The First Steps ‘Crooked Path’ Part 1 – Darknet – M18PA – Self-Study

So, I started my journey down the ‘Crooked Path’ this week, working on a sequence in a piece: Darknet; that I am directing for an undergraduate group.

After an intensive physical warm-up, which included some TABATA (Loving these workouts at the moment) we dived into the work. Each performer was given a line of code (see previous post for examples) They had to decipher this and develop a physical response into 8-counts of movement. The task was left open, so performers could extract and focus on whatever they were drawn to within the line of code: The numbers, verbs, symbols or whatever intrigued them. Below is a short clip that captures some of the performers individual early responses.

The responses were incredibly varied, which built up an incredibly rich palette of movement  for performers to play with. The idea was for all members of the ensemble to undertake this task, but for me to eventually focus in on the 4 girls playing the Hackdolz. What was really interesting within the responses to this exercise was that by taking a step back I could see other potential ideas of exploration for the material generated. This changed my approach and I responded by setting the group off on separate tasks: to share their individual material, combine and develop . One group worked on the Hackdolz sequence, another played with a sequence involving a sadistic game show host from the play ‘Donny D’ and the other was a piece that explored the inner workings of the central protagonist’s head.

The material generated was an excellent starting point. All three sequences have the potential to be developed and explored further. The Hackdolz performers created some particularly interesting movement see below:

Moving forward I want to push the pace of this movement sequence. We ran out of time to really interrogate and challenge presumptions within the material. The Hackdolz to me represent protest and anarchy and I’d like to find an even more confrontational quality to the movement.

One thing I  remembered from the 2-weeks introductory intensive was how Scott built up the BPM gradually for a sequence in Beautiful Burnout. Once the performers had mastered the movement at a certain level of pace and intensity he upped it again until finally the performers were introduced to the track he wanted to use in performance. he described this as providing a ‘staircase’ for performers to climb.

I’ve put together a playlist of tracks that build gradually in terms of BPM. I will slowly introduce performers to increased level of BPM. I’m also keen to look at some Pussy Riot music videos. They are a Russian protest group and I feel that there are definite links and parallels with the Hackdolz characters.

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Pussy Riot

Peace out! Will post an update soon.

Darknet – A Journey on the ‘Crooked Path’ M18PA Self-Study

One of my self-study goals is to begin to explore and integrate the ‘Crooked Path’ approach within my work as an artist. In my current role as an educational practitioner, I have been tasked with directing an undergraduate FMP showcase. I’ve selected Rose Lowenstein’s play ‘Darknet’ for this project as I feel it offers this particular group of performers-in-training an excellent platform to share their talents as multi-skilled actors. I’m also highly interested myself as an artist at the impact technology is having on us as a society and what a digitalized future may look like for us all. Darknet addresses both of these themes and is set in an imagined future where currency is void and the public deal in data. Every choice you make, any decision has a direct impact on your personal OctoScore and your ability to secure your future. Tech companies and big businesses rule and the future looks bleak.

There is enormous scope for this piece to be highly stylised and intensely physical. One of the first things that struck me about this play were the notes that preface the play:

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‘Nothing about the play is ‘naturalistic’ I feel in this instance the best way of exploring this and achieving a non-naturalistic world is to explore physicality. I was really inspired at how the ‘otherworldly’ was transmitted in Frantic’s show ‘The Believers’ through stylised physicality informed by the horror film ‘MAMA’ and from working with ‘Strops’ In exploring this plays physicality I’d like to build up a physical vocabulary that performers can draw upon to create the world of the play.

I’ve also asked the designer that I am collaborating with to create a rotating frame that will allow the scenes to ‘jump from one to another’ I’m really looking forward to bringing this into the rehearsal room and exploring the impact that this has on the piece. Below is the first attempt at putting this frame together. The next stage will be to attach casters to the scaffold and to test moving it out.

