27 October 2014
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!
1 October 2014
Last night Closer Each Day: The Improvised Soap Opera returned to the stage of The Wardrobe Theatre for the start of its eight season. After the summer break, it's great to get back in the swing of things with this hilarious fortnightly show. Over the course of the season (up to 9th December) we will be introducing some new characters and trying some new ideas so lots to look forward to.
23 September 2014
After its stunning run at Edinburgh Fringe 2014, Verity Standen's HUG returned to Bristol as part of Bristol Biennial festival of art last weekend. I joined the HUG singers for 8 performances over 2 days at Trinity Centre and Grain Barge. The audiences were once again phenomenally responsive and it was another wonderful experience to be part of (even if it did mean hiding nearly 20 people in the beer cellar at Grain Barge as backstage). There are lots of potentially really exciting things on the horizon for HUG so hopefully this wasn't the last time we were all together.
17 September 2014
This August I was delighted to be one of the singers in Verity Standen's choral sound bath performance HUG as the show was invited to run for 2 weeks at Forest Fringe during Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014. We took a handful of the show's original singers to Edinburgh from the run at The Wardrobe Theatre last October and brought in about 10 new voices made up of local residents and other performers in town for the festival. After a few days rehearsal teaching the new singers the show, we opened at The Drill Hall in Leith, the base of Forest Fringe, on Wednesday 6th August and performance 2 or 3 times a day for 2 weeks.
Each audience member is blindfolded. They are then individually hugged by a singer. Unable to visually gauge their surroundings, participants experience the performance through sound, breath and vibrations of the body as the choir of voices deliver the song. Playing with sense and perspective, HUG is a unique examination of the human voice’s power over our emotions.
The show was an astounding success, we got a huge amount of very positive press (including a small feature on BBC1's festival roundup TV show), more incredible audience reactions, and were even nominated for The Arches Brick Award and a Total Theatre Award. We also managed to find time to do a performance of HUG in Zoo Southside exclusively for the Zoo Venues' staff. It was an exhausting but thrilling experience to be involved closely with this unique show once again and I hope we can build upon HUG's success here to bring it to many more places and people over the coming months. Here are a few choice quotes from some of the incredible reviews the show got during its run:
"To feel somebody’s thorax vibrate as they tackle an elaborate counter-melody feels like the most immediate, visceral experience of music as human expression possible, not just hearing the music but feeling it physically coarse through you, your whole body singing like an antenna to heaven... Verity Standen's polyphonic show is completely astonishing, like 20 minutes talking to God."
Time Out - ★★★★★ Full review here
"A strangely cathartic experience, unequivocally illustrating the power that music holds to move us. And in its unseen, anonymous act of intimacy, it contains a heartbreaking comment on the comfort yet impossibility of true closeness."
Exeunt - ★★★★ Full review here
6 September 2014
For the last few months I have been working intensively with my fellow co-Directors at The Wardrobe Theatre to put together another programme of theatre, comedy and regular local nights at our venue. The focus of the venue has always been to programme exciting, diverse events and not be afraid to take risks, to support up-and-coming companies in the region, and to remain accessible and affordable for audiences. This is an ethos that has does us well over the past 3 years and it is something we have been able to stick to again for the upcoming season. This season I am particularly excited about the return of Tap Tap Theatre with their highly rated family show Handmade Tales in October. Here's the season's printed brochure which I designed very closely with the venue's resident illustrator, Ben Goodman:
31 August 2014
After months of rehearsing, organising, fundraising and touring, Juncture Theatre's dark comedy clown/drama A Little Nonsense finally made it to the largest arts festival in the world, Edinburgh Fringe 2014. The show ran for 4 weeks at Pleasance This in Pleasance Courtyard and was an exhausting but exhilarating experience for the whole company. Our initial concerns of having the show in one of the festival's glorified shipping container units were quickly dispelled as we realised these tiny spaces really helped nurture the intimate atmosphere we were trying to create for the performances. Between 30th July and 25th August the show was on daily at 1pm and we bookmarked the performances with several hours of flyering on The Royal Mile and around Edinburgh inbetween. We also booked slots on mile's mini-stages for a handful of afternoons and the cast were able to clown around and improvise some wonderful routines for the delight of the passing crowds. The sheer scale of Edinburgh Fringe with thousands and thousands of shows competing for a finite number of audiences meant we had to work really hard every day to get audiences. We struggled due to the combined fact the show was by a company few people had heard of, by a writer no-one had heard of, starring actors few had heard of and not being about anything anybody could instant recognise or relate to. That said, with the help of some great word-of-mouth from many people saying it was their festival highlight and a handful of fantastic reviews (including a ★★★★★ stunner from Broadway Baby - here), the shows averaged about a 40-50% audience which is not to be sniffed at at all during a company's first visit to Edinburgh. The two actors, Andy Kelly and Matt Christmas, did particularly well considering the director and I were forced to leave them to their own devises for the majority of the performances as we were performing in another show at the same time across the city. All told, it felt wonderful to take this brand new script that we all believed in thoroughly from the dusty, tiny rooms of The Wardrobe Theatre and The Bike Shed Theatre to the glorious heights of Edinburgh Fringe where it was able to rub shoulders with the cream of international comedy and theatre. It felt like the peak that this show could reach and so, for now anyway, we will say goodbye to Man and Clown in A Little Nonsense and thank them for the fantastic memories.
