Script Development

I’ve just come back from a week in Birmingham working with George to re-develop the script for Travellers’ Tales. We first performed Travellers’ Tales last year at Brixfest before taking it to some schools in Exeter, Devon. The piece is a light-hearted comedy for children aged 3-7 and their families, taking the audience on a journey with John and Sally, two hopeless explorers, as they search for a flute, a feather and a piece of treasure. Having worked without dialogue during our development of Portrait for the Rooted Moon International Theatre festival in 2015, we wanted to simplify the script for Travellers’ Tales and apply some of the techniques we had developed. The piece is aimed at children and throughout our process, we work with our audience in mind. Over the week, we experimented with sound and music, developing sound for each of the new locations John and Sally visit. This was inspired by a fabulous workshop with Verity Standen that I took part in at the Bike Shed Theatre last weekend, working with voice and music. As John and Sally travel the world, I thought that we could use sound to our advantage and certainly our explorations were fruitful. We also played with the use of rhyme in the script, when to use it and when to not. I’m really looking forward to getting the script back on it’s feet in early April and seeing how sound works practically in the performance.

Travellers’ Tales will be performed at Fringe TheatreFest in Barnstaple this Summer, as well as at other fringe festivals in the South West. We are currently taking bookings for KS1 schools performances, so please do get in touch if you’d like us to visit your school in the Summer Term and I can send through the production information.

I am also still planning for our development of ‘The Ugly Duckling & Other Tales’ and am currently in the process of sending off applications for our development later in the year.

 

 

An exciting week…

George and I have had an exciting week together rehearsing Travellers’ Tales and performing at The Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter as part of Creative Conversations at the From Devon With Love Festival. It was really interesting to perform our initial ideas for The Ugly Duckling & Other Tales from the Worboys Productions Theatre Farm Retreat and gather some feedback from the audience. Lots of people enjoyed our shadow puppetry and said that the simplicity of it was particularly enjoyable. This is something we aim to maintain as we move forward with the project, expanding on the frame-work in which the Hans Christian Anderson stories are told. Here is a photo before our Scratch performance.

bikeshed scratch

Travellers' Tale 18 x 13cm with text (2)

We are also proud to show you all our new poster for Travellers’ Tales designed by Josh at Monobrow Productions. We will be performing our fun, family show at Fringe TheatreFest 2016 and will let you know our venue and date as soon as it is announced. We are currently taking further bookings for Travellers’ Tales, so please do get in contact if you are interested in finding out more.

 

Happy 2016!

Happy New Year!

2016 is upon us and we are excitedly preparing for the year ahead. We have submitted some important applications this week to develop The Ugly Duckling & Other Tales, a new theatre project for children aged between 4-7 and their families, inspired by Balinese Shadow Puppetry. We will be performing our initial ideas which we developed whilst on the Worboys Productions Theatre Farm Retreat in 2015, at The Bike Shed Theatre in Exeter on Sunday 24th January as part of Creative Conversations at The From Devon With Love Festival. The event is free, so it would be great to see you there for an afternoon of performances and networking.  Places can be booked here:

https://www.bikeshedtheatre.co.uk/shows/creative-conversations/

We are also submitting applications to perform Traveller’s Tales at Festivals across the UK this Summer, so keep posted for our photos and tour information.

If you’d like any further information on any of our projects, get in touch, we’re happy to help!

Helen

 

2016 approaches…

As Christmas approaches, it’s fair to say that it’s been a busy few months for George and I. I’m currently touring with Rainbow Theatre South West performing in Sleeping Beauty (it is Pantomime season after all). We are also writing our first Arts Council England Grant Application for The Ugly Duckling and Other Tales, a piece we developed whilst on the Worboys Farm Retreat back in the summer. Since then, the idea has grown and with support from Sam Worboys on the Retreat we have built up an action plan to develop the piece further, with visions to tour it by 2017.  For this project, we will be working with The Bikeshed in Exeter and Sam Worboys, as well as with a school in Devon. (There will be more on this to follow over the next few weeks)

Back in October, I helped the team at the Outpost 2015 Pop Up Theatre season, based at the Royal William Yard in Plymouth and hosted by New Model Theatre. This was the second year for Outpost, although the first for me and the atmosphere and energy was fantastic. Three Devon based companies were commissioned to perform new pieces as part of the season and there were other shows programmed in from elsewhere in the Country. What was fantastic about the season was just how well received it was by the people of Plymouth. Many of the shows were sold out and there was a real buzz  from members of the public to have more events like this taking place across the city. The space was also fantastic, placed just above Ocean Studios in the Royal William Yard (a different location to last year and it really was impressive). The Royal William Yard has much history but now mainly comprises of restaurants/bars, luxury accommodation and the artist studios. It was fantastic to see theatre happening in a building usually occupied by visual artists and I’d love to see more cross-disciplinary art forms working together in this way and succeeding to pull in crowds.

