Birmingham. Throughout the rehearsal period, we worked with a brilliant ensemble of students to bring Phil’s script to life and we invited the cast to write guest blog posts about the process. Find out what happened during production week below.

You can also read about what happened during week one of rehearsals here, week two here, week three here, and week four here.

George Bandy
Monday 5th February, 6pm – 10pm

The first day of Production Week invariably carries with it a certain level of stress and panic – even more so when you are up at the crack of dawn for last minute logistics checking and polishing. Despite our usual warm-ups and icebreakers, this was the rehearsal where I, for one, knew that the performances were looming over us. We were particularly looking at refining the physical theatre sequences, including both the opening ‘Fox Hoodie’ routine, and the ‘Office Twat’ transitions. Since both sequences utilised the full cast, and involved large amounts of set/prop moving, these proved quite troublesome to perfect, and so we found ourselves drilling them to precision.

It was here that it struck me quite how far we had come as a company; the progression by each of us from our first day of rehearsals, a mere four weeks prior, to the standard I could now see in front of me, was remarkable.

Playing one of the Grimm brothers, I had less of a hand in these transitions, and so for once I had the opportunity to sit and watch the work of everyone else for a large part of the morning. It was here that it struck me quite how far we had come as a company; the progression by each of us from our first day of rehearsals, a mere four weeks prior, to the standard I could now see in front of me, was remarkable. Each person in the cast had come in with their own worries, concerns, strengths and weaknesses, but seeing each of my peers working together with such cohesion made me feel truly part of something special.

It was our last rehearsal in the rehearsal room, our home for the better part of a month, and leaving was bittersweet. What lay ahead in the theatre space once terrified me, but on Monday I knew that more than anything else, I was truly excited to share what we had accomplished with an audience, as we really did have something special.

Georgiana Poteiciuc
Monday 5th February, 6pm – 10pm (Tech Session 1)

OMG it’s our final week working on this amazing play with two more days to go before our first performance. How could we not be super excited? I know I’m beyond thrilled. This evening we had the first technical session focused on Act 1 and I was enchanted by how beautifully all the elements combined. It was different from any rehearsal because having the lights focused on you while everywhere else is dark gives you the necessary concentration to connect with your character as well as with the other characters on stage without a possible distraction from “the other world”. The production team was also there and served as audience for us which also helped with the atmosphere and it was the first time we rehearsed with our costumes on too. The whole team was extraordinary and really involved in this project, always ready to help us with any need.

Grimm Tales Retold has started to take its final shape and we’re all realising that it’s going to end so soon.

Grimm Tales Retold has started to take its final shape and we’re all realising that it’s going to end so soon and none of us want that because we are a family now. However, we don’t have much time to think about this yet, as we have four performances ahead and two more days to settle all the details. I am looking forward to showing to the audience this spectacular play that I know for sure they will fall in love with from the beginning.

Charlotte Biggs
Tuesday 6th February, 6pm – 10pm (Tech Session 2)

Charlotte here again for the final blog post for Grimm Tales Retold! I cannot believe how quickly this journey has gone and how it’s coming to an end, but it’s definitely been an exciting one.

We’ve now gone into production week for the shows, and it’s all becoming very real! We cannot wait to perform for everyone!

This blog post is for the second half of our technical rehearsal, which was for Act 2 of the show. With all the costume, lights, sound and set coming together, it’s easy to say that this is going to be a brilliant show. The show looks right at home in George Cadbury Hall, and you sometimes have to pinch yourself to remind you that we’re not actually stood on the edge of an urban forest.

The technical rehearsal itself went really well, and Gareth encouraged us to use this as an opportunity to experiment further with our choices.

The technical rehearsal itself went really well, and Gareth encouraged us to use this as an opportunity to experiment further with our Wants and be bold with our choices. It was definitely helpful for me, as I had a chance before the dress rehearsal to experiment with my characters. Grimm Tales Retold has absolutely been a fantastic process, and I cannot believe that the shows are just around the corner. I’ve had the best time, and I’m so proud of the show and everyone involved.

So for the final time #QuakeGrimm #TeamSukie

Lydia Sirovica
Wednesday 7th February, 2pm – 5pm (Tech Rehearsal Notes Session)

Hello, it’s Lydia…

We have now officially finished the tech run of the show and today Gareth led a notes session in which he picked apart any issues we had during the two days of tech. Of course, we needed to look over the fox sequences. I think the fact that we can barely see anything with the masks on shows a little too much through the way we move on stage, so during this session we worked through the transitions with the fox masks and worked on how we could appear to burst on to the stage with confidence and commitment.

We were also told that remembering to breathe in the fox masks helped us a great deal with our balance, especially in the first ‘dance’ sequence.

My worst nightmare was getting the Christmas tree for the Hansel and Gretel scene upright and plugged in… however, after a few practices, the fear of bumping into anyone was not at the forefront of my mind and moving across the stage with pace and swagger got me to where I needed to be with enough time, and according to Gareth, ‘looked great!’ We were also told that remembering to breathe in the fox masks helped us a great deal with our balance, especially in the first ‘dance’ sequence.

Production week so far, although tiring, has been quite enjoyable and we are all really looking forward to doing the dress run later on tonight! I just need to remember to BE BOLD and pursue my WANT with CLARITY and COMMITMENT.

William Melhuish
Wednesday 7th February, Dress Rehearsal

‘Goodbye to all that’

This is it! The week that we’ve all been working towards! Emotions are certainly high going into this week and it’s so rewarding to see all the effort that has gone into making this performance. As we go into the final stages of preparation there is a colossal mutual sense of pride amongst the cast regarding the huge steps we have made since the first week. We have all developed as performers and as characters in ourselves!

All we wanted to do is have fun, and that is exactly what we did!

Wednesday was a big day. We had a dress-run of the show to make sure that we were in the mind-set of what it would be like for the real performance. Nerves were high but you could feel how much energy and excitement there was in all of us. All we wanted to do is have fun, and that is exactly what we did! The power of this show was certainly emphasised by the amazing work that the design, costume and technical departments has done. Everything looked incredible. Everyone was incredible. What a pleasure it has been. Bring on the show!!

Katie Webster
Thursday 8th February, Performance 1

When I found out I was given the task of writing a blog post for opening night, I thought I would be starting by writing about things like our nerves and the excited tension backstage.

However, now I’m here, all I can think to say is thank you to the audience! From the first moment we stepped on stage, we felt your support and you were so receptive, and I personally was so overwhelmed by the response. To know the audience is on your side from Scene One is special, and I know I speak for the cast and crew when I say thank you for being such a great crowd. And yes, your standing ovation made a number of us cry with joy. Thank you.

Of course, I have to mention the first night nerves. We’ve all worked so hard on this production so we just wanted to go out there and show the audience how amazing this show is. Minus a few technical hitches (not mentioning any names… Assista…), we were really pleased and maybe even had some fun out there!

all I can think to say is thank you to the audience!

Gareth has a phrase he used many times in rehearsals that really helped me tonight: ‘How do you eat an elephant? Start with the tail.’ This might seem pretty random, but he’s getting at the concept of not thinking about the huge task ahead of performing the entire play, but starting with the moment just before you step on stage. When I’ve performed before, I’ve always been a bag of nerves, rushing through all my lines before going on stage in fear of having a mind blank. However, today I just started with the tail, and it all followed from there.