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Frame – Attempt 1

Conscious of treading the ‘Crooked Path’ and finding ways of fully exploring the terrain of this play with the company. I currently developing the first steps to a movement section for the piece. The section takes place towards the end of the first section of the play and in it, we are introduced to a group of characters called: The Hackdolz. They are a protest group who oppose the work of the tech giants Octopay – The company central to the play. The section is outlined in the stage directions below:

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I’m really interested in the stage direction ‘A stream of impenetrable programming language appears on various screens’ I’ve always found the patterns illustrated in code and programming language really fascinating. It really is like a whole different language and dialect altogether. It’s also captivating to see data in its raw form. This has prompted me to look at examples of coding and programming. I searched online for examples of images and was really grabbed by the below image:

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What really stood out for me was that within all of the jargon, symbols, odd letters and numbers, you can actually pick out distinct words e.g. extend, scroll and switch

I’m really interested as to how these can be utilised and incorporated to inform the movement sequence of The Hackdolz. So I’ve decided to write some lines of code, which I will give the performers playing The Hackdolz in rehearsals to create counts movement from. I’m interested as to how they will interpret this and whether they will draw on the words or the symbols in doing so. This is my first step on the ‘Crooked Path’ and I will post an update on the results from this.

Below is a few of examples of the code I have written to give performers:

<h5>c=‘scroll’ +e, l=q [c] offset (b.over) n=9e9 ;b=d.extend {onAfter :b} (f, this) f=n, s g= {} |b.speed| e=i == left’ : ‘Top , h=e. toLowerCase</h5>

<h5>^strik3 +dAm{a}ge = || (Four4, kd) nv+suspend.over//downupdownupdown//**pause\ 6=dn 1ncr3se {40}%//over//circle’,-+d}}

<h5>cmd.alt.&gt;minus&gt;key.chain’7’.{{screen}} pad.Shei1d{break} forward.back(up)stretch{inven.t} slash -Commandbreaks&gt; User.end.end’d’4||</h5>

Smooth Faced Gentlemen – M18PA – Self Study

In my endeavours to hunt out theatre companies who champion equality and promote diversity. I came across the all-female Shakespeare company:  Smooth Faced {Gentlemen} The company were founded in 2012 with the ambition to create ‘…fresh, fast, and faithful productions of Shakespeare with entirely female casts.’

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I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this all-female performance company was in-fact co-founded by 2 males: Michael Grady-Hall and Yaz Al-Shaater in addition to its 2 female co-founders: Mariam Bell and Ashlea Kaye. Whilst I don’t think that there aren’t men who champion gender equality in the arts,  its rare to see men support a movement that places women centre stage in such a radical way.

The company was founded as a direct response to the numerous all-male Shakespeare companies who have dominated the scene for so long.

“It started when Michael [Grady-Hall, one of the co-founders] had told us about an actress he was talking to, who was saying it was unfair of companies like Propeller or The Lord Chamberlain’s Men to be all-male, and take the precious few female Shakespeare roles away from women. This view frustrated us – these companies are great, and there’s nothing to stop anyone setting up a company of their own.”

http://www.femalearts.com/node/533 

In this interview with Female Arts – Ashlea Kaye (Co-founder and Artistic Director) goes on to discuss the moment of realisation that she and her fellow co-founders had after watching an RSC production of King John in which, Pippa Nixon played the role of ‘The Bastard’ it was in this moment that they realised that actually they should and could be the ones to pioneer an all-female Shakespeare company.

It’s positive to see the impact that this company has gone on to have. Since forming the company has staged 3 successful productions including: Romeo & Juliet, Titus Andronicus and a recent adaptation of Othello. They have won awards, developed a following, inspired others with their outreach and incited much needed discussion on gender-equality within the theatre.

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Smooth Faced Gentlemen – Titus Andronicus – Edinburgh Fringe – Photo Daniel Harris

It is of course sad that such radical action has been necessary to highlight the gender gap in theatre, particularly in classical productions. It is however very inspiring to see individuals take action in this plight and in tandem make excellent theatre that promotes awareness.

