TRAUM – a post from intern Harry Holles – Rehearsal Week 1

Delighted to introduce Harry Holles, a 6th Form student from Coventry who is currently one of our interns at Theatre Absolute working on TRAUM. Here’s a few words from Harry on week 1 of rehearsals…

Hi, my name is Harry, next year I look forward to starting a foundation course at Birmingham School of Acting, where I hope learn different styles of acting and gain a wider understanding of the world of performing arts.

This week I started my internship with Theatre Absolute, which has been amazing!  In the first session with Dimitar and Marius, Chris set everybody the task of writing just a few hundred words on an experience of our choice in which we have felt alien, and the emotions that came with that experience. For Dimitar, Marius and Tiff it was their experiences entering this country and their reasoning for doing so….it was very interesting listening to everybody’s experience and having them paint the picture in my mind…I spoke about the overwhelming feeling I got stood at the top of a lakeside mountain in Italy.  It was very difficult to put into words exactly how it felt but it was nice to try and express that moment through words on a piece of paper.

After the first week, I feel very hopeful for this performance and I can really see it being an amazing show!

Disciplines in Dialogue: From Theatre Absolute to And So Forth by Richard Walls

 

I’m currently in rehearsals for Damsel/Wife/Witch, the inaugural show of And So Forth (ASF), a new London-based company I co-founded earlier this year dedicated to interdisciplinary collaboration. Performed by two actors, a singer and a pianist, the piece was written by a close partnership of artists: a playwright, a librettist and a composer; it exemplifies ASF’s focus on interdisciplinary collaboration and mutual support. Tapping into contemporary debate, the show explores the nuances of gender expectation and identity through fairy tale. It’s an arresting and exciting time and one which invites reflection upon my earlier work with Theatre Absolute.

Back in the September of 2012 I was commissioned by the company to write a short play for 100, a cross-disciplinary arts project launched in response to the approaching centenary of World War One. The project – which premiered at the Herbert Art Gallery in 2013 – utilised film, theatre and textiles to explore a range of themes surrounding the conflict and its centenary.

It was my first professional commission and the resulting play, Powder, my first professionally produced play. As such the pressure I piled upon myself during its writing was immense and if it weren’t for the generous support and mentorship of the company I doubt the play would have made it to the stage at all. But make it Powder did, alongside a short film by Jay Langdell and a textiles exhibition by Julia O’Connell (N.B. a full-length play by Steve Waters commissioned for the project premiered the following year).

What was immediately apparent after the premiere was that though each artist’s work had been created independently the resulting works were now in a dialogue with one another. Occupying the same period of time and space the play, the film and the exhibition both impacted directly on the reception of one another and became inseparable from a collective 100 experience. Indeed, in the post show discussions I was often asked to comment on the film and the exhibition as much as I was about my own play. But I was happy to do so being that what had started as a series of singular visions had now fused into one creative endeavour.

Theatre Absolute has since gone on to collaborate across disciplines more directly. This year alone pieces such as The Visible Maker (Julia O’Connell’s live craft performance piece which utilised interactive media) and Traum (a collaboration between Theatre Absolute and dance company Moving Spaces) were interdisciplinary collaborations which both challenged the notion of the Shop Front Theatre as a ‘limited’ space and embraced the clash of disciplines in order to create great art.

That I therefore feel so at home in And So Forth is no mistake. As a company, And So Forth believe the best catalyst for unique and exciting work is the facilitation of dialogue between remarkable practitioners, not only for the purposes of creation, but also for the ongoing development of the artists themselves. Only yesterday I was discussing the musicality of dialogue with Glyndebourne’s Young Composer in Residence Lewis Murphy, who I have had the pleasure of collaborating with on Damsel/Wife/Witch, whilst also discussing dramatic action with Mezzo-Soprano Katie Coventry, who most recently appeared in British Youth Opera’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen. To be able to work with such exceptional emerging artists from different theatrical worlds can be at times challenging but it is always a privilege and always worthwhile. It develops and strengthens me as a writer.

In the current climate it is more important than ever for young artists to reach out beyond their comfort zones and work with those from other disciplines. Not only because pragmatism demands it, but because the potential artistic rewards are huge. If anything, I hope that my experience with both Theatre Absolute and And So Forth are a testament to that.

