Awake Projects are Back: a View from the Rehearsal Room

Our friends from Awake Projects returned last week for an exhilarating week of rehearsals for their second co-production with The North Wall. The European ensemble were back to begin work on their new show Song of Riots, which will be performed here in the autumn.

Leeds University Theatre and Performance student Emily Marshall shares her reflections from the rehearsal room:

“It’s still the early stages of the devising process so anything could be created by the time Awake Projects returns to the theatre. The ensemble’s exploration focused mainly on physically enhancing the narrative of Iron John, a fairy-tale that follows the life and struggles that a young boy faces in his transition to manhood. The group then began to explore the works of poet, painter, and engraver William Blake in relation to the fairy-tale – it was great to watch them take on the challenge of fusing these two contrasting styles of work. If you thought this was not enough, the performers also weaved in the thought-provoking themes and stories of the 2011 Riots and the initiation rites of men in contemporary society. This all resulted in a captivating and intense week of rehearsals.”

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“The six performers captured my imagination as I watched their first warm-up transform into a physical representation of the fairy tale of Iron John. Beautiful images of the characters and their relationships began to emerge from their simple movements. These artists push their bodies to extremes as they perfect their art form: the fusion of dance, theatre and song, with a great focus on naturally blending text and the physical movements of the body.  It was a mesmerising and unique experience to watch these professionals at work as they explored innovative and pioneering forms of movement, storytelling and theatre.  I am extremely excited to see how this production evolves into its final performance.”

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Free tickets to HighTide Festival for Under 25s

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HighTide Festival – a new-writing festival based in Suffolk which champions emerging playwrights – is offering people under the age of 25 who live in either Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex or Oxfordshire, the chance to come to the festival at absolutely no cost.

As part of their commitment to providing great theatre and opportunities for young people, HighTide is able to offer 400 tickets to people under the age of 25 who live in the East of England – thanks to kind support from the Garfield Weston Foundation. Each ticket has a value of £10 and permits the holder access into any HighTide Festival 2014 shows – subject to availability – at absolutely no cost.

Up to four tickets per household are available – just take a form of identification(s) showing your address and age to the festival box office when collecting your tickets. This year, HighTide Festival takes place from 10th – 19th April – slap bang in the middle of the Easter holidays – so why not grab your friends and go on a road trip?

If you would like to know more about these Garfield Weston Tickets for HighTide Festival 2014, please email Freddie (freddie@hightide.org.uk) or call HighTide on 0207 566 9765.

If you can’t make the journey down to Suffolk, you can catch one of HighTide’s shows here in May: Incognito by Nick Payne will be performed from 6th – 10th May. Don’t miss this brand new work from one of Britain’s brightest young playwrights!

Interview with NIR PALDI, Director and performer, Ballad of the Burning Star

Theatre Ad Infinitum’s new work Ballad of the Burning Star was a huge success at EdFringe 2013.  Now the company is taking Ballad on its first UK tour, performing at The North Wall on Thursday 13th and Friday 14th February. Co-Artistic Director, Israeli-born Nir Paldi, is writer, director and co-performer of the company’s first politically themed, acerbically funny piece of work.

Armed with music, killer heels and a lethal troop of divas, an enraged Israeli executes a story of victimhood, persecution, aggression and love. With shrapnel-sharp voices and moves as smooth as an oiled tank chain, this cabaret troop invites you on a journey into the core of a conflicted Jewish State.

Ballad of the Burning Star

Q1: Can you tell us a bit about your motivation for writing/creating Ballad of the Burning Star?

Nir: I wanted to explore the identity crisis facing my homeland, Israel. As Jewish Israelis, we’re brought up on the belief that we are always persecuted, that all non-Jews are against us and that a second holocaust is about to erupt at any moment. In Israel, the victim identity is present everywhere you turn, but what is rarely talked about is the fact that Israel has become an occupier – that we are also the persecutors. This leaves Israelis feeling a deep-rooted discord between being the victim, historically, and being the persecutor, in a modern day reality. I wanted to share this complex human situation with the audience. I find the everlasting cycle of victim-persecutor fascinating, tragic, and so very human.

Q2: So this comes very much from your background – is it autobiographical in fact?

Nir: No, strictly speaking it’s not.  It’s semi-autobiographical. Some of the stories are based on things that happened to me, some of them are true stories that happened to other people, but with a slight dramatisation – a push to the extreme. Other stories are historical events that I’ve incorporated into the character’s life.

Q3: It seems very different from the work that Theatre Ad Infinitum has created before.  Would you say this is true and if so in what way?

