Introducing: The 24:7 Big Weekend Festival Pass!
For just £30 you can see ALL SEVEN ticketed shows in this year’s Festival: that’s four main shows, two rehearsed readings and one You Are Here presentation.
And there are ONLY 50 PASSES to be had!
Once you’ve bought your Pass, we’ll email you with the Weekend showtimes. All you have to do is indicate which seven performances you’re coming to and we’ll reserve you a seat for each. (This is because we can’t have everyone turning up at the same time, so you’ll have to be quick to have first pick!) Collect your tickets when you arrive at the Martin Harris Centre at the Weekend and you’re away!
Please Note: If you don’t reply with your selections by midday on Wednesday 22 July, your Pass will become a Standby Pass: you won’t have to pay again to get in, but you’ll have to wait until those with tickets for that performance have been admitted.
Hope that’s all clear!
Hi everyone, Martin here!
I’m writing to let you all know some very exciting news! I will be going on another adventure to Manchester Museum this October!!! Im so very excited to go and explore the Living World’s and Nature Discovery exhibitions again because I had so much fun with you all last time.
So far this week there has been lots to do in preparation for the first performance which is Saturday 10th October and that is part of Manchester Museum’s monthly autism friendly event which is mega exciting because there will be so many new people to meet. I’ve tried to help the Scallywags by making some lovely origami butterflies to give to everybody who comes to visit us at the museum.
I think they’re pretty good considering I’ve never done them before!
I have also been helping our Artistic Director Ciara and the rest of the Scallywags to send lots of emails about all sorts of fun stuff like craft activities, rehearsals, and programs. (I don’t get to have my photo on the program which I was upset about at first but then the Scallywags reminded me that I am the star of the show so I should stop complaining).
After all the emails had been sent it was time for me to start preparing for my expedition. I’ve packed my backpack, which has got my compass, hat, scarves, walking boots, (I struggled to fit all 12 pairs in at first but I managed), food, Binoculars, and my map.
After I finished packing we did some expedition training and exercised to make sure we are all fully prepared.
So I am all set, all I need to do now is wait for Saturday.
Hope to see you there everyone!
The Foot in the Door process started with a bunch of young people sitting in a room in Withington, silently waiting to see what would happen, no one saying a word. Flash forward six days later and you couldn’t get them to be quiet! We walked through Piccadilly Gardens envisioning a major goal of our own, we wrote timelines of our lives and we learnt a breathing exercise that has been proven to lower the heart rate!
After the intensive week we had a series of workshops held in various locations across Manchester and covering a variety of topics. This gave us a chance to learn more about areas we were interested in but also to dip our toes into areas that may become our new interest!
My favourite workshop was the Directing in the Round workshop at the Royal Exchange. We started with a background and history of the Royal Exchange which included some fascinating insights including (my favourite) that the theatre is held up by beams which are secured into the marble poles because if the stage was placed on the floor the weight of it would make it fall through the floor! We then went back into the main space and learnt some of the basics about directing in the round, including that all energy should be directed towards the centre. Then we had a chance to work in groups to write and stage our own piece in the round (in about 20 minutes!). Our piece was about a couple who both saw their relationship very differently. We were progressively given instructions to not only build the piece so it would perform better in the round but also instructions that helped us develop the actual content. Not only was it a fantastic experience to be acting on stage at the Royal Exchange but also to get an insight into how pieces in this context are created.
We also learnt from Sharon Stoneham what a massive job a stage manager has, and people often don’t even know the half of it! Sharon generously went into great depth with us as to what a stage manager needs to do and keep on top of. She showed us her toolkit (which included, amongst other things, needle and thread, a hammer and tape). We saw what a stage manager’s script looks like after a production and how the stage manager needs to have an idea of what is happening in all the different departments. If an actor forgets if they move upstage or downstage at any point, then it is the stage manager who should be able to answer their question. The first in, and the last out, and no production would be possible without them!
Finally, a workshop that answered many of the questions I’d long been curious about was the Producing workshop with representatives from Art with Heart and The Octagon. How do you approach a venue with a show? How do you get producers to see your show? What does it take to apply for arts funding? And what exactly is a producer? That answer was never, and possibly never can be, answered. It varies so much depending upon the context of the show, the budget and the different skills and interests of the people involved. They went through what to include in the email you send to venues – photos, reviews, the synopsis – and how to grab their attention. But also to be understanding that you may send a hundred emails and get one reply and not to be discouraged. Everyone is going through this, especially at the beginning of their careers. We also looked at a hypothetical timeline of a production and when different tasks would need to be completed by. Although I’ve directed productions before it was interesting to see how other people space things out and when they see certain tasks should be completed by.
All these workshops shared valuable ideas, developed new skills and provided a deeper insight into a different area of theatre!
Probably the area in which my knowledge has increased the most as a result of being part of the Foot In the Door programme is that of the Manchester theatre scene. Living in Liverpool, and rarely visiting, I had no idea how much was on offer both in large well-known theatres and in the fringe. I have certainly learnt a lot about the type of companies that are starting to develop in Manchester, the many schemes there are for young theatre makers and even about the geography of it- the many small drama spaces there are dotted around the city. This is certainly a knowledge I hope to use in the future, and has definitely encouraged me to make that train journey through more often!
My education has not just stalled there though; I have also picked many practical skills along the way. Whilst they might not all be entirely relevant to my future goal of being a stage manager, they will certainly make me a better person to work with, for I can now better appreciate the demands a producer has to deal with or why designers are so exacting when it comes to the use of their creations. Having the confidence to speak in front of a group of people, or at least the knowledge that I have done so before without falling apart, will certainly come in handy and is not necessarily something I would have had much opportunity to practice otherwise.
On a more personal level, I have been very lucky in that during my time on the programme I was accepted onto a MA course and so now have a definite idea of what I will be doing for the next year. Even without this though, the initial training week made me really reflect on everything I had done up to this point and what I still hoped to achieve, and most importantly how those two things could be linked. Taking the time to do this helped make my aspirations a lot clearer. I may now be on a training course for the career I want to go into, but, as this experience has taught me, I won’t just rely upon that and will make an effort to keep gaining more experience on the side.
One of the nicest things I have learnt from Foot In the Door is that I am not alone in being new in this field. After many placements shadowing professionals with many years of experience, it was very reassuring to meet a whole group of people who, like me, are just starting off in their careers and maybe are still a bit unsure of the next step.
Well, I hope they work it out and wish them all the very best of luck for the future!
We are the Multitude smashed the 24:7 Big Festival Weekend and then went on tour to Liverpool’s Lantern Theatre!
I’ve never helped a show go on tour before and therefore didn’t know what exactly to expect. Just the weekend before the show had seen four wonderful performances playing to great crowds and to great acclaim so going on tour should be seamless, right? It a lot of ways yes, the cast did a fantastic job and Katie Scott’s set looked just as beautiful but some adjustments had to be made because the space wasn’t exactly the same. How inconvenient!
We arrived at the theatre for a lunchtime get-in and tech to find, as Katie already knew, that the space was smaller than the Martin Harris Centre in length, depth and breadth. This meant that the space for the onstage action was more limited and the space within which the set had to fit was going to be more of a squeeze. The window had to be lowered down on its stand as when in its original position it hit the ceiling. The width of the desk dividers also had to be reduced. And there was another challenge – the wings that were downstage left and right in Martin Harris were now just walls. So with some cable ties and spare wing material Katie made some wings, but they were however now upstage. So when Lisa and Simon blockade the entrance with the chairs and tables it would now be in a different part of the room.
Not big changes (and ones that the actors adapted to seamlessly) but it did make me think about how plays that tour must need to adjust to each space they enter. Lighting rigs may differ, dimensions of the stage may change, entrances and exits may move slightly from show to show. What other challenges (or equally opportunities) may each new venue unveil? May performing in one venue, where changes need to be made, present different ways of presenting the material?
But back in Liverpool, once the set had been rejigged, the lighting reprogrammed and after the actors had a run through, then it was ready for the show! The actors put on a great performance on the Wednesday night and the audience loved it. Hopefully this won’t be the end of We are the Multitude touring and adapting to new spaces. The hard work of Amy, Andy, Laura, Liz, Flora and Katie deserves to be shared more with the wider theatre community!
As part of the Foot In the Door scheme, we have had the opportunity to attend some great workshops on all sorts of different aspects of working within theatre, and the arts in general.
For me a personal favourite was a talk by Sharon Stoneham on stage management, an area that I am particularly keen to get into. In a short amount of time, she gave us a lot of practical advice, taking us through the roles and duties of a stage manager before going through some ‘does and don’ts’ as well as offering anecdotes from her own experiences. Whilst I had come across some of the points in my own past experiences, some of her advice, particularly on writing rehearsal notes, was entirely new to me and it was good in general to be able to write down such a thorough list of what to remember for next time that I take on a stage management role.
Similarly the producing workshop proved a lot more useful to me than I had previously thought it would, not being sure exactly what a producer was. As we were quite quickly made aware of, the role of a theatre producer is not a concrete one, and in small theatre companies it often falls to several people to take up the various aspects of the jobs: from organising funding to setting dates and venues for touring. As I am sure at some point I will have to deal with at least some of these tasks, it was great to get honest advice from people with experience not only of when things go right, but also when they might go slightly awry. Our final task of plotting out a production timeline from initial idea to first night proved particularly enlightening in showing exactly how much has to be done in what is a relatively small amount of time.
The design workshop which followed this also gave us a lot of practical advice, not only on what the job entails, but also on a more day to day scale; where to rent/buy props from, how to make certain texturised effects on the set, what to consider whilst touring etc. We were able to have a good look at the examples of their work that they had brought with them, and were even able to make our own to scale ‘mini-mes’ at the end!
Whilst these were the three workshops which I enjoyed the most, we had plenty more besides on everything from health and safety to setting up our own theatre companies. The Foot In the Door scheme has definitely given us a good overall idea of what sort of careers we might consider within the arts. It also great to hear from professionals about their own experiences and always useful to be given some friendly, honest advice!
Find Luke’s blog here: http://247theatreon24mm.weebly.com
Over the past year I have been very lucky in getting placements on all sorts of different productions. But whilst I may have sat through tech and dress rehearsals and actual runs, I had not yet been able to see a professional production at its very start in the rehearsal room. That was until I was put on a placement with Monkeywood Theatre’s ‘Uprising’; a one-night script-in-hand show which was to be the culmination of a more long term project to help four playwrights develop new pieces of work.
Given that the focus of the project was on the texts themselves, rather than creating a finished piece, I had ample opportunity to see how the writers, directors and actors approached the script from the initial read through to more detailed discussions about particular scenes, characters and plot details. As there were actually four writers, two directors and ten actors involved overall I was also able to see different ways of going about this, whether that was to read through the script in its entirety a couple of times and then discuss it or to stop and start as they were reading through.