Overall, opening night was a blast and we were all so pleased. The response was overwhelming and we were all so flattered by all the lovely comments. Some people even said they’re coming back! I can’t wait to get back out there and keep having fun with this wonderful play.

Bethany Hartland
Friday 9th February, Performance 1 Notes & Performance 2

Hi it’s Beth, for the last time…

Friday afternoon began with a feedback session from our first performance the previous night! Gathering in a circle with the two DSMs, Gareth and Phil for the last time was quite a bittersweet moment. Everyone was eager to talk about the excited responses from the audience the night before, but as the meeting drew to a close it didn’t quite feel real that this was nearly the end of our Grimm Tales Retold journey with Little Earthquake. We were relieved to hear that Gareth’s notes only filled an A5 page, many of them mentioning that perhaps our nerves meant that our volume was not as loud as it could be. But, overall, the feedback just meant that we were motivated to be as bold as we could be with each of our characters and put on an even better show for the Friday night performance.

The audience’s positive response to the scene meant that it was even more fun to play around with the way we interacted with each other and the spontaneity of the ‘offers’ we gave each other.

As we went to the stage in the evening for our first warm-up without Gareth, led brilliantly instead by Katie, the energy of the cast was sky high and it was clear that the adrenaline had not declined from our first night. I think because everyone was suddenly very aware of how quick the performances were going to go, we were all desperate to make sure that we did our hard work justice by giving our all to create a really great performance. My favourite part to perform continues to be the Rumpelstiltskin scene because we have the whole cast on stage at the same time and I think the scene displays how much we have all bonded. The audience’s positive response to the scene meant that it was even more fun to play around with the way we interacted with each other and the spontaneity of the ‘offers’ we gave each other.

Leaving the theatre after the Friday night, knowing tomorrow the whole experience was coming to an end, was quite surreal. But I cannot wait to enjoy another two performances and to see the new audiences’ responses to the piece.

If you came, we hope you loved it because we sure did! #QuakeGrimm

Jordan Farrag
Saturday 10th February, Performance 3 (matinee)

Hi — It’s Jordan!

Reeling from the overwhelming support from audiences at the Thursday and Friday evening shows, we hoped to continue to emulate our previous successes on the Saturday Matinee performance. We had our penultimate warm-up lead by the inspirational Katie Webster who quickly reminded us that we only had two ‘Bananas Of The World, Unite’! left in the whole process! So we proceeded to focus extra hard on enjoying what we had left!

I was particularly nervous for this performance with friends coming to watch but was quickly encouraged by all members of the cast that ‘we got this’ and that we just need to enjoy what we are doing for it to translate to an audience. After a quick pep talk in the guys’ dressing room, we were all energised and ready to smash the show for the penultimate time!

By this point I felt that we all began to find our groove and help the audiences enjoy our dark comedy of a show!

The show, I felt, was a huge success! By this point I felt that we all began to find our groove and help the audiences enjoy our dark comedy of a show! As each scene’s performance came and went the timings of the show felt faster and faster, as we realised we only had one show remaining that evening.

One particular highlight or funny moment in this show was that I (unfortunately for Will) enjoyed maybe one too many cheese and onion rolls in the final scene and when it came to the ‘push and shove’ bit between Jake and my Office Twat, a rogue piece of cheese shot from my mouth only to find its way straight into the middle of poor Will’s forehead. This will forever be a highlight of the matinee performance for me, but perhaps not for Will.

I have enjoyed this process more than any other performance project I have ever done. I think this is because of the unwavering support of both Gareth and Phil, but also the unwavering commitment from the whole cast! I have enjoyed every second of the experience and will miss the lot of you.

Over and out.

Scott Wilson
Saturday 10th February, Performance 4 (evening)

I can’t believe it’s the last show!

This has been a process that has really opened my eyes to the simple but effective approach to acting that Little Earthquake use. Learning to just trust my instincts as an actor and only worry about what I want to achieve in that moment and to be bold in doing so has really changed my approach to acting and I’ll be eternally grateful to have discovered this fantastic technique.

I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a performance full of such life and potential for creativity as Grimm Tales Retold and the playful nature of the process has meant that every show so far has thrown up so many different ways of playing each moment. Personally that’s what live performance is all about for us as actors and, of course, for an audience.

The anticipation before each show starts is electric and hearing the audience reciprocating that excitement for the show to start really brought out the best in our performances, as we wanted to give them a show that they’d be talking about for a long time to come, and hopefully we’ve succeeded in doing so.

I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a performance full of such life and potential for creativity as Grimm Tales Retold and the playful nature of the process has meant that every show so far has thrown up so many different ways of playing each moment.

Following our last warm up session and the final rendition of ‘Bananas Of The World, Unite!’, we all took a moment to take in what we have learned and achieved throughout this process as a cast. (Now brace yourselves ‘cause Jake’s emotional side is about to come out!) I genuinely could not have asked for a better group of people to have shared this process with and I have been blown away by the commitment and sheer talent of each and every one of them. This is, of course, extended to the team working backstage as well, as the work they have put into the production of the show has provided us with the perfect platform for our performance. This show has developed so much since Day One and watching everyone grow in confidence and build such a fantastic performance has been truly remarkable.

Finally, thank you so much to everyone who came and supported us in our work. Gareth has taught us that what is important, in choosing our ‘Wants’, is that it cannot be boring for the audience. Being able to respond to the audience’s reactions really helped fuel our performances and confidence in our choices. So thank you for coming and sharing this fantastic show with us. I will be forever grateful to have been part of this process and to have had the opportunity to work with Gareth and Phil and rediscovering how much fun acting can be.

It’s been a pleasure!

#QuakeGrimm #TeamJake

The post Grimm Tales Retold – Inside Production Week appeared first on Little Earthquake.

Little Earthquake: Grimm Tales Retold – The Deleted Scenes

Image: Damien Hirst’s ‘Mother and Child (Divided)’

We’re about to open Grimm Tales Retold, our latest collaboration with the Department of Drama & Theatre Arts at the University of Birmingham. Philip, Little Earthquake’s Co-Director, has written the show which features very different versions of four famous fairytales. Below Philip has opened up the Drafts folder on his laptop to let you see what nearly made it into the show but was ultimately left out.

Grimm Tales Retold runs from Thursday 8th – Saturday 10th February 2018 in Birmingham. For more information and to book tickets online, click here.

The Brothers Grimm spent almost their entire working lives editing and re-editing their collection of fairytales, adding new stories, shifting the order around, incorporating new details, sometimes even having more than one version of the same story on the go. My process for writing Grimm Tales Retold hasn’t taken a lifetime, but what we’re presenting this week is the fifth draft of a piece which has steadily been taking shape over the last year.

As it stands, there are four stories in the show, not counting the link narrative featuring Jake and Will Grimm — we’ve got Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Rumpelstiltskin. The Musicians of Bremen never even made it as far as me putting pen to paper (but the production programme note will give you a glimpse of what I had in mind.) Through the drafting process, Rapunzel and Snow White were cut from the show in their entirety — and both Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood now appear in Version 2.0 forms, which are virtually unrecognisable now from what I originally wrote.

If this was a DVD, we’d get to include some bonus material to give Little Earthquake aficionados a chance to see some of the things that ended up on the cutting room floor. And so we’ve decided to do the next best thing: we’re popping some of our deleted scenes onto the blog, to give just a little taster of what nearly was and what might have been.