I personally would like to see more companies make a more concerted effort to put female stories on-stage and to see more women provided with opportunities to be placed centre stage. I recently directed an all-female version of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. The raw energy of the young actors I worked with was immense and many involved felt empowered at being given the opportunity to tackle roles that have been traditionally only depicted only for young males. This frustration was transmitted in performance and fully supported the visceral nature of the story. It highlighted to me at the time the huge void in equality and the lack of parity in the industry.

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All-female – Lord of the Flies

I’m looking forward to collaborating with the females in my current MA cohort. I am the only male in the group and fully intend on championing gender equality and learning from my peers experiences.

Resources:

http://www.femalearts.com/node/533

http://smoothfacedgentlemen.com

Stephanie Connell – Producer – M18PA – Blog Provocation 3

Throughout the 2-week Introductory module I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet with a number of accomplished artists who had previously worked in collaboration with Frantic Assembly (See Introductory module week 1&2 posts for more info) All of the guests spoke passionately about how vital collaboration was to their processes as artists and all championed the openness that a Frantic Assembly production process entails.

I was inspired by the way in which ideas are and can be shared during a collaboration.Playlists, imagery and simple references can open doors and support the work moving forward. I learnt that a shared understanding of the story and a collective awareness of the overall aims of the piece are vital in nurturing a fruitful collaboration. Many of the guests artists spoke about how important stories were to them. Irrespective of their individual role in a production, knowing how they are enriching and how they can enhance the narrative is key.

One of the most surprising things I learnt from the guest artists was just how ‘hands-on’ the role of a producer is. In my naivety, I’d always assumed that a producer predominantly, was charged with sourcing funding for a production. Stephanie Connell who has worked in a producing role for Frantic outlined just how expansive the role is. I was taken aback by the responsibilities that can fall on the shoulders of a producer. Stephanie described herself as a ‘connecter’ and stated how it was her role to keep communication flowing between all creative and financial stakeholders. As such, Stephanie highlighted that a producer can often be required to take on a pastoral role similar to that of a human resources department within a business or organisation. In addition to managing contracts, outreach, tour-bookings and negotiating fees ,the role encompasses offering support to colleagues, signposting and providing advice.

I was also surprised to learn that Stephanie felt strongly that a good producer should be involved in the research and development process and the production from the outset. Again, it was probably naivety, but I’d always assumed that a producer involved themselves at a later stage of the creative process. She said that an early involvement in the process was highly beneficial and that it meant a producer is in a position to offer higher levels of support and input. Finally, she recommended as artists we try to network and build relationships with producers.

Moving forward, I’d like to expand my network of producers. I have a friend who works as a producer for Fuel and I’d definitely like to nurture this relationship more now I have a better understanding of the role. I also think I have a better understanding of how to work collaboratively with a producer and what the role entails.

Self-Study Program – M18PA – Blog Provocation 2

Goal 1

When I applied for a place to study on this MA one of the values I discussed in my application was my commitment to championing equality within the work I produce. In my experience, minority groups are grossly under-represented on stage, particularly in a positive light. This is something as an artist I’d like challenge and change. Whilst considering what areas of self-study and development I’d like to undertake, I came across this video, which has recently gone viral. In it British Actor Riz Ahmed condemns the arts for it’s under-representation of young muslims. He pleas with parliament to consider how this lack of representation and diversity on our screens could be linked to the increased radicalisation of young muslims.

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/riz-ahmed-warns-parliament-that-lack-of-diversity-in-tv-leads-people-to-isis-a7610861.html

My first goal is to research into theatre companies that champion equality and who make work to promote diversity and break the mould of under-representation in the arts.

Goal 2

Coming into this MA I would say that I have a moderate level of fitness. Although I am active, I have to admit, I do very little to focus on my physical development. I’m fortunate to have a relatively good level of natural fitness, but I’d like to be more conscious of my health and well-being.