Damsel/Wife/Witch by And So Forth will be playing at the Chapel at Asylum Peckham between the 15th – 18th September. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/andsoforth.

 Richard Walls is a co-founder of And So Forth and an Associate Artist of Theatre Absolute. He is currently attached to the 2015 Birmingham Rep Foundry programme.

 

 

Thoughts from our intern, Charles Ingram…

Process – The Making of Traum

Its day one and there is an aura of that mixture between excitement and uncertainty, with an overwhelming itch to start things off not knowing exactly where we will end up at the end of this project. As the creative assemble we instantly discussed the extreme potential of the Shop front Theatre space, Marius and Dimitar of Moving Spaces have already started their minds and bodies in motion with hundreds of ideas to be put on the table whereas Chris and Julia of Theatre Absolute have one question at present, how does a person deal with not sleeping and what is its effect on the human body and psyche. Chris introduces himself and Julia and we all have an introductory talk about where we are at and what we do before taking the plunge into our work. We discuss that Traum is a work in progress and there is no pressure on what to create in terms of quantity. We speak about the fact that this is a collaboration so our roles will cross over and change as the project goes on, we are all happy with this arrangement.

We start with a Writing Lab, where we are given the first sentence to commence free writing experiment. Writing only what thoughts came into our minds in order to generate material as a great way to kick off. Allowing for us to relate ourselves with the music playing (Composed by Chris), the stimulus given and the ability for us to relate it back to this main idea of not sleeping and the effect it has on us as human beings. This was extremely successful as we could instantly relate to one another’s writing. Though at this stage it is important to note that Chris wanted Marius and Dimitar to write in their own native languages, which turned out to be quite magnificent to listen to and the translation that more insightful.

Once we had the main bulk of the idea behind the piece we got it up on its feet and this is where the collaboration really kicks in. Moving Spaces were the main choreographers in this project with Chris directing the piece as an outside eye laying insight into the clarity of the story told. My own role was to assist in the production via Chris and help generate the technical aspect of the sharing of this work in progress. Though the technical side did not come until much later in the process. My role as a spectator was key to the progress of this production, allowing to support Chris to give him eyes in the back of his head in order to help him see the piece as a whole. This was crucial as the stage construct we had in mind was a thrust stage setting surrounding the areas around the pillars with chairs.

The way it worked was that Moving Spaces would generate separate sections of dance infused b-boy choreography for Chris and myself to see if it fitted into the piece, as these were very talented Dancers but even more talented choreographers, most of the time the answer was ‘yes, great, pop that in’. What was nice was that neither party knew what was in each other’s heads until a few days into the project. There was this absence of technical dance knowledge from Chris and the absence of critical thinking and observation from Moving Spaces. Once the melding of these two minds happened on day three, the production took a dramatic leap forward giving it a performance arc and a storyline. Adding in the music at this stage was then key to allowing Moving spaces to get a feel for the space and how to present their moves.

What was created in the end was a 15 minute long contemporary piece of dance-theatre with some b-boying in the mix. A story of a man and his apprehension towards working and the inability to sleep through a personified ‘Anxiety’ figure which looms over his life. Anxiety which he battles with throughout this performance in a frantic display of interconnecting action and an impressive showing of breakdancing capability. The most interesting part of this performance I think was the relationship between them, one speaking in Bulgarian and the other English. The anxiety telling him to ‘speak English’ and to ‘adapt’ is transcendent to all migrant workers, trying to make a living not just in England but all over Europe.

The piece starts with the worker (Dimitar) hard at work and falling asleep, he realises this an decides to get away but he cannot get away from the thoughts of work generated by this anxiety (Marius) which appears within his actions. The anxiety plays with the worker to force him to work and preventing him from sleeping. When the worker fights back we find this is where the pieces interesting factors lie. We see sections of unison movement and confrontational b-boying, however there are some tender moments where we see that they are dependent upon another. The piece comes to its ending with the worker hiding from the anxiety who is ‘trapped’ in this dream world of his. The final confrontation is the worker exclaiming to the anxiety ‘you know what, screw you’ in Bulgarian before grabbing him and falling to the floor, finally getting some rest.

