Driving Home (and back again) For Christmas

Here at Above Bounds you may have noticed we’ve been travelling around quite a bit of late, all in aid of touring, The Elves & The Shoemaker. We’ve journeyed much further afield than with previous shows (well, taking Portrait to Sardinia might be the exception), but whilst long drives, complex public transport systems and comparing the inside of chain hotels can become tiresome, it has been a real joy to see different parts of the country and meet some wonderful new audiences.

This show has always been about celebrating difference and looking to make the most of what you can do, rather than focusing on what you can’t. And being able to spread this message to different communities, in parts of the country we haven’t previously performed to, is a genuine privilege.

The logistics of mounting this tour have also given us the chance to meet new creatives and collaborate with old pals around the country. When we toured to Scunthorpe for instance, we worked with a local Stage Manager, Keri Hopwood to ensure all the songs went with the right moves and sequences – which I’m pleased to say, they did! It was a joy to work with Keri who was a consummate professional and helped us bring this show to lots of little children around the town.

We were also re-joined by emerging Plymouthian artist Noah Jones in London. He’s worked with us for a long time and is currently excelling at Rose Bruford Drama School studying to be a Lighting Designer.
Audiences in Great Torrington were treated to a one-off appearance of the show’s Composer Grace Hancock who performed her music live alongside the shows at The Plough Arts Centre.

Coming up next week at Ocean Studios in Plymouth we will be joined by Plymouth based John Archer who has played Grace’s music for much of the tour and some older audience members will recognise him from The Narwhal Ensemble’s, Whey Down South and Barbican Theatre’s Summer production of Macbeth.

Touring can sometimes be seen as the less glamourous side to Live Theatre, with almost every actor and stage manager in the business having one horror story or other about damp lodgings, flat tires or grumblesome locals. However, in the cold light of day these occasional challenges fade away and what is left is fond memories of lovely audiences, and humbling communities; picturesque landscapes and urban myths.

After next week’s performances at Ocean Studios, the team will be temporarily parting ways for a well-earned Christmas break, but Helen & George will be busy planning in January and The Elves & The Shoemaker returns for a South-West whistle-stop tour in February before a period of hibernation.

You can find tickets and full tour dates on our Home Page, and please have your own safe journeys, Driving Home for Christmas.

Going Above & Beyond all the way to the festival!

It’s been quite a busy few weeks over at Above Bounds HQ, with the festival programme to finish, posters to print and distribute, jobs to recruit and fill, social media campaigns to fun and most importantly, bunting to make!

Georgia Brooks who has joined us as an Assistant Producer on the festival has been very busy with the glue gun (we have a love/hate relationship with glue guns, ask us for the full story at the festival), and had made some amazing decorations to help transform the library spaces for the 3 days of the festival.

The ream have also been out and about to help let everyone know about the amazing shows coming to Plymouth for this half-Term. Rosie, who works with us on Schools liaison and Educational development, has been visiting schools and nurseries across the city spreading the word. Georgia and I had a tour of the city centre to let business know about the festival and this week I’ve been manning pop-box offices at the Libraries to provided more information and sell those last remaining tickets.

Many of the shows are selling fast, with both of Collar & Cuff’s performances and Brave Bold’s Sticky End’s already sold out. If you’d like to attend a show, please do book in advance ( www.ticktsource.co.uk/abovebounds ) And don’t fear, there will be lots of fun free activities throughout the three days to keep you entertained if the tickets have gone.

Check our social media for the most recent updates and please join our mailing list to hear first about future shows and festivals.

Above & Beyond!

We’ve been busy beavering away on our latest project over the last few weeks. It’s long been an ambition of ours to run our own festival. Having performed and attended many different fringe festivals and family events over the last few years we feel we’ve gleaned what works, what we like, and what we like less. With this in mind we set about planning our own festival and searching for partners.

Plymouth Libraries agreed to host the three day event and thanks to support from The National Lottery through Arts Council England, The Elmgrant Trust, and our sponsors, Razzmatazz Plymouth, we are now able to realise our dream and share with you a fantastic programme of live theatre, music and crafting at this year’s Above & Beyond!

