Arletty Theatre TiG workshop

On Sunday 30th October, Arletty Theatre held a one-day workshop on TiG, a new play written by Arletty Theatre Artistic Director Imogen Joyce. Imogen and I co-directed on the day, and had a fantastic cast of local actors who really brought the script to life. TiG is set in Nottingham, and is about gang violence and the people who work with victims and offenders. The story of Antigone is threaded through the play.

TiG workshop. Ava Hunt and Martin Berry

Eve (Ava Hunt) and Mike (Martin Berry)

We used The Space at Nottingham Contemporary for the day, and loved the “concrete cave” feel of the space – especially as TiG is inspired by Nottingham’s underground network of caves.

We’re now working towards a rehearsed reading of the play in December. For more photos from Sunday’s workshop, please visit the Arletty Theatre facebook page.

Edinburgh Highlights part 2

I wrote about my favourite pieces of theatre in yesterday’s blog post, but there were a few more I saw which are worthy of a mention:

Theatre highlights (cont.)

The Girl with the Iron Claws at Underbelly – very glad I managed to get a ticket, I loved this gorgeous retelling of an early version of the Beauty and The Beast story, which made clever use of a variety of styles of puppetry, and incorporated songs, and multiple scene and costume changes, and yet the storytelling still felt beautifully simple and uncluttered. It’s a show that would work brilliantly for rural touring.

Tomboy Blues: The Theory of Disappointment at Zoo Southside – a funny, honest and poignant account of growing up a tomboy, and dealing with disappointment. I loved the recurrent undercutting of the expectations of love stories, and the incorporation of the set and props. My favourite moment was a really touching bit of writing about how tears have hands which they use to push their way out of your eyes.

The Seagull Effect – I really really wanted to love this show, but I found myself just really liking it. And the horribly unfair thing is that the only thing I can really criticise about it is that there were just too many good things going on – some great writing, talented actors, accomplished physical theatre and so many clever uses of the set and projected imagery and animation – I think I just hit saturation point, and there were moments where there were so many interesting things going on on stage that I missed some of the narrative.

Theatre I wanted to see but couldn’t:

Even if you’re in Edinburgh for the entire month, it’s inevitable that there will be some shows you’re desperate to see but just can’t get to. There were a few things I really wanted to see, but couldn’t get tickets to – I’m really hoping some of them will tour or have a life after the Fringe.

Scary Gorgeous 

You Once Said Yes (I actually had a ticket to this but the Underbelly Box Office sold me it for the wrong date so it was after I left! Luckily I was able to sell it on)

Hotel Medea

The Oh F**k Moment

The Time Out

The Vanishing Horizon

Tickets and programmes, Edinburgh 2011

Comedy Highlights

Tim Key: Masterslut The funniest person I saw in Edinburgh by a long stretch and probably one of my favourite people full stop. His poem/recipe for Raspberries Tart had me in stitches. I saw it the night before I left, but if I’d been there longer I would have gone again without a moment’s hesitation.

Dave Gorman’s Powerpoint Presentation Deservedly selling out, I only got a ticket because an extra show was added on Saturday afternoon. I’ve always loved his found poems, so it was great to see one performed live, I also loved the analysis/take-down of mobile phone adverts.

Alex Horne: 7 Years in the Bathroom Delightfully bumbling show playing on those much-repeated statistics about how we spend one third of our lives asleep and so on. Possibly the most charming use of audience volunteers I’ve seen – complete antidote to the idea of getting nastily picked on if you sit in the front row of a comedy show.

Comedy I wanted to see but couldn’t:

Lots – but mainly Josie Long and Isy Suttie – I’m hoping both will tour their shows soon.

Edinburgh Highlights part 1

Despite telling everyone who would listen that I didn’t want to leave, I grudgingly boarded my train at Waverley station yesterday morning and left the city and the festival with a fistful of ticket stubs and a mind fizzing with lovely memories, after a hectic and brilliant week. When I wasn’t doing my part to look after the two New Perspectives shows on at the Fringe, I saw some brilliant theatre, music and comedy; and fell in love with the city for the umpteenth time in my life. (I’ve wanted to move to Edinburgh since I was about sixteen, and I’m still not sure why I haven’t yet).

Here are some of my festival highlights…

Festival highlights: Miscellaneous Category

The Poetry Takeaway

The Poetry Takeaway at Bristo Square

The Poetry Takeaway at Bristo Square – a simple yet delightful idea. Simply order a (free!) poem on a theme of your choice and collect it later in a handy takeaway container. Every town should have one.