Nir:  It is true. We’re experimenting with styles that are new to us: cabaret, drag, chorus, it’s our first mid-to-large scale production, and our most ambitious project to date. Ballad is also dealing with dark and political themes we’ve not touched upon before. It feels like it’s the right direction for us to take at this stage, and a very exciting risk. As a company we try constantly to surprise our audiences with every new production. Each one of our productions has its own unique style chosen to best suit the theme. I think that our choice of themes is getting darker and more complex as we produce more work and as we mature as artists. We feel ready now to tackle a theme that is more contentious and might provoke strong reactions.

Q4: What excites you most about this production as a piece of theatre?

 Nir: What excites me the most about Ballad is that we’ve found a theatrical language which will let the audience experience the violence, the dark humour, the unpredictability, the love of a family, loss, laughter, and pain/heartache – things that are everyday norms in the Middle East. We have created a style that, we hope, is sophisticated enough to accommodate the complexity of the situation it’s trying to deal with. The play creates a multilayered style, with three narratives being told in parallel and things are never what they seem.  I was looking for a theatrical language that would reflect the aesthetics of the human story, the history and also the story of the people trying to make a piece of theatre about it. With Ballad we have tried to create what feels like a ‘big show’. I hope that we have found something that is strong as a storytelling device but also has built-in visual metaphors exploring the ‘big show’ that governments put on in order to fuel the hate and guarantee that war never ends.

Q5: You’re using audiences at various stages throughout the devising process.  Is this something you’ve done before and how important do you think it is?

Nir: In each of our productions audiences have been a big part of the creation. I find it’s always important to make sure you’re communicating whatever it is you want to communicate in the clearest, most exciting way. This time, when dealing with such a sensitive subject, we wanted to make sure that we were being responsible and clear with every moment on stage. We wanted to check what comes across from the piece before we finalized anything. Work-in-progress showings are a great help with this.

Q6: What audience reaction are you hoping the production will get from the tour?

Nir: The reaction from the Edinburgh audience was mind-blowing. It provoked discussion and debate, just as we’d hoped.  For the tour – well, I want people to leave the theatre feeling thrilled, captivated and excited by the theatrical experience they went through, but also disturbed by what the piece is dealing with, by the reality I grew up with and one that still persists today. I’m hoping that somewhere within the darkness of this piece, people will be able to find some hope as well.

 

Christmas Opening Hours 2013

The bank holidays over the Christmas period mean that we’re adjusting our opening hours ever so slightly…we’re now open on Sunday, but some days we’ll be open a little later. Box Office returns to normal service on Thursday 3rd January:

22/12/2013 12pm – 8.30pm

23/12/2013 12pm – 8.30pm

24/12/2013 9am – 4pm

25/12/2013 CLOSED

26/12/2013 12pm – 10pm

27/12/2013 12pm – 10pm

28/12/2013 12pm – 10pm

29/12/2013 12pm – 8.30pm

30/12/2013 10am – 10pm

31/12/2013 10am – 4pm

01/01/2014 CLOSED

02/01/2014 10am – 10pm

Happy Christmas from all at The North Wall!

 

 

Our new season in now on sale!

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Our Spring/Summer season is now available to book online! Whether you’re looking for comedy, contemporary dance or kids’ theatre, there’s plenty to choose from. Here are just some of the highlights coming up over the next few months…

  • We’ve seen improvised musicals and Shakespeare before…but an improvised Jane Austen novel?! Austentatious is undoubtedly one of the most talked-about shows on the comedy scene at the moment – and based entirely on audience suggestions. An immersive treat for fans of Austen and improv alike!
  • The brilliant OperaUpClose are back with a brand new show just a few months after wowing us with their take on Donizetti’s L’Elisir D’Amore. This time they’ll tackle La Traviata – transposing the action of Verdi’s classic opera to 1920s Atlantic City with a new English translation.
  • FEAST will be a first for The North Wall – a new mini-festival of theatre taking place in February. We’ve brought the best of the Edinburgh Fringe together for a fortnight (and a bit!) of risk-taking, thought-provoking, soul-stirring theatre. See all four shows for the price of three – or choose a favourite from Blink, Ballad of the Burning Star, Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model or Kate Tempest’s Brand New Ancients.
  • Jazz fans will welcome the news of the return of Kairos 4tet and Armenian pianist Tigran. Plus, harmonica virtuoso Will Pound and his band will join us an evening of foot-stomping music ranging from folk to bluegrass and funk.

What are you most looking forward to in the new season?

OPPORTUNITY: Ruskin Platforms 2014

Here’s a great opportunity for Oxford-based actors to get involved with a series of public play readings directed by John Retallack, Tutor in Writing for Performance at Ruskin College on the following Wednesdays in 2014.

January 22nd  The Skin Game by John Galsworthy (1920)
February 5th  The Visit by Friedrich Durenmatt (1956)
February 26th Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Dario Fo (1970)
March 12th Top Girls by Caryl Churchill (1982)
May 7th Road by Jim Cartwright (1986)
May 21st Shopping & Fucking by Mark Ravenhill (1996)
June 11th Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth (2009)
June 25th Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris (2010)

John is looking to build up a list of outstanding performers of all ages who love reading great plays aloud to an audience.