I was encouraged to take part in the discussions and it was interesting to see how the writers were taking on board all the suggestions and were keen to change elements of the script which didn’t work as well when read aloud. I also noticed that although the director was clearly in charge of the rehearsal space and deciding the plan of action, everybody was still very much a team giving useful criticism and working together on any queries that were thrown up. The actors had also obviously thought through the type of person their characters were and were keen to discuss background and motivation with the writers. For me it felt as though from that initial read through, the script became somehow jointly owned by all the members of the company, with everyone helping to develop it and keen to make it successful, which was fascinating to see.
Although only twenty minutes of each play was to be used, with only a table and some chairs for a set, the company added some movement into each piece. Whilst not every stage direction was acted upon, and many were simply read out, it was still possible to see how the script went from being a text read aloud to a piece of theatre simply by the addition of movement and expression. For the actual ‘show’ the actors sat along the side of the stage and simply moved into the centre for the particular plays that they were involved with. The simplicity of this set up, with lines being read from the script, basic lighting and only entrance and exit music to distinguish between the different plays, allowed the focus to continue being on the content of the texts themselves. This lead to a Q and A session at the end with the writers, which again showed to me how differently people interpret plays.
And with that my time with Monkeywood Theatre came to an end! However I will definitely an eye out for those four scripts to be turned into polished productions, and look forward to seeing how much more they have changed by then!
What a weekend!
“The Butterfly’s Adventure” went down a treat. It was great to see so many people engaging with Martin and the other characters; even those who didn’t sign up tagged along with the promenade, and were more than welcome! As expected, there were a few site-specific staging challenges on the day, but nothing the Scallywags couldn’t handle. Three shows later, we were tired out, but very pleased with what we’d accomplished. The feedback received from children of all ages and sizes(!) was very encouraging; it was great to hear that they enjoyed the production as much as we did!
It was a delight to watch the other productions, too. The variety and quality achieved by a relatively down-sized festival was inspiring. I was very pleased to see the other Footies and their achievements. I especially enjoyed catching up with everyone at the Evaluation meeting, and sharing in the successes and challenges faced since we embarked on our placements. People had clearly incorporated the skills they picked up through workshops, and gained further understanding throughout the course of their placements.
Now the dust has settled (or rather, glitter!), it’s good to take time to reflect on the placement, as we learned to do during training. I had a great time working with Scallywags, particularly as they were so encouraging and open to my creative ideas. There was ample opportunity for me to incorporate and develop the skills I learned through the supplementary workshops, particularly in terms of marketing and producing. I have continued to use these skills in promoting my other projects.
Over the course of this placement, I have met some interesting, inspirational and encouraging people, who have shared, challenged, and confirmed my own views of the industry. I have learned how to be more receptive and open myself to others, and to do so confidently and conscientiously. Most importantly, my enthusiasm as a person and a practitioner has been welcomed and encouraged by other professionals as I have gained new practical skills, fortifying my belief that I am in an industry and a community that I can flourish in.
Jenny Owen, checking out
It was the moment we’d all been waiting for, the moment we’d all been anticipating, the long awaited 24:7 Big Weekend was finally here.
Walking into the Martin Harris Centre on Friday morning I almost immediately felt a new ‘buzz’. A buzz of excitement at what was to come, a buzz of creativity as everyone anxiously awaited their first performance, and a dose of nerves – and all of this combined made us all feel, what I like to call, a little nervxicted.
With the final dress rehearsal done, there was nothing to do but wait for our call time. It arrived quicker than any of us could have imagined – one minute I was enjoying a Fentiman’s Cherrytree Cola (Very nice, I assure you), the next I was carefully placing boxes into set rows, placing props in the correct boxes. Checking them, double checking them, triple checking them, quadruple checking them – and checking them a bit more. But alas the time came and so with it, the first performance of Gary: A Love Story.
It was with a huge relief that the performance went as well as we could have imagined with beautiful performances by both Reuben and Craig. As the night drew to a close I felt a deep sense of pride. We’d done it, suddenly it felt real.
The following nights went just as well if not better, and Gary was well received by each and every audience member. But around Gary, I was thrilled to be able to fit in a plethora of other performances and activities. It was a joy to see what everyone else had been up to and watch and then celebrate their creations with them. There was a true sense of community spirit as everyone rushed around, Artist or Staff Pass in hand, trying to catch each and every bit of magic 24:7’s Big Weekend had to offer.
For me personally, two of the most memorable shows I saw were the monologues (which I attended on Sunny Saturday – hurray! Good judgement and timing there!) and the children’s show, ‘A Butterfly’s Adventure’ by Scallywags. Both were styles of theatre I wouldn’t usually indulge in – the first because I hate getting rained upon and so any such risk is avoided and the second? Well, when you don’t have any kids and your nieces are a bit too cool for ‘that’ – you don’t get the chance to see children’s theatre. However, I thoroughly enjoyed both – in fact, I probably enjoyed the Scallywags’ performance a little too much – I’m definitely a big kid!
But alongside brilliant shows and rehearsed readings sat workshops and on the Sunday I was fortunate to attend an ‘Acting Q&A’ with the brilliant Julie Hesmondalgh. I spent a thoroughly enjoyable, insightful and inspiring hour listening to Julie speak about her journey and it was a joy to talk to her later on in the day.
But Sunday also held a tinge of sadness. It was Gary’s last performance and therefore our last day with our brilliant director, Danielle, who had to return to London and also the closing party of 24:7 (which was a thoroughly enjoyable event).
Following 24:7 Team Gary went to Liverpool, where after another super performance, we all went out and finally celebrated. One quick drink turned into lots of quick drinks… Soon regretted the morning after when we all had to get up early and return to our various hometowns.
Working with Team Gary has been an utter pleasure, a joy and a privilege. We’ve had our ups (Finding Jukeboxes on eBay), our downs (Reuben falling through the boxes), we’ve had our 5 star reviews (Next to The Skriker’s 4 star review in the Skinny – thanks guys!) and finally, we won the Equity Vicky Allen Memorial Award for Best 24:7 play. I am honoured to have played a part in Team Gary and will be forever thankful to everyone at 24:7 for allowing me the opportunity to take part, live new experiences, but most importantly? Make new friends.
Last weekend brought the end of the 24:7 festival to a close, I managed to find time to pop down and watch ‘Gary: A Love Story’, which was well worth the wait as it proved to be a finely written, produced and well acted piece of Theatre in the wonderful Martin Harris theatre space, being a space I know all too well. From what I witnessed the festival weekend was a huge success and I was really happy for everybody involved, right through from the organisers of the festival, to the actors, directors, everybody backstage and of course my fellow footies, as everybody worked so hard and their work really paid off, which is always great to see.
Of course with the festival ending, so too does my time with the ‘Foot in The Door’ scheme. I have really enjoyed being a part of the process, watching my fellow footies grow into their work, showing what they can do. Everybody who has come into this scheme has come out the other side a more developed professional, you can see the hunger and extra drive that the course gives you, that’s what makes this such a special scheme to be a part of, as you’re right in the action. I have made friends and important contacts through my time with 24:7, and I would recommend it to anybody looking for a career in the arts, as you learn so much, and the time that the people involved put in to help you is extraordinary, and you will be hard pushed to find a better place to get your foot in the door.
I’m now entering what is sure to be a busy period for Box of Tricks, they are now back from a well earned holiday and putting forward the preparations for their play Narvik, with the performance on in September. Before the break I helped Adam change the office around, as it was a bit chaotic due to half the set from their last show ‘Plastic Figurines’ still remaining there. It took the whole day, but in the end it was quite fun and rewarding, as the office space looked a lot more presentable, I was also allowed to throw in some suggestions of my own, and I got to see a few future plans that the theatre company had for the future, such as writing events and possibly letting other companies use a section of the office. I felt I also gave a good impression of myself, as cleaning an office isn’t everybody’s cup of tea as it doesn’t have a great deal to do with theatre, (although it does if you’ve worked on a show with a get out in the morning) but because I helped out it showed that my interests lie with helping the company, rather than looking out for myself, and I believe that is the right attitude to have when going on a theatre placement.
Now that we’re back in the office, I’ve gone back over the contact emails that I supplied Adam with for marketing, and I am now creating personalised invitation emails for each of the contacts inviting them to come and see Narvik. It’s a difficult task because it takes a lot of time, consideration and eye for detail, as you are making an invitation for a professional level, and requiring to also show that you’ve researched each contact and shown just as much interest in them, as you are hoping they show as much interest in you and your project in return, rather than just copying and pasting the same paragraph over and over again.
It’s a nice and relaxing atmosphere in the office, we’re either listening to music on the radio whilst we work, or the cricket will be on, I don’t really understand cricket, I’m more of a football person, but Adam seems to enjoy it, so each to their own…I’m going to stick to my football though. I’ve learnt a lot so far during my time here, seeing how Adam and Amy work, the amount of time they spend securing funding, planning out every stage, how much detail they put into every aspect. I’ve been really grateful for the time they have invested in helping me develope and making me feel a welcome part of their company and the process as a whole, and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the time I have with them. And finally I am very thankful to Foot In The Door for giving me the opportunity to work with the company, I will never forget this invaluable experience in what I hope will be a long and fruitful career in the arts.
24:7 gave me my first experience of stage managing, and also my first involvement in a promenade production. I have a new awareness of the significance of space in a performance after this weekend: the Brief Encounters took place around a square on campus, each monologue performed in an evocative or appropriate area for its time period, setting or the character. The varied styles of architecture in the square was really helpful for helping us establish each piece’s mood, period, or style. For example in JoJo Kirtley’s It’s Not For The Likes Of Us, Steph Reynolds performed as a prospective student at Manchester University open day, sitting down at a picnic table to eat jam sandwiches next to the contemporary-looking cafe, and looking around at the tall buildings surrounding on all sides. For Ruth Evans’ performance of Jane Tonge’s Tracing Stars the sizeable area of circular green space worked well with the actor’s wellington boots to give a outdoorsy, open, feel and you could almost forget you were in the city centre.
On Friday our audience was outside experiencing the Brief Encounters monologues in a light drizzle. Saturday drew larger audiences for both performances, and because there was no audience seating apart from the benches already in the square, it was interesting to see the audiences flow into position organically around each actor. It was also a lovely sunny day so people were more willing to sit on the benches and probably a bit happier to be walking around outside. The final performance on Sunday was moved into the bar because the rain was so heavy that it would have been uncomfortable for the audience and actors. It was a shame to have to move it indoors, because the element of walking from performance to performance was lost, but the actors portrayed their characters inside the bar really well, with some inventive entrances and exits providing a sense of movement still.
For the outdoor performances, to give the audiences some idea of where they might be walking to, we used big numbers in pink chalk on the ground: also one large blue arrow leading up to the square, and a 24:7 logo I stencilled. It was quite difficult to see and some audience members didn’t really see it. It proved most useful for the fifth performance, Sue Blundell’s Treasure, in which the audience don’t immediately see a performer, and then John Smeathers comes up striding along the path and begins his performance – the big 5 on the ground was a helpful visual reference for the audience to know when to stop walking. On the whole I think the chalk added to the square for those who saw it, and those who didn’t see it didn’t need to, because it wasn’t an essential part of the performance. I think it was a nice touch.