Festival highlights: Theatre

I don’t know if it was luck or going on good recommendations, but there was nothing I saw that didn’t have something brilliant about it. My two favourite shows were Allotment and You Wouldn’t Know Him, He Lives in Texas. The former took place on an allotment at Inverleith Park on a typical Edinburgh August evening – typical in that it encompassed beautiful blue sky and sunshine and a fairly hefty rain shower all in the space of sixty minutes. The rain didn’t come close to taking the shine off the experience of sitting and watching this superbly written and acted two hander about sibling rivalry while sipping a complimentary mug of tea and munching a scone with homemade rhubarb jam.

You Wouldn’t Know Him…. also took place away from the main cluster of Fringe venues, instead being located in a basement flat in Newtown. Upon arriving the audience were immediately cast in the roles of friends of Lizzie, who was hosting the party in order to introduce us to her long distance boyfriend Ryan who was hosting a similar party with his ‘friends’ in Austin, Texas. The two parties linked up via Skype, and the result was a blend of rehearsed narrative and interaction with and between the two transatlantic audiences. Fun, immersive, and charming.

Other highlights:

Thirsty – Explored the relationship between women and alcohol using real stories left on a hotline set up for people to call after a few drinks. I saw a work in progress version a few months ago and it was great to see the ideas being explored then come to fruition. Funny, sad, ingenious set and gorgeous live music. I love how The Paper Birds incorporate their experience of the process of theatre-making into their shows, this was no exception as you felt and heard their resistance to tell the darker stories people told them. Despite their reluctance I thought the integration of the fun and laughter alcohol brings with the shock and poignancy of excessive drinking was handled with a delicate and intelligent touch. And the finale was just genius.

7 Day Drunk – Bryony Kimmings spent a week getting progressively drunk to see if it made her a better artist. The show is a collection of her reflections on the experience, footage taken during the week, and the art she made – all performed sober. I was worried it would be self-indulgent, but Bryony is so likeable and upfront it’s hard not be charmed. I loved her comedy songs and bonkers outfits, I questioned the ethics of some of the audience participation but the night I was there it felt like if anyone had hesitated there wouldn’t have been any pressure to take part beyond their own comfort levels

Bones – Fifth Word show about a young man in Nottingham pushed to breaking point by his harsh past and grim circumstances. Brutal, bleak and hard to watch, but a phenomenal performance by Joe Doherty. Feels full of contemporary relevance in light of the recent riots and subsequent media furore surrounding anyone who sought to understand why a generation might be growing up without hope for the future or any sense of responsibility towards their own communities.

More to come tomorrow!

My picks for Edinburgh

Somehow it’s August already, and my twitter feed is rapidly filling up with of some of my favourite theatre companies and comedians excitedly announcing their imminent departures to Edinburgh. I won’t be heading up myself until later in the month, but my list of what to see is growing. Below are some of the shows I recommend.

1. Those Magnificent Men, New Perspectives Theatre Company. Udderbelly’s Pasture, 13.15 every day except Weds 17th.

This comic two-hander retells the story of Alcock and Brown and the first ever non-stop flight across the Atlantic. Okay, I admit it, I’m biased. I was assistant director on the original tour of this in 2010, and for this remount, and I work for New Perspectives. So don’t just take my word for it – it’s had great reviews from The Times, The British Theatre Guide, and The Stage, and last year New Perspectives had a Fringe Sell-Out with Farm Boy. You can watch a trailer here, and book tickets here.

2. How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the FA Cup, New Perspectives Theatre Company. Gilded Balloon Teviot, 13.15 every day except Tues 16th.

New Perspectives’ second offering for the festival is the story of how a small unknown Fenland football team came to win one of the sport’s biggest trophies. Having watched a preview this weekend I can vouch for the fact this hilarious one man show with over 60 characters is not just for football fans. You can watch a trailer here, and book tickets here.

3. Anything to Declare, The Gramophones. Laughing Horse @ Cafe Renroc, 21.50, Fri 5th- Tues 11th. (FREE)

The Gramophones are an emerging Nottingham based company who already have a huge following on home turf – the venue for their preview show last night was bursting at the seams. Anything to Declare sees the all-female company demonstrate their comic chops as multiple characters brought together by their shared experiences of airports and holidays. More info here.

4. Thirsty, Paper Birds. Pleasance Courtyard, 17.45, every day except Mon 15th.

I’m a huge fan of the Paper Birds, and have been since doing a Devising Theatre workshop with them in 2008. They are committed to devised work that comes from a female perspective, and incorporate beautiful physicality, imagery and haunting live music. I loved their previous show In a Thousand Pieces, and having seen a work in progress version of Thirsty at the Junction in Cambridge, I’ll definitely be booking my ticket in advance for this piece exploring our culture’s relationship with alcohol. Watch a trailer here, and book tickets here.