For this reason, my second goal will be to commit to a daily strength and stamina training program. I will be undertaking TABATA style interval training workouts that are geared towards strengthening. I’ll record my progress to measure my development over the self-study period and beyond.

I like how Frantic use the track ‘Push Upstairs’ by Underworld as a measure in rehearsals to map progress of individual fitness. The track is 4 minutes and 36 seconds and and the company refer to an exercise that involves intensive cardio as 4:36. This exercise is undertaken daily and the track acts as a benchmark to measure the progress made. As rehearsals progress, this workout should become easier and the individual should be able to push themselves more and more. I aim on running to the track everyday and measuring the distance I am capable of achieving.

Goal 3

My final area of focus will be to see how I can apply ‘Building Blocks’ and the ‘Crooked Path’ approach to my own practice as an educational practitioner. Part of my role as a lecturer in a Higher Educational college involves me directing undergraduate work. I am just about to commence rehearsals for a production of Rose Lowenstein’s play ‘Darknet’ In it I imagine there to be some particularly physical sequences and I’d like to see if I can apply some of the learnings I have made from the Introductory Module within the rehearsal process.

I will document my attempt at applying this approach and reflect on the progress made in rehearsals.

2-Week Intensive Reflective Summary

Key Learnings

Building Blocks and The Crooked Path

Exploring devising tasks over the last two weeks employing Frantic’s ‘Building Blocks’ as a framework and methodology has provided me with an ethos and approach to creating work that I’ve never before considered or been able to implement.

Building blocks allow us to make something “…beyond my imagination, beyond theirs.” (Scott Graham)

Breaking the overall ambition for a sequence into smaller tasks, which are informed by words, numbers, patterns, body-parts or a specific theme, is a way of generating material that can then be built on, challenged, developed and embellished as appropriate. Subtle switches to a string of material such as changes to pace, focus, location, scale and or music can have an altogether profound impact on the material created. If an open approach is adopted, surprises will happen, new ideas will follow and break-throughs will be made. This of course requires, trust, patience and a willingness to walk the crooked path and to be vigilant to the walkways that open up as a result of travelling into the unknown.

I’ve learnt communication is key, both verbal and non-verbal. Listening to your physical impulses, over the sometimes overltly analytical brain, can yield the best results in the exploration of a task. Being open and sensitive to your co-collaborators offers, movements and ideas is also equally as important.

Palettes

Every single one of the visiting artists over the last 2-weeks referred to keeping palettes of some description to house their ideas and resources for projects. Simon Stephens kept a moleskin diary, A4, lined, that travelled with him everyday to record the people he encountered, his thoughts and observations, all of which manifests its way into his plays in some form. Andy Purves talked about stockpiling imagery and photos. Frantic’s bibliographies of inspiration are also a perfect example of how the palettes of collaborators can be fused together and harnessed within the creative process. Palettes can unlock an idea, they can move work forward and be a unifying reference point in the rehearsal room. I’ve learnt the value of recording your inspiration clearly and to not to underestimate the worth in allocating time to this. I’d like to get more organised and disciplined at keeping a better record of my ideas, thoughts and observations. This will be vital for the advanced module.

Environment

I have realised during this process how significant the set-up of the rehearsal room space can be. Where possible, transforming the room to reflect the themes and or energy of a play has the potential to immerse all members of the creative process in the world of the play. I was inspired hearing how the rehearsal room for Beautiful Burnout was turned into a gym. Music also plays a major role in this, it supports the room and can build energy and focus it depending on the BPM.

Key Strengths

Throughout the duration of the 2-week intensive, I feel I demonstrated absolute commitment to all of the work we undertook. I approached physical tasks with as much openness and receptivity as I could, which proved instrumental in applying the ‘building blocks’ approach. I took an open approach in working with fellow members of the ensemble, I tried to work with as many members of the group as I could and always tried to build collaboratively when working on tasks with others and looked for ways to access other individuals creativity and ideas.