Seeing the piece progress from the initial words and music and to have it created before your very eyes is something quite special, seeing talented artists working together for a greater cause is refreshing and as a contributor I feel extremely privileged to be a part of it and it further gives the piece a large amount of value not only to me as an intern with Theatre Absolute but also as a creative in the industry. Allowing for me to broaden the creative experience with all parties involved and progress the knowledge base of the company.

The potential of this project to move further has been commented on not only by its creators but from the audience who got the chance to view the showing of the work in progress. Many comments of ‘can’t wait to see the finished product’ were very comforting. But where does it go to next? Does he wake up or does the story just extend itself? Well until we get back into that rehearsal room we just will not know. This piece not only relates to everyone on a human level but it has cultural significance to so many people around the EU. I would love for this piece to be shown in Bulgaria to see if it has a lesser or greater impact. Or the inclusion of further languages to increase the field of audience and relatability. All in all a great piece and has definite quality enough to move on and up somewhere else in the creative world.

Frank McMahon blogs about his work with Chris O’Connell

My first contact with Theatre Absolute was in September 2012 when I attended a writing gym, facilitated by Chris O’Connell. It was lively, stretching and thought-provoking and left me wanting more.

It was going to see The Wedge performed and written by Naomi Said, and then hearing how it had been developed which inspired me to write a monologue. Suddenly I had a format which enabled me to bring together various ideas and pieces of writing.

I posted it to Chris. Then I had an e-mail saying he had enjoyed it immensely. I went “ wow! “ maybe this is it, the start.

We arranged to meet, and after some discussion, agreed to work together for 3 sessions on the script.

These sessions have been: stimulating, searching, respectful, (“you are the writer“), challenging, inspiring and very enjoyable. Basically, we have worked by reading the script aloud and then working through it in detail.

He has also, very helpfully, suggested some playwrights and plays to read. My script is now more dramatic, more energetic, carrying less fat and working on it has mined some things which came as a surprise to me. None of which is to say it is complete. The next stage is to work on it with an actor with a view to a scripted reading before an audience.  So it may well develop further. And after that?

The great thing about working with Chris is the sensitive way in which he blends encouragement with realism, challenge and creativity, helping me to find my voice.

It has been brilliant!

Frank McMahon

Interning with Theatre Absolute: Joining the Conversation

What is it you’re looking for in a theatre internship?

In early June 2010, I was in Coventry City Centre doing some last minute shopping before jetting off to start a post-graduate internship at a theatre in the United States. Whilst walking through the city arcade I came across the new Shop Front Theatre and saw there were people inside having a conversation. I’d been intrigued by the theatre for a while but this was the first time I had actually seen anyone inside. I hesitated about walking on in (this was a shop, after all) but before I could one of the men inside came and opened the door: the artistic director, Chris O’Connell. I explained that I was going to be out of the country for a while but that on my return I would get back in touch about the possibility of getting involved with the theatre in some capacity. Having stumbled upon one conversation, I was now leaving with one of my own.

Being an aspiring writer, thinking about suitable internships has always proved difficult. What exactly is it I’m looking for in an internship? What exactly is it that I can offer a company? What are the positions available that can help me to become a better writer? Will a theatre pass me over for an internship in administration because they know I don’t want to ultimately work in theatre administration?

Such questions are not unique to writers. I know plenty of actors, directors, and producers who went through the same. Maybe they had done some acting, but were now more interested in learning about directing. Perhaps they weren’t completely sure they even wanted to work in the theatre. Maybe they just wanted to get a sense of how a professional theatre company worked. Though we often categorise jobs in the theatre into specific boxes (actors, directors, stage managers etc.) in reality each role may at some point cross over with another and it’s always good for the right hand to have a working knowledge of what the left hand is doing in any organisation.

Fast forward seven months from our initial conversation and Chris and I met, along with the company producer Julia Negus, to churn such questions over. Such open, honest and frank conversations became a staple of our working relationship; a way of constantly evaluating:

1.)  What the theatre needed?

2.)  How I could help facilitate this?

3.)  How facilitating this would help me?

The answer to the third question was quite often one word: access.