On the afternoon or evening before the reading John will spend one three-hour session working with the ensemble to create an elementary staging for the text. Much emphasis will be on alertness and openness in the course of the performance itself and how a reading can become a live public event.

If this interests you, please write to John at jretallack@ruskin.ac.uk with a brief account of your acting experience. John will invite you for a 20 minute audition at Ruskin College in the course of the next few weeks and then add your name to the list of those available to read the plays listed above in the coming months. There is no fee and no charge for taking part in a Ruskin Reading.

John has been a director and writer since founding ATC in the late 70’s.He went on to be Artistic Director of OXFORD STAGE COMPANY at the Oxford Playhouse (1989 – 1999) and then founded and ran COMPANY OF ANGELS in London from 2000 – 2010. From 2010, until returning to Oxford last month, he was Associate Director at BRISTOL OLD VIC where he remains as Associate Artist.

Magical Masks for Christmas Light Night

Oxford’s ever-spectacular Christmas Light Night takes place this Friday, and we’ll be taking part in the Lantern Parade alongside Creation Theatre and hundreds of local school children. This year’s parade celebrates the life of C.S.Lewis, and a couple of weeks ago, North Wall Explorers and members of Creation Theatre’s drama clubs spent a day making shadow puppets and masks  with Manju Gregory from Kabutar Arts.

Look out for our “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” themed shadow screen in the parade…we’ll be the ones dressed up as characters from the book! If you want to have a go at making your own mask, all you need is some paper plates and one of the templates below…

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Beaver

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3 Quick Questions: Alex Byrne, director of North North North

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We are delighted to welcome back NIE following their previous appearances with Past Half Remembered and Tales from a Sea Journey. The award-winning international theatre company are crash landing in Oxford next week with their world premiere of their latest show, North North North, which retells the true story of the first attempt to reach the North Pole by hot air balloon. We spoke to the show’s director Alex Byrne about what we can expect about their latest production…

What inspired you to make the show?
“In 2011, I travelled to Svalbard to do some research and development on a show about the North Pole. When I visited the museum in Longyearbyen I saw some of the relics from the Andree expedition and became fascinated by the story. I have been working on this show ever since then. I think it’s a story full of the hope and daring do of the late 19th century. It’s also a story of friendship and suffering.”

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Why is the use of projection an important part of the piece?
“There are really amazing pictures that survived from the expedition. They show beautiful details of the technical wonders of the balloon and they also show the three adventurers struggling on the ice. Like the story itself these pictures were lost in the ice for 30 years and pieced together many years later.”

What are the key elements that make up an NIE show?
“Fun, comedy, live music, a direct relation to the audience and a great story.”

Fancy an adventure to the Great White North? Watch the trailer for a sneak peek!

 

 

Five Stars for The Events at the Edinburgh Fringe

David Greig’s new play The Events is the undisputed hit of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, garnering 4- and 5-star reviews across the board. The production also won several awards over the course of the festival, including a Fringe First and the prestigious Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award.

We are proud to announce that this must-see show will be performed at The North Wall for three nights only in September before setting off on a national tour this autumn.

ATC / The Events, 2013

“The finest, most important thing Greig has written.”  ★★★★★ The Telegraph

“This is a mighty play…[Neve] McIntosh and Rudi Dharmalingam give beautifully judged performances.” ★★★★ The Guardian

“There are flashes of warmth and wit here and thanks to the superb choir, the play builds to a rare emotional pitch.★★★★ The Independent

ATC / The Events, 2013

Directed by ATC’s Ramin Gray, this bold new work explores the impact of a horrific politically motivated crime on a small community, and features local choirs and a soaring soundtrack by Irish composer John Browne. Book tickets here or call the box office on 01865 319450.

 

Awake Projects in Edinburgh

Happen to be at the Edinburgh Fringe over the next few weeks? Our great friends Awake Projects are performing not one but two shows at C Venues from 14th August.

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Awake Projects are a European ensemble who create vibrant, high-energy theatre, fused with dance, aerial work & live music. They will present Awake, a new play by Edward Kemp, alongside Awake Love Orchestra, which focuses purely on the musical side of their work – featuring everything from traditional Scandinavian folk to unexpectedly bluesy renditions of contemporary hip hop. We were lucky enough to see both performances at The North Wall in 2011, and urge you to try to catch them whilst they’re in the UK – you won’t see anything else like it!

Watch the Awake trailer here:

Awake will be performed at C Venues-C from 16th-26th August at 12.45pm.
Awake Love Orchestra will be performed at C Venues-C from 16th-26th August at 3.30pm.