Areas for Development

The most challenging exercises within the two weeks for me were those that required an ability to work within opposition and with precision. This is something I find really demanding physically. Picking up counts quickly and the being able to forget them is also something that I really struggled with and would like to improve on.

Week 2 – Introduction to Collaborative Theatre Making

Monday – The Genesis of Work Continued

The morning warm-up saw a return to keep-uppy with a tennis ball and circuits.

I noticed today that the eight stations were mirrored to last weeks circuit, by which, I mean in the way in that they were laid out. Each exercise focused on a specific and targeted body part. I feel like because of this, I have a better understanding of the structure of this as a warm-up task and that I now have a useful template for running circuits that I can adapt and use for myself in my own practice when leading and facilitating a room. I also have a better idea of which body parts to focus on conditioning.

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Circuit Template

The energy in the room during today’s warm-up was fantastic and everybody was very vocal and encouraging of each another. This cultivated a positive atmosphere and an environment built on success ‘Always forward, never back’. The return to circuits gave us an opportunity to really kick-start the week, to see how they can be customised and to measure our progress one week on. I think its fair to say the majority of people in the room found this much easier than the previous weeks set of circuits. I certainly did!

Having been put through our paces physically we turned our focus again to the genesis of Frantic’s work.

Scott began by shedding some light into the creative process that underpinned Frantic’s show The Believers. I was intrigued, because I had taken a copy of the script and recorded copy of the show home the previous week. I really struggled to get-into the text and decided maybe watching it instead would help me process the work more effectively. I felt completely disconnected. Maybe it was because I was tired, or perhaps I had wanted it to be a show more synonymous with their previous works? All I can say was, I really didn’t think this was a piece of theatre for me!

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As Scott discussed in finer detail, some of the influences that shaped the work such as: MAMA by Guillermo del Toro, the horror genre in general and the story of the Nigerian boy – Christi Bambio, who was accused of being  a witch. I began to understand this work, its complexities, which allowed me to appreciate it a lot more than I did initially. I don’t know if like the choreography explored in Round-By-Through that I needed more time to process? But it was a relief to be able to return to this work with a fresh perspective. The distorted and reversed physicality featured in the show made a lot more sense having viewed MAMA and I could also see the influence that this short film had on the lighting design for the piece.

Scott also flagged up The Believers ‘Bibliography of Inspiration’ which is outlined in the back of the shows educational resource pack. It is now standard practice for Frantic to outline the influences on their shows in these resource packs.  I found this interesting because it reinforced yet again, the importance of creating a palate of references and resources for all stakeholders to engage with as part of the creative process. I was surprised at how varied this list of references was! Popular culture shows such as; Family Guy and the film; Team America, at some point within the creative process on The Believers helped generate a deeper understanding of the story and helped move the work forward in rehearsals. These references helped unlock moments in the rehearsal room and gave a collective clarity to the work.

This also linked back to what Adrian Sutton had said in the previous week about developing pallets in preparation for making work. In my own practice, the work that has been most fruitful and successful has always been supported by a clear understanding on the works influence. Keeping Spotify playlists, YouTube playlists and Pinterest boards for everybody involved to engage with has always been useful! I will endeavour to be more explicit with this in the future and aim to outline my own bibliographies of inspirations much earlier in my own process. I also appreciate that this is an ongoing process, but having a strong palate from the outset is something I aim on doing in the future.

‘Things I Know to Be True’ a collaboration between Frantic Assembly and writer Andrew Bovell, threw up another example of how influential source material can be in a productions early development. Scott revealed that as part of this shows creative process a book of photographs by Gregory Crewdson were taken into the Research and Development process. Having watched the piece at The Lyric it is incredibly clear how these images have affected and influenced the piece’s aesthetics and narrative. This again for me, highlights the necessity of taking a pro-active outward and open-looking approach to the world. You never know where inspiration for an idea or show is lurking!

