Easter Opening Hours
Please note: our opening times vary for the Easter Bank Holiday.
Friday 3 April – Closed
Saturday 4 April – 12pm – 4pm
Sunday 5 April – Closed
Monday 6 April – Closed
We hope you have a lovely Easter break!
Please note: our opening times vary for the Easter Bank Holiday.
Friday 3 April – Closed
Saturday 4 April – 12pm – 4pm
Sunday 5 April – Closed
Monday 6 April – Closed
We hope you have a lovely Easter break!
Alex Berry recently graduated from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Design MA course. She is an alumnus of the North Wall Summer Outreach (2011) and has since designed several shows for us, including 2012′s Dead on her Feet and 2014′s Fast Track . We asked her a few questions about her design for Song Of Riots:
Q1) Where did your initial inspiration for the original design come from?
“For Song of Riots we began by thinking how to create an urban environment that could offset a fairy tale. We looked at pictures of cities during and then post-riots, and noticed that scaffolding was an important image in the restoration of cities after riots. Many types of dust were also a constant, the general debris inspired our own additions of dust, from the gold glitter of the fairy tale to the drugs used by a character. Projections were a main theme, and we spent a lot of time looking at wrestling, so the current floor and set up for the staging has a distinctly sports-arena vibe.”
Q2)How does the director’s vision of how the performance should look affect decisions, do you alter your design to work with their ideas?
“For this performance our approach was very similar. Lucy wanted a clean open space for the actors to move around as the performance is very physical, and we have conversations to work out changes. The performance is a very physical piece so the scaffolding we have as part of the set can be used to climb and or swing on, everything has a practical use. The script constantly evolves during rehearsal so you have to be very flexible and responsive to this, adapting ideas as you go along according to the director’s changes. We experimented with how to portray fairy tale with far more subtle elements so it blends with the more modern elements.”
Q3) How long have you been working on this project?
“The project has been an idea for around two years, and I have been collecting images and formulating ideas for a long time. In physical terms, only the past couple of months as the script was only recently finished and now we’re all together and can begin to properly create the set.”
Q4) How has the set design changed over time since the rehearsal process started?
“Initially, it was a three sided cube with floor projections. When rehearsal started, we realized the performance couldn’t work in that configuration. There are many layers to the play that are all entwined, so the set needs to give us the ability to layer action and to have action happen simultaneously on stage and offset both fairy tale and reality. So the staging has undergone lots of adaptions to make it more practical.”
Q5) Do you encounter situations where your ideas and the practicality of making those ideas a reality clash?
“Yes there many times when I have ideas I want to indulge in and have to rein in instead. In the beginning of Song of Riots I wanted to completely cover the staging in dust. It would be very visually engaging, but the idea was impractical and unnecessary. When designing it’s how best the set can serve the storyline when creating it that takes priority, and I design around that.”
Q6) How do you begin the process of going from an idea into formulating it into actual staging?
“Initial ideas come from the storyline and then using Pinterest for images, and creating mood boards. Then I tend to do a lot of sketches to see if my ideas work and then take the elements that I like from them. From that I then create a rough model, which becomes very helpful when talking about designs to the Director as it allows them to visually experience the sizing. It then helps when deciding if there is enough space for the actors and if we need more or less space. After creating the frame work I can begin looking at materials and working out what looks best.”
Q7) Do the cast affect how you design a set?
“It’s more of a sense of the production as a whole as to how the set is designed. These actors are capable and physical which meant the staging reflected that and can be used actively, like swinging or jumping around it. The cast definitely affects costume, their actions and how they act during the process or even in rehearsal gives me ideas as to how I can portray their character more effectively.”
Q8)Have there been any ideas you’ve had to let go of, despite how much you want to make them work?
“I was very interested in using different types of urban fencing to help layer the stories. I also looked at things like tarmac and road markings, but again practicality was important because this was a traveling performance and the set had to be streamlined down. As I progressed with the design, everything became more and more minimized so that we could perform this at as many different venues as possible and the staging wouldn’t interfere with the proportions of new stages.”
Song of Riots takes place at the North Wall from 14-18 April – Book tickets here.
This February half-term, nine young people from Oxfordshire aged 13 – 18 took part in our very first outreach project for teenagers. The group spent three days working with dancers from the acclaimed Mark Bruce Company – last seen at the North Wall with two sell-out performances of their stunning, award-winning version of Dracula.
Using Bram Stoker’s classic text as a springboard, the dancers explored new ways of fusing dance and theatre to tell a story. The project culminated in a work-in progress sharing on Friday 20th February.
“I enjoyed the workshop because it was not easy, it was challenging (that’s good!) Also I liked that everyday was a different experience on what it was like to be part of the company. I learnt how to act out a story from dancing and how your facial expression and the shape of your hands is really important. The most enjoyable aspect was the showing at the end because I love performing!” – Lily, aged 13
All Photos by Ashley R. Good
We are proud to announce our spring & summer season 2015 is now open for booking. As usual, our programme combines the best of new writing & shows direct from the Edinburgh Fringe, alongside a vibrant array of music, dance, comedy and children’s events.
Highlights include the return of North Wall favourites OperaUpClose with a new English version of The Marriage of Figaro, which has recently finished a sell-out run in London. We’re also looking forward to our latest collaboration with European ensemble Awake Projects: our co-production, Song Of Riots, is set in a world of woods and wildmen, and uses the fairytale Iron Hans and the words of William Blake to explore how boys cross the bridge from childhood to maturity. It premieres here in April before setting off on a world tour so don’t miss your chance to see this dynamic new work.