There’s a real first draft feel to most of this stuff; some of it never got redeveloped any further than what’s there now. Snow White is the only one of the four that made it as far as Draft 2, and I did get the chance to rework that one quite a bit. It fell at the final hurdle when we needed to make some tough choices in relation to running time, budget and technical complexity. It would have been quite something to see, I’m sure…

So here they are: some of the baby steps that got us to the point we’re at now — a few hours away from opening night. They’ll be full of inconsistencies, gaps in their logic, bits that go on too long or not long enough, and there’ll be some glaring typos, too. They are rough around the edges but, I’d like to think, not without some value.

I hope you enjoy them.

Read ‘Grimm Tales Retold – Cinderella’ Deleted Scene
Read ‘Grimm Tales Retold – Little Red Riding Hood’ Deleted Scene
Read ‘Grimm Tales Retold – Rapunzel’ Deleted Scene
Read ‘Grimm Tales Retold – Snow White’ Deleted Scene

The post Grimm Tales Retold – The Deleted Scenes appeared first on Little Earthquake.

Little Earthquake: Grimm Tales Retold – Inside Rehearsal Week 4

We’re currently in rehearsals for Grimm Tales Retold, our latest collaboration with the Department of Drama & Theatre Arts at the University of Birmingham. Throughout the rehearsal period, we’ve been working with a brilliant ensemble of students to bring Phil’s script alive and we invited the cast to write guest blog posts about the process. Find out what happened in the rehearsal room during week three below.

You can also read about what happened during week one of rehearsals here, week two here, week three here, and book tickets for the show online here.

Jordan Farrag
Monday 29th January, 9am – 1pm

Hi! Jordan here again…

Time felt like it was quickly speeding up as we moved into the penultimate week of the process. Bright and early on Monday morning the dream team (aka Team Gingerbread) were straight into George Cadbury Hall ready to go, fuelled by the breakfast of champions: copious amounts of coffee and what I like to call on-the-go toast (several slices of course).

Gareth doesn’t want us to fix blocking for the scene so that we can move around the stage instinctively. This decision really allowed our performances to have a lot more freedom and I am looking forward to seeing what happens next week because it could be different each night!

We started off the rehearsal with the usual ‘Bananas Of The World, Unite!’ to get the blood pumping and then went onto a couple of rounds of Tag to continue the wake-up cycle. This rehearsal was our last opportunity to refine our work on the Hansel and Gretel scene. We ensured that we all maintained our ‘wants’, remembering the work we did with ‘filters’ to help emphasise key moments and relationships. Gareth doesn’t want us to fix blocking for the scene so that we can move around the stage instinctively. This decision really allowed our performances to have a lot more freedom and I am looking forward to seeing what happens next week because it could be different each night!

I can’t wait to show audiences what we have created because I think the whole cast and team have been inspired by the project and are really looking forward to performing!

Bethany Hartland
Monday 29th January, 2pm – 6pm

Hi! It’s Beth…

Our final Monday afternoon before Production Week! When the session starts with “this will be the last time you will look at this scene in detail”, the rehearsal session ahead of us started to feel a bit daunting! But when we began going through the final scenes in the theatre space, Little Red Riding Hood and Rumpelstiltskin, I realised that as a cast we really were nearly at the point of a completed and ready show. We used the rehearsal to home in on our characters’ ‘wants’ at every moment and every line, making sure everything we did was done with a purpose and was as bold as it could be.

We have started to learn that if we courageously follow our ‘wants’ and listen to the offers that our scene partners give us, then, although the scene might not necessarily be exactly the same every single night, there will always be clarity and excitement in the telling of the story. In addition to this, we went over the logistical side of the scenes, so that we were not worried about those specific elements because if we are, it has a tendency to influence how boldly and clearly we pursue the ‘wants’ of our characters.

We have started to learn that if we courageously follow our ‘wants’ and listen to the offers that our scene partners give us, then, although the scene might not necessarily be exactly the same every single night, there will always be clarity and excitement in the telling of the story.

We have come such a long way in the past four weeks and everyone involved has put in so much work to make this production the best it can be. I hope everyone who comes to see it loves it as much as we have loved working on it and bringing it to life.

#QuakeGrimm

Scott Wilson
Tuesday 30th January, 9am – 1pm

Such a fantastic rehearsal today! Starting with a full cast discussion about vocal projection and the correct way to support our voices to avoid damaging them throughout the run of the show. We focused on engaging our diaphragm to support our voice by pushing hard against a wall while releasing an ‘Aah’ sound. This really helped me develop my understanding of my technique whilst performing and as I can be quite loud during the show, and life in general, looking at the correct way to project without straining has been really beneficial for me.

The rest of the rehearsal was dedicated to focusing on the scenes between the Grimm Brothers and personally this was one of my favourite rehearsals of the whole process. Having done a full run of the show a couple of times already has allowed me and George to discover the broad spectrum of approaches to our characters and the various routes our scenes could take. I really enjoy the fact that each time we play the scenes, it is never the same, and this whole process has really opened my eyes to the liveness of performance, and I really love being able to experiment and explore the play together with my scene partners.

I really enjoy the fact that each time we play the scenes, it is never the same, and this whole process has really opened my eyes to the liveness of performance, and I really love being able to experiment and explore the play together with my scene partners.

However, hearing the immortal words of Gareth to “Be Bold” really brought something great out of me and George and we both found ourselves responding to the offers we made to each other. This resulted in the scenes all becoming so much fun to be in, as an actor, as we were focusing on each other and building on what we offered one another. For me, that’s what acting is all about.

Everyone is really starting to come into their own and it has been amazing watching this already fantastic play become something truly magical and I cannot explain how glad I am that I’ve been able to be part of this amazing production.

#QuakeGrimm #TeamJake

William Melhuish
Wednesday 31st January, 9am – 1pm

‘The Calm before the Storm’

This week was the first week where the entirety of our rehearsals were based in George Cadbury Hall. Being in this space has certainly brought its challenges to us all as actors. Many of us have had little experience performing in a theatre such as this one with a large set such as ours. Therefore, it is safe to say that this week has been the hardest by far.

As the countdown for production day closes in, removing uncertainties about our characters’ desires become more of a priority.

Being in this larger space poses a huge challenge as an actor – VOICE!!! Time after time during rehearsals I have found my voice fall into a theatrical vacuum which has made my lines inaudible even for the first row. Therefore, by Wednesday’s full run-through, I knew that I had to prove myself in the space.

Alas, things went very differently! Being in this space has meant that facial and vocal expression needs to be heightened, and that’s exactly not what happened on Wednesday. It is frustrating as an actor when such a great script and its story cannot be told clearly because of our own faults on stage. Gareth’s development of us as actors almost goes to waste when we cannot reflect that to the audience because of volume issues and vague ‘wants’ on stage. All we need to do is trust ourselves as performers and make sure that we are offering each other and the audience a clear vision of character wants instead of playing the emotion. As the countdown for production day closes in, removing uncertainties about our characters’ desires become more of a priority.

