Fast Track: Meet the Cast (part one)

The second in a series of interviews with the cast and creative team of Fast Track.

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Emma Dennis-Edwards plays Elaina:

“I originally read Elaina during the rehearsed reading when I was on the North Wall outreach programme in 2012 and have loved the character ever since.

The main challenges of playing Elaina is getting to grips with the darker side of the character. I personally love Elaina but I would be interested to see how the audience will react to her – she’s not exactly your nice girl next door. Getting to grips with Elaina’s ‘interesting’ taste in leggings has also been a bit of a challenge but I think I’m slowly getting used to her style!

I would say that Elaina is one of the more complex characters I’ve played; there are so many layers to explore with her, which makes her very interesting to play. She has a very dark side, which comes out during the course of the play, but she is very vulnerable and desperately needs people, in particular her best friend Lucia. Working at the North Wall and having the time and space to really get to grips with the character has been a refreshing experience and I cannot wait to get Fast Track in front of a live audience.”

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Archie Rush plays Sax:

“Sax is a fourteen year old boy obsessed with money. The idea of making, finding or even stealing money all falls under the same bracket in his mind; as long as he gets his hands on it, he does not mind where it has come from. Money gives him an obvious thrill that even he is sometimes not in control of. He is a character with a dream, but no plan of how to achieve that dream.

The biggest challenge of playing this role is having to maintain the air of confidence he believes he has, and couple it with an awkward persona. Despite struggling with this early on, as the rehearsal process continued I discovered that it is perhaps this odd persona, due to a genuine lack of people skills, mixed with the constant air of confidence he believes he has that makes him most interesting. There is always something ticking away in his mind, usually the thought of money, but often something even he can’t quite put his finger on.”

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Ailsa Joy plays Anna:

“It’s tricky, when you first leave drama school, to navigate professional work. What advice do you hang onto and what do you leave behind? I only graduated from RADA two years ago but already I feel like a different actor.  Fast Track has taught me that the most important part of any rehearsal is to communicate with the people around you. Then, it seems, everything else falls into place.

It took a while to fall in love with Anna but I absolutely have! She’s a character running and running to escape a stagnant life. Anna is lot more prickly and neurotic than me. She has some really hard edges. It’s so interesting to find the mind-set of someone who doesn’t laugh easily— particularly when I’m working with Matt (who plays Josh) and he makes me collapse in fits of giggles. He’s told some truly outrageous jokes during our time on that bench; no one can make me laugh as much. He’s a soulmate. Watching Matt discover Josh was fascinating and moving. It’s moulded Anna too. She’s become a little more inquisitive and a whole lot weirder since rehearsals began.

There’s a brilliant dynamic in the cast. Chris is an incredibly talented actor who can tap into a powerful physicality. Emma’s absolutely inspirational, full of wisdom and wit. It’s wonderful to see how natural Fumilayo and Archie are onstage; they’re both so genuine and delicate in what they do. And we’re all mad— which is good fun.

A lovely audience comment we heard was: “I didn’t want the characters to end.” I’m overwhelmingly grateful to Cat for letting me play Anna, especially when other actresses have done so at readings and workshops. Cat gave me a whole person to meet, make small talk with and finally become besotted by.”

Fast Track: Meet the Writer, Catriona Kerridge

The first in a series of interviews with the cast and creative team of Fast Track.

Catriona Kerridge is the author of the North Wall’s second home-grown production, Fast Track. She wrote the first draft of the play when taking part in our Summer Residency in 2012, and we’ve spent the last two years working with her to transform the play from page to stage. We asked her about her inspiration and her life as a writer.

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Catriona in the rehearsal room

What was your inspiration behind the Fast Track?

Park, money, British-ness, music and shopping trolleys.

What could be more British than a park?  I have always lived near one – they come in different shapes and sizes, some have fences and some have ponds and football pitches. I find them fascinating places – not just the park but also the people that are in them.

There are numerous characters and personalities hanging out, sitting silently or exercising in a park – which made for a great starting point and backdrop for the characters.  I saw a jogger with her headphones on listening to her own soundtrack passing me by – completely immersed in her own world. And that was where the play really started. I knew I wanted a park and a jogger.

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Anna (Ailsa Joy)

I was excited by the amount of people that come and go in a park a public place filled with silent thoughts. We go to a park to relax, to run, to think away from all the shops, the bills and work. And as I was writing the dialogue I realised that what linked all these characters is money, coming to terms with it and handling it.

Along the way Lucy [the director] introduced me to the Japanese Artist Lio Bolin. And I became fascinated by the idea of invisibility. Another big inspiration was an old nonsense rhyme taught to me by my Grandad: As I was walking down the stairs I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today “oh I do wish he would go away” It is nonsense but a bit of a truth resonates within it as people run past you, maybe even catch your eye and then they are gone, they become strangers, invisible people.