4 August 2014
Whilst at Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014 my improv pals Degrees Of Error got into a spot of bother and needed someone with experience of teching improvisation shows to operate the lights during their first performance. A duly obliged and so last Thursday at Sweet Venues on The Grassmarket I controlled the lights and therefore had the power to end and begin scenes in Degrees Of Error's wonderful offbeat murder mystery show Murder She Didn't Write. The show was entitled The Case of The Left-Handed Raspberry (audience suggestion) and took place primarily on a period cruise ship (audience suggestion).
Last week Corina Bona's debut one-woman puppetry family show, Detective O And The Cold Case Caper, premiered at The Wardrobe Theatre with 5 packed shows and a family puppetry workshop to boot. I had been working as dramaturg on the show for several months with Corina and it was fantastic to finally have it finished to show to an audience. The show is hysterically funny, bursting with energy and life and full of fantastic ideas and wonderful characters. The production went down incredibly well with the audiences much to the delight of everyone involved. The show pricked the interest of lots of other potential venues and festivals during this week so hopefully this isn't the end for Detective O just yet.
30 July 2014
Over the past 4 weeks I have been on the road with Juncture Theatre as we go on a mini-tour around the country with our dark comedy clown/drama, A Little Nonsense. The tour was a great opportunity to get the show settled and ready ahead of its month long visit to Edinburgh Fringe 2014 and also meant we were able to raise some extra funds for the festival. Our first stop was at the stunning Tolmen Centre just outside Falmouth in Cornwall. We were welcomed by a large and warm audience for the debut of the new cast and the venue also were kind enough to put us up for the night in one of their picturesque converted barns. Second stop was in London at new venue The Rag Factory off Brick Lane. We were charmed by the rough-and-ready vibe of this brand new space and were delighted with the great turnouts for both shows. Next we took the show out west to visit The Bike Shed Theatre in Exeter once again. This is one of my absolutely favouroite venues (evidenced by the fact this was something like the 6th show I've visited here with in 2 years) and we once again had a tremendous time even in the audiences were quite quiet. Our hometown run at The Wardrobe Theatre for a week was the fabulous highlight of the tour with huge gaffouring audiences. We finally ended the tour during our journey to Edinburgh as we took the show to director Anna's birth place of Newcastle for one night at The Cluny 2. I worked as producer and assistant director during this time and operated light and sound during all of the performances. The tour was a great expereince with a tremendously close, friendly and talented team (even if it did mean hours sat in a tiny Clio with desk chairs on our laps and filing cabinets in our backs). Bring on Edinburgh!
24 July 2014
Tuesday 8th July saw Episode 13 of Closer Each Day: The Improvised Soap Opera at The Wardrobe Theatre and thus Season 7 of the show was brought to a close. It's been the busiest and best season of the show yet and I'm constantly thrilled to be working so closely with such a talented bunch of performers. Season 7 did feel a little unbalanced with the number of male versus female performers in the cast however and so at the end of July we hosted an audition to find some new funny women to join the show. John Lomas, Lindsey Garwood and I ran an informal workshop audition for eight or so women and we were overwhelmed with the quality and range of improvisers we were able to bring together. However, we only have so much room in the cast at the moment and so I am delighted that for the new season, we will be joined by Shaelee Rooke and Abbi Davey. It feels really exciting to be bringing some fresh blood into the group and it should make Season 8 the best yet of the show!
14 July 2014
To help raise funds for Juncture Theatre's visit to Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014 with A Little Nonsense, Anna Girvan and I organsied two fundraising parties, one in Bristol at the Grain Barge on Thursday 3rd July and one in London at The George Tavern on Saturday 12th July. Both parties were a great success, bringing together a huge amount of people for a terrific night of music, clowning, games and a raffle. I got in on the action during the Bristol fundrasier, first singing with Verity Standen's choir Utterance and also performing with local clown troupe The Original Spinners.