I’ve learned a lot about how to use outdoor spaces and promenade from working on Brief Encounters. I’m very grateful to the actors and directors I was working with for being very understanding about this being a very new experience for me, and also to 24:7 and Foot In The Door for giving me the opportunity.
In May, I began my FITD traineeship. I was assigned the outdoor monologues project to work on, which was really exciting for a lot of reasons: the kind of performance I am interested in most does tend to be small short pieces like these five minute monologues; it was outside (how you make a set or performance space outside is something I had never really considered before and which interests me a lot); and because I come from a background of literature moreso than live performance I was delighted when I was asked to read over the monologue submissions and help choose.
I was supervised very supportively on my placement by Ian Townsend, who right at the start sent me a shortlist of twelve – a number we halved in the run up to the festival. I really enjoyed reading through and helping come up with a list of ones that would go together well and complement each other as part of a complete performance, and which were most suited to outdoor promenade performance. The shortlist of twelve was very exciting to read because they were all so different, approaching the theme of Manchester’s scientific history in lots of creative ways. It made me think in a new way, trying to select monologues not just based on each piece as an individual, but in terms of how they might fit together, inform each other, provide a good mixture of different settings and styles: I feel like part of my role was helping to curate a selection.
It’s Not For The Likes Of Us, Looking Through John Dalton’s Eyes, Four Hundred Yards, Tracing Stars, Treasure, and Miracle (the six we selected as the final choices) are all varied, imaginative, and captivating to read or watch. It’s been great seeing them develop and change over the various edits and it was a real treat seeing how the directors and actors interpreted them at the festival weekend. I would like to say a huge well done to the writers, actors and directors.
The monologues all represent different time periods so it’s really interesting that they were performed as part of the same promenade performance one after another – the order that they are in needs to feel right and have the right progression of mood. With the order we ended up with, the tone at the beginning and end is contemporary, witty, and simultaneously drawing attention to serious modern day issues: the right for working class women to be included in the higher education system – and the strain of undergoing costly fertility treatments such as IVF. There were some really positive reviews of the quality of these monologues:http://www.thepublicreviews.com/brief-encounters-247-festival-martin-harris-centre-for-music-and-drama-manchester/
I’m really glad that a shortened selection of Brief Encounters will be performed again at Manchester Science Festival. I think they are such an engaging watchable way of informing people about this city’s fantastic scientific achievements – and also a way to ask some thought provoking questions.
When it comes to putting a performance together one major factor is the space that it will be performed in. This can affect everything from costume, to staging, to how a line is delivered and how you can get on and off, every tiny decision – It’s a sweet madness trying to figure it all out.
Sometimes traditional scripts have a stage plan, which is great if you happen to have exactly the same size, same shape, and same resources as the location the script was originally performed. Someone has done the hard work for you and now all you have to do is adapt it to your environment.
So what happens with new writing? What happens when you are the person designing the stage plan? How do you find the questions to ask that no-one has asked before?
Madness Sweet Madness had been allocated the Cosmo Concert Hall at the Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama. A wonderfully vibrant space, with a large wide playing area, and forward facing acoustics. It was fabulous.
If you were doing a concert.
24:7 has a tradition of performing in none specific Theatre Spaces and this carried through into the Cosmo. It looks like a theatre space, it feels like a theatre space but is not a theatre space. The question was could we turn it into one?
This is where a little help from our friends came in. The Plant who were sharing our space had decided to use the rostra – a square raised platform that limited the space down to a more intimate one. In the interests of time and space sharing our director decided to use similar staging. Which solved one problem – that the cast wouldn’t get lost in the expanse of the Cosmo.
He felt however that it was still too empty and hit upon the idea of a large house like structure that would serve as a lightbox for transitions and play to the strangeness of the piece. There was a through line of houses in the script. Grace’s house with Charlie, The neighbours house, Vesuvius house, and the house gifted at the end. Indeed the very title of the show is a play on the phrase “Home Sweet Home”. A creative idea caused specifically by the space. Even though it divided opinion should you remove the lightbox house – visually you would have a very different – very empty looking piece in such a big space.
The space performed in is almost another character, it lends itself to the performance and creates the confines of the world in which it is set. So what happens when you give the show a second space?
We took the show to The Lantern Theatre Liverpool as part of the Shiny New Festival. The space was a more traditional studio space. Much much smaller than the Cosmo. The first thing cut? The lightbox house. It wasn’t needed in a smaller space, the atmosphere came from the fact that the smaller space gave the show a more claustrophobic feel, that Grace and Vesuvius really were living on top of each other.
It was interesting to note the changes – Actors were behind the curtain instead of in view at the beginning. The lights cycled through the transitions with the music, but this time they were directly on Vesuvius’ house instead of the lightbox – giving a sense of eeriness and surrealism, possibly not felt in the expanse of the Cosmo. Could he be dreaming in this space? When he quite clearly wasn’t in the former? The biggest change however was a simple one. Because of headroom Walt could not stand on the chairs at the Lantern – a re staging meant that he came forward instead. Right to the front of the audience. It pulled them in to his reactions – as if we were now a part of his “magic” and lent more weight to his words. A fix, a creative choice dictated by the demands of the space.
So the space does matter, it can present two different versions of the same piece a day apart and radically change your interpretation. Perhaps because the script of Madness Sweet Madness is deliberately open, that it invites you to create your own interpretation of certain elements – that it is the perfect piece to transfer into different spaces. That just because you have seen it done one way doesn’t mean it won’t work another.
I’m glad that the script doesn’t come with a stage plan, that the space becomes another character to tell the story, that in future productions interpretation can be decided by the space the show is performed in.
After all it can only add to the madness.
The sweet madness.
The Foot In The Door training fortnight was a wonderful experience: for the first couple of days, meeting in the fire station in Withington, it felt like an unusual thing to be doing, to come in the morning, sit round together and check in – to tell each other how we were all feeling, and what we had been up to the day before, and how we were getting on with what we were learning. I often found myself giggling a bit or saying something silly and immediately regretting it, because it was quite unfamiliar to me, being so open with people I had only met a few times. Then I realised that it was a very supportive space and everyone was great, and that I didn’t need to be worried about anything like that.
I really enjoyed getting to know the other footies on the course: the exercises we were doing meant that we were learning a lot about each other as artists and as people, about what we all prioritised and what had led us to this point in our lives. Everyone on Foot In The Door 2015 is a smart, talented individual with a sense of co-operation and sharing and I’ve really enjoyed spending time with them. Being on Foot In The Door has given me a great network of young creatives and artists of various disciplines and I’m certain we’ll stay in touch.
We had workshops from a variety of leaders and it was fantastic to learn so much, intensely, over a fairly short period. Our very first workshops were led by Anne-Marie Crowther and they combined teaching us skills we’d find specifically useful for working in the arts, and skills for our own individual lives: understandably there was a lot of crossover. One exercise I found extremely helpful was when we all wrote down a self-limiting belief we hold and then through a series of rephrasings discover exactly what it is we find difficult, why, and see how it is actually easier to overcome than we may have thought. I found these periods of reflection really helpful, I’ve not examined my own progress in such a considered way before and it made me feel very encouraged.
I also found Aliki Chapple’s work with us really great: around the time that we were gearing up to give our pitches of ourselves for the Foot In The Door scheme at the Lowry, she helped us write a tight draft to present, gave us some techniques to make us feel calmer while pitching, and went through some really interesting exercises with us about confidence and energy. There was a quite frightening exercise in which we practiced taking turns sitting in a chair about 10 feet away from where everyone else sat: we sat in complete silence for a full minute, feeling everyone’s eyes on us. As a performer I’m used to being watched but I wasn’t prepared for how difficult I would find remaining composed in a fully lit busy room, trying to move and fidget as little as possible. It was tremendously useful for giving the pitch at the Lowry: knowing what the time in which I wasn’t speaking would feel like with everyone watching.
Giving the pitch was a great day too – I was very nervous that I wouldn’t be able to convey my personality and passion for the arts, but everyone was so welcoming, and I especially enjoyed the period at the end of the afternoon, after everyone had pitched, in which we walked around speaking to the arts industry people who’d come to watch us, getting feedback on what we’d done well in our public speaking and what we could do better. It was my first time meeting some of the people I would meet again later in my involvement in 24:7.
Training fortnight was a vital part of Foot In The Door and I had a fab time.
I was very excited to see the plays that the other Foot In The Door interns have been involved in. On the Sunday, I went to see ‘Distant Sounds’ (Written by Joyce Branagh and Tasnim Hussein), Gary: A Love Story (Written by James Harker) and We Are The Multitude (Written by Laura Harper). All three plays I thoroughly enjoyed. In the past, I have seen rehearsed readings where the actors only looked at their scripts and didn’t act at all which isolates the audience completely. Distant Sounds was the complete opposite of this; the two actresses completely inhabited their characters and managed to interact with the audience. The way that the set was used in Gary: A Love Story was really clever but also simple. Also, the relationship between the two siblings was truly authentic and at times heartbreaking. We are the multitude impressed me with the way in which the two actors could maintain portraying comical characters who also had a lot of emotional depth. Attending the weekend reminded me how small the industry actually is. Attending the same shows as me were two of my ex tutors from University, a vast majority of actors I have worked with before (including a nice surprise of one of them being in Distant Sounds), one of my workshop leaders, a director i’ve worked with before and one I’m currently working with. This enforced my view that you need to build good working relationships with directors/actors/assistants/everyone you can as literally everyone does know everyone! I am very proud of my fellow Footies and the work they have managed to create – it seems a long time ago now that we were sat in a circle in Withington fire station eagerly awaiting details of our placements!
The one thing that I am finding the most beneficial whilst on this placement is that I am getting to experience every aspect of running a theatre company. I specifically wanted to learn about the less creative side. Especially filling in an Grants for the Arts application as it is an aspect I found very daunting. Even though all of this information I have learnt so far has been incredibly useful, I was glad to be involved in a practical play day with Colour The Clouds. They are currently rehearsing for Maggie the Song and the Sea which they have secured tour dates for over the next couple of months. As the piece has already been shared in front of an audience previous to my placement, they have already received audience feedback on the piece as it is so far. What I think is invaluable though is the feedback they have received from children! Children are their dominant target audience (and also the most honest critics), therefore it seems necessary that this is where they gain feedback and opinions.
Colour The Clouds have decided to develop their material, which includes changing aspects of what they already have. I found it interesting to learn that when you put in a funding application you have to document changes, even some of the ones I would take for granted and not consider putting down. For example, I could not just create another character in my piece without considering that I am now including another actor who needs to be paid, insured etc. I don’t believe that this stifles creativity; it just makes you think more realistically.
Creating things with a parachute was very fun! Sometimes we use props for the sake of it in performance. When I was younger, I used to create elaborate creatures from things I found around the house and gained just as much enjoyment from it. Working with Colour The Clouds is helping me to recapture and reimagine the way I stage my own work – and how to have fun with it!
