29 March 2014

Bristol Old Vic Adult Company Clown Workshops with Toby Hulse

For the past 12 weeks I have been attending a weekly evening clowning class at Bristol Old Vic available through Bristol Old Vic Adult Company. The course was run by Toby Hulse, a local theatre director who specialises in clown, who I've wanted to work with for a long time. The course was a fantastic experience and I really enjoyed approaching clown from a different point of view to my previous experiences. I also felt I made significant progress as a decent clown performer. I learnt a huge amount during these 12 weeks and now I'm going to try my damnest to put this hard work into practice on some shows.

24 February 2014

Assisting on Juncture's Clown Workshops in Devon

As part of Juncture Theatre's 2 week residency at The Bike Shed Theatre between 4th and 14th February 2014, we were able to organise 3 workshops with students in the South West who wanted to learn more about clowning. Company director, Anna Girvan, led these afternoon sessions and I assisted her on each one. The sessions were with a couple of societies from Exeter University Students Union and with TYKES (Teignmouth Young Keystone Entertainers). The group sizes of the sessions varied from 8-25 and the students were aged between 13-21 years. Anna and I introduced the groups to the world and rules of clown, played several games with them as a group and individuals and then catered the last hour or so towards the sort of clowning they were most interested in including Tragic Clowning and Ensemble Clowning. These 3 sessions were really great fun to run and I look forward to doing more in the build up to Edinburgh Fringe and spreading the good message of clowning around.

22 February 2014

Devising New Show 'Stuff' with Juncture Theatre

During Juncture Theatre's fortnight residency at The Bike Shed Theatre in February the company worked together to devise a new show during the daytimes. The new performance piece was called Stuff and is inspired by Miranda July's book, It Chooses You, in which she explores people's idiosyncrasies and how people develop relationships with the objects they surround themselves with. I took part in several days of this devising period and helped create and try ideas as we built towards performances of Stuff at the end of the residency. These performances were received very well by their audiences and we have since been invited back to premier the finished show at Ignite Festival 2014.

21 February 2014

Producing Juncture's Residency at The Bike Shed Theatre

Several months ago Juncture Theatre contacted me to see if I would be interested in working for the company as a producer as they had a 2 week residency at The Bike Shed Theatre fast approaching. During these weeks in February 2014 they would perform their clown drama A Little Nonsense in the evenings whilst working on new show, Stuff, during the day. Theatre producing is something I am trying to do less and less at the moment and so I am very careful about the projects I take on but this one was an easy decision. When A Little Nonsense premiered at The Wardrobe Theatre back in November 2012, I thought it was the best show we had at the venue all year. I found the performances, characters and writing powerful, hilarious and really interesting. This coupled with the fact I would be working with three close friends of mine who I already had terrific working relationships with (director Anna Girvan and performers Adam Blake and Harry Humberstone) meant I was delighted to accept the offer. As part of my role I organised the entire trip to Exeter including all accommodation and travel, wrote an Arts Council England funding application for the residency (which was unfortunately unsuccessful), was the main contact between Juncture and The Bike Shed Theatre, sat in on some of the rehearsals, created a new promotional image for the show and was responsible for generating and carrying out an effective marketing campaign. This was the third time A Little Nonsense had visited Exeter in 2 years and so trying to sell a fortnight of performances to audiences there was always going to be a hard task but I think we managed very well. We got a lot of local press (including an interview with me on a local blog), engaged the city's student community, and ran several successful online campaigns which resulted in an average attendance over the fortnight of over 40% which we were pretty happy with. David Lockwood, director of The Bike Shed Theatre, remarked how impressed he was with our decent audiences for the run considering this slot just after Christmas was historically very quiet. The fortnight was a wonderful experience for all those involved in the show and now we build towards taking A Little Nonsense to Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014!

10 February 2014

50th Ever Episode of Closer Each Day

Last Tuesday was a momentous occasion for Closer Each Day Company as it marked the 50th ever episode of our improvised soap opera. Originally planned as only a trial show, thanks to the support and commitment of a dedicated group of performers and theatre producers, Closer Each Day has grown to become one of the pillars of The Wardrobe Theatre. Its fortnightly performances have been growing in popularity since the show's inception in the summer of 2011 and we were blown away by the incredible amount of people who turned up to watch for this 50th episode special - surely one of the biggest audiences in the theatre's history! The performance was Episode 2 of Season 7 of the show. We wanted to make it a memorable one and so contrived to bring back a few of the show's long dead characters via a flashback. It proved to be a masterstroke and was a really brilliant performance full of delicious soap opera-y drama and hilarious scenes. With 13 characters onstage, it was also one of the most challenging episodes ever for me to direct but I managed to hold the reigns very well to control the story. To celebrate this landmark episode for Closer Each Day we also had a commemorative decorative plate made up with a unique illustration from Phillipa Thomas and created this wonderful accompanying video. Bring on the next 50 episodes!

