18 April 2015

Help Build The New Wardrobe Theatre

This week Jesse Meadows, Chris Collier and I were able to announce some really exciting news that we as co-directors have been working on for several months: In December 2015 The Wardrobe Theatre will move from its current home at The White Bear pub, to Old Market where we will create a new space for theatre, comedy, food, drink, music and much more in collaboration with the team behind The Canteen and No1 Harbourside. This new space will be twice the capacity of our current venue and having full creative ownership of the space means we can programme shows 7 days a week, programme more daytime shows, more workshops, book in rehearsal space, provide a dressing room for performers and choc-ices for audiences! This also means we will be able to put on more drama, stand-up comedy, new writing, puppetry, comedy theatre, improvisation, work-in-progress, family shows, performance art, music, spoken word/poetry and cabaret than ever before. We are also motivated in being able to create job opportunities and breathing life and culture into a much neglected area of Bristol and a long unused building - rejuvenation through the arts has worked very effectively in Bristol in the past and could work again for Old Market. We are creating a new, bigger, brighter and bolder Wardrobe Theatre. However, the new building needs structural work to make it suitable for use, including interior walls to be constructed and removed, new plumbing and new electrics, and we require new lighting and sound equipment, new staging and new seating to adequately fit the space out as working theatre and that is why we have also launched Help Build The New Wardrobe Theatre, a £70,000 fundraising campaign to run for the next few months. Since the announcement, we've had an overwhelming positive response from the people of Bristol as they share their enthusiasm for the project, offer their help with the move and donate. We've had articles already published in The Post and Bristol 24/7 and had interviews with BCfm and Made In Bristol TV. This is the start of a very long road to opening a new space but I'm thrilled by the prospect of what's ahead!

“The Wardrobe Theatre has become an essential venue for emerging talent and new ideas. I think if they can move to a more fit-for-purpose venue then the whole theatre scene in the city will feel massive benefits.”
Ali Robertson, Director of Tobacco Factory Theatres

“It is hugely important that The Wardrobe Theatre secure their new venue. British theatre desperately needs independently-run, interesting, non-elitist spaces that take risks in their programming and are run by people with a real passion for what they’re doing.”
Callum Mitchell, Co-Director of Silly Boys

10 April 2015

Performing 'HUG' in Eastleigh and London

Over the past few weeks Verity Standen's HUG has been on tour around the UK and I joined the gang for some of the performances. Interestingly, at each city that the show visited a new choir was assembled from local singers. They were then taught the show and, along with a handful of Verity's HUG regulars, performed this choral sound-bath performance. I was only able to make a handful of the shows but had a wonderful time performing this totally unique show again at The Point, Eastleigh, in mid-march and at London's Southbank Centre at the beginning of April as part of the venue's Chorus Festival.

8 April 2015

'Ablutions' by Fellswoop Theatre Touring

Even though I'm no longer working on the show in any capacity, Ablutions by Fellswoop Theatre is still very close to my heart after months of producing, devising and then touring the show with the company back in 2013. We parted company after a mini-tour in the summer of that year but since, Ablutions has traveled to Edinburgh Fringe 2014 where is was a total smash, picking up innumerable amazing reviews and securing a hearty spring tour visiting Cardiff, Swansea, Bath, London, Exeter, Bristol, Derby, Leeds, Luton, Willingborough, Salisbury and Manchester, which the Fellswoop gang have just completed. I'm not sure what the company has in mind for Ablutions now but it's fantastic to see a show I was so close to and still love doing so well!

27 March 2015

'Hospital Food' at Bristol Old Vic

After the initial 'home' performances at St Brendan's Sixth Form College in February, Hospital Food had its final outing at Bristol Old Vic earlier this week. The show, which I directed with 9 students from the college, opened the billing of a week of National Theatre Connections productions at Bristol Old Vic from schools, colleges and drama groups across the region. The performance was sold out and the cast thrived on being inside a professional venue. It was a real pleasure working with such a talented, dedicated and passionate group of students and who knows, this may not be the end of Hospital Food just quite yet as the best production of each script from the Connections Festival has the chance to transfer to National Theatre late in the year. Fingers crossed!

