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!

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.