Unlimited Theatre have had a very packed year; with a trio of performances at three different theatres. In November they performed a version of Hansel and Gretel for a Youth Theatre festival at The Regent Theatre, Stoke. In April the group performed Who am I? as part of the Young Creative awards at Lakeside Arts Theatre. They won the drama award for their piece and were presented this at a fantastic red- carpet award ceremony at Nottingham Playhouse. Last month they performed Why can’t we talk about this? exploring the theme of teenage mental health, as part of a Youth Theatre festival at York Theatre Royal. The group rehearses at Rushcliffe School, where I have also been delivering some Berkoff masterclasses for their Year 10 students this year.
This year I have continued my work at a Stagecoach Annual Reviewer– visiting Stagecoach stage schools across the region to review their practice and offer advice for development. It’s rewarding to be able to offer support for some of the newer practitioners early in their careers.
This month will be my last as a Trinity Arts Award moderator. After doing the role now for over six years and moderating countless bronze, silver and gold arts awards around the region I’m moving on from this role that I have learnt so much from. I will miss meeting the young people and chatting to them about their awards and seeing how the arts touches their lives.
This term I was asked to return as part of the English faculty at Nottingham University in their annual project with Hall Park School. I have been working alongside the lecturers to deliver workshops with the Hall Park students, this year covering the story of Henry Box Brown, an 1800s American slave. I will be returning to work with the school in September to tweak direction to their devised performance, that will be shown at the Lakeside Arts Theatre.
Looking forward to the year ahead Unlimited Theatre will be taking part in the National Theatre’s Connections festival again. The group is expanding to include students up to 18 years old and will be moving to a later time slot of 6-8pm on a Wednesday, in the fantastic new build drama studio at Rushcliffe school, which opens next month.
This summer I am writing a number of drama lesson plans for UKCI, a UK organisation that is developing drama in schools in China.
There is increasing interest in performing arts education in Asia and a strong emerging demand in China for teaching and training in the performing arts. This in turn will require some way of indicating the quality of courses that come on offer and training Chinese teachers to teach the performing arts.
At the heart of this is a belief that performing arts can be of value to the individual, to the group and to the society. In China now there seems to be a real thirst for ‘soft’ skills and creativity to match and assist the economic explosion.
Hopefully the work will lead to me visiting China and training some of their teachers later in the year.
I was really pleased with the outcome of Present Location Uncertain and the impact that the project had upon the audience. Performing at Djanogly School was a highlight, keeping an audience of two hundred Year 7s entertained for 50 minutes was a challenge the actors rose to in style. This was followed by a lovely workshop with a group the students, exploring performance ideas contained in the play.
The final performance, at St Stephen’s church at The Vine, Hyson Green, was a moving experience. Sarah Lewis created a beautiful design for the piece, framed by spectacular stained- glass windows. My fantastic creative team also included sound design by Matt Marks and dramaturg by Beth Shouler, who wrote a beautiful monologue for the character of Harold’s wife. It was a privilege to perform in front of David Priestly, honouring the life of his grandad. Fantastic reviews by Kevin Castle and Left Lion can be seen on the review page.
Unlimited Theatre performed ‘Dependant’ at the Regional Youth Theatre Festival at Nottingham Playhouse in June. This devised piece, based around young people’s usage of social media, was a big success at the festival, being so relevant in theme to the audience’s lives. As part of the festival I delivered a series of physical theatre workshops to other groups from around the region; demonstrating the skill of ‘frameworks’ as starting points for communicating ideas.
Continuing in the WW1 theme I have been collaborating on a series of workshops for Nottingham University English department at Hall Park School, Eastwood. These Year 9 workshops support both the English Lecturers and Hall Park Drama department to explore ideas based around Nottingham WW1 history, leading towards a performance at Lakeside Arts in October. Workshops included exploring poetry by DH Lawrence and diary entries from the Sherwood Foresters.
I am continuing my work as a Trinity Arts Award moderator, which I have been doing for 5 years now and in September I’m excited to be starting work as an annual reviewer for Stagecoach Arts, where I’ll be assessing Stagecoach schools in the region.
I am about to commence rehearsals for Present Location Uncertain, a National Heritage Lottery funded project at The Vine Community Centre in Hyson Green. This wonderful, devised performance tracks the content of over 80 letters from WW1 soldier Harold Priestley to his wife Eva. The couple, who were both from Nottingham, had only been married for two years when Harold was sent out to France and the couple sent longing letters, hoping for the time when they would be back together. Eva was eventually sent a batch of returned letters with ‘Present Location Uncertain’ stamped on them.
The piece is being staged by a mixed group of community actors and will be taken back into the area to be performed; first at Djanogly School then at The Vine Community Centre in St Stephen’s church itself.
Having David Priestly, grandson of Harold, involved in the project is a powerful addition and to actually be able to hold the 99 year old letters is greatly moving. The project has a talented, professional creative team working on it; Beth Shouler as Dramaturg, Sarah Lewis as Designer and Matt Marks as Sound Designer. The process and performance is being filmed by Swainson productions and the documentary shown on the significant date of November 11th at Nottingham Library, where the content of the letters will be archived. Looking forward to getting started on directing this piece.