26 January 2014

Spring 2014 Season at The Wardrobe Theatre

For the past several months I have been working intensively once again with my two fellow co-Artistic Directors of The Wardrobe Theatre to put together another excellent, daring and supportive programme of theatre, comedy and regular local nights at our venue which is constantly growing in influence, momentum and recognition. The programme this season is as always a diverse mix of performance, and supports and collaborates with a huge range of local and national artists. This season I am particularly excited about new work by FellSwoop Theatre, Callum Mitchell of Silly Boys, The MolinoGroup and Glass Eye Theatre. Here's the season's printed brochure which I designed very closely with the venue's resident illustrator, Ben Goodman:

11 January 2014

Creative Producer on 'Se7en Dwarfs'

After last year's sell-out success of Oedipuss In Boots, for 2013 we wanted something equally daring, dark and silly for The Wardrobe Theatre's Christmas show. After several meetings we settled on the idea of merging the classic family fairy tale Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs and David Fincher’s cult 1995 horror/thriller Se7en which featured murders inspired by the seven deadly sins. This constrasting of light and dark had served us so well for the theatre's last two Christmas shows and we were excited to make this idea a reality as another darkly comic, adult only, anti-Christmas pantomime. I was Creative Producer on the project and worked very closely with the show's excellent director Anna Girvan for several months as we had countless production and creative meetings, hosted an R&D week at the theatre, held auditions for the show, assembled a terrific creative team, carried out an effective marketing campaign, held a couple of invited previews and negotiated several large stumbling blocks which presented themselves during the run. In the early months I also had a big hand in creating the story and structure for the show and I joined the cast for the first week of devising and rehearsals to help get the show on its feet. The show was a particulalry ambitious one for us at The Wardrobe Theatre this year as the show had to share a stage with a family show which ran every day during the run, The Little Match Girl by Dot & Ethel Theatre, but we pulled it off. The result of all this hard work was a truly excellent production which exceeded all our expectations. Tickets sales for Se7en Dwarfs at The Wardrobe Theatre were absolutely through the roof and sold-out audiences were in fits of laughter night after night. It really feels like we've hit on something here with an alternative anti-panto for adults! Such was the demand for tickets that we had to put on 5 extra performances of the show including 4 that stretched into January 2014 - something we never dared dream before the run. The show was a hysterical, smart and daring production and I'm proud to have played a part in its success. Eyes turn toward Christmas 2014 now naturally but who's to say that Se7en Dwarfs won't get a second wind much like Oedipuss In Boots did this year as it went on tour? Who knows!

Forced into early retirement after her over-exuberance in the field of duty, Detective White is reluctantly brought back to the police department to help with one last case. But with a madman on the loose and the body count creeping towards the fourth prime number, can Detective White conquer her demons and solve this dark riddle in time to catch the serial killer?

"Director Anna Girvan has created an exceptionally funny show that generates all the informality and chaos expected of a panto-esque production whilst also refreshing it."
Theatre Bristol Writes

“This quirky, laugh-out-loud three-hander will leave you wanting more and it might even put you off traditional pantos for good.”
Bristol Culture