Gregory Crewdson’s Photography – Google Images

We finished the day thinking about methods for generating text. First we looked at a technique I am really familiar with called ‘Free-Writing’ which is sometimes referred to as ‘Automatic-Writing’. Essentially this method requires you to write non-stop for a period of time, that you can either stipulate for yourself, or alternatively have designated for you. you can respond to a specific word, a theme, an image or just about anything. You can also just write and allow yourself to generate a stream of sub-conscious thoughts. I have used this before as a tool to un-block myself. it’s also a great way of introducing new groups to the concept of writing their own material. It’s a very liberating process and even if the results are terrible, it’s writing that you will never write again!! you have nothing to lose! I also feel free-writing can be a great way to warm-up. Simon showed us a piece of text that had been created collaboratively using free-writing. I thought this was really interesting, because I had never thought of using it in this way. It shows just how flexible the technique is and is something that I am looking forward to trying in my own practice should an opportunity arrive.

Another method shared for producing text was questionnaires. Frantic have an example of this in the Frantic Assembly Book of Devising. The questions are pretty varied. Some of them are fairly personal and some of them a quite light-hearted. Scott pointed out that this was a great way to keep a group focused and a way of allowing a group to remain open in their responses to the questions. One example of this was the question “How many Maltesers could you fit in your mouth?” They almost act as ice-breakers and enable a group to warm to the task. Again, once compiled, the responses can be converted very easily into a play text, which can be explored and developed. I loved this idea and thought that it would be great exercise to run with a group of individuals new to theatre-making!

Tuesday – The Otherworldly, The Crooked Path and The Creative Process

Another go at keepy-uppy and still some way off that elusive 100!

A quick blast of Tabata training (which I really like, and will definitely be using in my own future warm-ups) and we were into an exercise that I recognised, which Frantic call ‘Quad’. It’s great exercise for getting heat into the body, for playing with patterns and for developing unison. I expected the exercise to develop in the way in which I had previously learned it. I was however caught completely off-guard by the instruction to add movements that were completely different to the ones I was familiar with. Not only this, but we were challenged to complete the movements in-between counts. I really struggled with this! I managed to get stuck in my own head and couldn’t get the movements into my body. I liked seeing how flexible Quad was and enjoyed being challenged in a different way. I do realise that following counts can be a real weakness. I know I am much better at this kind of work when I relax and try to feel the movements rather than think too much about them.

The rest of the morning was spent exploring the concepts of weightlessness and gravity. How can you make somebody fly? And how is it possible to set up metaphysical illusions for the stage? We stormed through some examples that have been used in the show ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime’ which Frantic provided movement direction for. The first was the moment in which Christopher the shows central protagonist fly’s through space and imagines himself wearing a jetpack. A couple of things were really important in the execution of all of this. The first was the contact with fellow performers, again the concept of ‘Push-Hands’ was vital to the slices in execution and in enabling physical communication between participants. I thing the other important factor was visualisation. It was crucial for the person either flying through the air or jolting around in a jetpack to really buy into the illusion and commit to the characters reality. Commitment is actually another key word, as the person being lifted really needs to commit to the idea of being lifted and utilise their core strength in order for these lifts to be executed with a sense of ease.

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Preparation for ‘Flying’ and lift work

We also explored the idea of using surfaces to set-up physical illusion. As part of this we were shown the technique required for the wall-walk featured in Curious Incident. This lift technically more advanced. It’s something that I have tried facilitating in the past, but failed in executing it successfully. I think the trick with this particular lift is hand placement. Resistance, weight distribution and pushing in the correct places are also significant. But its vital that those conducting the lift place their hands on the hip, under the arm-pit and that their hands are used to guide the wall-walkers feet onto the wall. The lift itself has an enormous impact visually, it’s very impressive and truly gives the sense of the other worldly, which is vital in theatre if it is to push boundaries!