Georgiana Poteiciuc
Thursday 1st February, 1pm – 5pm

It’s Thursday and we’re back in the rehearsal room after the run-through in the theatre on Wednesday. Today has been the most intense rehearsal since the beginning. It was all about pushing our limits and overcoming any obstacles that were keeping us from fully engaging with our characters’ ‘wants’. For this session we focused on Act One and the results were amazing. I felt more focused then ever and the connection between us felt a lot clearer. It was like we were really helping each other because our energies were combining together, pushing us to be bolder and bolder with each line. I feel a lot more confident after this rehearsal as my character’s actions seem natural and well defined now and the scene as a whole makes perfect sense. We all discovered parts of ourselves that we may have not known we had and it is amazing to actually feel that you are 100% involved, committed and really doing your best.

Today has been the most intense rehearsal since the beginning. It was all about pushing our limits and overcoming any obstacles that were keeping us from fully engaging with our characters’ ‘wants’.

This session showed us that if we find the courage to be bold enough, nothing will stand in the way of us giving our best performance.

Katie Webster
Thursday 1st February, 6pm – 10pm

Never again will I be able to hear the words ‘be bold’ and not think of today’s rehearsal. We continued this evening to work on running scenes without logistics or props but instead really focusing on the acting, our characters’ ‘wants’, and being BOLD.

We began with Little Red Riding Hood in this session. There is such a varying dynamic between my character, Melinda, and Louie, played by Will, so establishing a playful and BOLD relationship has sometimes been tricky. However, today, after quite a bit of stopping to really discuss what we wanted, something has clicked. It’s incredible how now the scene feels completely new, even in Week 4 – it feels like anything could happen and that’s amazing to work with as an actor. It’s really interesting how the concepts of wants, offers and being BOLD often lend themselves to the more comedic scenes, in my mind anyway. However (no spoilers, but this isn’t a funny scene), this dramatic and complex relationship between Melinda and Louie flourished when we had space to play. I’m really excited and just as hopeful that when it comes to performing in front of an audience, all the work we did today comes across.

It’s incredible how now the scene feels completely new, even in Week 4 – it feels like anything could happen and that’s amazing to work with as an actor.

Finally, we moved to the final scene. The joy Gareth has when calling us Twats in such a casual manner is something I know I’ll miss in the weeks after the show. Again, we were BOLD in our twattiness, and poor ol’ Valentina gets herself into a right pickle. This scene is incredibly fun. It’s an excellent example of how we, as actors and a company, can work together to make it fun and different every time. I feel we all have the tools and the confidence to go out on opening night and try something new to see what happens. It’s exciting. A tad scary, but mostly completely and utterly exciting.

I can’t believe we open soon. Please come and see this incredible show! You’ll definitely be missing out on some top-quality twattiness if you do.

#QuakeGrimm

The post Grimm Tales Retold – Inside Rehearsal Week 4 appeared first on Little Earthquake.

Little Earthquake: Grimm Tales Retold – Inside Rehearsal Week 3

We’re currently in rehearsals for Grimm Tales Retold, our latest collaboration with the Department of Drama & Theatre Arts at the University of Birmingham. Throughout the rehearsal period, we’ve been working with a brilliant ensemble of students to bring Phil’s script alive and we invited the cast to write guest blog posts about the process. Find out what happened in the rehearsal room during week three below.

You can also read about what happened during week one of rehearsals here, week two of rehearsals here, and book tickets for the show online here.

Jordan Farrag
Monday 22nd January, 9am – 1pm

Hi! It’s Jordan…

And we are back to the third week of our rehearsals. I’m starting to feel nostalgic for the end of the show already and we haven’t even performed yet! I’m enjoying the process so much I don’t know how I’ll spend my time after the show finishes.

An early start today proved very useful as we began to shake off our weekend cobwebs with a quick game of ‘Bananas Of The World, Unite!’, followed by a frantic and chaotic cast attempting to chase one another in ‘Chaos Tag’. Subsequently, the cast were well and truly warmed up in their bodies but our minds could still do with a wake-up call. We began playing a game called ‘My Love / Your Love’ which seemed to distinguish who the future poet laureates are in the cast and who should probably steer clear of poetry altogether. I was definitely in the latter group.

I’m starting to feel nostalgic for the end of the show already and we haven’t even performed yet!

After warming up, we continued to develop some more fox and Office Twat sequences which we are thinking of including in the show. At first, I felt a little silly whilst trying to be creative and develop a fox twitch, but seeing everyone else around me giving 100% and not even thinking about their inhibitions massively spurred me on to do the same. And by the end of the session, we had all worked well together, laughed with each other and developed two sequences. I am so happy with the progress we are making in this show and I can’t wait for my friends and family to see what we have been up to.

Bethany Hartland
Monday 22nd January, 2pm – 6pm

Hi! It’s Beth, again…

Third week already! Where is the time going?!

Our Monday afternoon session consisted of working on the scene transitions for the whole performance. The process involved sorting out which props/furniture needed to be already set on the stage, which props needed to be brought on from the correct prop tables, and making sure that each prop had a designated cast member who was going to make sure everything was in the right place for the upcoming scene. Although it might not seem the most interesting of procedures, there’s a surprising amount of pressure to make sure that it’s all done in the limited transition time that is set. When you actually think about all the props used in each scene, they amount to quite a few (Gareth is going to mime them all next year, apparently!). The last thing you want to do is forget to move something for a certain scene and cause confusion for the cast members who are on stage for that moment. This pressure will undoubtedly mean that in the actual performances I will not be enthusiastically singing Little Mix’s Black Magic in the wings prior to my scene.

I had butterflies leaving the rehearsal, and although it was definitely because I felt a mixture of fear and excitement, I really cannot wait for it all to fall into place.

When you start going through these preparation elements for the play, it starts to sink in a bit more — that in just over two weeks, it will be our performances. This realisation meant I had butterflies leaving the rehearsal, and although it was definitely because I felt a mixture of fear and excitement, I really cannot wait for it all to fall into place. The final product I know is going to be amazing.

You’ll just have to wait and see! #QuakeGrimm

Georgiana Poteiciuc
Tuesday 23rd January, 9am – 1pm

I can’t believe that we are already in the third week of rehearsals. Time passes so fast when you enjoy your activities and today it passed even faster.

This Tuesday was different than all the other days, because it was the first rehearsal in George Cadbury Hall, on the very stage we are going to perform. Part of the set was already there and we were all amazed by it.

During the warm-up, Gareth asked us to get in our Friendship Circles (different group circles where we stand between different people in each circle) and we all had a surprise. Suddenly we were not able to form the circles properly anymore, it was like we had completely forgotten our places. Apparently, this happened because we changed the space. We were relying on our position in the rehearsal room to form the circles rather than the people around us, which was a mistake.

This Tuesday was different than all the other days, because it was the first rehearsal in George Cadbury Hall, on the very stage we are going to perform.

Once we finally succeeded, Gareth asked us to walk around the stage in order to familiarise ourselves with the space, the set and the props. Starting to touch everything around me made me establish some kind of connection with it and I remember thinking “This is our character’s home, therefore our new home for a while.” I believe that connecting with the objects on set is extremely important because they send me energy. They will help me if I let them instead of standing in my way as an obstacle.

The rest of the rehearsal focused on the Rumpelstiltskin scene. We were all given secret information and tasks (Gareth calls these ‘filters’) for our characters to see how this would influence the scene and the way we feel about other characters in it. I was supposed to hate Valentina and I discovered that by hating her, I was starting to hate everyone else for liking her. The change really worked for me and I believe it brings originality and purpose to my character, which is the most important thing. A character without purpose (or a want) simply doesn’t work. I am looking forward for what comes next because I am in love with this show.