31 December 2013

'Oedipuss In Boots' - Christmas Tour 2013: Exeter

Our final stop on the Oedipuss In Boots Christmas 2013 tour was at The Bike Shed Theatre in Exeter between the 19th and 21st December. This small, young venue is a really wonderful space in Exeter and is fast growing in reputation as a vibrant cultural hub for exciting theatre talent in the South West. I had a great time when I brought Ablutions with FellSwoop Theatre here in June and so it was an easy decision to bring Oedipuss In Boots here. We were programmed as a late night alternative adult panto after showings of the venue's in-house family Christmas show, Eliza And The Wild Swans by The Wardrobe Ensemble. The Wardrobe Theatre and The Wardrobe Ensemble are affiliated companies who collaborate regularly and so it was a wonderful coincidence and pleasure to share the venue with them. In the lead up to our run I was interviewed on air by Phonic FM, an interview you can listen to again here. Putting the show's cardboard proscenium arch up and down every performance was a bit of a pain (and especially difficult with some severe time constrains) but it served to make sure we were all on our toes and rearing to go for each performance. The three shows each enjoyed packed, enthusiastic audiences and the run was a wonderful send off for the show. One audience member was moved enough to email The Bike Shed Theatre after the show to say "Just wanted to let you know how much I loved this play - funniest thing I've seen for ages, thanks for putting it on!" - which is nice. One of the performances was particularly memorable as we had a few surprises in store for James Kent, the show's lead, as it was his 21st birthday but those surprises will remain as joyous memories for us and the 60 odd other people that were in the auditorium that night. Exeter marked the end of the show's Christmas tour and even though we have no plans to take Oedipuss In Boots anywhere else or every perform it again, who's to say we won't fancy revisiting it in the future? We would certainly listen to offers or suggestions if another company or venue wanted to stage it somewhere but for now, Oedipuss In Boots goes back in the tattered suitcase and under The Wardrobe Theatre's stage.

26 December 2013

'Oedipuss In Boots' - Christmas Tour 2013: Bristol

As part of The Wardrobe Theatre's 2013 Christmas tour of Oedpiuss In Boots, we were offered the chance to bring the show back to Bristol for a one-off home town performance at The Canteen on 17th December so we jumped at it! The show was a free event at the popular bar on Stokes Croft and was attended by 100 people at least, many of whom had seen the show last Christmas but wanted to bring friends and family this time and individuals who missed the show first time round and had been waiting 12 months for it to come back to Bristol. The busy bar atmosphere meant the performance had a wonderful wild feel to it (very similar to when we performed the show at Shambala Festival 2013) and it meant the cast really had to be on their toes but we were rewarded with an enthusiastic standing ovation at the end. It was a terrific night and hopefully has opened the door for future collaborations between The Wardrobe Theatre and The Canteen.

22 December 2013

'Oedipuss In Boots' - Christmas Tour 2013: Brighton

After a terrific two weeks at The Wardrobe Theatre in 2012 as the venue's Christmas show and a rip-roaring performance at Shambala Festival 2013, I decided to look into the potential for touring Oedipuss In Boots around the country for Christmas 2013. We still really loved performing the production and really felt it stood up as a quality show that was worth trying to reach more audiences with so after some great offers from various venues, we eventually settled on taking the show to Brighton and Exeter (with a bonus one-off home town show in Bristol too). Between 7th and 21st December 2013 Oedipuss In Boots became the first ever production of The Wardrobe Theatre's to tour! After a few days getting the production back on its feet in Bristol with some minor reworkings, our first stop on the tour was Upstairs At Three And Ten in Brighton. This small pub venue in the very centre of the city has lots of similarities to The Wardrobe Theatre in terms of size, feel and audience and is it also a prime venue during Brighton's annual fringe theatre festival so felt like a great place to bring the show. I produced the entire tour, designed our new flyers and posters, worked with Ben Goodman to produce a new tour trailer and also worked whilst on the road as stage manager, technical operator and (in the absence of the show's director for Brighton) gave notes to the actors and worked on problems with the performance as they arose. We performed Oedipuss In Boots in Brighton for 7 nights and all the audiences here really love the show. However, it must be said the numbers were a lot lower than we had hoped for. This tour was always going to be a steep learning curve for us and one of the valuable lessons was overestimating our audience reach in Brighton. We would have done a lot better to do half the number of performances here with 3/4 busy nights rather than 7 quite quiet shows. We always knew Brighton was going to be a big risk though as we've never been here before with any of our shows and the city is geographically very far from Bristol so the reputation of The Wardrobe Theatre's work hasn't really spread this far. That being said, we all had an amazing time bringing the show here and it felt like a really momentous step in The Wardrobe Theatre's history - to celebrate we even staged a fun photoshoot on Brighton's pier with local photographer Edward Moore. Hopefully this has started a good relationship between ourselves and Upstairs At Three And Ten and, who knows, in the future we may be able to bring other productions here.

19 December 2013

Utterance Gig at The Parlour Showrooms Closing Party

Last night The Parlour Showrooms on College Green opened its door for one final event, a party to mark the end of all the art exhibitions and live performances they've hosted for over 3 years. The space was a really terrific venue which consistently put on very interesting work and everyone is very sad to see it go. The party was a night of drinks, speeches, performance and reminiscing and the Utterance choir were asked to perform a few of our acappella songs during the evening, including the piece Verity Standen composed especially for The Parlour Showrooms back in the summer.

