North Wall Summer Residency: Fragment (Week One)

Each year, The North Wall Summer Residency unites emerging actors, designers, writers and technicians aged 18 – 25 with a professional theatre company to form a brand new ensemble with the aim of exploring ideas and developing new work.

This summer, the project is led  by Iron Shoes and Dom Coyote Productions, who present Fragment, a blend of songs & stories meditating on love, loss and heartache.

The project began on Monday 21st July with all of the participants meeting each other for the first time and moving into one of the St Edward’s School boarding houses together. Since then, they have been hard at work in the drama studio. At the end of their first week, we asked one of the actors, Zoe Zak, to give us a round up of what’s been going on…

Zoe Zak & Phillipa Hogg

Zoe Zak & Phillipa Hogg

“A week into the R&D with Iron Shoes and I can honestly say I have treasured every moment of it. The group works wonderfully together, with a strong focus running through each session. The combination of story, music and movement have already begun to form what I am certain will be a magical, visceral and moving piece of theatre.

The intertwining stories are anchored in emotional, human and scientific truths and are told through beautifully honest, subtle and grounded writing – an absolute dream for an actor. The music, all of which is original, varies from unusual, intricate harmonies and complex rhythms to catchy upbeat summer tunes. And with a room full of talented singers, the sweet sounds that wash over us on a daily basis are a pure joy!

Kayode Ewumi & Grace Saif

Kayode Ewumi & Grace Saif

“The final element, which I have particularly relished, is movement. We’ve spent a lot of the week focusing on the basics; breathing, and leading from the core in order to encourage a natural flow of movement. There is a large emphasis on the ensemble learning to truly listen to each other, which, when achieved, has allowed for moments of truth and honesty that are a treat to experience, both as a performer and a spectator.

Every day I have come out of the sessions feeling grounded, inspired, focused and challenged, having learnt a huge amount from both the professionals in the room and my fellow performers.”

Piotr Sedkowski

Piotr Sedkowski

We’ll be keeping the blog updated with more information about the production as it progresses, so watch this space! This year for the first time ever, the show will be open to the general public. You can watch Fragment at The North Wall on Friday 8 & Saturday 9 August at 7pm. Book tickets online here.

Tickets for Autumn 2014 now available

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Sound the trumpets! We are proud to present our brand new autumn season, which is on sale now. Anarchic cabaret trio The Tiger Lillies will be kicking things off with a macabre performance that is certainly not for the faint-hearted, conjuring up the magic of 1930s Berlin and echoing the voices of Jacques Brel and Bertolt Brecht.

Several shows coming up this season make their debuts at Edinburgh this August – fresh from the Fringe will be Mark Thomas’ new show Cuckooed, the true story of the time he was spied on by Britain’s biggest arms manufacturer. ATC’s Blind Hamlet will turn Shakespeare’s classic on its head and transforms the tragedy into an interactive theatrical battle which sees volunteers take to the stage.

We’re also proud to present our second in-house production: Fast Track started its life during a summer residency here in 2012 and is by Catriona Kerridge, an emerging writer from Oxford. Cat was then selected to join the HighTide Escalator Plays programme in 2013,  so we are delighted to able to take this play to the next step.

There’s a huge variety of music on offer, from thought-provoking folk by 2014 Spiral Earth Songwriter of the Year Chris Wood to a tribute to electronic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire: Manchester-based  collective Delia Darlings honour the fascinating work and archive of the composer of the original 1963 theme for Dr Who.

Families with young children are invited to don their deerstalkers and join Detective K to unravel a mystery in Me & My Cat.The wonderful Peut-Etre Theatre will be returning with a brand new show, Dare To Sea, which fuses circus and dance to create a magical underwater world which will delight adults and children alike.

Head to our website for a closer look at the months ahead. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Roll up, roll up! Volunteer with the circus!

This July, the North Wall is seeking local fit and able volunteers (aged 16 – 60) to help set up a big white Circus tent and event in Avenue Field, (opposite the Arts Centre near the Virgin Active Sports Centre off Woodstock Road).

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We are playing host to Nicole & Martin from 7th – 13th July this year – a beautiful fairy-tale circus storytelling outfit, all the way from Switzerland. They are performing 3 different shows for us: The Bremen Town Musicians, Hansel and Gretel and The Fisherman and His Wife from Thurs 10th – Sat 12th July: check out http://www.thenorthwall.com/moreinfo.php?ref=Bremen-Musicians for more information.