Katie Webster
Wednesday 24th January, 2pm – 6pm

Today marks the halfway point!

As is standard for Production Module in the department, the Wednesday of Week 3 brings us to a stagger-through, an informal showing to the rest of the production team. This was also the first time we’d done a full run in George Cadbury Hall, and I think it is safe to say we felt a little nervous but mainly excited. We’re beginning to face the challenges of the space, mainly being how vast it is compared to the studio we’ve worked in before. I’m sure by the time you see the show (8th — 10th February, by the way…) you’ll be able to hear us loud and clear, but today the space’s acoustics got the better of us many times! I’m looking forward to working on this with Gareth, learning the correct way to support and project my voice in the space.

Overall, today’s run was very fun. A personal highlight was when Beth stood slightly too close to the door in one section and was nearly taken out by Jordan’s flamboyant entrance. We recovered and managed to push past the giggles, but that will certainly stay in my mind for many runs to come! I’m excited to build on what we’ve done so far and really explore our characters further now we’re accustomed to the space.

Who wants to know exactly what’s going to happen on stage every night!? That’s so boring… I’m loving the feeling of not knowing what could happen and not being able to anticipate each character’s reactions.

I can’t believe how far we’ve all come in two and a half weeks, not only through the production of the show itself, but how much I’ve learnt from Gareth, Phil, and the rest of the very talented cast. I’ve learnt a lot about acting, performing, experimentation and fun! Who wants to know exactly what’s going to happen on stage every night!? That’s so boring… I’m loving the feeling of not knowing what could happen and not being able to anticipate each character’s reactions. Variety is indeed the spice of my Grimm Tales Retold life.

George Bandy
Thursday 25th January, 1pm – 5pm

Grimm Tales Retold is a play that consists of a series of shorter stories, within the framework of one larger narrative, between the two Brothers Grimm, Jake and Will. Up until now, we had been looking primarily at the play in isolated scenes, with each rehearsal (for the most part) being focused upon either a specific short story, or upon a single one of the bridging scenes featuring the brothers. The narrative of the whole play, however, tells of a single night in the life of these brothers (albeit a pivotal night), with the events of their scenes actually occurring one after the other. To aid in the portrayal of this singular through-line, we today rehearsed every single scene featuring the two brothers together, and indeed ran them on from one another.

At the beginning of looking at each segment, Scott and I (playing Jake and Will respectively), were instructed to do speed-runs of our lines. This was nothing new to us, but following this were speed-runs at opposite ends of the theatre, and finally speed-runs, projecting our lines, whilst running around the theatre. By the end we were exhausted, but had realised that there was definitely far more pace and energy to be injected into every line, and whilst we wouldn’t be running on stage (or at least not constantly!), our lines would certainly benefit from the impetus that running would provide.

After speed-runs of the lines, we dived into each scene, with Gareth giving each of us secret information (such as: ‘In this scene, everything that Jake does annoys you’, or ‘Act this scene as if constantly worried that somebody is out to get you’). Not only did this hidden (from each other) agenda bring about new ideas and ways to perform each line, but it meant that we were constantly on guard for how the other actor would change their performance with their secret information, meaning that we were fully listening and engaged with the other person, as opposed to merely working on our own performance. We ran each scene multiple times to experiment with different ideas, both suggested by Gareth and some of our own, until we had settled on our final ‘filter’, as Gareth describes it, or combination thereof, to filter our ‘wants’ within the scene.

Not only did this hidden agenda bring about new ideas, it also meant that we were fully listening and engaged with the other person, as opposed to merely working on our own performance.

What was particularly useful, then, was running each scene into the next scene with the brothers, cutting out the story in the middle, so that we could experiment with maintaining the same filter from the end of one segment to the beginning of the next. This ultimately helped us to create more coherence between them, as opposed to each scene of the brothers being a sort of ‘story’ itself, and was massively useful in cementing the actual narrative progression of the play. It threw up new things, but also helped us to remember old things; Gareth picked out certain lines in the text, such as, “You’re such an oaf – Leave yourself alone!” [Will addressing Jake], to inspire the filter for Scott: “In these scene, be as gross and disgusting as possible”. It meant that we found more ways to perform each scene that made our lines feel a lot more logical and justified.

I found the rehearsal extremely useful, both in terms of securing my personal journey throughout the play, but additionally in working on the relationship with Scott, my partner for most of the play, and I can’t wait to see how that is polished to perfection in our final week of rehearsals!

#TeamWill

Lydia Sirovica
Thursday 25th January, 6pm -10pm

I think these rehearsals are slowly starting to catch up to me… we’re all knackered, but the work continues! In today’s session, we started by doing a speed run of Cinderella – and if I’m honest my brain really struggled to function that quickly. It was quite a tense exercise to take part in because your brain feels like it is working at ten thousand miles an hour trying to grasp for the lines accurately and come in at the right moments quick enough. I definitely think this will help me to know my lines inside out and I will be grabbing other cast members to give it a go outside of rehearsal time!

I am excited with where our performance is going now that we are able to rehearse in the theatre space whilst exploring the set and props – I can really see it piecing together day by day!

We then tried out different ‘filters’ for the scene, and for my character Georgia, I was given the filter of being terrified of Cassie and not wanting to do her any wrong. This is really fun to play around with and I tried to be as bold as possible in order to test whether any moments between our two characters could be carried through to the performance. In this case I have found some examples where I can do this. I also began to explore my relationship with Assista by using different filters, and from my discoveries today I think it’s safe to say Georgia will not be warming to her. After what felt like an average first stagger-through for me, I am excited with where our performance is going now that we are able to rehearse in the theatre space whilst exploring the set and props – I can really see it piecing together day by day!

Charlotte Biggs
Friday 26th January, 3pm – 7pm

As rehearsals for Week Three have drawn to a close, none of us can quite believe that we are already over halfway through this process! It’s honestly been such a fantastic journey full of excitement in every rehearsal, and I can already tell I am going to miss doing ‘Bananas Of The World, Unite!’ everyday!

For this rehearsal, Gareth got Georgiana, Jordan and myself to complete a speed run of all of our lines in Scene 2. This involved us saying our lines as quickly as possible, with the fastest pace possible. By doing this, it allowed us in rehearsals (when speaking at a normal pace) to not have the dreaded, ‘what’s my cue line?’ or ‘what’s my line now?’ at the forefront of our minds, so we could focus more on our ‘wants’ and the boldness of the scenes. After this speed run, Gareth then gave all of us individual ‘filters’ for the scene. This allowed us to explore the scene through new lenses and for us to be bolder with our ‘wants’. It definitely gave way for some extremely hilarious moments as well as brilliant new discoveries that we had never encountered before.

‘Filters’ allowed us to explore the scene through new lenses and for us to be bolder with our ‘wants’. It definitely gave way for some extremely hilarious moments as well as brilliant new discoveries that we had never encountered before.

After we had completed Scene 2, the full cast was in to run through the penultimate scene, where the same process of speed run and filters was used. Again, this made for some extremely funny discoveries that left us all in fits of laughter, as well as discovering new ways of being bold with our characters.