The morning was rounded off playing with ‘strops’ a type of equipment used frequently in circus. Playing with strops required the use of counterbalance and working out the correct levels of weight distribution were essential in creating the effect that we were looking to achieve. Once we had mastered the quality and sensation of this, we began to play around with the idea of the ‘other-worldly’ Additional performers worked to manipulate the strops almost like a puppeteer to explore theatrical moments. We investigated the possibilities of the strops to create illusions and experimented with ideas and played freely to see what we could find.

I absolutely loved them as a tool to create surreal images. I found them very versatile as a theatrical device and felt they offered something highly original physically. The video below shows Scott demonstrating the ‘otherworldly’ qualities the strops can offer. This moment looked really eerie, haunting and powerful. I’d love to explore the use of strops for performance for our advanced module.

Strops are featured heavily in Frantic’s show The Believers. They were used as a device to support the paranormal ideas and themes inherent within the show. We were shown a fantastic example in which the two couples in the piece, who were all connected with strops, counterbalanced each others weight and used this tension to lower themselves into  a sitting potion. This gave the impression that there was a dinner table on stage. It was a really impressive moment and again related back to something I discussed in a previous post about the element of surprise in theatre. How can you astonish an audience and achieve a reversal (where everything an audience things they know, they don’t!)

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Dinner Scene using Strops from – The Believers

Trying to take your artistic vision from an idea through to the finished product can be very daunting. Sometimes as artists, we can be very set and headstrong on what the finished product is or should be and concern ourselves only with a specific idea. The ‘Crooked Path’ is a way of approaching work that has been conceptualised by Scott that tackles and challenges a more direct approach to developing work. The Crooked Path offers an alternative, non-linear and in some cases, a more open and flexible approach to creating work, certainly in my opinion anyway.

Scott cited two specific examples of where the Crooked Path had played an important part in the creation of Frantic’s work. The first was during the creative process that led to the iconic ‘bed scene’ in the show ‘Lovesong’ This scene sees all four performers collide, in a beautiful, ethereal and at times, chaotic piece of choreography that explored both the past and present stories that had taken place in the marital bed. The first step onto the Crooked Path involved both couples individually exploring material together in a taped out square in the rehearsal room. Further material was then developed step-by-step in threes and then eventually with both couples working together on movement sequences, until finally it was revealed that the sequence would be performed on a bed, which of course changed the dynamic and quality of the movements generated even further.

For me this thinking keeps the process, open, alive and kinetic. It enables you to be surprised by the performers you are working with. Approaching work with no set or concrete expectations is a liberating outlook. It’s still vital that you have the essence of what you want, but the outlet of invoking the performers responses, using them and harnessing them to help you navigate your way through a play is a very empowering and appealing ideology.

Wednesday – Connect/Affect/Disconnect

I was really glad that we had the opportunity to explore the ‘Connect/Affect/Disconnect’ exercise employed within Frantic’s current touring production ‘This Will All Be Gone’ I took this productions resource pack home with me earlier in the week and was immediately drawn to this exercise as a devising tool. I found obvious parallels with Round-By-Through and recognised the links to the ‘Building Blocks’ process, which has been heavily present as an approach in the work explored over the last 10-days. I also really engaged with this show’s ‘Bibliography of Inspiration’ The project drew influence from Geoff Ryman’s book ‘253’ a book that I have always felt held enormous potential as a source of stimuli for a show. The piece also took inspiration from the Film ‘Run Lola Run’ which plays with concepts of time and how events can be played out with various results based on individual decisions.

