Designs and Design Processes
The following productions and projects I have chosen to list are part of a process, sometimes conscious at the time, sometimes upon reflection, that demonstrate my work as a designer for performance that aims to be inclusive. As a teacher, and as a practicing designer, the ideas I express do not always flow easily between the two activities, as they have differing focusses, concerns, outcomes and audiences, for which I wear different ‘hats’. However increasingly I have found that underlying ideas are beginning to connect. I find that the way I like to work as a designer; the process of finding and expressing a language, supports the way in which I ‘teach’ design. I am still trying to articulate it, the idea is slippery, and so the phrase I hang on to is, The Blueness of Blue and the Papery-ness of Paper. It is something to do with the visceral, not just the visual quality of design for performance, and how to make the expression of that, an inclusive activity.
Prior to these productions, my career started at Dartington College of Arts and on the Motley Design Course, so my background was strongly influenced by design within a social context (Dartington) and respecting the truth of a play (Motley). Following this my work as a designer was variously for fringe shows, new playwriting at The Royal Court, touring rural community shows, devised community work in co-operative companies in London; repertory theatre and TIE in Lancaster as Resident Designer, York and Cheltenham, small scale open air opera and many park promenade productions, followed by several years teaching the newly formed design course at Rose Bruford College and the odd Christmas show.
I have always been interested in the creation of theatre by and with communities, expressing ideas through the process of making the work, rather than just by the words on the page. I was also brought up on a diet of village pantomimes, dance band music and commercial art, leading to a fascination with entertainment, community and what is or isn’t real.
The Projects and Productions –The Lower Depths Cardboard Citizens 1995 London Bridge Clink Vault and The Section Homeless Hostel, Hackney Site specific production performed by participants of the company, updated from Gorky’s 19th C text into a late 20th C context of a homeless hostel. Starfish Theatre Mongers 2000 Site Specific, Billingsgate Fish Market, London The play, was the result of interviews with families and workers at the Billingsgate Fish Market, and performed, fully staged, in episodes over three weeks, with
in the fish market on the trading floor.My Home London Bubble 2006 Verbatim piece created from interviews with people living in London of different nationalities, on their concept of ‘home’. Performed, in site sensitive locations, in houses and flats, the promenade piece was devised through interviews and imaging workshops with the performers. (Model and art work displayed in the SBTD National Exhibition and at The V&A Scenography Exhibition) Myths, Rituals and White Goods London Bubble 2005 Open Air Touring with participants of all ages as performers alongside professional actors Myths were explored in an urban contemporary context by different participatory groups, through imaging and bringing together the separate stories onto one performance. A live community band was included in the action. Forty Walls and Ten Doors London Bubble 2006 Open Air touring with intergenerational participants. The theme of walls and containment was explored through drama workshops with the participant performers. The design supported the images and staging required, a included a live community band. Urban Dreams London Bubble 2007 Open Air Touring, parks and open urban spaces. The performance was created through workshops and imaging from the participant performers, plus writing and design workshops. The piece explored the nature of sleep patterns and ideas about dreams, sleep, and nightmares, held within the script that had been collaboratively guided by creatives including movement, design, puppetry and music. (Model and Art work shown at the SBTD Design Exhibition at Royal Welsh College , Cardiff). Laboratioire Ecole du Mouvement ( LEM ) Course London, hosted by Complicite 2007 led by Krikor Bellman and Pasquale Lecoq, Paris. I attended a two week intensive course which explored the relationship of body to space, and the performing body within space and architecture.
AstronomicalLondon Bubble Albany Theatre, London 2009 Production devised by participants of London Bubble intergenerational group exploring ideas about light in the city, stars and astronomy. The Brockely Bride Brockey Max Arts Festival 2010 and London Hospital of Naurological Desease. Own Devised interactive performance in a gallery, and hospital Performed by elder participant, Maureen, the performer wore a wedding dress with a train that covered the floor, Whilst she read letters sent between my own parents during the WW2, participants were invited to sew texts and decorations onto her dress. The piece was about life’s transitions and identity, female crafts, aural traditions and home spun advice passed between generations. Visitors were served tea by a female child. Soho Streets Soho Theatre, London 2011 Promenade performance around the streets of Soho. Performed by participants, the play brought together characters and stories reflecting the social and political changes seen during the last four decades in the area, as seen in the plays produced by Soho Theatre.