My highlight was watching the Family Shows during half term week. Paddleboat Theatre sailed into the space on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th. I had never seen their work before and it was great to see an emerging children’s theatre company sell out the space.

Other highlights included Iron M.A.M by Owl Young, Granny Eyeball by Wandering Tiger and In Our Hands by Smoking Apples.

It is our aim to make theatre that can work in diverse ways like this and it is my hope that in 2016, we too can be part of the Outpost season.

Helen x

Writing, Rewriting (and maybe writing again)

I’m now in the last few weeks of my first term on University of Birmingham’s MRes Playwriting Studies course. Much of our focus has been on breaking down the structure of plays and developing our own voice as writers. In particular I found a session with Lin Coghlan on building plot from character a very enlightening lesson, and it has given me much to think about when approaching Above Bounds’ scripts in the future. If you have a strong character with a set of wants and needs, working in conflict with each other, then the plot (the exposition, the inciting incident, the rising action, the dramatic climax) will all come from that. Working in this way has also given me time to reflect on our process in creating Portrait, as a show with a strong central character. Many of our problems with devising that show steamed form a lack of specificity with our characters’ wants and needs.

After Christmas we will be taking some time looking at adaptation which will prove very useful in supporting our development of The Ugly Duckling and other tales. But before then I have got plenty of work to keep me busy, with the first draft of my final play due in the New Year; so there will be plenty of writing, a fair amount of reading, and I suspect a bit of fretting.

George

Life on the Worboys Farm Retreat 2015

Last week, George had ventured to the Farm on his own to start work on our latest children’s theatre piece, the working title of which was ‘Shadow Stories’. Not really knowing what to expect on the farm, I set off from Devon on Sunday 30th August armed with my wellies, jumpers and waterproof jacket. The farm was in a beautiful location, far from civilisation. Upon my arrival, George and I dumped our bags in our Yurt and set straight to work. Our rehearsal space was in the main barn, a lovely little corner of creativity lit by fairy lights. With the space being so isolated, it was easy to work without distraction and so we began to devise straight away, surrounded only by the doves in the rafters.

Day One

During week 1, George had written a script for the piece and as is the case with most Devising Processes, we spent the first few hours pulling the script apart and devising new material. We decided that the main story of ‘The Ugly Duckling’ would be framed by two clown-like characters John and Sally and so we began to experiment with different scenarios for the two storytellers to be in, experimenting with how they would start telling the story through the medium of shadow puppetry. Together, the two of us then set out on the task of creating our shadow puppets and so we spent many hours with scissors and card experimenting with animal shapes and detailing. After a busy day of making and devising, we sat down to dinner with the other two companies. This was a lovely opportunity to share ideas and experiences and there was a lovely community atmosphere across the camp.

Day Two

We started day two much like how we ended day one, with the creation of a few more shadow puppets. Once we had made enough shadow puppets to start playing, we set up our backdrop and created the shadow frame for the action. Once we had the materials, it was easy to start devising and playing with the script, ideas flowed freely and we soon came up with the opening section for the piece. There was a real breakthrough in Day Two, when George and I devised some Indian Dance and Chanting to accompany the shadow storytelling. This gave us a stronger feel for the world we were entering into and we soon could plan the structure for the whole piece. The showing was programmed for Day Three and so we spent the evening of Day Two in the space, rehearsing and devising our material as well as preparing our presentation. Sam was also on hand during Day Two to offer his advice and give us some feedback on our piece. This was extremely useful and provided us with even more ideas for the future development of the project.

Day Three

Day three was showing day and so all three companies were up early and rehearsing in the space. Despite the terrible weather, the moral was high and we were all excited to share our work with one another. We had an industry session in the morning, which gave us the opportunity to pitch our work to a programmer, who gave us some confidence in our idea. The whole process on the farm seemed well supported and everyone was kind and willing to help us in our venture. With help during our industry session we came up with a title for the piece ‘The Ugly Duckling and Other Tales’. The showing was in the afternoon, but the time soon came. Many programmers from venues across the South East were there to watch the performances, this was both exciting and terrifying. Snickleway were first to perform, then us and then All In Productions. What surprised me the most about the showing was how different all three pieces were. All three pieces were innovative and exciting and I was so happy that new work like this was being produced for young audiences. George and I were pleased with how our showing went, we had produced a sample of work in a short space of time and were certainly given encouragement to continue with the idea. After the showing, we had the opportunity to hear feedback on our piece and talk to the programmers about our work, something that I have never had the opportunity to do before. We went to bed on Day 3 rather exhausted but there was a buzz of excitement from all three companies, eager to know what the future held for their projects.