Having a go at the exercise yielded results immediately. Material was generated in an instant and simplistic way. This was the first building block; Playing with a simple structure and instruction. From here we were able to explore alternate possibilities within the task. What would happen if we included more than one individual as the central figure? etc

Creatively I felt that I was able to communicate ideas fluently and articulately to my peers. I also feel that I took on board feedback openly and positively, which allowed the group to collaborate effectively on the task. We were restricted by time, I finished still with an urge to continue exploring and experimenting with the movement and material generated. I wanted to play with scale, the idea of taking performer away and the idea that the central figure in the piece is suspended in the air throughout the sequence. Although we didn’t get time to explore all this, I feel positive that I ended with more ideas and a hunger to continue working!

In the afternoon we were visited by Lighting Designer – Andy Purves, Video Designer – Ian William Galloway and Producer Stephanie Connell. This was another opportunity to hear from exciting artists who have thrived by taking a collaborative approach themselves to theatre-making. Much of what was discussed echoed previous visits from; Adrian Sutton, Carolyn Dowling and Simon Stephens. All artists expressed the importance of clear and open communication in the early stages of creation and Research and Development. For all three, discussions on what ‘we’ want to achieve with the resources were also essential. All three, talked again about the merit of building up pallets of ideas for shows and storing these for other projects if they are deemed irrelevant or whatever.

All of the visits over the last 2-weeks have been illuminating. Each practitioner has shed light on what a co-collaborator may find useful in the research and development stages of a project and indeed the rehearsals. Some of the tips and advice has been surprisingly simple. What is the kernel of the idea? What is the essence of what you’re communicating? But then I think these simple conversations and questions are often overlooked as artists can often place too much emphasis on the end goal. It made me think how important it was for every member of the production team to tread the crooked path and how ideas should be given room to breath and to be fully investigated.

Thursday – Passives and Scoring

In the morning we explored an exercise that Scott referred to as ‘Passives’ it entailed a performer/participant lying on the floor and started with other participants manipulating the performers body in ‘unfamiliar’ positions. During this exploration I was selected as the performer to be manipulated. I found this very therapeutic. It felt good to be moved into different positions and into a physicality that my body may not naturally inhabit. Having explored this first building block, the exercise moved into setting movements and required every participant to find clarity with the movements and for me the performer o the floor to recall and retain the sequence. Once learnt I practised the movements to find a continual flow and fluidity to the movement.

Having learnt the sequence we came together as a collective to workshop the material generated. Breaking presumptions and playing with scale, focus, pace and music allowed the material to be developed and explored. It was hard to have too much perspective on what was happening as I was going through the movements. But the feedback and response discussed was that the movements had an otherworldly feel to it.

Chloe was used as the performer in the other working group and ran through the sequence created. As a way of pushing the material the group wanted to see what happened when both my sequence and Chloe’s ran at the same time. At first the sequences ran in real opposition and it was felt that if we changed positions then they might work in complicate more. This simple alteration made a staggering difference. The movements began to sync up in places and the shapes of the movements complimented each other perfectly. It made me think how patent you have to be when making work. Sometimes, a simple alteration is all that is needed. it’s important not to throw things away if they don’t work right away. I will definitely bear this in mind in future.

The mornings work was capped off with a brief discussion about sound-tracking and scoring. Frantic, for me, have always been well-known for their use of music in their productions. Music choices in their work often has the capacity to drive the piece forward or perfectly captures the mood, tone and essence of a single moment. Personally, I am really interested in the role that sound can play in a production. A fundamental part of my own practice is to play with music both before and within rehearsals. It was reassuring to learn that like myself, Frantic compiles playlists for their shows. It was also affirming that real consideration is made into what the music selected actually does and what qualities it possesses. One thing that stood out in this discussion was the idea of focusing on a specific composer. Scott talked about how he tries to identify a composer that captures the entire essence of a show. In Othello it was the band Hybrid. Chosen because of their innate ability to fuse a classical sound with urban beats. In Lovesong Rene Aubury’s shimmering sound reflected many of the motif’s carried through the play. What was interesting in this instance was that Scott had identified this ‘shimmering’ sound first whilst watching the animated adaptation of The Gruffalo. Another fine example of how inspiration lurks in the strangest of places sometimes.