13 July 2014
After an initial week of R&D back in March, this May I met with Corina Bona at Easton Community Centre for a week of devising and rehearsing, followed by a further 2 days in July. We used the time to build towards creating her one-woman puppetry family show, Detective O And The Cold Case Caper (renamed from Thumbelina: A Fairytale Case) due to debut at The Wardrobe Theatre at the end of July. I was working as dramaturg on the project and had a fantastic time in the room collaborating with the show's directoral outside-eye Liz Hart, designer Chris Gylee, puppet maker Emma Powell, musical director Ed Patrick, technician Chris Collier and producer Katie Cooper. As dramaturg, my role was primarily the shaping the show's story to make sure the story we were trying to tell was told effectively, flowed well throughout the show and could be understand and appreciated by an audience of children and adults. As the production was a one-woman show, the whole devising and rehearsal period was a very intimate process with roles overlapping a lot and I certainly feel like I had a strong directoral influence on the show too. During the week in May we also did an invited showing to an audience of 5-10 year olds to see what elements of the production did and didn't translated well. Overall, the process of creating this show was a really wonderful expereince with a terrificly talented team and I can't wait for Detective O And The Cold Case Caper to hit the stage next week!
4 July 2014
After a successful residency at The BikeShed Theatre in February, Juncture Theatre's Anna Girvan and I made the decision to take this wonderful clown/drama (written by Oliver Hoare) to the biggest arts festival in the world, Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014! The decision was made particularly hard considering neither of the show's current cast were able to come with us to the festival but we believed so strongly in the writing that it was worth recasting and re-rehearsing - so, that exactly what we did. During March, Anna and I auditioned lots of performers for the parts of Man and Clown in the show and evenutally settled on two new fantastic performers, Andy Kelly (a local actor/clown/musician who I have collaborated with a lot in the past) and Matt Christmas, a Aberystwyth-based actor who really shone in auditions. We entered the rehearsal room for 3 weeks in June as we worked towards a string of performances around the country and then Edinburgh. It was a really interesting process getting to revisit a script that Anna and I had grown so close to with the previous cast but it became a hugely rewarding one as we were able to find many new angles and layers to the humour and drama. It was especially fun getting to re-devise the second act of the show which was left totally open to interpretation by Oliver in his script. I worked closely as assistant director to Anna during rehearsals and also produced the show.
2 July 2014
For a handful of days last week a few of The Wardrobe Theatre's familiar faces (including Chris Collier, Andrew Kingston, Corina Bona, Malcolm Hamilton and I) gathered at the venue to explore ideas for the theatre's 2014 Christmas show. Se7en Dwarfs is going to be one heck of a tough act to follow but we feel we have a terrific idea to rival it. We want to create a comic, festive ode to Die Hard (the cult 1988 action film starring Bruce Willis), told primarily with puppets in a Muppets' Christmas Carol fashion - "Muppits Die Hard". I will be working as dramaturg and producer on the project and this R&D was a fun and fruitful few days as we worked through various ideas and way to tell the story and I feel we've established some firm foundations for what could become a really amazing show. Next step is to try and get some funding to make the show before we go into the rehearsal room proper in the autumn.
27 June 2014
Last week I was asked to name my favourite 5 things about Bristol for the Bristol Culture website. After a few days of pondering, I finally plucked for the floating harbour, independent businesses, Closer Each Day: The Improvised Soap Opera, hot air balloons, and Bristolians making it happen. You can read my reasons by clicking here.
23 June 2014
Yesterday I had an amazing time in Stratford with The Original Spinners as the group were asked to perform some walkabout clown at the RSC's A Midsummer Sundae event. I had attended one rehearsal with the clown troupe before I was asked to join them for the gig in Stratford. I prompted jumped at the opportunity and had a fantastic time clowning around all afternoon in the grounds of the RSC's theatre. We performed three of The Original Spinners main routines including Land Of Play, Cowboys and Synchronised Swimmers. It was a wonderful day and I look forward to the chance to perform with them again.
22 June 2014
Last Friday in the Star and Dove pub, Totterdown, Verity Standen's Utterance choir shared the bill with The Morning Chorus and The Fine Chisel Band in a fun fundraiser music night to raise money for Verity's trip to Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014 with HUG and Mmm Hmmm. The show was a terrifically fun night with much dancing and merriment.