So, what night have you booked your tickets for? Grimm Tales Retold is a show you do not want to miss. I am so proud of the work that has already been created and rehearsals haven’t even finished yet. #QuakeGrimm

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Little Earthquake: Grimm Tales Retold – Inside Rehearsal Week 2

We’re currently in rehearsals for Grimm Tales Retold, our latest collaboration with the Department of Drama & Theatre Arts at the University of Birmingham. Throughout the rehearsal period, we’ve been working with a brilliant ensemble of students to bring Phil’s script alive and we invited the cast to write guest blog posts about the process. Find out what happened in the rehearsal room during week two below.

You can also read about what happened during week one of rehearsals here, and book tickets for the show online here.

Bethany Hartland
Monday 15th January, 9am – 1pm

Hi, it’s Beth!

After the usual warm-up of Tag and Bananas Of The World, Unite!, a futile attempt at Quad (sorry, Gareth!) and unsuccessfully moving into our right positions for the A B C and D Friendship Circles (to be fair, a couple of the cast weren’t in rehearsal today) – we finally started our Monday the way all Mondays should start: by pretending to be foxes.

I don’t know about you but I admit my knowledge on the ol’ fox proved to be very little. However, our three years of Drama training at university meant that merely putting a bit of Little Mix on full blast resulted in many an inner fox rising to the surface. In pairs we created various fox sequences – the ‘Peeping Fox’ had to be one of my favourites, though the leg bounce and glide that accompanied it was surprisingly complex. After learning one another’s sequences and filming them for future use, we moved onto fox tics and I have to say I have the ‘itchy fox with a leg twinge’ down! Although it all sounds rather bizarre, the foxes will actually have a clever purpose, I promise.

I’m looking forward to doing more work with the Office Twats and their characters; I think they are going to be a really fun addition to the play.

We then moved onto developing a sequence involving the Office Twats from the final scene. Although it took FAR too long for seven people to work out that we needed to fill four beats each for the sequence to work, once we had all the folders successfully moving down the line, it looked pretty damn good. Having the remixed Muppet music playing alongside the gestures makes it feel incredibly slick and cool, and because of that I don’t even care that the tune was stuck in my head for the rest of the day. I’m looking forward to doing more work with the Office Twats and their characters; I think they are going to be a really fun addition to the play.

I can’t wait for people to see it all!

#QuakeGrimm

Scott Wilson
Monday 15th January, 2pm – 6pm

It’s logistics week!!! We worked through the Cinderella scene and the first couple of scenes with me and my loving brother Will. It’s great seeing the show take shape as we start to add props into the mix. A particular favourite prop of mine is the gingerbread house that I am not allowed to eat, but we’ll see how long that lasts once we get into show week! It’s also been great being able to rehearse with the stage dimensions marked up in the rehearsal room and getting to grips with the stage space we have.

We also looked at the moment of my onstage costume change – calm yourselves!! Let’s just say thank goodness there’s a sofa to hide behind!

I’m absolutely loving getting to develop my character further and finding all the different sides to him. It turns out he’s got an emotional side too, who knew?!

I’m absolutely loving getting to develop my character further and finding all the different sides to him. It turns out he’s got an emotional side too, who knew?! We’ve got a full improvised run of the show at the end of this week and I’m so excited to see the whole production come together. Everybody is working so hard and it really is paying off. This is definitely a show that you don’t want to miss!

#QuakeGrimm #TeamJake

Georgiana Poteiciuc
Tuesday 16th January, 9am-1pm

Every rehearsal brings a new idea, a new perspective, and a new detail.

This Tuesday we have been focusing on the Hansel and Gretel scene. We started, as usual, with a few physical and vocal exercises in order to prepare our bodies for performing. During the first few rehearsals I remember wondering why we were going to need to go through the same scene so many times. It is amazing, however, to see how a specific moment, even a few lines, can develop and grow in complexity and become well defined once explored in different ways. Every rehearsal brings a new idea, a new perspective, a new detail that would have never been discovered without practice. This was also the case with Hansel and Gretel. We had been focusing on what each character wants most at each moment, without worrying about movements, set and logistics. It was now time to think a little more about these elements.

With the scripts in our hands for the first time we explored how our wants affected the way we moved in the space. I particularly like the way Jake and Will fit in the scene at the beginning and interact with us without us actually seeing them. Overall it has been a really productive rehearsal which made me understand better both the characters and the scene and I am looking forward to what is yet to come.

Lydia Sirovica
Wednesday 17th January, 2pm – 6pm

We are well and truly on our way to an almost completed show. It’s really starting to come together now and it is such an exciting process!

In today’s rehearsal we took a first look at the final sections of the play where I play Valentina. I have to admit this is one of my favourite parts of the play. I was told today to ‘BE BOLD’ and really ‘think about what I want.’ I think I did both of these techniques quite well and it helped me discover that actually Valentina is a bit of a manipulative character in the end… which is very fun to play! I feel as though these last few scenes are the crescendo of the play, with all of us on stage as a full cast performing. The ‘Office Twats’ are the absolute highlight of my rehearsals at the moment and if I wasn’t playing Valentina, I would definitely have enjoyed being a Twat! Grimm Tales Retold is certainly now on its feet and really starting to take its shape.

I feel as though these last few scenes are the crescendo of the play, with all of us on stage as a full cast performing.

Thursday 18th January, 1pm – 5pm
William Melhuish

‘Fairy-tale rehearsal process?’

After last week, it was clear to see that morale was high going into Monday morning’s rehearsal. After working on wants and improvisation last week, there was a certain confidence in the shape of the play and our abilities as actors. This week was a bit more intense; scenes were explored logistically and it was clear to see that people had already started to work on their scripts. As a result, we were all keen to show the potential that we had as actors going into a professional environment. After last week, Gareth promised us a more hands-on dissection of each of the scenes and boy did he mean it!

After last week, Gareth promised us a more hands-on dissection of each of the scenes and boy did he mean it!

Thursday’s rehearsal was focused around my scene in particular (Little Red Riding Hood), and it gave me a chance to explore my relationships with the space and also the other characters. As we began to develop the scene, a certain chill of homicidal eloquence slowly appeared within my character. It was so enjoyable seeing my character change as we explored his ‘wants’ and his relationships to the individual characters. Gareth is so effective in the way that he discourages the old cliché acting techniques of the tongue-in-cheek Bond villain. Instead, he asked me to explore the character with a disturbing calmness which seems to give nothing away to the audience (which I can only say, drastically improves the scene).

Bring on next week!

George Bandy
Thursday 18th January, 6-10pm

Thursday evening’s rehearsal was daunting, as it carried with it the prospect of a full run of the show, without scripts, the next day. It was our last chance to approach not just any scene, but possibly the most logistically confusing and intense scene in the play. The Rumpelstiltskin scene, without giving too much away, brings with it a vast number of unique props for every single actor in the show, which are all moved about the stage, exchanged, brought on and off, and are generally a pain. Additionally, the scene requires very sensitive performances, touching on potentially troubling themes, and utilising everything from extremely intimate moments, to slapstick ones.

Approaching the scene having already explored it using the ‘wants’ process that Gareth, our director, uses, it became a lot easier to then cover the logistics of the scene without worrying about filling them in later. It meant that we were able to structure the scene around performance, rather than performance around the logistical aspects, which was enormously helpful for us as performers.

Working in this way meant that we were able to structure the scene around performance, rather than performance around the logistical aspects of the production.