15 December 2013

End of Holly Stoppit's Clowning Course Performance

Last week was the final workshop of a 10 week advanced clowning course I have been attending, led by Holly Stoppit. Our group met for 2 hours once a week at St Werburgh's Community Centre and for our final class, my 11 fellow clowns and I performed a clown version of the classic Russian story, The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, that we had been devising. During the show I played the Tsar's daughter and, in a dress and red nose, was the architypal damsel in distress of our story. The show was to an invited audience of friends and family and it was a really terrific way to end the course. I have learnt a huge deal over the past 10 weeks during this course, skills, techniques and insights that I hope to put into practice in my directing and performing in the future. The more clowning I do, the more and more I really fall in love with it, mainly because of the way you can connect and interact with an audience like no other forms of performance. I hope to continue working in clown and will seize any opportunities in it that come my way.

13 December 2013

End of Closer Each Day Season 6

This week saw the final episode of Season 6 of Closer Each Day: The Improvised Soap Opera. I was actually in Brighton at the time with Oedipuss In Boots but it was the first show I'd missed for several months as we perform every 2 weeks at The Wardrobe Theatre. Season 6 was the biggest, best and most well received season we've had so far with consistently huge audience. We've managed to develop a really dedicated following now in Bristol which is excellent. The fact the team have been working together for over 2 years now has given everyone invaluable experience and we are all now very good improvisers and the shows are of a consistently high standard. I'm really excited to see how the company can improve further in 2014 as we perform our 50th episode in February, take part in Bristol Improv Festival again and maybe even a few summer festivals after that. Onwards and upwards improvisers!

30 November 2013

Roaming Character at Watershed Immersive Event

A few weeks ago I was asked to perform at an immersive cinema screening event of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining at the Watershed Arts Centre (in collaboration with Compass Presents) to celebrate a new director's cut of the film being released. The event was last night and was a great evening of interactive theatre, games, music themed drinks, photo opportunities and a screening of the new cut of The Shining. The whole of the Watershed was redecorated and themed to turn it into The Overlook Hotel, the setting from the film where the tragedy took place. My role for the night was to play the hotel's manager, Stuart Ullman, as a roaming interactive character. Dressed in a tweed suit, I welcomed members of the public as they arrived for the event and explained to them a few house rules in character before leading them through the corridors of The Overlook Hotel/Watershed and into the main event space. I was given free reign to impovise and ad-lib whilst talking to the public and I enjoyed casually referring to the hotel's dark history and ghostly reputation. It was a really fun event to take part in and will hopefully lead to more jobs like this in the future.

25 November 2013

Directing 'Amanda' for Theatre Uncut

Theatre Uncut is an annual nation-wide theatre festival where the organisers get UK playwrights to pen a short script in response to a modern provocative question, this year being "Do we all get more right wing in hard times?". They release the scripts and then encourage as many people as possible to stage them around the country throughout November. All the shows in Bristol are coordinated via Theatre Uncut Bristol. For Theatre Uncut 2013 I directed a short script entitled 'Amanda' by Kieran Hurley and cast it as a female two-hander with Alison Campbell and Meghan Leslie. I chose to stage Amanda over the other scripts available as, for me, it was the most interesting and subtle, with lots of elements open to interpretation. Most of the other scripts were very explicit and really on the nose, confronting the issues head-on which I found less interesting; Amanda takes its time and has a lovely pace and intrigue to it. The piece is simply about a woman taking a bath and the thoughts and feelings that go through her has as she lies there - she is a politician and is pulling a sicky to avoid a parliamentary debate. The two roles in the script are abstract observers who gaze upon Amanda in the bath and in parts they both empathise and challenge her decision not to go to work. The script never directly addresses these roles to explain who they are but leaves it open to interpretation - perhaps they are the voices in Amanda's head, the embodiments of her conscience, or maybe they are casual other-worldly observers? This ambiguity was what drew me to the script and was something I really wanted to preserve when staging the piece, letting the audience question it themselves and come up with their own answer. I hope we did manage to preserve this sense of intrigue and create an interesting, ethereal short piece. The show was staged twice during November in Bristol for Theatre Uncut, first at The Parlour Showrooms (as the only script staged during Theatre Uncut Bristol's opening night and got a nice mention in a review by Bristol Culture) and then again during an afternoon of performances at Tobacco Factory Theatre.