Thursday, 9 August 2012

Catching Up

My goodness me, it's been a long time nice my last post... apologies everyone, it's been a strange old time of late.  I've been busy busy busy since term finished at Circomedia, firstly puppeteering the robot explorers Puppit + Digit, who've been popping up at Festivals and Olympic Torch events around Kent and East Sussex.

Tom, from Polymathematics (the company whose creations these are), has created a really nice promo video of what we do, which you can see here:

The more I work with these puppets, the more I enjoy it, firstly, because you're always discovering new ways of interacting and new levels of movement they can achieve, and secondly, the physical strength needed to heft them around (they're soooo heavy) has become almost like an addiction, in the way that many of the disciplines within circus can be; it's painful, but my God do you get a good adrenaline rush afterwards.

My friend Mary and I also were fortunate enough to spend a lovely two days developing The Double D's, our street theatre act, at Lakeside Arts Centre in Nottingham.  As part of my commitment to the Arts Council and the funding they provided for the first 3 months of my training at Circomedia, we also ran a workshop for Theatre Professionals based in the East Midlands, which was a really wonderful experience.  We had around 12 participants from all different areas of theatre, and guided them through skills in acro, aerial and manipulation, before moving on to some devising tasks which focussed on integrating circus and theatre.  It was a joy to work with such talented and intelligent people, and the session received great feedback.  Hopefully sessions like this will help to raise the profile of Circus-Theatre in a region where this is currently an under-developed Artform, and inspire people to utilise these skills in their own work.

At the end of July I worked as Assistant Director for Nottingham Playhouse on their Intermediate Summer School.  We worked with a group of 18 Young People to create a devised promenade performance based on the current exhibiting artists at Nottingham Contemporary, Alfred Kubin and Francis Uprtichard.

The two Artists are very different in their styles, and although at first glance their work may seem difficult to access and adult in its themes, the group worked brilliantly together to create an engaging performance set in an Art Gallery and performed to an invited audience at the Playhouse.

Most recently I have just finished co-directing a 3 day Circus summer school for students at NUSA in Nottingham, which culminated in a short performance back at Lakeside, where we were able to rig silks and a trapeze, upon which they performed after just a morning's tuition!  I worked with lovely Ria Ashcroft on this, and we were delighted and exhausted by the endless enthusiasm and energy of these Young People.  The changes we saw in their confidence levels and ability in just three short days were really wonderful, and we hope to foster longer term connections between ourselves, Lakeside and NUSA, to help further the development of circus in the region.

Tomorrow I'm back down to Bristol for rehearsals of a secret project which is in development for the end of September.  More details coming soon - watch this space!

And next week, a short holiday in Cornwall.  I think I deserve it...

Thursday, 21 June 2012

End of a Year

The End of Year show has been and gone, and tomorrow is the last day of the year at Circomedia.  I can't quite believe how it seems to have rushed through my body and heart in a whirlwind of colour, emotion, hilarity, tears, pain and friendship, leaving me feeling as though I've been picked up, shaken upside down, slapped around the face and given a big sloppy kiss before being placed gently back on the ground, somewhat more ruffled than before, but excited, open and relaxed.

Work has stacked itself up nicely for the summer, and I'll be busy busy busy with lots of different projects.  And who knows what the future holds right now?  I think, in some ways, one of the most surprising things that I've found from being at Circomedia is that I don't have to perform the self that I've carefully created over the years, but am free to be the person I find within myself, when everything is quiet, or I'm training, or laughing till my sides ache at the discoveries we are making.

Thank you, Circomedia.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Sensory Circus, Polymathematics and the Double D's

Time for an update.  Things have been so hectic here that I haven't had chance to blog about everything that's been going on lately, so I'll start at the beginning...

May half term was busy.  VERY busy.  It kicked off with 3 days of workshops for the Arts Council, held at Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham.  I worked with several different groups, including students from Oakfield Special School.  I'd specifically asked to work with groups which included students with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties, and for this developed the concept of 'sensory circus', which is a very experiential way of accessing different circus skills, in a slow and relaxed atmosphere, so that each student is given space to respond in the way most appropriate for them.  And the reaction was  amazing.  I think, judging from the level of communication we achieved, that this is something that's definitely worth developing for the future, so once again, thanks to the marvellous Arts Council for the funding that's allowed me the opportunity to make these discoveries.

Next up, an audition with Nottingham based multi-disciplinary Arts company Polymathematics.  They have been commissioned to create 2 six foot explorer robot puppets who will be visiting Festivals in Kent and East Sussex this summer, called Puppit + Digit, and were on the look out for puppeteers.  Pleased to say I got the job, and this is us in rehearsals:


Puppit + Digit will have their first official outing on 16th and 17th June at the Fuse Medway Festival.  You can check out the links below for more info:

Sadly, this job has meant that I won't be a proper part of the End of Year show at Circomedia, which is called 'Winner Takes It All'.  However, there's a chance that I'll be making a guest appearance on the 2nd and 3rd night(!), and in the meantime am getting stuck into duties as Assistant Director, which is turning out to be a really good learning opportunity.