The Shop Front Theatre is a profoundly unique and democratic space. There are no private offices for private meetings (unless you count the tiny changing room, which is tempting considering the wonderful array of biscuits in there!), no arbitrary area where all the performances must be staged and no physical barriers between the box office, the drinks table, the lounge area and (sometimes) the stage. Anyone who has ever attended a theatre absolute show at the Shop will know that prior to and after each performance you can speak to the actors, director, writer, producer, volunteers and other audience members in a shared space. Each audience member is asked to fill out a feedback sheet and invited to continue the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. Productions are often scheduled so to appeal to as wide a range of people as possible (‘Always’, Chris O’Connell’s last play, had breakfast time performances) and tickets competitively priced so to break down some of the economic barriers preventing people experience live theatre.

But how did such an accessible way of making and showcasing work help me, an aspiring writer, when interning with the company?

I recently came across a tweet entitled ‘A Script’s Journey’ which listed the artistic process of a successful play. It was as follows:

Playwright’s Heart

Playwright’s Head

Director’s Heart

Director’s Head

Actor’s Heart

Actor’s Head

Audience’s Heart

Audience’s Head

What interning at Theatre Absolute did was allow me to see every stage of this journey in the same shared physical space. Let’s take Chris O’Connell’s play ‘Arcade’ as a case in point. The play, set in a café, was about an encounter between two people years after one of them had been sent to prison for killing a mutual friend. It engaged not only with the history of the Shop (it used to be a café) but also with questions surrounding performance space (part of the play took place out in the street).

Before he even started writing the play I remember speaking to Chris about how he wanted to engage more actively with the history of the Shop and use the space more inventively. I remember him staring out the window. I could see the cogs turning. Hear the questions he was asking. Then when I sat in on rehearsals I could see him work as a director in interrogating his own script. See the actors do the same. Have coffee with them. Discuss dramaturgical questions on the sofas. Converse about other aspects of the theatre industry (the working life of an actor, issues surrounding theatre funding, engaging with audiences etc.). Then when the show opened I could speak to the audiences about their thoughts – each and every night.

I’ve heard horror stories about internships where all the intern did was make coffee and fetch lunch for the employers. The justification for this is often that it doesn’t matter what you do in an internship; what matters is that it looks good on the C.V. But it doesn’t matter how good it looks on the C.V if you can’t give satisfactory answers at a future interview about what skills you learnt and how that’s relevant to the people interviewing you. Whilst interning at Theatre Absolute I made a lot of cups of tea and coffee, but the difference is that I would also make one for myself and be in the room when important decisions were being discussed and made.

I had other responsibilities, of course. I found helping to organise special one-off events and educational programming particularly useful as it helped me to nail down what the artistic policy of the company was. It also meant that even though I want to be a writer I was broadening my skills base so to prove more appealing to other employers when searching for part-time work.

But what I truly appreciate is that the company never forgot that what I wanted to do was write – in fact, they actively encouraged it. I had workshops and a reading in front of an invited audience of my short play ‘Public Housing’. I went on to develop this and submitted it as part of my application for an MA in Writing for Performance at Goldsmiths College, London. At my interview for the course I spoke extensively about my time at Theatre Absolute: my experience in learning how to interrogate a script, my knowledge of working in unconventional spaces in new ways and my desire to engage actively with audiences. Chris also wrote me a wonderful reference. My application was built upon the time I had spent with the company and so when I got accepted onto the course I couldn’t thank them enough.

It’s now almost three years since Chris and I had that first meeting and the conversation we started back then is still on-going. In September 2012 the company commissioned me to write a short play for schools as part of the ‘100’ project. Not only is it my first professional writing commission, it’s also an opportunity to give something back to the company for having supported me and to write something for Coventry’s up-and-coming generation. It’s an immense privilege.

In March 2011 it was announced that Theatre Absolute would lose its core funding from the Arts Council and for a time it looked as though the Shop Front may have had to close. Yet since Coventry City Council announced they would allow the theatre to keep the space the company has rewarded them by proving good on its promise to provide artistic programming of the highest calibre. Furthermore, the company’s record for investing in Coventry talent is superb. Naomi Said’s ‘The Wedge’ began life when she attended one of Chris O’Connell’s writing gyms and the play was nurtured by the company all the way to full production. Strongbox Theatre, a company set up by Coventry University students, was able to utilise the space in showcasing their show ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’ and went on to take it to the National Student Drama Festival. And I have been delighted in hearing from other interns and work experience placements about their own positive experiences with the company.