Additionally, it meant that we were already very aware of the challenges of the scene, and had had time to process them in advance, rather than being surprised by them. Right from the beginning of this second ‘logistical’ look at the scene, Gareth ensured that each actor was keeping track of the number of props that they moved, used, exchanged, etc., which meant that we were able to be very efficient in working through the scene, rather than having to wait whilst one member of the stage management team logged each individual instance. Furthermore, it meant that every actor had a better understanding of the backstage preparations that they would have to undertake.

Finally, having already explored our ‘wants’ for the scene, we were far more comfortable when it came to working out the logistics. My character, especially, has a large emotional journey in this scene, and I found it very useful to cover the aspects in this order.

Unfortunately, due to the duration of the scene, we found ourselves left without enough time to fully complete the work on the evening, but this is something that time was left for before the run-through the following day, and meant we would be more careful of timescale in the future.

Charlotte Biggs
Friday 19th January, 2pm – 6pm

This production is full to the brim with laughs, tears and some very surprising moments. The process has really allowed me to push myself further as an actor.

Hi! It’s Charlotte again.

This blog post is about our final rehearsal of Week 2. I cannot believe how quickly the whole process is going! In this rehearsal, we did a full, improvised run through of Grimm Tales Retold, and it was fantastic! Considering we only started to work with the scripts two weeks ago, I cannot believe how far we have come.

This production is full to the brim with laughs, tears and some very surprising moments. I have never performed in a production like this before, and it’s been such a fantastic experience. The process has really allowed me to push myself further as an actor, especially with this run through, which was improvised without scripts. You really are going to be kicking yourself if you miss this show, so get your tickets now!

#QuakeGrimm #TeamSukie

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Little Earthquake: 1% Pledge Update – Sarah-Jane Watkinson

At our East Meets West Symposium in July 2017, we invited the delegates to make a 1% Pledge, a promise to do something that would improve the way we all work together in the independent theatre sector, and ultimately, increase the quality of what we put in front of audiences. We asked some of those who made a pledge to give us an update on how it’s all going.

Below, proud Eastie and honorary Westie Sarah-Jane Watkinson, an Independent Producer from Birmingham, explains what inspired her pledge and the difference it has made so far.

You can connect directly with SJ (as everyone calls her) on Twitter, and find out more about her work at www.outercirclearts.co.uk. She is currently producing The Death Show which begins touring this month – more details here.

You can download a full list of the 1% Pledges that were made here. If you made a pledge and would like to give us an update, please get in touch!

Sarah-Jane writes:

“My 1% pledge – “To build a training / mentoring opportunity for a new producer into one of my projects.”

First of all, a confession. I made my pledge not entirely for altruistic reasons. I am absolutely flat out with work and have had to turn down several fantastic projects recently because I simply didn’t have the capacity. On each of those occasions, I could have taken them on if I’d had someone I could share the workload with. Not only was it incredibly frustrating as a freelancer to turn down work, but I really wanted to see these projects on the stage. I came to the conclusion that I was going to have to take some responsibility myself to address this.

There is a shortage of producers with the broad range of skills and experience necessary for small scale touring, which includes tour booking, fundraising, finance, marketing and legal stuff, as well as a working knowledge of technical matters, nerves of steel, the patience of a saint and UN level negotiating skills. Not to mention flapjack baking, van driving, pastoral care and buying the essential post show round of drinks.

Whilst several theatres across the region have schemes to support emerging artists and companies, there is very little out there for budding producers. All too often, it’s a skill that isn’t even recognised as a thing in its own right; I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been invited for coffee so that I can pass on my skills. I can forgive young people who are starting out fresh for this, but not those who’ve been at it for a while; producing is difficult, takes time and is my livelihood, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be valued and remunerated.

I’ve begun to fulfil my pledge in a number of ways. I built in small roles into two forthcoming projects, both with GforA funding. Sammy Gooch is working with Leeds based Uncanny Theatre on a national tour of their new show Outrage, and Cat Butler is working with Birmingham based artists Antonia Beck and Lucy Nicholls on The Death Show, ready for a preview tour in spring 2018.

Both of these roles will mainly be about marketing and press support this time around, but with the opportunity for Sammy and Cat to gain a grasp of the wider role of producer. I would have liked these to have been bigger roles with a more structured mentoring process, but was limited by timescale and budgetary constraints. The aim is for us to continue to work together in future, to build on these first steps so that they, the artists and myself can develop the kind of trusted working partnership that is essential in this work.

I’ve also been thinking about other ways to make various small contributions to people who are starting out. In my role as General Manager at The Play House, I’m working with our intern Naomi Cooper to introduce her to the work of producer and company manager. I’ve also spoken at several events and been on panels for students and graduates. I’m hoping that this can be something that is useful over the longer term and not just someone’s quick fix for the price of an espresso.”

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Little Earthquake: Grimm Tales Retold – Inside Rehearsal Week 1

We’re currently in rehearsals for Grimm Tales Retold, our latest collaboration with the Department of Drama & Theatre Arts at the University of Birmingham. Throughout the rehearsal period, we’ve been working with a brilliant ensemble of students to bring Phil’s script alive and we invited the cast to write guest blog posts about the process. Find out what happened in the rehearsal room during week one below…

Scott Wilson
Monday 8th January, 9am – 1pm

Hi I’m Scott,

I don’t think I’ve ever been in a room full of so much excitement and enthusiasm to get started on a production. It was such a great session to get used to working with each other and with Little Earthquake. The ‘Bananas Of The World, Unite!’ exercise was definitely the wake-up call I needed on the first day back after Christmas, and I can already feel my Christmas dinner dropping off me!

Gareth focused on making us comfortable in being as silly and creative as possible. His advice to act like a 4-year-old who doesn’t care what people think was something that I really took on board. So let’s hope everyone’s ready for 4-year-old me to come out!

We have already addressed a couple of issues with the script to work on but the list of positives was much longer, so come and see what you think!

#QuakeGrimm #TeamJake

I don’t think I’ve ever been in a room full of so much excitement and enthusiasm to get started on a production.

Jordan Farrag
Monday 8th January, 2pm – 6pm

Rehearsals for Grimm Tales Retold started on the 8th of January. I think it is safe to say that both the cast and Little Earthquake shared a peculiar mix of excitement, nervousness and passion for the project. I was tasked with writing this short entry to cover our rehearsal on the afternoon of the first day of the process.

We started with an improvisation exercise that encouraged us to trust our instincts and accept the offers that we were giving to each other. Gareth stressed the importance of trusting our instincts and listening to one another, which created this sense of shared agency for our creative decisions, a sort of creative interdependency, which I think is reflective of what the piece is all about. We aim to work together to create something GREAT!

Strangely, running the whole play in the first afternoon made the task ahead feel far more manageable.

Then we were asked to run the whole play. Conveniently Gareth had just implemented this ‘working trust’ between all of us so he said, “be bold”, “trust your instincts” and “listen to each other’s offers”. We did exactly that and ran the play from start to finish. This allowed us to see what the play was really about, provided us with a deeper understanding of each character and encouraged us to start thinking about our characters’ ‘wants’.

Strangely, running the whole play in the first afternoon made the task ahead feel far more manageable and further excited the cast as we began realising the complexities of Phil’s writing. As we left the rehearsal at 6pm, our cast walked back down towards Selly Oak, all sharing stories of the day and laughing. I could not have asked for a better start, or a better bunch of people to embark on this journey with.