Since tickets went on sale last Friday, Little Meerkat’s Big Panic has already sold out it’s first show, so if you want to see this tremendous piece of interactive, multi-sensory theatre from our dear friends Collar & Cuffs, you had better book for their second performance fast!

We’d also like to draw your attention to the award winning Ingo’s War by emerging physical theatre company, Ditto Theatre. It’s a touching piece which follows the journey of a dog during London’s Blitz. Having won the 2017 Reviews Hub: Beyond The Fringe award, this is certainly a show not to miss.

The festival takes place over three days (22-24 October), at Plympton, Plymstock and Southway libraries, and tickets can be booked here.

We can’t wait to see you there!

The Elves & The Shoemaker R&D round-up!

We’ve come to the end of our devising time at The Plough Arts Centre in Torrington. The week has been busy, but full of discovery and we’ve enjoyed many a lunch in The Plough’s excellent café as well.

During our last two days we managed to piece together the bare bones of the show and begin polishing up some its rough edges. On Friday we were also joined by Chloe Benbow who is now beavering away to finish the set and costume design. During this final run through we were able to work more on finding the place for text and narration as well as practising Vicki’s excellent new dance routines.

We also worked with some of The Plough’s younger patrons in our Object Puppetry workshop where we explored using objects to tell stories, make characters, recreate our favourite fairy tales and dance the WMCA! You can see some of their work below, using objects to show something which had happened to them during the morning.

Coming to the end of a process like this always leaves a mix of emotions. Devising a new show in such a short space if time inevitably leads to a certain amount of pride, especially when the material we have created is working well. There is also a sense of reflection upon each of our creative processes and some sadness as the team now go their separate ways for a time before The Elves & The Shoemaker hits the road this November.

We’ll be sure to update you on all of our performances and you can find tickets to some of our shows via the home page. For now our Elves (and perhaps us as well) will enjoy a brief rest, a sleep and maybe a cheeky spa day! You know what Elves are like!

Thank you for following our journey!

The Elves & The Shoemaker R&D

The core team have been joined by dancer Victoria Horan and Singer/Songwriter Grace Hancock and have migrated to The Plough Arts Centre in Torrington for a late summer retreat and redevelopment of The Elves & The Shoemaker ahead of our winter tour.

The Plough is a favourite venue of ours as it continues to support the local community while delivering a varied programme of theatre, entertainment, music and film. Our devising sessions this week have been underscored by the sounds of summer blockbusters, but you’ll also find high art and experimental theatre within these walls!

We kicked the week off by mapping out the storyboard for the piece. In this version of the show, we have brought the Shoemaker much more to the heart of our modernized adaptation, showing her struggle to make her way with the family shoe business she has inherited.

As the week has gone on we’ve been able to use our particular areas of specialism to create a varied mix of material. We’ve also been able to work with the beginnings of a new set design by Chloe Benbow – whose designs for our other current show, A-Tissue! A-Tissue! have been wowing audiences all summer! While I’ve focused on narrative and writing poetry and narration, Helen has given the puppetry and ‘object world’ of the piece a lift and a new found sense of play. Victoria has taken on our previous styles of movement to create some stunning choreography and a few comedic sequences where everything seems to go wrong, but in a way that it seems completely right. Grace, who wrote the songs for our previous version of The Elves & The Shoemaker has been a great help in the rehearsal room and is coming up with catchy tunes, moving melodies and entrancing rhythms.

At this juncture, we have mapped out most of the piece and with two days of devising with the full team left, that feels like a strong place to be. There will be plenty to think about over the next couple of days as we bring a higher level of polish to the piece and think about the overall affect as well as the more intricate details.

A Tissue A Tissue #Issue 4

Well, it would seem that in all of this hot weather we have been experiencing, I have forgotten to update you all! Since completing our workshop series at Southway Library we have fully realised the final show, A Tissue, A Tissue! With a beautiful set courtesy of Chloe Benbow, and some entrancing new music and songs, composed by Daisy Higman.