10 March 2015

Overall Second Place at Bristol Improv Theatre Festival's Throwdown

To round off the recent first weekend of shows at Bristol Improv Theatre Festival 2014, Bristol Improv Theatre organised a Throwdown in their venue where improvisers could compete head-to-head in officially judged comedy sketches with a chance to win some silverware. I decided to take part to represent Closer Each Day. Teams of two (that were selected at random) were called up by the judges to perform challenges and scenes set by the audience. Sketches were given a score and then each round the lowest scoring teams were eliminated. I was partnered with Stephen Clements of Degrees Of Error and together as 'Team Orange' we battled all the way to the final and won, with some memorable sketches including Pool Table Betrayal, The Dramatic Pause, French Horn and Michelangelo's Butter Statues. Our team had won the Throwdown but in a surprise twist, the individuals from the winning team were then made to battle head-to-head in a protagonist-off as each of us then performed a final story playing the main protagonist. These scenes where supported heavily with members from the other teams and then an overall winner was decided via cheer-o-meter from the audience. Having battled to the final, my solo scene (set in North Korea) was just pipped by Stephen's underwater tragedy/love story and he deservedly was cheered to overall first and became the winner of a fine Throwdown trophy. The Throwdown was hysterically good fun and I can't wait to get the opportunity to play again in similar circumstances in the future!

28 February 2015

First Performances of 'Hospital Food' at St Brendan's Sixth Form College

After rehearsing with the students of St Brendan's Sixth Form College for a few hours a week for 7 weeks as director, this week our National Theatre Connections Festival show Hospital Food was performed for the first time to good audiences at the college. Despite the very limited rehearsal time, especially with such a large cast who were rarely able to attend all at once, I am really pleased with the show we have managed to put together here and the fantastic performances of the students. Our attention now turn to March when the show will be on at Bristol Old Vic.

23 February 2015

Devising 'The Star Seekers' by The Wardrobe Ensemble and The Wardrobe Theatre

During February half term The Wardrobe Ensemble and The Wardrobe Theatre collaborated on a brand new family production set in space, The Star Seekers. The production was devised in the weeks leading up to the performances and, as well as designing the promo image, taking the production shots and assisting on lots of the marketing, I joined the creative team (Helena Middleton, Jesse Meadows, Jack Drewry and Ben Vardy) with my dramaturgical eye in the rehearsal room for several days. These days were fabulously entertaining as we improvised, devised and collaborated to explore space and put the show together. I was particularly thrilled that several of my ideas made the final show including a talking black hole! The final show was an absolute hit, mixing real science, great music, wonderful ideas and some semi-improvised set pieces in a terrifically fun hour which went down incredible well with a fantastic review, seas of smiling faces and lots of interest from other arts organisations. I don't think this is the last we've seen of The Star Seekers by a long shot.

"Children aged between three and seven with even a modicum of interest in the great unknown up above our heads will get pulled into the irresistible gravitational field of this beautifully wide-eyed, enthusiastic and good-humoured show. They’ll also take away the satisfaction of having helped to shape its journey across constellations of possibility."
Bristol 24/7

22 February 2015

'Detective O' performances at Bristol Old Vic

After its run at The Wardrobe Theatre last July, Corina Bona's fantastic one-woman puppetry family production, Detective O & The Cold Case Caper, (on which I worked as dramaturg) transferred to Bristol Old Vic's Studio for a week of shows during February half term. Puppetry director Marc Parrett, a heavily pregnant Corina and I rehearsed and reworked certain elements of the show in the lead up to these performances and the result was a really terrific near sold-out run. Due to other commitments I never actually got see the show with a live audience before the summer so it was a real pleasure to finally see all the work we had put in over months in the rehearsal room transferred to the stage and the delight it brought Bristol audiences.

8 February 2015

'Hug' by Verity Standen at ICIA Bath

Yesterday the ICIA Bath had an open day to help launch its new season and celebrated with a host of performance events. One of the shows on was Verity Standen's Hug so for the first time since Bristol Biennial festival last September, the Hug gang and I rehearsed for a couple of days and then performed this immersive a cappella choral sound bath at the ICIA 5 times to some very chuffed audiences. Hug is due to go on a mini-tour soon to Eastleigh, London and Falmouth and I hope to join the show on the road as much as possible.