Finally, Double D Theatre have been back out on the prowl!  We've been developing a  walkabout act which we performed on the streets of Bath last Friday evening, and went down a treat!  This features five Brides-to-be, who gradually realise that they are waiting on the steps of the Abbey for the same man - who is hiding in and amongst the general public.  As the tale unfolds the Brides chase their Groom, argue between themselves, find comfort in members of the public, finally find their Groom in MacDonalds and end up brawling in the street, before one of the Brides (who happens to be 8 and a half months pregnant) goes into labour, and is carried away by the others, leaving the Groom all alone.  It was so much fun to perform, and Mary and I also had the opportunity to re-create our original Double D act in Parade Gardens.  Look out for more Double D news coming over the summer.


Monday, 14 May 2012

The Double D's

On Friday our entire year group headed to Bath to perform the circle shows that we’ve been rehearsing over the last week.  This was a culmination of five weeks worth of Street Theatre classes, taught by the wonderful Matt Pang, street performer extraordinaire.

We had been allowed to create any show we liked, either as a solo, duo or trio, with the emphasis on the creation of a busking show, as opposed to a street show you might see at a Festival, which kind of has different criteria.

My friend Mary and I took the opportunity to work together, and quickly decided that we wanted to speak about what it means to us to be female street performers (on a research trip to Bath I’d established that most of the current performers there are men of a certain age, doing quite traditional unicycling/juggling acts), and so ‘Dangerous and Delicious’ were born.  The premise of the show is that both Mary and I are looking for love, and hoping to snare a boyfriend through the use of male volunteers in our tricks.

And the first show was SO much fun.  Mary and I have loved working together in general – we have a similar sense of humour and through the act we try to win the audience over with comedy as much as skill, so devising has been a pleasure from start to finish, though my sides do hurt from laughing too much.  At the end of the show we close with the lines “We’re on twitter, so you can tweet us; and we’re also on Facebook, so feel free to poke us”, which worked a treat as we were then asked what the addresses were.  So what began as an school project and a great time has become slightly more official – The Double D’s (the name is ironic, in case you’ve never met us) are going out into the real world of street performing in July and August, hoping to charm the Nation and spread a little love.  Follow us and like us to keep up-to-date with where we’ll be appearing next:

Twitter:  DoubleDTheatre
Facebook:  doubledtheatre

Monday, 30 April 2012

I'm feeling terrified

Coming to Circomedia was the scariest thing I have ever done.  Though that statement may sound a little extreme, it's entirely true.  I was terrified of putting myself in a new situation with people I wasn't sure if I'd like, spending thousands of pounds of my own and the Arts Council's money on a course that I couldn't be certain would help me, and most of all, scared of failing.

And now it's happening all over again, but in reverse.  My year at Circomedia has been so amazing that I'm now dreading leaving the safety of this wonderful place and taking my first steps into back into the big bad world of employment, contracts, applications and constant judgement.  Even Bristol, which I used to feel was saturated with Circus-Theatre makers, has become my safety blanket because at least there is a demanding audience here, a network of contemporary practitioners, and pretty much any class/workshop/training session you could wish to take part in.  All of this needs to be established in the East Midlands, and it's a big thought to realise that if I want to take advantage of such an environment in the future, I'm going to have to make it in the present.

It's only worth doing if it scares you.
It's only worth doing if it scares you.
It's only worth doing if it scares you.
Repeat until breathing starts to return to normal...

Saturday, 21 April 2012

So here are some things I'm thinking...

On Thursday we had a warm up with one of our male aerial teachers, and as I knelt on the floor beating my chest with my fists and flinging my own arm over my shoulder to hit myself on the back in something that looks (and feels) like self-flagellation, I started wondering, what is it about circus that's just so male?

I think most would agree that the traditional vision of a female within the circus is of a beautiful sequinned lady being thrown into the air by a burly man, or looking weightless and ethereal on a trapeze.  Both of these women are clearly having a great time.  But why are we lying to the world?  The reality is that women in circus are covered in bruises and burns and smiling through gritted teeth, because these disciplines hurt.  We train like we're in the army, and pride ourselves on how many chin-ups we can do, yet we're only confirming our gender difference by allowing men to set the rules.  Even in contemporary circus women are physically working their knee high socks off to take over the male role of the base (myself included), yet this only furthers the idea that we define ourselves within the boundaries set out by our male counterparts.  What are we doing in circus to speak of what it means to really be female - to be naturally curvy and soft, to be mothers and sisters, to run households and businesses and yet be subjected to the male gaze in everything we do?

And in case you're wondering, no, I don't have any answers.  I just thought it was important to ask the questions.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

A Catch Up

So I thought it was about time I posted some extra videos that I hadn't got round to yet.  The first is our clowning presentation which took place at the end of last term.  Our clowning intensive week was very rushed and so we're doing more this term, which I'm really happy about.  I don't think this is the best clowning in the world, and don't feel that I've found my clown yet, but it's an interesting first attempt.

And the next is a presentation of an improvisation we'd been working on when we were studying half masks.  I really love the way these masks lead you towards a character you'd never have come up with on your own, and the physicality that's inherent within this.  Again, it's just a first attempt, but it was fun.

So for now it's back to portfolio practice - I'm trying to put together a series of audition style pieces to showcase what I feel I've learnt at Circomedia.  So far there's a physical theatre piece about a job interview, and a dance/acro/hat manipulation piece which is entirely non-verbal, and will hopefully lead into another idea I've had for a one woman show.  Exciting times are ahead...