Charlotte Biggs
Tuesday 9th January, 9am – 1pm

Hi, I’m Charlotte! I’m a member of the cast in Grimm Tales Retold. This post is about our second rehearsal day and it’s already been so much fun! Today’s session consisted of a few warm-up activities to get us ready for the rehearsal. After this, we began to explore our characters ‘wants’ in the script. This was so useful in understanding our characters’ intentions for the scenes, even if it was something as simple as wanting to sit down on a chair.

We then began working on Act 1, Scene 1, and part of Scene 2. It was scary to think we’d only been working with each other for two days and we were already moving on to the first scene! But it was great to see the play up on its feet.

It was scary to think we’d only been working with each other for two days and we were already moving on to the first scene! But it was great to see the play up on its feet.

Gareth started the process of exploring ‘wants’ by having the actors lines ‘fed’ to them. After this was repeated a few times, the scene then had to be improvised without scripts, which was daunting to begin with, but the results were amazing! It enabled the actors to not be weighed down with a script, and allowed for some very authentic and raw moments to burst through. I’m so looking forward to the rest of the rehearsals and cannot wait for you all to see Grimm Tales Retold!

George Bandy
Wednesday 10th January, 2pm – 6pm

It was on Wednesday that we saw the set for the first time as a cast. For a production put together in only four weeks, a timeframe far shorter than most of us are used to, the idea of being on stage so soon was initially quite terrifying. Indeed, we were told that we would be entering the space ourselves in a mere fortnight, which with such an ambitious script provided some concerns.

We needn’t have worried, however, as upon entering the Production Meeting room, we were greeted by videos explaining the concepts, remarkable illustrations of costume plans for every single character in a multi-role-heavy play, and a miniaturised reproduction of the planned stage. The transformation from what I had imagined and worried about on the page was incredible; the design team have created a blend of urban and rural, placing the action of the play on the very divide of the two, melding the narrators’ room into forest land, office block and hospital in a variety of ways.

I admire the work that the design team has done so far, and am extremely excited to see it at full scale!

Here we were informed of how scene changes would take place, utilising a chorus referenced repeatedly in the script (with a twist, naturally), and I, certainly, truly began to understand how the show would fit together. As someone who is used to being on stage, but rarely behind it, I don’t envy the design team and backstage teams’ jobs, but certainly admire the work they have done so far, and am extremely excited to see it at full scale!

Katie Webster
Thursday 11th January, 1pm – 5pm

How are we already at Day 4?! Today began with another classic game of tag, which Gareth ensures is to help us focus on what we want most in the world (which to be fair it really does), but boy does it get sweaty in the rehearsal room! Definitely don’t have a heavy lunch before a Little Earthquake warm-up.

We kept working through the scenes today, section by section, really focusing on what our characters want most in that moment. We’ve reached the Cinderella scene, where I play Assista. Assista is basically Amazon’s Alexa but “100 times better”. We continued to work in the format of a read-through of the whole scene, then a run-through of a section of the scene with the lines being fed to us, then a run with Gareth stopping and starting us to really focus on our want, and finally we improvise the scene, purely working from our instincts.

This is a really useful process in working out exactly what our character wants, but also varying how we offer those wants to one another. However, as Assista, I was fairly limited in how I can speak, as she’s a machine! Or is she…?

I think it’s safe to say this scene ends in a way nobody would expect it to, and I can’t wait to hear the audience’s reaction.

I found it challenging to improvise as Assista specifically since a lot of her lines are relaying information about ordering emergency chicken, but even though I’m not physically in the scene, it’s interesting to discover what she really wants, and just how damn manipulative she is. It’s also a credit to my fellow performers that Assista truly came alive in the rehearsal room today, as the way everyone interacts with an inanimate tube is genius.

I think it’s safe to say this scene ends in a way nobody would expect it to, and I can’t wait to hear the audience’s reaction. If this scene doesn’t make you think twice about that electronic personal assistant you got for Christmas, you might want to be careful what you say…

Lydia Sirovica
Thursday 11th January, 6pm -10pm

I’m so, so excited to be a part of this production and this first week of rehearsals has been very interesting for me!

We warmed up at the start of the rehearsal with ‘Bananas Of The World, Unite!’ I love that we all do this together at the start of each rehearsal; I see it as a way to focus and become engaged as a group (it’s also really fun to let yourself go!) Following this we played a game in which we all stood in a circle and the aim was to walk towards someone in the circle, say a letter of the alphabet and touch them on the shoulder. In this time, however, the person who is being walked towards must say a Name, Object and Place beginning with that letter in order to stay in the circle. This really tested how quickly we could think on our feet… There were quite a few moments in which panic took over and my mind went blank. The purpose of the game was to explore how we react to an offer made by someone else, in the moment and using our initial instincts.

I’ve never used ‘wants’ and ‘feeding in’ before, and I think the key thing to note is how simple they are to apply, and for me it made a huge difference in the way I performed her.

After a series of warm-up games in this session, we continued to work through the script chronologically, which allowed us to experiment with our characterisation. In this session we worked on one of my scenes — Cinderella. When reading the script I struggled to characterise Georgia, however, using the ‘feeding in’ technique and putting this scene on its feet, I began to understand what she wanted. Using ‘wants’ I started to think about what my aim was as Georgia: for example, at one point I came up with ‘I want to calm Cassie down.’ I’ve never used this technique before and I think the key thing to note is how simple it is to apply, and for me it made a huge difference in the way I performed her. I also found myself starting to listen to what I was being offered by other characters in the scene, especially when we were told to improvise it. The session finished at 10pm so I’m not going to lie when I say I was very tired! Still, so far rehearsals are keeping me on my toes and it seems to be going very well!

Will Melhuish
Friday 12th January, 3pm – 7pm

As week one of rehearsals comes to a close there is a definite whiff (pun intended) of excitement amongst everyone involved in this production. We started the week off as you would expect every drama rehearsal to start – playing various games. However, looking back now, this seems less as a way of having fun, and more about developing an identification as a unified group who are willing to trust one another. This is, without doubt, one of the most stimulating, demanding, but also rewarding projects I have ever been involved in, and I’m sure that my co-performers agree with me on this. The level of energy going into the first week has certainly not subsided, and our abilities as actors have been pushed to the very limit.

By Friday morning, the commonplace proverb “BE BOLD” echoes in all of our ears as we approach the end of the script. Already, by having the
play acted out in front of us, we can see just how magical and disturbing it actually is. Echoes of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror seem to radiate out of the rehearsal space, as neither we nor the audience know what will come next.

By achieving this sense of playfulness, Gareth’s method of ‘feeding in’ the lines, and removing ourselves from the cold grip of the script has allowed us to really play with these characters and come to rehearsals with more and more creative ideas.

Every day we move further and further away from the boring old ‘happily ever after’.

By Friday afternoon, we were exploring the Little Red Riding Hood scene which has the effect of leading the audience down a course of sadomasochistic pleasure and discovery (something which you don’t experience every day). There were fantastic juxtapositions which were literally jumping out of this scene, particularly when Katie and I discovered a tender relationship develop between the Wolf and Melinda! All I can say is, every day we successfully move further and further away from the boring old ‘happily ever after’.

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