6 February 2015

Shadow Puppetry with Corina Bona for 'King Pit' Video

I had a lot of fun a couple of weeks ago with Corina Bona and Charlie Smalley as we used shadow puppetry to create two videos to accompany the music from King Pit - The Musical by Stuart Brayson. The films were shown at Sage Gateshead on 3rd February as Stuart debuted the music.

28 January 2015

Dramaturg and Producer on 'Muppits Die Hard' by The Wardrobe Theatre

It was always going to be a hard job following the success of previous alternative Christmas shows at The Wardrobe Theatre like Se7en Dwarfs and Oedipuss In Boots but our 2014 offering grew to be a truly phenomenal success. Muppits Die Hard ran between 10th December and finally ended on 17th January after 23 performances (included 6 added due to demand) all of them totally sold out! The show was seen be nearly 1400 people in the end, a truly staggering figure considering Home Alonely, our first alternative Christmas show performed to nearer 200. Muppits Die Hard began life in July 2014 as a handful of like-minded theatre-makers gathered in The Wardrobe Theatre for some research and development. Over the next few months puppets were designed and made and then in November, boosted by some Arts Council England funding we got to work devising and rehearsing with our creative team - Chris Collier as director, performers Corina Bona, Andrew Kingston and Harry Humberstone and myself as dramaturg and producer. Ed Patrick (Kid Carpet) provided all the music for the show (though largely from outside the rehearsal room) and we were joined for a couple of days during the process by the fantastic Bristol-based director, Emma Williams as a valuable outside-eye. With such a wonderful team in place, making the show was a brilliantly hysterical, creative process though we often had panic-attacks that we'd left ourselves too little time! The principal idea of the show was to create a comic, festive ode to Die Hard (the cult 1988 action film starring Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman), told primarily with puppets and borrowing The Muppets' irreverent, self-referential anarchy style. It proved a winning formula. Audiences raved about the show and such was the demand for tickets, if we had a larger theatre I really feel we could have doubled the number of audience we had in. We were interviewed for Made In Bristol TV (below - we're from 6 minutes in) and had a handful of very positive reviews.

It’s Christmas Eve and high above the city of LA, exceptional terrorist Hans Gruber has seized control of a 35-story skyscraper and is holding everyone inside hostage. As this villainous German carries out his murderous plan of deceit, there’s one thing he didn’t count on - a mysterious party crasher, a fly in the ointment, a monkey in the wrench, a pain in the ass - the grizzled, street-wise, wise-cracking, New York cop John McClane who’s willing to battle against the odds single-handedly to rescue Miss Piggy and save Christmas.

“Immense action scenes, recurring gags and a bombardment of self-referential silliness makes Muppits Die Hard by far the best show you’ll see in Bristol this Christmas.”
Stage Talks ★★★★

“A zany alternative to the Christmas schmaltz, grab a drink and enjoy the action.”
Whats On Stage Stage Talks ★★★★

"As always, there is an unbelievable amount of creativity and attention to detail that makes the anti-pantomime such a heroic spectacle."
Simple Lampoon

21 January 2015

Directing National Theatre Connections show 'Hospital Food' with St Brendan's Sixth Form College

This week I started working with 10 students at St Brendan's Sixth Form College in Bristlington, Bristol, to direct and show they plan to put on for National Theatre Connections Festival 2015. Every year the National Theatre invites 10 writers to create 10 new, exciting and challenging scripts which will then be performed by youth theatres and schools up and down the country. Connections gives young people experience of professional theatre-making as they create marketing campaigns, design sets and costumes, operate lighting and sound boards, stage-manage their performances and, in the case of St Brendan's, bring in a professional director. Originally my close friend Anna Girvan was asked to direct this show but after a few weeks had to pull out and she asked if I would step into her shoes to finish the show with the students - I duly obliged! The script St Brendan's chose for their students to perform is Hospital Food by Eugene O’Hare. It's set in a British teenage cancer unit and follows 10 young patients, all of them undergoing various conventional treatments for different cancers at different stages of progression. Their shared illness bonds them and they support each other as they reveal their fears and hopes for the future while confronting, head on, the very real prospects of untimely death. The production will be performed at St Brendan's College in February and at Bristol Old Vic in March. Furthermore, National Theatre watch every single production around the country and then invite what they judge to be the best production of each script to be performed in London. This project is a great opportunity for me as a director and one I am really relishing.