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Josh (Matthew Milner) – an invisible man

Tell us about the writing process – from first to final draft:

When I write I start with an image – so I started with the image of someone jogging, running in the park wearing headphones. She’s listening to music so I put on some music. What’s her taste? What kind of jogging gear is she wearing? I let this seep in to my subconscious. I make notes, I doodle, I find images, my sketch book starts filling up. Anna’s song was ‘Sun’ by the Naked and the Famous. When I heard it I felt like it belonged to her. I then started writing dialogue, introducing new characters. I gave each character their own music and would write with the song playing in the background.

I started writing the first draft during the North Wall Outreach in 2012, which focused on the how young people were impacted by the recession, so inevitably I found extra information and inspiration in the work that was going on in their rehearsal room. A big question they kept asking was: How do we keep our money safe when the banks can’t?

I was lucky to be working alongside the outreach project which meant I could sit in the rehearsal room or in the office next door, I could hear all the outreach performers exploring ideas, singing, moving, stamping, talking which directly fed in to my writing, and without realising it you start writing to the same rhythm.

Scene by scene as I’m writing I introduce images, I keep asking what if? What if the character decides to stay? In the first draft I let them do what they want. It’s complete chaos. But letting the dialogue take control means that there is a pace & a rhythm to each character.

At the end of the day I usually read it aloud, but I was lucky enough during this process to hear scenes being read by a series of talented actors at the North Wall and HighTide Theatre. Hearing it with different voices is essential it gives you the opportunity to listen out to what works and doesn’t work. Do the characters sound real? This was a great way to edit, to change things and expose the holes in the story.

For Fast Track I received mentoring from Tom Wainwright, Inua Ellams and Lucy Maycock and kept receiving images from Alex Berry [the designer]. Having people whose feedback and ideas you value is essential and talking about the work gave me a chance to re-connect and focus on what it is that feels so important about this play. I am always open to feedback, having received feedback along the way from Steve at HighTide and audience members at readings meant I could really hone in to what is exciting about the play.

It has been the longest process writing wise that I have ever done. A good few years from page to stage but it is a big play with big characters. I always carry a notebook and am ready to question everything as without questions the world would be too perfect to write about.

What other projects are you working on at the moment?

What are you interested in working on in the future?

At the moment I have a couple of projects stewing and new collaborations forming. Images that I have started collecting are of beekeeping, space travel, Pippi Longstocking and a female surrealist – let’s see what that brings. I have a new project in mind for Bad Host – but shh I haven’t told them yet. And am planning to bring ‘They call me Nina’ by In Transit Theatre from Lima, Peru to the UK.

North Wall Summer Residency: Fragment (Week Three)

This year’s summer residency culminated in a knock-out performance by the ensemble, who have worked tirelessly over the last three weeks with the artists-in-residence. We were very proud of everything they had achieved in such a short space of time, and can’t wait to see the second part of Fragment, which Iron Shoes hope to have developed by 2016.

Here’s a few words from Florence Brady who takes us through the highs and lows of the third week of the project:

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Florence Brady

“This is my testimony. These are my words…”

It is sad to acknowledge that I’m writing about my time at the North Wall in retrospect. Speaking on behalf of all the young performers on the outreach programme, we have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the artists we have been working with, and that of the North Wall and St. Edmund’s School. It has been an incredible environment in which to spend the better part of a month.

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Our final week began after a weekend wracked with line-runs, during which brief hiatus the space was transformed into the world of ‘Fragment’. Projections and pools of light punctured a web of white lines running across the stage. The audience were to watch us from the balcony. From that moment, there was a marked shift in the focus of our work, as we moved from pure experimentation into performance mode. Under the direction of Ria and Oliviero, John’s text was layered with Dom’s music – as a company we learned how to manipulate the space and the set, how to breathe life into the story that we were telling. We realised more and more what an absolute privilege it was to be involved on the telling of a story for the first time. It was a very humbling thought.

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Philippa Hogg & Lewis Doherty

 After countless transition drills, script edits and movement sessions, it was time for the performances. I can only hope we did justice to the phenomenal creative vision of the project leaders. In my opinion, the work we made was beautiful, and a testament to the success that is the outreach programme.

I am truly grateful.

 

North Wall Summer Residency: Fragment (Week Two)

It’s the end of week two of our summer residency and things are starting to take shape. The ensemble have moved from the studio to the auditorium, the design team have started building the set and the actors are busy learning their lines. Performer Grace Saif takes us through her journey over the last week:

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Grace Saif

“The importance of ‘pushing through’ has been become a real motif rolling on into week two of the project ‘Fragment’ with Iron Shoes. The mentors on this course strike the perfect balance of feeding ideas into the group, whilst allowing us to bring our own into the space, which has led to some of the most beautiful, imaginative and mischievous work that has been an absolute delight to witness.