The Great RinsingWimborne Community Theatre, Dorset 2011 Site specific promenade performance at Wimborne Pump House, Dorset. Piece that included community performers, and local schools, art college and local craft centre in its making. It explored through drama, text, imaging and design workshops the mythology and value of water, inspired by the fact that Wimborne is a town surrounded by two rivers. Wimborne Community Theatre is an established company who develop work in the area of East Dorset. Blackbirds London Bubble 2011 Various venues in Bermondsey, SE London The production was the result of a year long project that comprised young local people interviewing elders in Bermondsey about their experiences as children themselves during WW2. The testimonies were then woven into a performed text, supported by design led workshops, and activities with the intergenerational performance cast, and performed in a disused church, a water pump house in Surrey Docks, and two community arts centres.
Rivers and PeopleLondon Bubble in collaboration with and Rivers and People environmental group, Ladywell Park, Lewisham, London, 2012 A promenade performance that travelled the length of the park following the river, with interactive installations and performances along the way, celebrating the river and nature in an urban environment through mythology, song and storytelling. Participatory piece working with local artists, performers and dogs. Creative Homes London Bubble 2013 Working alongside a director and writer, we led drama sessions with elders in sheltered housing, leading to a gentle performance as part of The Third Age Festival, London. The use of ‘frames’ and ‘gloves’ led to the creation of character and place. Soho Spring Soho Theatre. Promenade performance 2013 Community choir and performance groups from the Borough of Westminster came together for a public event within the Soho theatre building, to celebrate Spring, reflecting the notion of Soho Theatre as a supporter of new writing and young performers. From Docks to Desktops London Bubble 2013 Site specific at The Biscuit Factory, Bermondsey Following on from the previous project, London Bubble created a piece that explored, again through intergenerational interviews and local research, a production about the changing nature of work, and people’s relationship to it, socially and economically, over the last 60 years, and in particular in the area, once dominated by the docks and factories, now by offices and media industries. The piece was performed in one of the buildings that had been part of the Peake Frean Biscuit factory, now closed, but once the employer of several thousand workers. Process workshops explored different senses to stimulate memories, including smells, manual and physical labour, music and sounds. Goldsmiths College, University of London Between 2008 – 2011 I took an MA in Cross Sectoral and Community Arts which gave me the opportunity to explore more deeply and articulate my work as a designer within applied arts and theatre practice. A general note on authorship. All the above pieces involved spoken text in performance, much of which was generated either through verbatim texts or participants’ workshops and ideas. The writers have been heavily involved in the devising stages with the ideas that have emerged being put through the subsequent dramaturgical and rehearsal process. Similarly the designs have emerged at different stages, through participants’ input and feedback, as well as through the usual technical rigors. Sometimes the pieces have been directed by teams, or driven forward by one director, over weeks and months, and fed into by musicians, movement specialists and researchers. In all cases the material and process has stimulated the work rather than a prewritten text, consequently the authorship is shared, whilst the theatre making skills of trained ‘creatives’ have enabled the projects to be as smoothly delivered possible. Creative Collaborators Michael Breakey Kerry Bradley Penny Cliff Sara Clifford Seriol Davies Linda Dobell Richard Flannigan Lewis Gibson Suzanne Gorman Gill Horitz Tony Horitz Jennifer Harmer Adrian Jackson Eric McLennan Nao Nagai Caroline Parrot Jonathan Petherbridge Wilfred Petherbridge Martina Schwartz Simon Startin Karen Tomlin Maureen Tyson Jools Voce Holly White