The 24:7 Theatre Weekend was a place of creativity and fun, offering a chance for all the productions to show their hard work to each other and festival goers a like. As a member of one of the shows we started a day early with a technical rehearsal and had the chance to see the festival come alive from a beautiful venue to festival central.
The organisation, dedication and help from everyone created a wonderful sense of a team spirit – from the staff to the casts, from the crews at the Martin Harris Centre to the alumni of previous years returning again to help out. It had that festival vibe – The shows in the theatres “sharing a tent”, the promenade monologues “hoping the weather holds”, and Martin the Caterpillar headlining “the next field stage” . Although thankfully there was less mud than other festivals – the drinking was taken care of. Opening drinks on the Friday and a bar throughout the weekend -(including soft drinks and tea) – finishes the festival analogy nicely – for what true festival would be complete without a “beer tent”?
But 24:7 has one more detail – the people. Welcoming audiences who have come specifically for a piece, or are there to see anything and everything, as well as encouraging and letting volunteers view the shows too – there was a real sense that everyone could be involved in something. There may be bigger festivals in Manchester but I challenge them to have the same intimate family feel that the Big Weekend did. With very careful planning it was possible to see everything that the festival put on – a point which further goes on to highlight the support 24:7 gives its participants.
As a member of a company this scheduling created a wonderful sense of team building. We could see things together. It meant that discussions of the other shows were flying backstage, adding to the feeling that our show, was part of something bigger. Of course we could then meet the other companies and we all had things in common. “I liked how you did that”, “I loved that joke”, “What made you think of that.?”.
If the festival does one thing it shows just what can be achieved when people collaborate. Writers, Directors, Staff, Volunteers, Casts and Audiences – all there for a shared enjoyment of the arts. Perhaps then that is 24:7′s biggest gift to any who walk through the doors, whichever side of the festival they are on, – it showcases a common interest, offers a conversation starter, starts you down the path that 24:7 has paved so many years ago.
So I put it to you that this is a fundamental part of the 24:7 legacy. For if art is truly inspirational and collaborative – who knows what new ideas have been thought of, discussed, and born at the Big Weekend?
As the rehearsal period draws to a close, we say goodbye to our little purple rehearsal room in Salford where we have spent 8 hours a day for the last 2 weeks.
I can’t help thinking about the first day, the nervous excitement which we all had and the ridiculous time we spent getting lost in the maze that is Salford University (we have mastered it now) while we hunted for endless supplies of coffee and twirl bars.
Packing up the boxes, sad to leave the rehearsal period.
So technically after tonight that’s it for the director, of course Danielle will stay and watch the performances but her job is done and therefore (not including a quick relocation to Liverpool for one night only on Thursday) so is mine.
It’s over to the actors now to perform their little socks off and deliver a cracking performance – which we have no doubt they will do! It’s always a bitter, sweet time in the process as we finally reach the point we have been working towards for the last 3 weeks. Of course we are excited to put our hard work in front of an audience, however as the performance opens its hard not to feel a bit sad that it’s the end of the process.
So I have babbled on for a long time, actually saying very little – that’s what sleep deprivation does to you! So I though I would leave you with a few of the things I have learnt during this rehearsal period:
2006 Wigan Athletic Football players and The Bill can cause endless conversations, not everyone knows what pacman is (looking at you Danielle) you can get practically anything from eBay, the M62 is the worst road in the UK, it is possible to survive on a diet solely consisting of Twirl bars and coke (James is the evidence) and porn magazines are really expensive (don’t ask!)
Joyce is a Writer, Director, and Actress living and working in the North West. She has directed 3 plays, and written 2 plays for 24:7 Theatre Festival – Sheepish (2010) and Peggy and the Spaceman (2011). Her other work includes: For The Record (3 month rural tour with Forest Forge Theatre Co); Dick Whittington and his Cat and Jack and the Beanstalk, (Watford Palace Theatre); a stage adaptation of The Vicar of Dibley (Todmorden Hippodrome); Bridges (with the support of M6, Arts Council and Physics Society). She is currently under commission to write Bleeding Hell… A Period Drama for Amy Bonsall Productions.
Having seen War Stories last year, she was delighted to be asked to write for Distant Sounds, and hopes that though this may be the last 24:7 Theatre Festival in its current form, that the essence of this brilliant festival will continue into the future.
What initially made you interested in writing a piece of theatre inspired by a piece of music?
Ian Townsend asked me! As someone who works with other writers to to create new ideas and get them writing, I often use music and songs to provoke a response, but weirdly have never tried it myself!
What were your first thoughts about the piece of music you are working with?
I thought it sounded very American and quite folky… a beautiful song with a sad refrain. There was already a story within the song, which I wasn’t expecting.
What problems did you run into when writing your script?
At first I resisted writing about the obvious topic (I don’t want to spoil it so I won’t say exactly what it is), but I wanted to write something more lighthearted than the song’s story was suggesting… then I worked out a way that I could approach the story from a different angle – combining some humour into a dark subject.
Did you have any ideas before you listened to the music that you are still using?
I tried not to – the idea was to write in response to the music. But I was already keen to try and write for two women if I could. Try and do my bit to balance out the lack of decent roles for women in theatre. Luckily Tasnim wanted to do that too – phew.
Have you ever been to Australia?- If so what did you think?
No. I’d really like to. I think we should organise a 247 trip to the You Are Here Festival…!
It’s two months since I started my internship with Scallywags theatre company, and it feels a lot longer… in a good way!
My creative ideas have been encouraged and welcomed by the company, which has been great for me (and hopefully for them too!). I’ve learned and achieved a lot from being in the production process from the beginning. I’ve been a part of developing the story, writing songs, and building characters – literally, building and decorating masks and puppets!
As an assistant producer, I have been a part of drafting press releases and inviting guests to “The Butterfly’s Adventure”. What I found most interesting about this was the writing style, as we struck a balance between the professionalism and fun-loving nature of the company.
The social media strategy has been a fun challenge for me. I based it on the colourful images, and exciting captions that had worked well for the company previously. My aim was to focus the social media on Martin the caterpillar’s journey through rehearsals, to build the character voice and public interest ready for the festival. This was good fun, and encouraged me to set up and look out for some good rehearsal photo opportunities, whilst being careful not to give too much away!
Now we’ve reached the 24:7 Theatre Festival Big Weekend. We have had our final dress rehearsal at Manchester Museum. We can’t wait to share our story and characters with everybody! Until then, I’ll look forward to seeing what the other Foot In The Door interns have been up to…
Jenny Owen, checking out
As opening night nears, director Danielle McIlven and writer James Harker look forward to seeing their creation in front of an audience.
So, James. Today is the dress rehearsal and then you open on Tonight. Could you talk about how you as the writer feel at this stage?
Excited, scared …
I sat in on a full run-through of the play this afternoon and the performances and direction were fantastic. So I feel like it’s very much all on me now to keep up my end of the bargain and hope the script does its job tonight. This is my first time rehearsing for a full-length piece, so perhaps Danielle you’re better-qualified to talk about this one.
It’s interesting you use the phrase “your end of the bargain.” In a way I think that ended with your production of the beautiful script … and I feel it was my end of the bargain to deliver on it! There is a point — in fact the ideal point — at the end of rehearsals where you feel the missing component is an audience, and I think that’s where we have reached. For me the it’s now very much about transporting the effective and coherent decisions made in an intimate rehearsal room to the theatre space.
On that note James do you think you will you be watching/responding to the audience or the performers when we open? What audience response would be ideal for you?
Oh definitely the audience! I’m a total secret show-off and narcissist so I suppose actually managing to amuse and entertain any group of people for 50 minutes or so is the response I’m most hoping for. That’s my fear actually … my recurring nightmare: no one finding any of the jokes funny. Which is a bit weird considering this is ostensibly a play about the criminal justice system … and a play with such political intentions.
Richard Wright — a fantastic American writer from the 1940s — had a really good line about how he wanted his audience to react. He said he’d had enough of making people cry through sentimentality. Instead he wanted to present stories so unflinchingly honest that anger would be the only possible response. I think that’s great. I’d love to write a play which makes an audience really, really angry. Maybe ‘Gary’ could do a little of that too.
But I’m not as good as Richard Wright. So I’ll happily settle for laughter.
What do you want from an audience Danielle? And does it change play-to-play?
The degree to which is changes between plays is in part due to what the text demands as a genre. So yes to laugh in a comedy or be moved by a drama, and maybe angered by politically. And funnily enough this piece has the potential for all three — so I want the production to serve these elements. And it’s quite a profound question really isn’t it- is this achieved if you sense that in an audience regardless of what we think we have discovered in rehearsal? Actually that isn’t profound at all, it’s very obvious, it is entirely about whether an audience respond to these intentions and the potential within the text.
I imagine (and hope) there could be a little laugh or fuelled silence at times we hadn’t anticipated. That’s the risk of an audience, but also the power of finding out whether the production works. And for this piece given the very conscious relationship between our protagonist and audience a lot relies on how they connect with Andrew, played by the very talented Reuben Johnson.
And James in terms of the actors — how have their interpretation of the characters shifted your understanding of them?
Ha! Well the character of Andrew was pretty much modelled on the worst aspects of myself for: a slightly whimpy bloke who makes terrible jokes and seeks validation from anyone who’ll give it to him.
Reuben Johnson, by contrast, is a lot cooler than that! So his version of Andrew is naturally a little wiser and a lot more authoritative. Funnily enough, and in a very good way, I think this will actually make Reuben’s Andrew a lot more vulnerable in the eyes of the audience by the play’s end. To see such a self-assured and likable person completely broken and destroyed by his decisions and his circumstances is quite powerful I think.
Craig “Moz” Morris, who plays the title role of Gary, probably has a lot more freedom with the role because Gary is a much more enigmatic character. But I really can’t see anyone other than Reuben and Moz in the roles now!
When I accepted the task of finding props for Team Gary, I foolishly assumed it would be the ordinary, run of the mill stuff. You know, the usuals – a chair, a table, a pint glass. However as the props list began to grow I had a realization – I had almost certainly been mistaken.
Prop Mission One – Find a Jukebox. Easy peasy I thought, I can definitely hire one of those from- then James added “Cheap or Free.” Ah. Now we had issues. Most jukeboxes were super expensive even to hire, never mind buy! Where on Earth was I going to find a jukebox?
I tried the usual haunts – Preloved, Gumtree, eBay but alas all the jukeboxes were all so far out of our price range that we would probably need a telescope just to catch a glimpse of them. Panic was building as more and more searchs and emails turned up nothing. But then it hit me – not everyone has an iPhone, that means not even has autocorrect and not everyone can spell. So I crawled back to eBay and began to type in variations of spelling jukebox. Nothing, I was about to give up when I decided to try one last dodgy spelling. One result – 99p starting bid with no reserve. Perfect, but now for the moment of truth – the location. It had to be near enough for us to drive and pick up in a van. I was bracing myself for yet more disappointment – London, Brighton, Plymouth or maybe somewhere super cool like Aberdeen? I look and then… elation! It was only down the road in Accrington! Hurrah!