Day Four

The focus of Day Four was on Marketing. We had another industry session on the Thursday which was the perfect opportunity for George and I to focus on how we will market Above Bounds and our product.  George and I really enjoyed thinking about ways of getting our work out to an audience and learnt so much about Data Capture and Press Releases. After our marketing session, we spent a few hours planning our marketing strategy and coming up with ideas for the future development of the piece; where we would develop it next and where we hoped to tour it in the future. These are things that will take time to establish but we no longer felt completely daunted by the prospect of it. We also spoke about the future of the company, developing a website and improving our poster designs.

Day Five

The final day on the farm and hadn’t the week whizzed by! We packed up in the morning, filming some of our work before taking down our set. It felt strange to take the set down after a week focusing so heavily on it, it had become part of the space! We had a session in the morning with Sam Worboys focused on making an Arts Council Application. Neither George nor I have ever completed an Arts Council Application before but this is something we would like to do before the year is out. We put together a plan of applying for an Arts Council Grant for R&D of our piece, which venues we would approach about collaborating and how we would involve our target audience and the community in the project. After this, I felt rather overwhelmed by the amount of information there was to take in but we made some notes and left the farm feeling prepared for the future.

My week on the farm had been fantastic, never have I had an experience like this before, a space to simply focus on one project with the distraction of other work. It was also a lovely opportunity to meet similar companies who were also producing work for Children. The whole farm was a safe space to explore and learn, under the direction of some fantastic practitioners and industry professionals.

Thank you Sam Worboys for having Above Bounds on your Retreat 2015 and we look forward to working with you again in the future. Here’s to future retreats and providing young companies with a space to develop and learn without fear of failure.

Farm Retreat Blog – Week One

Day One

I arrived nice and early deep into the South Suffolk countryside. A few wrong turns and a tractor or two and I finally found it. A peaceful setting which will form my home for most of the next two weeks. I then made my ‘work home’ by setting up camp in a secluded studio space in the corner of a barn. Underscored by doves and ambient lighting from the fairy lights – echoes of our Rooted Moon experience there – I sat down to write.

But what? What do I write? Helen and I had narrowed down two stories from Hans Christian Anderson’s collection of Fairy tales to form the basis of our new show ‘Shadow Stories.’ The main feature will be The Ugly Duckling with a short visit to The Emperor’s New Clothes. So first I needed to extract the main plot points of both stories and find creative ways to bring Anderson’s text to life. I felt that the naturally shadow-cast space would prove a useful inspiration too.

I started by working on the ugly duckling. Finding the key points and particular quotes from the text, and also ensuring that the story was clear and appropriate for a contemporary young audience.

Day Two

After a decent night’s sleep I woke to see that the rain had stopped. Glorious sunshine greeted me as I made my way back into the studio. I continued working on the script for the Ugly Duckling, trying find the balance between rhyme and prose, and between narration and dialogue. Then in the afternoon I started to experiment with the shadow puppets, trying out different design ideas and playing with the expressivity of the shadows. The rain returned after lunch so I nestled down in the studio to begin working on the Emperor’s new Clothes section and continuing to try out design ideas with the shadows. I decided to try and write the full Emperor’s new Clothes story in rhyming couplets which was a fun challenge and has definitely helped me to get to grips with the plot. I’m not sure whether it will stay as complete verse, but some sections are working very well.

Day Three

In the morning I started off by reading through all the script I had written so far and decided to concentrate on writing in more scenes with John and Sal, the narrator characters of Shadow Stories. I also needed to think about how the two stories would work together. After giving it some thought I decided to run with the idea of placing the Emperor’s new Clothes within the story of the Ugly Duckling; like a play within a play. This worked quite nicely and allowed for a shift in the style of storytelling. I then began thinking more about the design of the show and came up with some ideas for posters. I was beginning to build an aesthetic for the puppets so I tried to mirror that in the poster ideas. I finished the day by starting work on an alternative version of the Emperor’s new Clothes which featured the two swindlers as comical clown characters, using Balinese Bondres as the basis for the characteristics.

Day Four

Started by working on the alternative Emperor’s new Clothes scenes. Then I had some time with Menagerie Artistic Director Patrick Morris who helped confirm some areas of the script which still needed work, particularly in the simplifying of language and keeping the rhythm of the poetry varied. We also discussed how the staging might work and how visuals and dialogue might work together. I then finished writing the alternative Emperor’s new Clothes section and then found a way to slot the two versions together.

I left in the afternoon to begin the journey down to Devon for Above Bounds’ performance of Portrait for New Model Theatre’s BETA evening at The House in  Plymouth.

Off to the farm…

Since our return from Sardinia, it’s been all go for us at Above Bounds and we have some exciting announcements….