The show has toured around libraries in Plymouth and Exeter, with a few still to go in Tavistock, Mortonhampstead and Princetown. It’s been going down really well, with some lovely feedback from our audiences. It has been made even more clear to us how important it is to provide work like this for young audiences and that by placing shows in non-traditional spaces, we can engage with a much wider and more diverse audience. Exciting discoveries, as we will soon be announcing more projects with Plymouth Libraries, so check back soon for more details.

As well as our Libraries tour, A Tissue, A Tissue! is soon heading off to the bright lights of the big city for 6 performances at Wild Child Festival in Dulwich, London. From the 17th-19th August there’s a fun packed programme of events, activities and shows to delight all the family, including our new show at 1pm and 2pm everyday.

Then we will head back down to the Southwest for some performances of A Tissue, A Tissue! at Tacchi Morris Arts Centre’s open day! We had a great time performing there last year and are also looking forward to bringing The Elves & The Shoemaker to the space next February. So if you fancy a trip up to Taunton, take a look at what they have to offer for the FREE open day on the 16th September.

Creating A Tissue, A Tissue! has been a challenge but a truly rewarding process. Artistically it has pushed us further as a company and has increased our desire to create more innovative and accessible work for young audiences. Having the privilege to work with 2-4 year olds to create the show was a great experience and it’s been so nice to get to know many of our participates and audiences even better over the a last few months.

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported our journey so far, and we hope to meet even more of you over our next shows and projects. Remember to like our facebook page for the most up to date news, and please leave us a review if you’ve seen our work. We’re always thrilled to receive your comments and photos if you’re happy to share them.

A-Tissue, A-Tissue #Issue 3

Last week at Southway Library we had a really fun workshop session exploring sound and music. Along with Helen and myself, our Sound Designer Daisy Higman came along to play some of the songs she has been writing for our piece and help us explore the imaginative world of music. The children were enthralled by Daisy’s music and rather enjoyed joining in with silly sounds and actions. We also looked at making the sounds which we associate with different locations and environments, working together to create a City, a beach and a park. They particularly enjoyed playing with instruments: shakers, bells and pitched percussion tubes.
Following on from this penultimate workshop in the series, Helen & I have just spent 3 days working in The Theatre Royal Plymouth’s Lab space devising what will become ‘A Tissue, A Tissue.’ drawing on our previous training at the Little Angel Theatre from Rene Barker and Joy Haynes, we started by playing with objects and materials to see what imaginative worlds we could create using only a handful of props, some boxes and some magician’s scarves. It’s been great to go back to basics on this project and draw on everything we’ve learned over the past few years as a company.
Out of these devising days we have come up with a short sample of interactive performance to try out in Southway this week during our final workshop session with this group. After this we will spend some more time in the studio before bringing the ‘theatrical encounter’ to other libraries across Devon. During our final session we will also be accompanied by our Set designer, Chloe Benbow who is currently crafting away to make the world of our imaginations come to life.

A-Tissue, A-Tissue #issue2

We’ve been having a really great time getting to know everyone over the last few weeks at our
workshop series at Southway Library with Plymouth Libraries. There’s a good regular crowd along with new comers each week
and it’s been thrilling to see what they can create. Last week we looked at creating and engaging with
different environments: the city, the coast, and the jungle. We even built a pretend rockpool full of
card cut-out marine creatures which the children helped us to fish out and discover.
This week’s session was a bit more crafty. Inspired by our Under the Sea theme, we helped our tiny tots
to make jelly fish puppets out of paper plates, ribbon and wool. It was lovely to see how they chose to
decorate and embellish these puppets, each with their own unique style. Then, using chalk and a long
piece of black paper we tried to create an underwater world full of creatures and plantlife. All together
we were then able to make a short performance piece about the daily life of a jelly fish drifting around
the ocean.
Working with this age group continues to be so rewarding. All the feedback we’ve received so far
suggests that our participants are enjoying the sessions, but so are we! It’s amazing to see a group of
children (some as young as 2!) Engaging with their imaginations and expressing themselves without filter – even if that sometimes means out workshop plan takes a detour.
So far we have explored narrative, environment and craft and next up is sound! After next week’s
session we will start to reflect on what activities and tasks have worked best across this sessions and
begin to formulate the finished interactive show for early years audiences. It will be great to bring the
show back to the audiences who have helped us make it and we can’t wait to get into the rehearsal
room and start making!