What Coventry is seeing now is the fruit of a whole series of conversations. Conversations which all stem from the company’s unyielding desire to engage with its artists and its community. It’s this spirit of inclusivity, this desire to reach beyond its immediate base and engage with new artists and new audiences, which make it such an asset.

If you want to play a part in its future success, perhaps it’s time you started a conversation of your own…

 

Richard Walls

April 2013

Latest news from Chris O’Connell

Hello, Chris here, artistic director of Theatre Absolute. It’s time to check in with news of what’s been happening at Theatre Absolute. I notice it was November when news from the creative coalface was last posted. That was during the making of ‘The Wedge’, written and performed by Naomi Said. It turned out to be a fabulous production. Embracing the limitations of the shop with no set, only four lights and a single soundscape, it was stimulating in its absolute simplicity and performed with unerring courage by Naomi. The shop was teeming with bodies for the week of its run and once again brought familiar faces, and new attenders. We are particularly proud of it because Naomi and Theatre Absolute met at the shop during one of our Writing Gyms. It is currently poised to tour and find a new life beyond the shop. Details of its future movements will be posted both on Facebook and here on our website.

The New Year brought new challenges for the company as I wrote and directed a ten-minute piece called ‘Always’, commissioned by Holding Space, funded by Arts Council England. Scripted to interact with filmed and animated images, ‘Always’ was a tight knit collaboration between myself, ‘experience’ designer Ashley Brown and actor John Flitcroft. John has appeared in several Absolute shows, and it was a pleasure to work with Ash for the first time. At only ten minutes, the choices one makes of how best to tell the story are specific and risky. Narrative is narrative and whether 90 minutes or 10 minutes, the same rules of a typical Theatre Absolute production still applied: character, story, intensity, immersion. Certainly the latter was achieved in new ways, as this was the first time we had worked with an artist such as Ashley, who created a smorgasbord of images, projected onto three walls within an intimate 8 x 12 foot space specially built and created at the very back of the shop. Combining both text and imagery is of course not unheard of in the theatre – many companies have worked in this way, but it was a first for us in that the images and the text were both central to and inseparable in their telling of the story. Made for 1 to 15 people at a time, ‘Always’ was seen at a variety of times throughout the day, ranging from 8.30am to 8pm shows.

‘Always’ finished on the 16th March, and the shop was immediately chocka block with a new show from Coventry’s Highly Sprung. ‘The Mobile Phone Show’ by Jim Cartwright was a charming piece performed by Sprung’s fantastic young company. It was great to see the Shop used in yet another configuration and full to the brim with audiences and cast each night. Next up is Ian Tilton, rock photographer and the man behind many of the legendary photos of Kurt Cobain, and The Smiths, amongst many others. Ian will talk and launch his SET IN STONE Stone Roses photo book with author Claire Caldwell on the 18th April. Later in May we welcome Coventry University to the shop with some final year degree shows from the performing arts students.

For the longer term, there is our 100 project which will see four new pieces of work created between now and summer 2014. Have a look at the Projects page, on this website. This last week the project has really started to blossom, and early in the week I met playwright Steve Waters to look over the drafts of his play, which will premiere in June 2014. I say drafts, plural, because it’s looking like his piece will become a triptych of short plays. I also met up with Richard Walls, who is writing a short play for premiere in November this year. At second draft stage, Richard and I enjoyed a lunchtime pint as we dissected and challenged and considered what might happen next as he develops the piece towards a rehearsal draft. Richard’s piece deals perhaps more directly with the anniversary of the Great War than Steve’s, and is told through the eyes of a woman. You’ll have to come and see both of them to know more!

As if that’s not enough, filmmaker Jay Langdell is about to hold auditions for his short film – a truly moving evocation of boy soldiers, which he is due to film later this year. Julia too has begun an intense period of research and development for her artwork and has been spending some time liaising with Coventry’s Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, and their collections.