19 January 2015

Spring 2015 Season at The Wardrobe Theatre

Over the autumn and winter months I have been working hard with my fellow co-directors at The Wardrobe Theatre to programme another exciting season of theatre, comedy and regular local nights at the venue. Here's the season's printed brochure which I designed very closely with the venue's resident illustrator, Ben Goodman:

18 January 2015

Start of Closer Each Day Season 9

This week sees the beginning of season 9 of Closer Each Day: The Improvised Soap Opera at The Wardrobe Theatre. Hard to believe we've been running for nearly 4 years! The show will run fortnightly until the summer. Can't wait!

11 December 2014

End of Closer Each Day Season 8

Last Tuesday was Episode 6, the season finale and the Christmas special of Closer Each Day: The Improvised Soap Opera at The Wardrobe Theatre. The show was a packed and hilarious night of improv and plot twists yet again with most of the action revolving around one of the characters, Simpkins, getting visited by three ghosts (ala Ebeneezer Scrooge). Season 8 of the show was another mammoth success and I am constantly proud and inspired to be so closely involved in such a great show, with such a great group of performers that audiences return to laugh their heads off at fortnight after fortnight. Bring on season 9!

26 November 2014

'Muppits Die Hard' gets Arts Council Funding

Today we got the fantastic news that the application I wrote for The Wardrobe Theatre's 2014 alternative Christmas show, Muppits Die Hard, to get funding from Arts Council England was successful! This is a huge deal for the theatre and the production and means we can create a show that matches our ambitions but, most importantly, means no-matter what we are able to pay our creative team properly for all their hard work in making and performing the show. Hurrah!

24 November 2014

New Choir Performance at Sharp Teeth Night

Last night after several weeks of rehearsals, a new choir I am a member of (an offshoot of Utterance) performed our first show at The Arts House. Sharp Teeth Presents a Night of Storytelling was a wonderful varied evening of performance in a small room underneath a Stokes Croft cafe to a packed crowd. The new choir doesn't have a name yet though we are provisionally calling it the Back of Book Choir as all the songs we perform have been composed by James Nuttall, inspired by the blurbs and synopses found on the back on paper back books. The choir are a great bunch and we have a great time rehearsing and performing together. Fingers crossed we get a chance to perform our tunes again in the near future.

16 November 2014

Half-Mask Workshop with John Wright

For the past few days I have had the pleasure of taking part in a week long workshop in performing half-mask with John Wright, one of my theatre/clowning heroes, the co-founder of Told By An Idiot and Trestle theatre companies, author of the fantastic 'Why Is That So Funny?' and an international renowned director and teacher. The workshop was held at The Island and was an amazing introduction to the world of half-mask performing as well as a lot of overlap into clowning. John is an inspiring teacher and I feel like I learnt a huge amount from his challenging but very supportive and rewarding sessions.

27 October 2014

The Smoking Puppet Cabaret 'Muppits Die Hard' Fundraiser

Last Thursday at The Canteen I joined my Smoking Puppet Cabaret compatriots and the casts from The Wardrobe Theatre's Christmas shows past and present to host a fun one-off event to raise eyebrows, awareness and money for the venue's 2014 Christmas production, Muppits Die Hard. The night mimiced The Smoking Puppet Cabaret's successful format from Shambala Festival and Bristol Puppetry Festival to present an entertaining cabaret night of irreverent puppetry and improv. I acted as compare for most of the evening in my Blue Blue Peter presenter guise and also performed in most of the cabaret acts including Blue Blue Peter itself (where we get the audience to make their own shadow puppets before we improv sketches with them), some Muppet puppet style scenes including a sing-along and a romantically charged encounter with the Oedipuss puppet from The Wardrobe Theatre's 2012 Christmas show, Oedipuss In Boots. The night was a brilliantly fun and well attended fundraiser with us managing to raise several hundred pounds thanks to people's kind donations. The money will all be used to make puppets and the other design elements of Muppits Die Hard. Can't wait to get started on it!