5. Bones, Fifth Word Theatre Company, Zoo, 16.10, Fri 5th – Sun 28th (not Mon 22nd).

Another local company run by women, Derby-based Fifth Word specialise in working with new writing and creating performances using multimedia technology. The online trailer for Bones offers a chilling glimpse into the extremes a nineteen year old carer will go to “find a place in a world that doesn’t want him”. Book tickets here.

6. Tomboy Blues – The Theory of Disappointment, Mars.tarrab. Zoo Southside, 18.30, Sun 14th – Sun 28th.

I’ve yet to see a show by Mars.tarrab (performer/writer Rachel Mars and visual artist/live artist nat tarrab), but I’m excited to see this one. Exploring gender identity, love and disappointment and promising to be “funny, confessional and a little bit sad at times”, it’s had great reviews from audiences and critics. You can watch a trailer here, and book tickets here.

7. F*ck Off and Die – Tales in Teen Angst Poetry, Sara Bynoe. Royal Oak, 13.00, Mon 22nd – Sat 27th. (FREE)

I came across professional funny woman Sara Bynoe while living in Vancouver, after seeing a listing for an event called Say Wha?! Readings of Deliciously Rotten Writing being held in a bar. I dragged along some recently made friends, and we laughed until our faces hurt at the collection of local performers gathered to read extracts from crimes against literature including a self-published zombie novel called Thin Ice: Zombies in LA – Nowhere to Run or Hide; and a self-help book titlled How to Good-bye Depression: If You Constrict Anus 100 Times Everyday. Malarkey? or Efffective Way? Sadly I never made it to a Teen Angst show, where Sara shares gems from her collection of heartfelt poetry written when she was a teenager, but the selection published in the Teen Angst book had me in stitches. More info here.

Phew! That’s it for now but please let me know your recommendations for when I head up there (15th-22nd) – what are the shows I shouldn’t miss?

Open Space event for the East Midlands

Theatre Writing Partnership have announced a free Open Space event addressing the question “How can we continue to nurture new work for theatre in the East Midlands?”, to be held in Derby on September 23rd. I would encourage anyone with a vested interest in theatre in the region to attend. My most recent experience of an Open Space event was in Canada: Making A Scene: Devoted and Disgruntled, organised by the Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance, and facilitated by Phelim McDermott and Matilda Leyser of Improbable Theatre. During the two day event the Vancouver theatre community came together to discuss issues facing the sector, organisations and individuals. As the agenda for an Open Space event is set by the participants, there is no danger of coming away feeling that your issue was never broached. The Vancouver event led to a number of follow up groups being established and another Open Space event planned for later this year. I recently attended the GIFT Festival in Gateshead and discovered that the arts community in the North East regularly come together for mini-Open Space Devoted and Disgruntled events, organised by The Empty Space. It’s great that this opportunity is now available for artists in the East Midlands.
For more details of the event, see below.

Calling writers, performers, companies, directors, producers, designers, technicians, marketeers, dramaturgs and managers: you are invited to join us for one day in Open Space addressing the above question and ANY related issues.
This is a great opportunity for the theatre and performing community in the East Midlands to gather and work on what could be improved, the things that we are passionate about and the things we wish were different.  The event will be facilitated by Nick Sweeting from Improbable who have a pioneered the use of  Open Space within the UK’s artistic community.
This is an event for everybody with a passion for theatre in the East Midlands – you bring the agenda and you start the discussion, we’ll provide the space and the fuel to keep the conversation flowing.
What is Open Space?
Although OPEN SPACE may be new to you, it has been used all over the world with great success. Unlike other conference formats, it is an exciting open-ended event that enables a self-organising group to use its collective imagination to set the agenda and deal with complex issues through a series of participant lead breakout sessions. This model:
·   Allows great results to be achieved in an incredibly short space of time;
·   Allows participants to be proactive in establishing and solving common issues;
·   Ensures that no-one will be bored by never ending key note speeches!
By the end of the event the following will have occurred:
·   Every issue of concern to anybody will have been raised, if they took responsibility for doing that
·   All issues will have received full discussion, to the extent desired
·   A full report of issues and discussions will be in the hands of all participants
·   And YOU will have taken part in making it happen
A strong point of Open Space is its ability to unite groups of enormous diversity, to that end we are encouraging everybody to participate. Please forward this email to any theatre practitioner who you think would be interested in having their say.
The event will take place on Friday 23rd September @ The Guildhall, Derby. 10:00 – 17:00.
In order to feed everyone it would be useful to have a good indication of how many people intend to attend. Please therefore send an RSVP to and tell us your dietary needs. There is no charge for attending this Open Space event. It’s first come, first served so book now!
See you there……
Kate Chapman
Theatre Writing Partnership
Chief Executive and Artistic Director
0115 9474361