If you want to know more about, and keep in touch with the work we are producing at the UK’s only professional shop front theatre, be sure to contact us here on the website, or Like us on our Facebook page.Always-02Always-01

End of The Wedge week 3, Naomi writes…

It’s Friday night. Time for a swift blog before I head home. On me tod. It’s been a full on day today. We ran the play this morning, following a big notes session after yesterday’s run. Then it was notes over lunch and a slow stagger through in the afternoon looking at specific bits. Can we try this action instead. Let’s remind ourselves of the objectives in that scene. What if we try building up to that moment in a different way. What happens if you carry that tone through to the next section. Or if you bury it and try a new tactic now. I realised half way through the afternoon that I have not worked in quite this much detail on a script since drama school. There are so many possibilities emerging it’s mad having written it to see how it can then morph and change. It may sound blazingly obvious but I guess because I’m doing both things here and one of them (writing) is for the first time, I had certain expectations of what certain scenes would ‘feel’ like to play but they’re now throwing up completely different possibilities. It’s like spending the day at the acting gym, let alone the writing gym I attended 18 months ago when this whole shebang kicked off. Now it’s really starting to feel like The Wedge exists as a text written by someone else and I am picking it up more just with my actor’s head on, throwing away my preconceptions of what I thought it would be like when I wrote it. We are finding so many new areas to explore that I hadn’t even envisaged. The last two weeks included lots of editing and rewriting but this continues even now – I have just written a new bit that we tried for the first time today and that’s now doing a better job than what was there before. It’s an ongoing process and I know it will change more when the audience get here next week. And beyond. Chris is provoking, questioning and assessing constantly and we are lucky to have the time and freedom to try it all out. The challenge will be holding on to our preferred versions and the detail and specificity we’ve worked on especially for example in the physical ‘score’, what the character is seeing and where and when for example how the other characters inhabit the space. What is the ‘shape’ of the play overall and how do the dynamics of it operate. If the script was a musical score how would it look and how are we going to try and achieve this in performance made with digital pianos you can see at this yamaha ypg-235 review. But we do still want room for spontaneity and freshness to give the audience something really palpable. We want to keep it all alive and keep mining it for possibilities. It feels like we’ve come so far from that very first writing gym when I had no idea I would end up in an old fish and chip shop on a Friday night writing this blog preceding the opening of ‘The Wedge’! It’s a bit of a learning curve to say the least and I am being challenged on a daily basis. Which is hopefully a good thing! There are still so many places to go. Things to consider, conundrums to ponder. Costumes to decide on. And lines to learn …. yes I’d better crack on with that now. 4 days to go…

Naomi Said writer and performer of The Wedge, describes a week of development…

I’m sat on the train whirring back to London after a full four days of script development at the Shop Front. It’s been hard to divert my attention to my laptop to write this blog because of the beautiful fields and early evening setting sun flying past the window.

But I’ve done it. I’ve spent a lot of this week typing on this here machine in fact. Which is a good thing. The days with Chris have been filled with discussions of psychology, childhood, work pressure, coming to terms with yourself, love, sex, deviance, family. You name it, we’ve discussed it! There’s been lots of research and thrashing out our opinions, all through the focus of the characters that are taken in by The Wedge and what happens there to Jess. We have discussed the plot and the characters in detail and what needs fleshing out from the text that we have so far, and what might be carved out. We got excited at one point and started discussing possible staging ideas but we’re keen to leave this till rehearsals and see what the play itself, when it is ready, needs! We’ve looked at the structuring of the piece and how this might work. We’ve even got ourselves a sort of framing coding system thingy (oo er) for the different ‘modes’ of telling this story that we move between as the story unfolds. How does the timeframe of the play function? How free can we be with this without tripping up our audience too much? The character is in chaos. I wonder how chaotic the form can be without being too disorientating. What questions do we want to leave the audience with and which strands do we want to tie up? We’ve thrashed all this out, read and scrutinized all the new material I’ve been bringing in each day and it has been brilliant. We had a field trip out to The Wedge and some other fields and factories near where I grew up on Tuesday morning.

I’ve never seen such a hot day in Cov. We even saw horses. It was so helpful both for mapping down the geography an environments of the play clearly in our heads and also being up there inspired me to write a sort of prologue which I hadn’t necessarily envisaged before.