No.1 We are going to the Farm! We have been given a place on the Worboys Productions Farm Retreat 2015 in a gorgeous location in Suffolk. This is a safe place for us to develop and devise some children’s theatre under the guidance of industry professionals. We will be working on a new piece of children’s theatre entitled ‘Shadow Stories’, which we will be showcasing at the end of the retreat. George is off tomorrow to develop the script and I shall be joining him for week two next week.  You can follow our progress while we are away, George will be blogging from the Farm during week 1 and I shall blog during week 2! We cannot wait!

http://www.worboysproductions.com/work/theatre-farm-retreat/theatre-farm-retreat-further-information/

No.2 We are performing at the BETA evening at The House in Plymouth on Friday 28th August (This Friday!) We shall be performing an extract of Portrait with the intention of developing this into a full length production. Very excited to be performing our work in the South West. http://newmodeltheatre.com/beta/

No.3 We shall be performing Portrait at Impfest 2015 in the Hornsey Town Hall on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th September. We will be performing at 4 PM each day and shall post more information on ticket sales soon.

Thank you for your support and hopefully we can see some of you at one of our performances over the next month.

Rooted Moon International Theatre Festival 2015- The Journey to Sardinia

Our journey to Sardinia started back in April. George knew that some graduates from the East 15 BA World Performance course were setting up this festival in Sardinia and asked me if I would like to produce a piece of new theatre for the occasion. This sounded exciting and was something that would really put our skills in inter-cultural theatre to the test. We spent many an hour on Skype, trying to come up with a piece of theatre that was physical and contained little or no use of the English language. Throughout this period of uncertainty, I had a strange storyline at the back of my mind, a storyline involving a corridor of portraits and a missing picture. I told George this very vague storyline and together we came up with ‘Portrait’- the idea was born.

The next step was trying to collaborate on this project with miles of the country between us, George being in Lowestoft and me being in Devon. We did most of the marketing through the fabulous internet, starting a Kickstarter campaign in May. Every day was nerve-racking, we watched the campaign and tried to spread the word as best as possible. At last, after 28 days and many generous donations, we did it, over £600 raised- we were going to Sardinia! We booked our flights and accommodation immediately and then all that was left was to create the show.

First, George came to Devon and we rehearsed where and when we could, mainly focusing on the prop and set creation. I moulded and created the pirate mask on George and he created the shadow puppets. We also in this first week managed to perform a previous show ‘Traveller’s Tales’ in a school in Devon- let’s just say it was a busy time for us both!

Week two was spent at The Seagull in Lowestoft, a fabulous community arts centre. We were so grateful to have one space to ourselves for a week and we managed to achieve so much in this time. Although we still had tonnes of props and puppets to make, we created the physical backbone behind the piece and managed to finalise most of our soundtrack. In amongst the preparation for Sardinia came an opportunity to perform at The Yard theatre in Hackney as part of Theatre Full Stop’s evening ‘Destination Eclectic’. This was the perfect opportunity for us to push ourselves and create something to show to the audience that we could get feedback on before Sardinia. Two days of rehearsal was spent prior to this evening and we were so grateful for all the support we were given by the other artists and audience on the night. One thing we took away from this evening was to re-work the ending of the piece, something we spent time on before Sardinia.

And then….we were off! On the 6th August we boarded the plane at Gatwick and flew to Sardinia where we were greeted by the lovely John-James Chandler and Char Brockes. We were taken to our apartment and the festival began! It was scorching weather, certainly not the easiest to rehearse in but luckily the festival was at night and so it was much cooler. We were so overwhelmed by the response of the audience on the first night. Although we had some parts of the piece that needed to be re-done for the purpose of performing outside and on grass, we were generally very pleased with the response and felt exciting for the next two days.

The next two days whizzed by as we spent the days developing the piece and the nights watching other artists and performing ‘Portrait’. Although we had our ups and downs, we have learnt so much about performing in a country where the audience don’t speak the same language as you. By the third evening, we decided to perform short snippets of ‘Portrait’, almost like little Commedia dell’arte lazzi. Due to the performance taking place outside and the audience walking around the park freely, this style of performance was much more successful and we managed to keep a large crowd of both adults and children for the majority of our performance. We have managed to simplify the piece, getting rid of the unnecessary and keeping the quality. Hopefully, this is something we can continue to do now we are back in the UK.

We have some more performances of ‘Portrait’ lined up over the next few weeks and we shall announce the dates shortly. George and I can only thank you all for your support during our development and we look forward to seeing you at one of our performances soon!

Portrait Preview

Hello everyone.

After a very successful Kickstarter campaign we have been busy preparing to take Portrait to Rooted Moon in Sardinia. This week will be our second week of rehearsals hosted by the lovely people at The Seagull Theatre in Lowestoft. And we have one more announcement for you! On the 23rd July we will be performing Portrait for the very first time at The Yard in London. Thanks to our friends at Theatre Full Stop, we will be sharing the bill with some other great international performers. £3 on the door.

Poster