Thought the trauma was over? Think again, now it was time for a bidding war, but Team Gary came out victorious and the jukebox was ours for just £25 – BARGAIN. Then of course came storing it but thankfully I have a key to my Mum’s shed and where does she live? Burnley which is next to Accrington. SORTED.
Now I thought after that mammoth task the rest would be simple and some props were – alcohol, clothes, toys, but the hardest was yet to come… in the form of let’s say a certain callibre of magazine that you might traditionally find stored high above your eyeline. This was not going to be an easy task, it was going to be a Herculean task. It would be a test of endurance and how well I knew Salford’s scummiest shops. James and I jumped into our formidable chariot (aka Fanny the Ford Ka) and I drove him to every grim newsagents I knew, each time dumping James and locking my car doors but seven shops later with only one shop left we were empty handed. Not one magazine, nothing, nada. The shops were evidently not as grim as they appeared. Then we saw it, the grimmest shop of them all, so grim I couldn’t even park near it, I had to drive down the road onto an even grimmer estate. James set off, and I sat nervously tapping to ‘Two Tribes” until James arrived with what I will describe as some interesting reading.
Along with a Woolworths carrier (which are £3-5 each on eBay just in case you have any lurking around) these props were without a doubt the hardest I have ever had to source. But Team Gary now have all their props, and I have learnt a number of skills in being resourceful and how to get good props cheap. Opening night is just around the corner and the excitement is certainly palpable.
Bring on our first performance! Go Team Gary!
The first slice of our theatrical sandwich is buttered and ready to be filled – sorry, I’m really hungry! What I mean to say is that up until now, our rehearsals have involved exploring the first half of the play and now we’re getting to the meaty middle – sorry! Hunger pangs again… Before we launched into the latter half of the play, we needed to address the passage of time – around 6 hours. What do Simon and Lisa do to pass the time, to get them to the point where the second scene starts? After letting me and Andy hash it out, we then performed some freeze-frames, which Flora photographed, to summarise what happened during each hour…
|8.20am – 9am
Simon barricades the door, whilst Lisa gathers ‘essentials’
Simon looks for more information on the computer, whilst Lisa inventories their food
|10am – 11am
Both go a bit introverted and try to distract themselves
The waiting game. Lisa needs to urinate and negotiates privacy with Simon
The pair start to eat some food together and initiate small talk
The two have exhausted their games and fall into silence
With our immediate previous circumstances in our bodies, we could plough into the meat of the text (seriously, someone get me a chicken sandwich)! We worked the first unit of this scene, exploring our objectives; there are constant battles for status between Simon and Lisa, almost like a brother and sister – but there is also an internal struggle within each of them as to whether they should be worried for their lives or just grin and bear an awkward situation. Our characters don’t actually have much information about the siege, so there’s peaks and troughs in the energy and pace - flipping from panic to frustration in a moment. The start of this scene is very introspective; conversation and games have lulled, so their pair are musing aloud – trying to provoke each other. There’s lots of questions so Liz had us do an exercise whereby we reallyasked the questions of each other and wouldn’t move on to the next line of text unless we felt our questions would actually be answered. This saves us from falling into the trap of making every question rhetorical (as actors we know what the next line of dialogue or answer will be). Yes this breaks up the text and flow of the piece, which is why we did it as an exercise – whereby we were free to chew over and mull each question.
Liz also had us explore the weight of our words; Lisa and Simon both attack each other in the second half of the play – lots of home truths are brought to light and they need to physically land within each of us. For these exchanges, Liz give both Andy and I a pile of post-it notes; when we felt like we said something that was a ‘shot’ we had to place it on the other person, but also consider where we were hitting them – the mouth, the nose, the heart, the head etc… What was interesting is that Simon kept trying to attack Lisa’s head – shaking her up and making her ‘see’ or learn and understand what he was saying, whereas Lisa was trying to hit him in the chest and heart – get him to emotionally awaken. Andy and I also worked with Liz and Flora individually on our ‘truth’ monologues, whereby our characters pour out their darkest secrets. For me, actioning each line really helped – assigning a transitive verb (e.g. to pierce, to tickle) to lift the colour and direction of the text. We also discussed the deep sense of shame and embarrassment Lisa feels with her revelation; this is the first time she’s actually admitted this and said it aloud, so she’s figuring out what she’s saying and how she feels as she’s saying it. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the weight and gravity of words when performing a monologue – but it needs to be difficult to spit out, as once its out into the ether, its more real. A lot of Lisa’s shame comes as a result of social pressure and at the end, she realises she did everything for nothing – as nobody else cared. Heavy shit man!
We continued in this vein throughout the rest of the play, but I’m being a coquettish tease and not revealing exactly what we got up to – otherwise you won’t bloody come and watch us! However, we spent a lot of time looking at Simon and Lisa’s relationship with each other and the rest of the world; Lisa is in her own little bubble looking out, whilst Simon is in his bubble looking in at himself. Throughout the play, although the two are both isolated and actually very similar, they just miscommunicate all the time because they fail to see things from each other’s viewpoint.
We’ve got just over a week left until we open, so be sure to book your tickets:
Ruddy hell are you still there? Bet you thought I’d forgotten about you! No such luck I’m afraid; I’ve just had my head snugly inserted up my – I mean, deeply immersed in rehearsals. Now I know you’ve all been on tender hooks awaiting updates on the Foursquare tournament, but it’s been a rather traumatic and painful experience… As it stands today Andy has 8 points, Flora has one point – whilst the rest of us ghost behind with nil points. Allow me to take this opportunity to say, this isn’t a result which we ladies take lightly and we’ve been rallying together to knock Andy off his pedestal (which he seems far too comfortable on for my liking)! Oh but the game is so revealing! Tactics are getting dirty; rules are being brought into dispute, backhanded and vicious serves coming into play and even, dare I say it, a bit of shit stirring! The latter of which resulted in Andy being revoked a point. Tensions are running high but it’s still all to play for folks…
Now, where was I? Ah, yes, rehearsals – for this show I’m hoping you’ll see no less! Since I last left you, we’ve really engrossed ourselves in the development of the play – treating ourselves to a rehearsal near enough every day! For me this is really valuable as it keeps the ball rolling and means your character and ideas are constantly being challenged and developed – although don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to a couple of days respite. I’m planning on using this time to digest and process everything we’ve been working on (God that sounds wanky doesn’t it) and to get off book ready for Sunday’s rehearsal – as by then it will be less than week until we open!
Journeying back we’d recorded the entire play, allowing us to play with it physically in the space, so returning to this idea – we repeated this exercise but introduced the geography of the set, so we had something to interact with rather than just each other. Designer Katie and director Liz had also come up with the idea that during the passage of time, Simon and Lisa barricade themselves in the office – piling up the desks etc in front of the exit. Not only does this give me and Andy more freedom in the space but allows us to explore the idea of trapping ourselves or blocking out the outside world – key themes of the play. We’re so lucky to have designer Katie on board; at our production meeting, dream team Blake and Drake shared our character biographies (bit of actor homework, creating a backstory for our characters) allowing the whole team to get a more detailed indication of the characters – leading to a discussion about costume ideas and how the characters imprint their identity within the office environment. For Simon, he desperately doesn’t want to be in the office, he feels trapped and it’s just a place of work – physically he’s present but not in mind or spirit. So for his workspace it’s going to be very minimal and clinical; a coffee mug, a newspaper and a couple of ‘inspirational’ visuals for his writing. Lisa is the polar opposite; the office is her life, it’s where she desperately tries to connect with other people and reveals her emotional immaturity. This spills over into her work space as colour, clutter and sentimentality – photographs, teddy bears, fairy lights etc. We’ll all be mucking in together to source the costumes and props, with the aim of achieving a sense of heightened reality (to compliment the heightened situation).
With Liz and assistant director Flora at the helm, we began to work through the first couple of units of the play – up until the inciting incident of gunfire – probing as to the characters objectives, ensuring that we are actively always trying to affect each other. The opening section of the play gives us a real chance to play with status; invading each other’s space, standing off against one other and battling for equality. With this in mind we tried a couple of exercises to explore status – a particularly helpful one was setting out a row of chairs; one end was the highest status (1) and the other end was the lowest (8) – Andy and I both planted ourselves at the ‘markers’ where we felt our status are at the start of the scene. As the dialogue unfolds we had to move up and down this ‘status ladder’ according to what we felt we were doing to each other – or indeed ourselves, be that raising or lowering status. By physically exploring this, we were able to see where the biggest shifts in status where – which we’ll be able to feed into the scene to find the beats and rhythms, choosing the biggest hits (as there isn’t always a constant power struggle).
The opening of the play has actually proved quite challenging to get our heads round – for Simon and Lisa, this is just another day at the office; although Lisa is thrown off her stride by finding Simon in the office before her for the first time, whilst Simon has been caught in the act of writing mid-flow (today affectionately likened to being caught mid-wank!) So we have to explore this idea of a mundane routine, just another day at the office, whilst exploring the little quirks that show the two are clashing over opposing objectives. To establish Simon and Lisa’s long history together, Liz had us perform a series of improvisations – free from the script to explore how these two characters interact and put up with one another… And importantly, why?! These two characters really irritate each other and after working together for so long, they know how to push each other’s buttons – so what keeps them amicable, why don’t they just lay into each other when things go pear shaped in the play? We also explored what our characters jobs are within the Finance Department and how the two might interact or reply upon one another to get aspects of their jobs done. Liz gave us a variety of scenarios to explore, including; 6 months before the start of the play when Simon has broken up with his girlfriend Joy and the first time Lisa’s bullying diary is introduced into the office, the last Friday before the office Christmas party, the first time Lisa receives flowers on her desk, the day after Simon and Lisa have a meeting with line manager Cheryl after Lisa lodges a complaint against Simon, what happens when Simon explodes and swear at Lisa and finally, the two trying to make conversation – finding common ground. Aside from being hugely entertaining for director Liz (and providing ample material for a new office-based sketch show), these improvs showed that over time the two have learnt where each other’s ‘line’ is and the repercussions for crossing them. For me, I managed to latch onto the idea that Lisa is actually very emotionally manipulative; bursting into tears and causing a scene to guilt others to get attention or her own way. Poor Simon… Although – hey, wait, he’s just downright mean to Lisa at times! Talk about a superiority complex!
To round off these couple of days, we explored our favourite exercise again – the silent sketch show! Although this was mainly for writer Laura’s benefit to show the arc of the play and characters emotional journeys, it was exceptionally well timed as we had access to the space at ALRA North (an old cotton mill), which was hugely extensive. This time again ignoring the actual geography of the set, we were allowed to explore the characters in this wider environment, not having to perform to a specific audience… In fact at times, both Andy and I disappeared into the various crevices of the building – which is hugely liberating, not having to worry about ‘performing’, instead just inhabiting the character. Now that we’ve got our footing with the opening of the play and an idea of where we’re working towards, we can spend the next few rehearsals unravelling the heart of the play – whereby Simon and Lisa begin to pick each other to pieces… Ooh my saliva glands are already going!