Listening has been a major focus for the company, bleeding into all of our sessions, whether it’s music or movement. This week especially, the finding the ‘sweet spot’ between listening to your own body and every single one of your partners in the room has led to some deliciously electric moments in our movement sessions. There was a tangible shift emotionally within the company this week, which has had a surreal effect on our work; allowing us to become so in tune and fluent with one another, devising material at a much quicker pace.

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The ensemble

One of the hardest challenges I have worked through this week has been the music, which is beautifully composed and performed by members of the company as well as the MDs. I admire the amount of care and attention there has been to push us all to find our individual potential, which for me, was finding the limits of my own voice regarding the singing involved for the songs in ‘Fragment’. In these moments of pushing and extending beyond my limits, the camaraderie on this project has meant so much more, even if it just as little as comparing aches and bruises in the morning before going hard into another movement session.  It’s an open, playful environment to create work in, with the collaborative effort extending long after the class hours: there is always an opportunity to jam with extremely talented fellow musicians, or bounce written work off of budding writers, which is such a treat.

This level of energy and focus is only possible as a whole company, particularly at this stage, where the real bones of the performance are beginning to take their shape, and I have been in total awe of my fellow performers all this week.  I know that the work we will go on to share at the end of the project will carry that incredible level of energy and magic.”

Join us for a scratch performance of Fragment on Fri 8 or Sat 9 August at 7pm. Find out more by clicking here.

 

Q & A: Ashley Good, our new Photographer In Residence

Over the last few days you may have noticed some rather lovely images popping up on our Facebook and Twitter feeds. These come courtesy of the delightful Ashley Good, who will be in residence at The North Wall over the next three months, documenting our outreach project, and the upcoming Fast Track. To introduce him officially, we decided to grill him on his photography, past and present:

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Tell us your life story in 140 characters…go!

Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland. Came to photography in my late 20’s previously studied acting and filmmaking. Studied photography at City of Glasgow College, exhibited internationally. Moved south in 2013, still miss Irn Bru.

Alright, so that’s 197 characters. Dammit Jim, I’m a photographer, not a writer.

How did you first get into photography? How has your approach to a subject changed over the years?

I’d been interested in photography since my teens, however as teens are wont to do I wasted a lot of time trying to be lots of other things.

So after a stint as an actor and three years at university studying filmmaking I found myself working in an office doing The Most Boring Job In The Whole Wide World™.

During this time I still kept up with my photography, progressing from a lovely little digital point and shoot, to my first digital SLR. I was in love with making images. Some people obsess over equipment, other people get off on process. I just love making images. I practised and practised and I took my DSLR everywhere, because ultimately that’s the best thing in the world if you’re trying to improve your photography skills.

Then in 2010 I took the decision to leave my boring office job. I went back to college, at the City of Glasgow College and I completed a 2-year HND.

Since leaving college in 2012 I’ve worked for local, national and international clients, I’ve exhibited internationally and I’ve curated two exhibitions.

In the beginning I was just so darn eager to take photos that I would just hold down the shutter button and fire off hundreds of photos. Over time I’ve refined and developed my eye so my take is more considered now.

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Duel/Dual

Who (or what) are your creative influences?

I love the documentary work of Garry Winogrand, Diane Arbus, and William Eggleston. Eggleston in particular is my hero. I love his images, but I also love his laconic, acerbic personality.

Tell us about your favourite project you’ve worked on:

My final project at college was a photographic study of fencers and dancers, titled Duel/Dual.

I had shot fencers previously and I had been blown away by their speed, athleticism and grace. I wanted to incorporate them into my final project but I didn’t really know what to do with them.

At the same time my friend Lucy, an expert in dance, said that she wanted to work with me on a dance-based photography project.

I can’t remember exactly how I came up with the idea for Duel/Dual but I know that I was in a Starbucks with my wife and I was moaning about how I couldn’t think of any good ideas. And then all of a sudden it was in my mind, fully formed. I think I’d had too much coffee.

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Duel/Dual

I photographed the fencers in their white outfits against a black background, freezing their movements with high speed flash. I then took the fencing images to a group of independent dancers who semi-improvised, semi-choreographed a piece based on the fencing. I photographed them in their black training outfits against a white background.

And lo! Duel/Dual was born. A series of 20 high-impact, graphic, exciting images in crisp black and white. I’m still very proud of that work.

What do you hope to gain from your residency here at The North Wall?

I suppose there are a number of things I want to gain. I want to develop my theatre photography skills and pursue that as an on-going line of work.

I want to help The North Wall develop a substantial library of images, as well as new interior images and some lovely new staff portraits which I know for a fact they can’t wait to get done because they all love being in front of the camera so much.

And most of all I want to work with dedicated, enthusiastic, energetic and creative people from lots of different backgrounds.

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Fragment / Iron Shoes @ The North Wall

Watch this space to see more of Ashley’s work, or visit his website.

 

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…

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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!

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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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