The company need 8 strong volunteers to help put up the tents and set up all the equipment on:

Tuesday 8th July 2014 from 8am – 4pm

They also need 10 volunteers to help take everything down again on:

Sunday 13th July 2014 from 9am – 1pm

Lunch will be provided by St Edward’s School, snacks by the company and plenty of good cheer by all! You will be fully supervised by both company members and the North Wall’s own technical staff team, and no previous experience is required – just a generally good level of physical fitness.

You will also receive a free ticket to one of the shows – suitable for everyone aged 6 – 106.

If you think this sounds like a fun way to spend a day or two, (and we’re reliably assured that it is!), then please send your details through to Sherrell Perkin, General Manager of the North Wall, on perkins@thenorthwall.com, tel. 01865 319457

 

The origins of INCOGNITO, by writer NICK PAYNE

This article originally appeared of Live Theatre Newcastle’s blog.

“A couple of years ago, I read a bizarre story about Albert Einstein’s brain: the pathologist who carried out the autopsy on Einstein (following his death in 1955), a man named Thomas Harvey, apparently stole the famous physicist’s brain.  And his eyes.  Convinced the story was most likely untrue, I decided to do a bit of digging around, a bit of research, to see if I could unearth any more information.  It turned out the story was true.  Not only that, but it turned out there were still pieces of Einstein’s brain all over the world (the whereabouts of his eyes, however, remain unknown!).  Harvey claimed he took the brain because ‘to me it was obvious that the brain of this man should be studied.  Here was the brain of a genius’.

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Harvey dissected Einstein’s brain into over 200 pieces and, across the course of his entire life, would endeavour to unlock the secret of Einstein’s genius by studying the great man’s brain.  But Harvey’s life-long obsession with Einstein’s brain would take its toll on both his professional and private lives.  Up until the day he died, and with three failed marriages behind him, Harvey would remain quietly convinced that the source of Einstein’s brilliance lay in understanding the make-up of his brain.  But, despite one or two minor findings, Harvey by-and-large struggled to demonstrate a concrete relationship between Einstein’s brilliance and the shape (and size, and construction, and so on) of his brain.

I read a few accounts of Harvey’s research and they were pretty damning about his methods and, more generally, his demeanour.  But knowing little-to-nothing about how our brains work, I wasn’t ready just yet to dismiss Harvey as a weirdo or an odd-ball (as some have).  I started reading a bunch of books about our brains.  Very quickly, I came across another story that I couldn’t quite believe…

In 1953, a young American man named Henry underwent an experimental surgical procedure (the removal of a small piece of his brain) in a bid to alleviate the epileptic seizures that Henry had suffered since he was a boy.  Although the operation was to some extent a success, it had one cataclysmic, unforeseen side-effect: Henry was left unable to form new memories; the operation had robbed Henry of his short-term memory.  Henry spent the rest of his life living permanently in the present tense.  He had a past, but no future.

Professor of behavioural neuroscience Suzanne Corkin spent over forty years working with and studying Henry.  Corkin documents her time with Henry in her brilliant book ‘Permanent Present Tense’.  Toward the end of the book, and with Henry’s health on the wane, Corkin says, ‘as Henry began to decline, I focussed on ensuring that we would be able to study his brain after he died’.  After his death in 2008, Corkin and her team removed Henry’s brain and dissected it into over two thousand pieces.  Henry’s brain is still being studied to this very day… When I read this, I couldn’t help but think of Harvey and his crusade to understand Einstein’s brain.  Perhaps Harvey had been on to something after all?  Perhaps he was simply ahead of time?  Perhaps one of the best ways to understand why we behave the way we behave is indeed to study our brains…?

Despite being based on various true stories, Incognito is definitely a work of fiction.  It is a play about the role our brains play in shaping who we are and how we behave.  But it is also a play about the importance of memory and the grief of losing a loved one to memory loss.  It is a play about how our brains fool us and, perhaps worse, how we fool ourselves into thinking we are on the right track, when in fact we’ve been careering off course for quite some time.”

Nick Payne
Writer, Incognito

Nick Payne  won the 2012 Evening Standard Award for Best Play for Constellations (Royal Court/West End) and was recently nominated for an Olivier Award for his hit play The Same Deep Water As Me (Donmar Warehouse).

Incognito will be performed at The North Wall from Tuesday 6 – Saturday 10 May. Book tickets here.

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.