 

From that text I wrote on Tuesday afternoon we’ve started to play with some ideas for sound even how we might use sung text to build up to some really theatrical moments. This was particularly exciting progress. We had Dan, a young theatre maker, pop in today for some work experience and it was brilliant he posed some really important provocations as we read through my tentative very early full draft which has started to be formed over the course of the week. It was also a relief that he seemed to enjoy himself. We talked about beat writing and how tantalizing it could be to coax the audience into needing to fill in the blanks of what the elliptical text is suggesting. How to activate their imagination and allow them to be inquisitive. How far can we push that? Time will tell. Vitally we have also gone back to basics. What is the main conflict Jess is facing. By what means and what attempts is she going to try and negotiate that. If her goal for example is to be understood or to understand, how does she do this in the telling of this story. We wrote these aims down into one short speech at the end of the day to sort of sum up the whole play in one paragraph – what Jess is trying to do and how she’s doing it, what is tripping her up along the way and whether she gets to where she wants to in the end. It seems obvious typing all this now but it’s easy to get away from that fundamental thing when you’re just thinking plot, character etc etc. We did a teeny bit of standing up at the end of the day because it would be rude not to and earlier in the week I showed Chris some sort of movement language I’ve been playing with which I think could be useful in the telling of this story too.

 

Sod’s law I’m finishing this blog now and wanting to look back outside to the fields but we’re in London now. Sat outside Euston…..Olympics…..hmmm here we go. Can’t wait for the Opening Ceremony tmrw see what Danny Boyle and the thousands have done for us all to enjoy! Right so I’m switching this off. Epic week. Can’t wait to get on with delivering the first draft in a few weeks time. I always stick to my deadlines don’t I Chris? Must get better at that to be fair. The show is actually happening now isn’t it. Like it’s funded and it’s programmed in to the Shop Front Theatre. Nothing like a bit of pressure. Whoop!  For tickets call Oxboffice on 0845 680 1926 or click Oxboffice

The Wedge – script development this summer…

Naomi Said met Theatre Absolute in 2010 attending one of the Writing Gyms Chris O’Connell runs from the shop. Already a performer, Naomi was keen to develop her skills as a writer, perhaps to even combine the two and write something she could perform. The Wedge is the ongoing journey of what has become an exciting collaboration between Naomi and Theatre Absolute. Excerpts of it have been developed and performed by Naomi at scratch events at mac, Birmingham and Camden People’s Theatre, London. This summer will see the full scale development of the piece. Read on for some thoughts from Naomi…

“We’ve already talked about the idea of ‘Movements’ to structure this piece. I have now sketched the narrative down in a sort of rough prose to act as a supporting document for us to refer to. But what are the fragments of this story and the emotional angles from the many different characters which are indispensable in the telling of it. How do we get everything we want to across while holding on to our hope for as much brevity and ellipsis in the writing and performance style as we dare.

Could it work for some movements to be voiced from another characters’ point of view eg the facts of the disappearance of Dan as told by him – or the confession of Corey – or the journey of Boosh. Do we lose suspense in our gothic-influenced tale by filling in too many gaps too early for the audience – how far can we go with them experiencing Jess’ confusions and unknowns with her while also giving enough clues and linking up a narrative which operates for the audience in a satisfying way. It’s an ambiguous and mysterious piece but still must have just enough meat on the bones to cling on to.

From early scratches we know we are aiming towards an intense experience with some sort of release and redemption towards the end but how hard do we want our audience to have to work in getting there with Jess?

How marked do the shifts of tone or dynamic need to be between in each movement?

How far is too far without alienating our audience?

How might grace and lightness be found in moments of extreme intensity?

How can we use the architecture of the shop front space in staging this piece and can this inform the writing? Can we literally force Jess into a corner, isolated from the audience? At the moments of greatest pressure building up under her barriers, could subtext boil over in some sort of physical expression? When we can’t find the words because what we are experiencing is unfathomable, what do we do then? What are the moments in this story where the expression I need to find in the words has to come out of the moments where Jess is unable to articulate or express what she feels or what she is describing?

In my inspiration for this story and the background material and research I’m drawing on, I have in the past few weeks mapped out a serious of ‘smash up moments’ as I’m calling them. There are quite a few barriers emerging – metaphorical and actual. I have the geography of the piece mapped out and it’s full of them. So are the characters, within themselves, between one another. Some are never acknowledged. Some are encountered and never crossed. Some go up where they never existed before. Some are smashed into, causing damage. Some are smashed up and destroyed. And some are completely bust apart and broken through. I don’t know how I pursue this ‘theme’ I suppose you’d call it in the form of the piece but I’m keen to discuss and explore it with Chris.