Thursday, 28 May 2009
Saturday, 23 May 2009
Friday, 22 May 2009
... And before you know where you are, it's over!
It was a terrific day and the commitment form everybody involved from 6am call to the final unloading of the van back at St Marys at 11pm was total. On the way we played to close to four hundred - including 250 children - who were all taken on a magical journey through Kalku on a quest for a chest!
Apart from the quality of the work, the most incredible aspect of the project has been the mass Drama St Mary's participation from every year group and every pathway. This community event has brought together students who would not, within the current structure of the department, easily find opportunities to work together. It was great to see that they all, in turn, really relished the chance to host the event, to work with the children and above all have a load of fun doing so. Sometimes students have had to wait around for hours while the focus is on solving a specific problem, but they've all remained good humoured and absolutely willing to take on any job that needs doing. It's been a genuine pleasure to work with this company, at times I've felt a bit humbled by their investment. Weeks like this make me realise how good it is to work here!
I suspect, especially given the reaction of some of the Primary School teachers, that we're on the very edge of permissible, and although we had fifty actors, stewards and technicians all looking out for the safety of the audience, the teachers still seemed very nervous of the potential anarchy of the event. It's a tricky one - my feeling is that although some kids like formal structures and rules for behaviour, most love to run around, to climb onto tree stumps, to have their faces painted, to shout, to cheer, to tell jokes. The show was designed to allow some freedoms for the children, through their active participation - we certainly weren't interested in socialising them into passive bourgeoisie theatre going! The Lords of Misrule, who question everything, are more important than ever in creating exciting theatre for children.
More worrying, but linked to this, was that many of the teachers seemed uninterested in the play. They talked, held impromptu staff meetings and even made negative comments about how disruptive to the SATs taking kids out of school can be. I suppose the woes of a sad Caterpillar pale into insignificance if they don't tick a box. It seems a shame - the show was so full of opportunites to develop discussion and further work back in the classroom.
Molly, who came to the evening show, sensibly suggested that next year we arrange a walk round and briefing with the teachers as part of production week so that they're able to relax and genuinely support the children's participation in the show. This is a much better way to solve the problem than my over reactive response.
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
Still lots of obstacles and each time one problem is solved another pops up... most are barely foreseeable - the building contractors losing the key to a padlock to an essential gate, stage braces not quite taking the weight of the twenty foot butterfly as we leverage it up...CRACK..., hay fever, the wind taking the smoke from the foggers back into the the audience's faces, a change of flight path into Heathrow, a impromptu cricket match arranged - meaning water nymphs and wicket keepers sharing the dressing room in the pavilion, an angry swan ... the list is endless, but of course all part of the fun of working in a site specific way.
Without good humour and a bit of making do this kind of work becomes impossible and although we're behind and running out of time a late night planning session with the technicians in the Barmy Arms gave hope that with renewed focus and energy we'll finish the tech quickly tomorrow and get a delayed dress rehearsal in and grab a little sleep before the audience arrive on Thursday morning.
Monday, 18 May 2009
Why is the Milky Magician so bad at spells?
Will Kenneth, the sad caterpillar ever turn into a butterfly?
The St Mary’s students have spent the last five months trawling Hounslow Primary Schools on a workshop tour designed to gather the ideas, designs, stories and jokes from which to create the show. Next Thursday many of the children will have the opportunity to see their initial plans become reality.
A Free Promenade Performance for Hounslow Schools and residents in
Chiswick House Gardens.
Please gather at the cricket pavilion at the Staveley Road entrance to Chiswick
Saturday, 16 May 2009
Friday, 15 May 2009
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Saturday, 9 May 2009
The company spent Friday afternoon in Chiswick Park, exploring routes, finding additional nuances prompted by the space and generally trying to carve out the shape of the work.
There are problems. Firstly we're being a bit compromised by ongoing landscaping work, which was meant to be finished by April 9th, but is running severally behind, and cuts off access to some of the most astonishing features of the park. On Monday we'll go back and beg that some of the closed off areas be opened, if only for the technical rehearsals and the day itself. It'll make a huge difference to our work if this can be made to happen.
Secondly the scale of the show is big and with assessments, other commitments and the general wind down at the end of term I'm concerned that the functioning of the work is relying on students, who are not yet signed up to the project. We are getting great good will from other year groups to steward, operate the huge puppets and play roles as tree tricksters and water nymphs, but there is a lot of quick learning that'll need to be done in the tech week.
Saturday was a hugely successful build day back on campus with everybody on board, sewing, unpicking, painting, gluing, rushing off to Kingston for more material and getting the look of the show spot on. I even managed to spend some time with writer Maria and directors Rosie and Emma clarifying the arc of the story and cutting some of the text.
We've a lot more to do... but it felt like a we'd leapt forward.
Friday, 8 May 2009
Nostalgic, rural and hopeful - what can go wrong if we give in to the moonlight, the girl/boy next door, Barry White and the home brewed cider?
Thursday, 7 May 2009
Monday, 4 May 2009
Augusto was the most inspirational of teachers. A fearless warrior in every fight for the poor, the dispossessed and the underprivileged, with an incredible optimism in the power of humanity to recognise and readjust itself before disaster strikes. At the heart of everything he did lay the clarion assertion that we should 'have the courage to be happy.' In this he didn't mean the Prozac happiness of an escapist Nirvana or ignorance - but a true happiness based on us all being the best we can be, the happiness of a full awareness and vitality to enable us to work, live, debate together. Whether the obstacle preventing us from achieving this equality of purpose lay in external societal forces (the army, the bureaucrat, the abusive authority) or a trap sprung from our own internal thoughts, his abiding focus was on freeing us all to live large lives, full of joy, beauty and laughter.
'I don't know about you, but if I can help somebody, I do!'
Augusto understood that theatre is the most persuasive force on earth, partly because we have the capability to believe in stories, but also partly because it is the most social of art forms, bringing people together and enabling them, for the duration of the event, and sometimes beyond, to 'run the same risks.' This for Augusto was what solidarity meant and simply what theatre is for. In a world flashing lights, grand spectactle and mass consumed entertainments he restored for many of us a faith in the basic humanistic and political nature of the relationship between actors and their audience.
In practical terms his great gift to us as practitioners is the idea that play can genuinely be a democratic rehearsal for revolution, both within ourselves and more importantly the communities we operate in. The idea that we can and should intervene and in so doing reveal our own true humanities, in the process changing thousands of lives for the better.
More than anything though Augusto was a hugely charming, roguish flirt, a twinkling subversive with a lion's mane and a bubbling sense of his own contradictions (he'd laugh himself stupid at this purple prose of tribute.) Often at the start of work he would look at the proposal for the rehearsal or workshop.
'The situation is impossible!' he would say '... so let's try!'