Families will be delighted to hear that Long Nose Puppets and Little Angel Theatre are coming back to the North Wall to present shows based on beloved children’s books, Flyaway Katie and The Journey Home. We’re also very excited to welcome cult optimist Josie Long for the first time with Cara Josephine, which was the overall best-reviewed comedy show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014.
This season, we’re raising our glasses to the North Wall regulars who keep this place buzzing. As a special thank you to our most loyal customers, we’re offering super savings when you book two or more selected shows before Saturday 31st January 2015.
2 shows - save £1 per ticket
3 shows – save £1.50 per ticket
4 or more shows – save £2 per ticket
Tickets must be booked in a single transaction. Valid on full price & concession tickets only for up to two tickets per show.
Shows in this offer include: Like Rabbits, The Forbidden Door, Fat Man, The Eradication of Schizophrenia, Long Live the Little Knife, Confirmation, Song of Riots, So It Goes, Every Brilliant Thing, Mess & Julia Biel.
Multi-buy tickets are only available to buy over the phone – call the box office on 01865 319450 to book.
The fourth in a series of interviews with the cast and creative team of Fast Track.
Alex Berry recently graduated from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Design MA course. She is an alumnus of the North Wall Summer Outreach (2011) and has since designed several shows for us, including 2012′s Dead on her Feet. Future projects include Song of Riots (Awake Projects / North Wall), and Ilana Turner’s O Réjane at The Bootleg Theatre, Los Angeles in November 2014. We asked her about the inspiration behind her design for Fast Track:
“Parks are funny places. They are everyone’s and no-one’s: a space without rules, almost. A park on a weekday afternoon, when most of the polite working world is off working, is a place where anything can happen.
There is a disarming ordinariness to the characters when we first meet them and we wanted to create a space which complemented this feel of the humdrum and the everyday, whilst also allowing for the possibility of the absurd and extreme. I was inspired initially by the lost quality of the characters and by our relationship to strangers in a park as faceless beings, bodies that take up space. We were drawn to the work of Melinda Gibson who creates surreal collage pieces in which a human silhouette appears to be a window into another place and time, and also collected a lot of images of people dissolving into their environment.
We wanted to recreate the park landscape and make a physical space which was exciting to move around in and gave the actors the opportunity to run, cycle and play. We knew that at the heart of this park was the playground, it is a safe place – where children come to be fearless and where teenagers gravitate back to when experimenting with all the things that growing up offers them. What we arrived at is a park which has basically been boiled down to its essential parts and then split up. It has a staged quality to it which allowed us to introduce the mechanics of the theatre without apology: wires hang loose, the steel deck is seen. The band were a big deciding factor in this too, we wanted them to feel as if they had set up for a gig, cables everywhere, festoons at the ready.
Cat’s work is very image based and she dreams up the most surprising and bizarre images which are a dream for a designer. Some of these images presented a big challenge for us and one, which we’ve been talking about since the first research and development phase in 2013, is the ‘Invisible Man’. We looked at the work of Liu Bolin, an incredible artist who is famed for painting elaborate suits which allow him to dissolve into the background. ‘A painted suit’ we thought, ‘can we really?’ It turns out we can, and we’re very excited about the invisible man and can’t wait for people to meet him!”
The third in a series of interviews with the cast and creative team of Fast Track.
Christopher Finnegan plays Tom:
“With no apparent support network, and to have broken away from the family unit to venture out to university only to be called back to become effectively a single parent has left Tom buried under an ever climbing mountain of bills, bailiff notices, and broken appliances.
Whilst his commitment to his family is commendable, the anxiety and regret of trying to be a father/brother/carer is at bursting point. Every single day is spent defending his home from the ever increasing ominous knocks at the door and the battling with his difficult naive younger brother Sax.
I love Tom’s devotion to his brother and his ability to bear the weight of the world in order to protect those he loves. He’s really doing his best, but there is no doubt that alongside his devotion he is very lazy. Procrastination is the main reason they are struggling so hard now, and with the job market as it is, he’s living off the dregs of his quickly vanishing student loan.
Tom’s story, though it may be difficult to stomach, is not unheard of in the UK. It’s one that has very little coverage and for the sake of those young people I feel a lot of responsibility to do it justice. He is Atlas clad in sportswear.
The rehearsal process has been a joyful experience – the room was brim-filled with massive laughter and a lot of love. The entire cast bring such a dynamic vibe: always changing, forever fresh and taking chances.”
Fumilayo Brown-Olateju plays Lucia:
Lucia reacts to things before thinking. She’s very attached to her best friend Elaina, but at the same time she knows that in order for her to progress in life, she has to get away from her. That’s why this summer holds so much weight between the two characters. She puts up with a lot from Elaina, and the two of them have a very odd and sometimes damaging relationship. She is a loyal friend, and knows she would risk almost anything for Elaina, but I think she’s starting to realise that if she does, she could end up somewhere she does not want to be.
She’s uncomfortable around boys, although she does try to accommodate them when they cross her path. This has stemmed from her troubled past. She can jump from emotion to emotion like most young teens who are trying to figure out who they are in this world. She’s only 15. She’s also working through what God means to her, and how important Christ is in her life.
It took some time for me to connect with my character the way I have now – to find my character’s unsavoury side and match it with the desperation that I found hidden within her dialogue. It’s a process: I had to let my character grow organically using those methods.
The second in a series of interviews with the cast and creative team of Fast Track.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
“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.
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.
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.
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:
“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.
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.