But that folks is a story for another day…
Richard Scott is a prolific free improvising musician and electroacoustic composer and living in Berlin working with electronics including modular synthesizers and controllers such as the Buchla Thunder and Lightning and his own self-designed WiGi infra red controller developed at STEIM. He studied free improvisation in the 80s with John Stevens, saxophone with Elton Dean and Steve Lacy, Action Theatre improvisation with Sten Rudstrom and electroacoustic composition with David Berezan and Ricardo Climent. Richard holds an MMus in Electroacoustic Music from Manchester University and a PhD from London University for his thesis on Free Improvisation. He is currently engaged in composing a second PhDportfolio in Composition at Manchester University.
What initially interests you in theatre being inspired by your music?
I am interested in rhythm, space and articulation and how different kinds of narrative can emerge from these. So the opportunity to collaborate with dance, painting, text etc is always an interesting challenge.
How did you decide on a piece of music that would be used to inspire a piece of theatre?
I wanted to the music to suggest a sense of distance, mystery and “otherness” amounting to a kind of dislocated sense of place. It was important that it could stand both as a finished and clear piece of music with its own life but also that it had an unfinished quality, to leave space for interpretation and other layers of narrative.
How do you feel about the concept of the play inspired by your music?
I find it quite brilliant. It is fascinating to me that without me giving any comment of the motivation behind the composition the writer also chose the idea of the alien, the other and of a “threatened” social and physical as major themes
Have you ever been to Australia- if so, what did you think?
I haven’t. But it might be worth my mentioning that reading the book seeing the film Walkabout by Roger Ebert at an early age left an indelible impression. I think the remarkable atmosphere of this story informed my composition in some ways, especially this idea of a dislocated space.
Tasnim Hossain is a playwright and performance poet. Her work has been staged by the Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP) and Apocalypse Theatre Company, and published by Currency Press. Her first solo show was developed through Playwriting Australia’s Lotus Program for Asian-Australian Writers and premiered at Perth’s Fringe World, with a second season at You Are Here festival in Canberra in 2015. She was an Associate Artist at Canberra Youth Theatre in 2013. She is currently participating in The Hive, The Street Theatre’s script development program in Canberra, as well as ATYP’s Fresh Ink National Mentoring Program in Sydney. She has a Bachelor of Arts (International Relations) from the Australian National University.
What initially made you interested in writing a piece of theatre inspired by a piece of music?
I’m always really excited by the prospect of creating a piece of art in response to particular stimuli. I love the process of exploring something else and seeing how far you can take your own ideas. The thing that I love about the theatre is that it is never just one artist working in isolation; every piece of art for theatre is informed by so many other artists. To overtly do this, through Distant Sounds, was such a pleasure.
What were your first thoughts about the piece of music you are working with?
My first thoughts were probably along the lines of “Oh crap.” Followed closely, upon a repeat hearing, by “oh my god, how do I respond to this?” It took me several listens, as well as discussion with some of my theatre maker friends before I felt like I could really crack the piece open and get to all of the juicy flesh inside.
I think Richard’s piece is not at all didactic and I think that for me, listening to so much music which tells you how you should feel or think, it was hard to know how to respond initially to such a layered, almost-documentary, but also very meticulously crafted piece. That said, once I got over the very reactive kind of panic, I really loved getting to respond to all of the sounds and silences I heard in Richard’s piece of music.
What problems did you run into when writing your script?
One of the problems for me was knowing how to respond to this particular kind of almost-soundscape in a way that worked harmoniously. Once I had given up my tendency towards naturalism in theatre and embraced my love of rhythm and repetition, imagery and motifs from music and spoken word poetry, I found it a lot easier to write.
Did you have any ideas before you listened to the music that you are still using?
I have always been fascinated by politics, and identity politics in particular. The preoccupation with who belongs and who doesn’t, I think, is a trait common to countries with large diasporic communities, like Australia and the UK. I didn’t come to the piece of music consciously thinking of writing a political piece, however the slightly unsettling feeling and the sense of emptiness and isolation in Richard’s piece lent itself to something that has always been a part of my consciousness.
Have you ever been to UK?- If so what did you think?
I have been to the UK once. I visited Manchester and London with my family as a teenager, a couple of days in each city. We visited in November and my overwhelming feeling was one of overcast claustrophobia. Canberra, as cold as it sometimes gets (in Australian terms, anyway) is quite a clear, sunny place with a population of a few hundred thousand, and so the tightly packed streets and terraced houses of Manchester and London were really overwhelming for a 16 year old. It’s definitely been a while since then so I need to visit again some time soon. This time I’ll make sure it’s in July or August!
We are just over a week away from the 24:7 Weekend! We are the Multitude is in intense rehearsal mode with Amy Drake and Andrew Blake exploring their new alter egos Lisa and Simon with Liz Stevenson (director) and Flora Anderson (assistant director) guiding them on their way. The story of two cubicle buddies (office cubicles, obviously) who have failed to find any common ground, despite their extreme everyday geographical closeness.
Now I’ve been where Lisa and Simon are at. I’ve worked for universities and Government departments and have met the whole range of people – the one who is in the job while they’re ‘in between’ even though that’s been five years and counting, the overly enthusiastic one who (once you learn their job description) you fail to comprehend how they can love it so much, the one who has been there for twenty years and has gained a knack of clicking away from Facebook at the precise moment before their boss notices. You hear stories of where people dreamed of being, against where they’ve ended up, and you’re too afraid to ask what horrible set of unfortunate events occurred between the dream and the reality.
And the more I see how Lisa and Simon react to the situation they find themselves in, the more I think how would each of those people react? And how would I react? Would an attack on my (metaphorical) office shake up my life? And if one never came, would my life go by unshaken? SHAKE IT UP!
You know that old adage – “you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family”? Well I think it should be – “you can pick your friend, but you can’t pick your family, but you also can’t pick the person you have to sit next to at work day in and day out and you probably spend more waking hours with them as you do any of those pre-mentioned family that you haven’t chosen so I think that’s a much bigger concern we need to face up to!”
Not only is We are the Multitude (the cool kids are saying WATM, apparently) is about these #firstworldproblems a lot of us face but at the same time it discusses the bigger issues surrounding education, Government, budget cuts and privilege. The first budget delivered by George Osbourne for the new Government has cut maintenance grants and now students who had previously used that money to get by at university are now going to leave university and spend even more of their lives riddled with debt. How much more of a burden can the Government put on students back before they break? And what will this breaking look like?
WATM (it’ll catch on) captures the micro and the macro, the serious and the not so serious, of what is affecting us right now.
The following two weeks were very busy weeks for my placement. First off Box of Tricks was performing an installation piece, in Salford Lads Club, situated near the original Coronation Street. The piece was about true events that had happened to people that used to attend the club, as a local historian and freelance writer collaborated into writing the piece, whilst Box of Tricks set about directing four actors and moulding the piece together in a couple of days; ready to be performed to the punters that would come along. The piece was constructed as a guided tour, but instead of the usual tour about ‘The Smiths’, who famously gigged at Salford Lads Club, the tour guide had called in sick and a tour guide was set in their place, who decided to give the tour a little more history rather than knowledge of the popular UK band.
A large group attended the tour making it a success, it was a very interesting process to be a part of, from seeing who Box of Tricks collaborated with, how Adam directed and worked with the writer to construct the piece with four actors in a couple of days, and also gaining knowledge of the Salford Lads Club itself, which struck me as a complete hidden gem.
Box of Tricks were now auditioning for their latest play ‘Narvik’ and so the following Monday I was invited to come down to the Liverpool Everyman Theatre, where I was a part of their Youth Theatre before I move to Salford, to see how the audition process worked. The panel consisted of Hannah Tyrrell-Pinder (Co-founder of Box of Tricks), who was directing the play, the writer Lizzie Nunnery (Narvik), and Peter Hunt (Peter Hunt Casting) who was the casting director for the auditions. This was a very useful but also enjoyable process, as I picked up hints and tips for the future, being an actor myself, and also watching people sing and give life to the script, which was a pleasure to watch. What struck me the most about the auditions were that certain factors such as personality do play a part, but also age and the right look, and that can even be effected by the actor that they’re looking to pair them up with, so sometimes decisions aren’t just based on who gave the best performance, but who would give the right fit to the piece. What I liked about this experience was that even though I’m on a placement and new to Box of Tricks, I was allowed to engage in the conversations in between auditions and I felt a part of the whole process which I really appreciated. I was also allowed to see how a professional Casting Director like Peter Hunt operates as well, who I have met previously via ‘ActupNorth’. I would fully recommend to any future Foot In The Door hopefuls, that if you are offered the chance to go and watch auditions from the other side to take that opportunity with both hands and make sure you attend, as you probably won’t get another opportunity like it.
Today was my turn to lead the rehearsals as stage manager and stepping in as assistant director! This was nerve racking at first, but those jitters soon turned into excitement! When it comes to organisation – I love it! (must be the stage manager in me!) so I had organised a very full and creative day.
With several costumes, masks and puppets to make and numerous songs to write – we have a lot to do in a short space of time, so we had to get cracking early! To begin with we all did a group warm up and ended on a word association, focus game this was something Jenny (our foot in the door intern) had never played before but she battled with the rest of the scallywags and became the winner, not bad for a first attempt!
I then split the group up to play to everyone’s strengths, Jess and Jenny were on mask making, as I felt it was time to give Martin a day off and start making his friends, Chiaki the Crane and Old Billy. Here is the very first and rough prototype of the crane mask just after it had been put together.
Meanwhile, Tom and Flo got cracking with composing the music to accompany our poem for Chiaki, I played Japanese instrumental music into the room to get a feel for what traditional Japanese music sounds like, as we want it to sound as authentic as possible. We had the poem already so once we had a rough melody we then played around with the tune and the poem to make them fit together. During this time we shared the song with the whole group and we decided that it sounded much nicer spoken as opposed to being sung – It was great that all of the cast felt this way and were in agreement, it shows me we are all on the same page. Sadly due to illness our director wasn’t with us today, but thanks to technology we still managed to play it to her and she gave it her thumbs up, meaning we had one song complete!
Afterlunch we started to think about the puppets, how we will operate them, attach them, and in general them in general. After throwing around a few ideas, everyone agreed on wearing the butterfly puppets as a belt and operating them on the front of the body, this seemed to work well and will definitely be something we try with the final butterfly puppets for the show!
After a very busy day, it was time to leave the creative space of the rehearsal room – but not before I could set homework to be done by the following week! I was pleased of me once the cast had been given their tasks, they were already arranging to meet up and get it done before the next rehearsal , now if that isn’t the sign of a productive rehearsal and an eager team, then I don’t know what is!
It is fantastic to have everyone on board and working so hard together, I am loving every minute of being stage manager and assistant director. I am already excited for the next rehearsal as it means we are one step closer to having a complete show ready for the festival, and by the looks of things, its going to be a fantastic year for the 24:7 theatre festival!