A-Tissue, A-Tissue #issue one

Last Wednesday (17th April) we began a project which has been almost a year in the making. For several years, Helen and I have wanted to create a new interactive show for the under 5s which expands the idea of story and uses all the senses to create art.
The first stage of this project is a series of workshops at Southway library in Plymouth, in collaboration with Plymouth Libraries. We started the session- after enthusiastically saying hello of course – by finding animal characters hidden around the room and using them to tell two well-known fables: the lion and the mouse, and the tortoise and the hare. We explored the physical and vocal characteristics of these creatures before telling the stories in an interactive way with games including pin the tale on the mouse and lots of input from our little helpers (and their parents!). It was a really fun season and everyone was really engaged with the stories and characters. And it’s certainly fired our imaginations. Having mostly worked with slightly older children in the past, it was with some trepidation that we embarked on this project, not knowing exactly which of our idea would work with such a young audience. However with this first week completed Helen and I feel really excited for the weeks ahead and can’t wait to see just much much we can achieve for this show. Once the series of five workshops is over we shall spend some time in the rehearsal room to consolidate everything we’ve learned and form a finished piece which will tour to libraries and community settings later on the summer (stay tuned for more details).
A-Tissue, A-Tissue looks set to be a very exciting show and we’re all really excited to see where it can go.
We’re collaborating with set designer Chloe Benbow And musician/sound designer Daisy Higman. To enhance the final show and this project has been supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Stay tuned for next weeks blog post, follow us on facebook, and if you’d like to attend any of the up coming workshops at Southway library, they’ll be every Wednesday at 10.45am for the next 3 weeks!

Helen and George x


Ugly Duckling & Other Tales- Tour 2017 Round-up

The Ugly Duckling in Hibernation

Whilst real ducks do not have a long winter sleep, our Ugly Duckling is have a well earned rest for the festive season.

We had a great time touring The Ugly Duckling & Other Tales beginning at the Brighton Fringe Festival back at the end of May right through to our final performance at Victoria Hall in Radstock. Although as a result of the tour the team have reassembled for workshops and schools performances right through the Autumn term.

This has been the first major tour for Above Bounds and we’ve certainly learnt a lot which will help us grow for the future. As our work to date has been primarily based in Devon, we were thrilled to see such strong support from our Exeter audiences with two sell-out performances at The Unpacked Family Theatre Festival and several well attended workshops across Libraries with support form Exeter City Council.

Whenever you take a show out on the road there is a degree of trepidation about how it will be received. We were overwhelmed with some of the responses from our audiences, and it certainly helped to bolster moral over what became a rather sprawling tour. Thank you to everyone who stopped to speak to us at the end of a show or contacted us over facebook, your comments mean so much to us and help us to continue making new shows. Yet there are always lessons to be learned. I think our approach to making shows will adapt as a result of the tour and certainly we’ll be making a few alterations to The Ugly Duckling & Other Tales before it waddles off on the road again. We’ve built some very loyal audiences over the past few years and its important for us that they get to see something new as well as developing our work for newcomers to Above Bounds.

It’s been an exciting few months for the team as well. Helen was selected for the Emerging Producers Programme at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival; George completed his Masters Degree in Playwriting; and Nina Raines who designed the set for Ugly Duckling has embarked on a new journey, beginning her Masters degree in Scenic Art at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

We’ve also got some exciting news that our new show, The Elves & The Shoemaker will be premiering at Libraries across Devon this Christmas. You can book tickets here: www.ticketsource.co.uk/abovebounds

One of our Exeter shows has sold out with limited availability on the second, so to has our performance at Pinhoe Library, but you can still catch us at Plympton and Plymstock libraries on the 16th December and Kingsteignton Community Hall on the 21st. We have now signed up to the Family Arts Standards- so you can be rest assured we will provide an event suitable for all of the family!

Thanks once again to everyone who has supported our show and please stay tuned for more exciting updates in 2018.

Helen & George x

Here are some photographs from our FREE performances at Kingsteignton Town Hall-