So! A scientific paper usually begins with an abstract. Right?
ABSTRACT: Each monologue will have a maximum performance length of 5 minutes and will be performed a number of times over the Weekend. They will be delivered by the 24:7 Players – a mixed group of actors
Followed by the background
BACKGROUND: Manchester 24:7 Big Weekend of new theatre-making will take place in and around the Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama in the University of Manchester. It will feature four main productions, a series of six monologues performed outdoors on the University campus, a family-friendly adventure in Manchester Museum and another of our exciting collaborations with Canberra’s ‘You Are Here’ festival.
Here’s the MIRACLE bit
METHODS: Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards worked in the field of reproductive health, and were especially interested in problems of human fertility. Edwards had developed a way to fertilise human eggs within the laboratory; Steptoe had perfected a method for obtaining human eggs from the ovaries. Combining these skills enabled them to produce mature eggs at the optimum time to improve chances for successful fertilisation and development.
With a happy Result!!!
RESULTS: Louise Brown born in Oldham General Hospital 28th July 1978. Steptoe and Edwards were accused of meddling with nature but IVF gave hope to women who would otherwise have remained childless,
IVF gives Hope but also Despair
CONCLUSION: Around 50,000 women go for treatment in a year, and more than five million babies in total have been born by in vitro fertilisation. But, on average, only 25% of cycles result in a live birth.
IVF has been called ‘a market in hope’
Res ipsa loquitur
Dream Den by Hannah Martin
MIRACLE by Mari Lloyd
I’ll try to keep these blogs short and sweet/sour (depending on my acid reflux), mainly as I don’t want to reveal too much about the show – but also because I worry I only have a minute sense of self-restraint left when it comes to this blogging business. Day one – here’s a funny albeit tasteless joke I made in rehearsals… Day nine – here’s where my bowel habits are at today… It’s a slippery slope, you see?
Anywho, just a quick run down of where we’re at production-wise… should keep you satiated – you fiends! We’ve confirmed our production team, which we’re all giddy and suitably pant-wettingly excited about; written by the luminous Laura Harper, directed by award-winning Liz Stevenson, assistant directed by the fantastic Flora Anderson, produced by our sizzling Shuan Wykes (Foot in the Door trainee), designed by the incredible Katie Scott (do you know how hard it is to illiterate the letter ‘k’?!) and featuring the talent of Andy Blake and unbridled humour of… well, me. Now the real fun begins…
No really, the first meeting was delightful! Which was possibly helped along by the fact that I brought enough of Tesco’s finest snacks to feed the 5000 and Liz provided pizzas and ample liquid refreshments in the way of wine, beer and maybe a bit of the hard H20… It’s true what they say, well-fed actors are happy actors! Important rehearsal note one. So after the preliminaries were exchanged, wine uncorked and chairs assembled, we cruised through our first read-through. There’s nothing quite like the excitement of a first read-through; this was the first time we had all met together, our Team Multitude, and the first time Andy and I had read opposite each other – so it was refreshing and rewarding to see how our energies played off one another. It’s also the first time we’ve all heard the script in its entirety read aloud – we each explored certain excerpts from the script at the auditions, but exploring the characters journey throughout the entire play is a different beast all together. It was really insightful; from a practical perspective, it gives us a sense of running time and how certain technicalities can be achieved but another aspect is seeing what lines do or don’t ring true, what bits of character need developing – what does/doesn’t work. It’s one of the few read-throughs I’ve ever done where I’ve been wet through with sweat at the end! Woah betide the audience – maybe we should have a Shamu warning sign… the first 5 rows WILL get wet!
Once we’d digested both food and text, we did a bit of housekeeping… no I didn’t help wash up – we finalised our rehearsal schedule, and everyone got dished out their homework for the week. For Shuan, he’ll be working on developing the social media/marketing, Laura and Liz will be finalising some finer details with the script itself – working through a few tweaks and plotting the objectives through the story… as for Andy and I (the dream team Blake and Drake as I shall now refer us…) we have been asked to complete some character research, to be discussed in individual meetings with Liz at the end of the week. Finally, all those years of hard swotting come to good use! We’ve been asked to collate a list of; what our character says about ourself & other characters, what other characters say about us and indisputable facts. Any drama school graduates will be thinking… YES FINALLY – a use for Stanislavski’s Lists!!! And sadly enough, that was my first thought too… It’s something I usually do for my actor’s working notebook for whatever project I work on (a folder with character findings, research, script notes etc) – but actually being openly invited not only to DO it, but also share my findings…?! Well, my geek specks just skipped a beat!
Our evening drew to a close and all departed… well, us ladies perhaps indulging in another glass of wine (those Minstrels did need polishing off too)! Blake and Drake (<< that’s me in case you forgot) will be meeting Liz to explore the findings of our characters before a second read-through and table work on Sunday evening. I can see a filthy weekend habit emerging… well I can think of worse vices! Until then – g’night, g’bless!
I knew Roget only as the author of the Thesaurus. When I read about his life – about his work as a doctor and the lists he made to keep the glooms at bay – I immediately wanted to write about him. What a fascinating man.
I am not one. But I have had many experiences with engineers. I have worked with them. Argued with them. Fought with them. Got drunk with them. And danced with them. For me, they are a complicated sort, because they are so clear of mind and vision. They have this innate will to make sense of the physical things that surround them.
Arts vs Sciences has been a topical debate for centuries. So when 24:7 planned to enmesh the two I was intrigued by what the outcome could be. I wandered around the University Campus but could not find the scientist I wanted to take inspiration from. As I walked towards The Curry Mile, passing the Contact Theatre and the MRI I thought I would head into The Whitworth Art Gallery, grab a bite and have some thinking time. It was only when I saw the portrait of Whitworth himself, with his hand gently poised over an engineering device I didn’t recognise*, that I saw a combination of both art and science. And thusly, my decision was made.
There are two blue plaques dedicated to Sir Joseph Whitworth – neither of them on The University Campus. One exists in my hometown of Stockport (also his birthplace) and the other in Alfreton, Derbyshire (his workplace).
I was then to sit down and think about what to write. And this is where I become the artist and the engineer. (Note: If there is a such thing as a mechanical engineer and a software engineer can there be such a thing as a playwright engineer? Is that an oxymoron?? Or is it tautological? The ‘wright’ in playwright being of engineering context perhaps? I sometimes wish I had an engineering head, surely this would make playwriting easier…?). Whitworth was a perfectionist. Much like the engineers I know and have known. It is their greatest talent and their greatest flaw. And whilst it is up for debate, I believe characters need flaws. So how is being a perfectionist a flaw? Is it possibly because it is an overwhelming challenge? And when things do not go quite right it can be considered a catastrophic failure – as my experiences have dealt me. That is the inspiration of my piece: channelling perfection into an imperfect world. Can you apply logic to a world born of chaos? Is that impossible?
Whitworth, though, was very successful. He is part of the items in your house and in your office and in your computers that you probably didn’t realise. He was also a philanthropist, bequeathing fortunes for the establishment of public buildings in Manchester and beyond. Perhaps this is the biggest impression Whitworth has offered me as a researcher, that he is an engineer yes, a connector of screws and nuts and bolts and tools but he was also a man of the people, a connector of the human kind. It is within these two relationships, Whitworth and machines and Whitworth and man that I was able to locate a dramatic conflict with which to write the monologue.
Alan Cliff – 22/06/2015
*The device is a millionth of an inch measuring machine.
One of the most intimidating parts of being an actor is auditioning for roles and so it was nice to be on the other side of the table for once and watch other people audition.
The casting call for my placement Gary: A Love Story had generated a lot of interest and on the first day of auditions at The Town Hall Tavern we saw around eight actors and following these auditions we auditioned a few actors individually at a later date.
I found it interesting to act as an assistant in these auditions as I had never been on the other side of the table before – I’d always been the one in front of it feeling what I like to call ‘nervcited’. It was great to see how it worked on this side of the table and how the writer and director prepared for each actor – what they brought, how they set the room up and the general conversations that they had.
I helped out by reading in the other part for the actors. Our play is a two hander and as such, much of the play relies on the characters feeding one another dialogue. Performing this role helped me to really appreciate how different actors take different approaches, something prior to this experience I might not have considered if I was to facilitate auditions.
The most notable thing for me though was the way in which small details could affect the bigger picture. There were things we noticed and picked up on that to the actor probably seemed unimportant or that they maybe hadn’t even considered. For example, the actors who had done their research, read the entire play and brought their audition pieces annotated and with a good attitude stood out from those who turned up with nothing ready. I also learnt that it’s not always about being the most talented, but being the best suited to the part.
I definitely feel that this experience has been one of my most valuable to date and has given me a great deal to think about the next time I go for an audition. I guess, the main lesson I have learnt as an actor is to ‘not forget the finer details’. As a practitioner, I’ve also learnt a great deal including an understanding of how to conduct myself as the person auditioning.
After a couple of weeks of auditioning some fantastic actors we have finally got a full cast. I’m really excited to see Reuben and Craig bring Andrew and Gary alive and the rehearsal process can’t come quick enough.
Roll on July, roll on the rehearsals!
Our cast, Jonny and Alex, reflect on the second period of rehearsals with Chris
J: The first thing that comes to mind is creating the room. We decided quite early on that it is white. Concrete. All six sides.
A: Yes, we put features into it.
J: Yup, such as cracks in the wall, a grate, and later on we talked about potentially something in the front wall, or around that area which implies the power and world outside.
A: When we first built the room and we remained in it, we stayed in there for about an hour and a half this morning. We built the room and were just in the white square, and then you asked us to leave the room and told us that we could never come back. And that made me feel horrible. I’d just spent an hour and a half acclimatising to the four walls, and the floor and the ceiling, and the light, and the cracks, so the idea of never being able to come back into something you’ve created is just horrible. Then, this afternoon when we did one of the improvisation exercises in a specific scenario, all I wanted to do was leave the room. And when the exercise ended, and I left the room, I felt relieved that I didn’t have to go back today.
A: We were asked a number of questions and from the text work we did yesterday, and the relationships we’ve been building today, the relationship between us, and in relation to the room, I got more of an idea who Leon is. I can sum him up in five words at the moment. And I gave a sentence to represent him, which works for the moment; I think it will probably change though.
J: Even if you change the sentence, the way you were going about finding those words to sum him up, it was like you were changing the way you were thinking, to be like Leon. Kind of like going down that corridor of someone else’s thinking.
A: What did you find out about Keith?
J: We found out about his particular, and different relationship with the room. To do with how long he’s been there compared to Leon, and how he’s actually exhausted. He’s not accepting, he’s just got no energy left to fight now. He’s been on the journey in his own way, which is the journey that Leon is now on – the story of being here, and existing only in this room. I felt a lot of tragedy today, and about the importance of that undercutting, or overarching, everything. The notion of sensation and the outside world, we started to explore that and I definitely think that is quite important.
A: I found the seven states of tension exercises really helpful, because then I started to find a way of literally moving my body in different ways that would then become a character – a different walk, a different posture – that process to transform. And being able to just go ‘ok, four’ and having those states, I could jump in quite quickly, get there, and be in faster.
J: I feel like we got an insight into what me and Alex are like, how different we are, as well.
A: The animal studies and improvisations were really helpful. Interesting, and definitely helped me. Using animals as a way of transformation, and bringing a different energy, rhythm, tempo, into you – it really helped because I was able to find that and then try and keep it, in the body and the mind, and incorporate that into the characterisation. I also found stillness from doing that. Figuring out when and how Leon would be still.
J: I remember when I watched you outside in Albert Square last time, you did some similar things – you lead from your head then too. So it’s interesting that you found an animal which reinforced that.
A: It was beneficial to enter a white square, and build it ourselves through guided visualisation and imagination. Because in building the space ourselves, it immediately begins to feel more confined. If we have the same square in our minds, it makes the space more alive.
J: It means there’s more there.
A: You guiding us to imagine and build it ourselves stopped it from being contrived, or built on assumptions of what people do in confined spaces, like acting as people in lifts, for example.
J: I saw your method as quite direct in that way. Because actually what this is, is two people in a confined space. But with the animals, for example, that shows how it’s kind of primal, you know. Those instincts, which are, in a way, what you’re reduced to in that situation. What’s maybe different is that we humans tell stories. And animals don’t. And maybe that’s what separates us? These rehearsals and exercises have really encouraged fantasy, and playfulness, and inventiveness, and I’ve really enjoyed that.
C: All of today I’ve been seeing what this white cube like, the world you’re having to live in; I can visualise what it’s like now. It’s very real, and quite isolating. It’s given me a whole other aspect of thinking – in terms of why you are there, and what the world outside the square is like. When I first read the play I thought it was quite light-hearted, but in fact it’s actually a really heart-breaking play in some ways, and I hope that when it comes to its final shape, that the audience will get to see that really dark side to it.
J: I think that’s something to aspire to. If the audience don’t know whether to laugh or cry, that’s great.
A: I’d love to walk away from it knowing that we’ve intrigued or excited an audience in some way.
We had our first read through of the script and it was really nice to hear it out loud with the voices of the characters, giving the play a life instead of just reading it off a page. James was interested to hear the interpretation of the actors and how this contrasted with the voices he had heard in his head during writing.
We then went outside to Albert Square as it was a bonnie day and Jo worked closely with Alex and Jonny on characterisation. The boys worked on visualisation and physicality of their characters, their relationship to the space around them, and to each other.
Alex and Jonny also had time to do it on their own and study each other. They focussed on describing the other character before them, and then interacting to try and affect a change in them. We learnt about the potential dynamics between them, and differences in their energies and presences. Later on they discussed between them, and Jo, what they noticed about each other, the way they walked, where they lead from within their bodies and also how Leon and Keith see the world. This provided a strong basis to return to the script and complete some closer script work.
Following a second read through, we discussed who has control and higher status on the script at different points. Jo decided not to unit the play as she doesn’t want that to impact the play – she feels, and the cast agreed, that it needs to be a fluid and spontaneous bout of storytelling, and therefore the risk of dividing it into chunks might trap the actors into divided portions rather than one continuous narrative. She instead suggested going about it as control levels and status shifts between Keith and Leon. This will make it easier for Alex and Jonny to be aware of the power shifts and therefore hopefully easier to learn.
24:7 Theatre Festival 2015. Write a 5-minute monologue about a Manchester scientist. Hmmm, that sounds interesting. Now, who can I think of…?
Then, walking down Deansgate, I suddenly had an idea…
I rushed home to Google John Dalton (1766-1844)…
… and discovered he had only gone and invented atomic theory!
Wow! There must be something in that. Seeing the world in a brand new way, made up of millions and millions of tiny little balls.
Then, I found out John Dalton was colour blind, so he literally did see the world in a different way. This was even more interesting.
A metaphor was growing in my writer’s mind, about vision and creativity and originality and not being understood.
But the eureka moment for my monologue was finding out that John Dalton instructed his physician, Joseph Ransome, to remove his eyes after his death and dissect them to look for the cause of his colour blindness.
Suddenly, I had a narrator and a story…
(Joseph Ransome staggers on, shocked, one hand covering his face and the other hand in front of him, bloodied, fingers closed round something.)
Ah… what is it I have done? I have done it, as he asked… (opens out his bloodied hand, revealing a pair of severed eyeballs)
… I have taken out his eyes …
John Dalton’s preserved eyeballs are still in Manchester’s MOSI, 170 years later, downstairs in ‘Collections’. I have seen them! They look like this…
Looking Through John Dalton’s Eyes is part of Brief Encounters (6 Monologues).
The first couple of weeks with the FITD scheme, through the training with PANDA, is a breath of fresh air. You’re not necessarily taught or being thrust information like in school or University, instead you explore yourself internally, essentially what you learn is that all of the answers essentially come from you, this course helps you realise that. Through the first two weeks of training with PANDA each member of the group came up with a five minute pitch each, and delivered it in front of industry professionals within the Lowry.
We received feedback from our pitches, which at first was quite daunting as very rarely in this industry do we tend to get feedback on ourselves as how we come across, it is very different to receiving feedback via being an actor, as being an actor we tend to be anything but ourselves, and so this whole process is incredibly valuable. In the theatre world everybody talks, and most people in Manchester know each other within the Theatre scene, so to hear what people think about how you come across first hand, is really a rare opportunity, and that is what has made this whole experience unique to me as practitioner trying to make to jump into the professional world.
Through my pitch I managed to gain a placement with ‘Box of Tricks Theatre Company’, which I was very grateful to have been offered as it was the company that I was most attracted too, due to its interests in nurturing new writing, and also its reputation as an up and coming, vibrant, Theatre Company, and one who’s name seems to pop up more and more each day. Their next project was also a play called ‘Narvik’ which was being put on down at the Liverpool Playhouse, and as I’m from Liverpool and also used to be a part of the Everyman Youth Theatre, this affiliation made me all the more interested in the company. I met with the Director and joint founder of the company, Adam Quayle, who runs the company with his wife Hannah, who is also a Theatre Director, to discuss the outline for what I was hoping to gain from the placement, and also what the company wanted from me.
The following week I came down to their office to first of all read the play ‘Narvik’ by Lizzie Nunnery, which was fascinating read as it mixed in poetic language with music, as Lizzie is not only a playwright, she is also a singer/songwriter. Later in the day I began work on typing up a marketing spreadsheet and listing contacts, who would be interested in the play, from both Liverpool and Manchester. I first of all put down the contacts that I already knew, which was handy as I’ve lived in both areas, and then I started to vary my search by looking up veteran societies, Universities, educational programmes from both music and drama.
Box of Tricks are very proactive whilst they work, and so a throughout the day various playwrights and practitioners would be coming in and out of the office and having conversations with Adam, making it all the more interesting an environment to be surrounded by as I was working, as you get a better insight into the goings on behind the scenes. It’s also interesting to take note of people and what they are doing in order to expand your pool of knowledge.
All in all it has been a fantastic start to my placement and I am loving every second of it, and I am in doubt that at this very moment, I am in the right place for my current development and that is very reassuring thought to have.
(FITD blog 2015)
Such an interesting process being on the other side of the audition panel as I’m normally being the one auditioned. As my director had so much to think about, me being there helped her a lot for being a second pair of eyes and another thought, so therefore it was really good for the decision making. The play I’m helping out with is mainly focused on the relationship between the two characters, so we worked hard pairing different people up to get it right. Also one thing to bear in mind for the Footie is to get to the auditions early and for you to sort things out before people arrive. This will just help the director and make things flow much faster and smoother.
As an Actor it has helped me a lot for when I go to auditions, as it’s your personality which pays a lot in an audition room. Also that it’s not always about talent, you can be amazing but just not quite right for the role which the director is looking for.
I would recommend to anyone who is an actor, if you ever get the chance to be on an audition panel, it will really help you see it from a different light and what to do and what not to do.
For any future Footie, if you can make the auditions to your show, go because is it such a great insight!!
The sun is shining outside and it feels like the hottest day of the year, Ian Townsend, 24:7’s writers liaison tells me that this is not an unfamiliar feeling, as every year they have brilliant weather for the media launch. I don’t know if it’s the sun or the buzz for the event (I’m going to go with a bit of both) but you can feel the excitement in the air.
I arrive at the Comedy Store on Deansgate Locks after picking up posters and staff badges for the event, relieved that I hadn’t bent or ruined them, to find Scallywags theatre company outside with a giant caterpillar (his name is Martin- I am assured this is a prop as they’re about to rehearse for their live trailer) I snuck into their rehearsal to get an idea of how this caterpillar was going to make his debut and as a message to anybody planning on going to watch ‘The Butterfly’s Adventure’, you are in for a fantastic show that children will love!
Aside from setting up the venue for the launch and drinking the free wine, it was brilliant to see the writers arrive to see it all become rather real from the published posters to the live and filmed trailers performed. As the press are arrived and settled in, Executive Producer David Slack and General Manager Annika Edge start things off by talking to the audience about the vision of 24:7 and how it has been going for 11 years! Also to talk about how this will be the last festival of its format, but 24:7 will carry on with what it has always been about, developing people.
The speeches have finished, the live trailers have been performed, and now the wine is flowing and the networking has begun. Interviews with writers are underway and the media launch is coming to an end, but 24:7′s Big Festival Weekend is only just beginning.
(FITD 2015 Blog)
Over the course of the week, we started each day off with a check in. This helped us to understand how each member of the group felt in relation to the previous days training and to find out what we had been up to in the time between each session. This was a simple but effective task which I believe helped us to bond as a group when we had only just met. On my final training day, my check in was a combination of excitement (I was technically getting to perform in the Lowry) and nerves (pitching myself to people I have never met before). However, we were prepared! Over the past week, we have realised our own goals and each others. We have also had advice on how to calm our nerves in situations that make us apprehensive.
At the end of the training week, we helped each other to realise our pitches and ‘performed’ them to each other. As I have trained as an actor, obviously I see opportunity in most situations to go into ‘actor mode’ and see a performance in everything. What this week has taught me though is that honesty really is the best policy. I believe that the group’s pitches were successful as a result of us being open and honest with each other throughout the week. Some of the exercises required us to look honestly into our pasts and see where we have possibly stopped ourselves from achieving our goals. When it came to delivering our pitches, I found that I received the best reactions when I spoke openly and as myself not as a ‘character’.
The pitch wasn’t scary at all. Our audience was encouraging and I sensed that they wanted us to be successful which made pitching to them easier. Also, my fellow footies were sat smiling at the back which instantly made me feel calmer.
I am now at the start of my placement with Colour The Clouds. As they are a children’s theatre company (and also Salford University graduates) I am very excited that I am getting to work with them. I have only worked with them for a couple of weeks and already I am learning so much. It is invaluable learning about running a theatre company, especially the side that isn’t as creative as this is the experience I need to be able to start my own.
Until the next Blog!