Unlimited Theatre took part in the National Connections Festival this year, performing Kellie Smith’s The Monstrum at Sheffield Theatre. This beautiful, multi-layered script tells the story of an isolated village on the edge of nowhere, where the young are being effected by a disease that transforms them into monstrous creatures. The group thoroughly enjoyed and rose to the challenges that the script created. The group will next perform and new piece as part of the RYTF at Nottingham Playhouse in June.
Well it’s been a busy six months juggling my freelance and teaching careers but I’ve had an amazing time.
The highlight of this time has been directing ‘Breathing Spaces’ for Excavate. This outdoor, community, promenade piece written by Andy Barratt was an exciting challenge. The company were aged 11-63 years old, with a mixture of semi- professional actors and those fairly new to theatre working alongside each other. The script was created using years of research by Nottingham University on the history of the parks in Nottingham that were built in the 1840s Enclosure Act. The script covered every decade up to the present day of events that occurred and my challenge was to direct it in four different spaces. I love the challenge of creating site-specific work and using the beauty of natural environments and the thrill of the liveness of park venues, where anything could happen kept me on my toes.
Following their success performing at the Regional Youth Theatre Festival at Wellingborough, the new Senior Unlimited Theatre group performed ‘Hillsborough’ at Youthfest as part of the Nottingham European arts festival. The group has grown in strength and ability and will be taking part in the Connections festival over the next two terms.
The Junior unlimited Theatre group performed the Brothers Grimm version of ‘Cinderella’ bringing this group to a close. It’s been a fantastic two years with them and children that have attended throughout that time have developed into very strong performers, with a couple of them taking part in ‘Breathing Spaces’
Next term I start work at Nottingham University Samworth Academy. Alongside running their BETEC level 2 course as a freelancer, I will be creating a Young Company to deverlop opportunities outside the curriculum for their students.
I’m now a term and a half into being an English Teacher three days a week at The Brunts Academy, Mansfield. I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of finding ways to deliver a subject where the pupils are behind the desks for a change! I think that recognising that the process of studying a text; discussing the characters, themes and subtext is a lot like the initial days in the rehearsal room of putting a play together, helps. At the end of that analysis- rather than a getting up to block out a scene the young person crafts those thoughts into an assessment. In particular my discussions with Year 9s about the character of Lady Macbeth has been a real hi so far.
Two days a week I continue my work as a freelance theatre practitioner. Unlimited Theatre has started the long awaited senior group for 12-16 year olds that operates from Rushcliffe School. This group immediately started developing a devised piece of work called ‘Wolf’, to take to the Regional Youth Theatre Festival in Wellingborough at the end of the month. Unlimited Juniors performed ‘Titanic’ at Christmas to parents; blending together historical facts with our trademar
In January I started directing the Curve Young Company at Curve, Leicester. It’s exciting being back in a professional theatre building and I’m working with a couple of very enthusiastic 8-11 year old groups on themes relating to mainstage production of
In May I start directing a project for Excavate, as part of National Park week. This will culminate in five promenade style site- specific performances at different parks in Nottingham, that were created in the 1850s; covering the fascinating aspects of their history. The piece will be written by Andy Barratt and features extensive research by a team of historians from Nottingham University. Working with a community cast the piece will be an exciting, interactive slice of history for the
My year of work at The Beech Academy culminated with a performance of The Wizard of Oz. These young people have never had the opportunity to perform before in front of an audience in this way. To meet their additional needs myself and my assistant performed on stage with the group; saying the lines first for the students to repeat and guiding them to the place they needed to be next.
The Children of Winter performance at Oakfield School was very moving, again finding ways that those with severe special needs could access ways to perform in front of others. A mixture of pre-recorded lines, projected speech and images, miming and adult support was used to achieve this. With a wonderful design by Jesca Warren this was a lovely end to all the fantastic projects that I’ve been commissioned by the Lakeside Theatre to deliver this year.
I delivered a series of workshops for ParkBench Theatre at Nottingham University with students on Italian summer language schools. Developing my skills to utilise those in the group with the strongest English spoken skills and using non-verbal facilitation reminded me of the work I delivered out in Sarajevo.
In August the Made in Normanton project, where I worked as Associate Artist for Fifth Word Theatre, culminated with a performance to parents and others in the community. Working in this highly deprived ward of Derby, with many of the children having English as an additional language was highly fulfilling. Responding to the book The Island by Armin Greder was a wonderful stimulus as a starting point for the group to talk about what it feels to be different.
Unlimited Theatre completed the year with a performance of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This group has grown in strength and numbers this year, with some talented young people as members. Dan Woolf joins me as Assistant Director with this group in the autumn. Dan who played the lead role in Dracula at Nottingham Playhouse that I directed back in at Easter. I hope to open a new 12-16 year old group for Unlimited Theatre later this year.
I am looking forward to starting my part- time role as English teacher at Brunts Academy in September. I’m delivering units on Macbeth, A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream and Of Mice and Men. So I’ll be able to use all my previous theatre experiences of exploring on these texts with a new focus on the language.
Unlimited Theatre, my youth theatre company for 8-12 year olds continues to grow in strength. This term we will be presenting our own unique production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory using an original, ensemble approach to bring the characters and the factory to life.
My first term at The Brunts School has been an enjoyable one, being a part of a successful, and highly reputable drama department. My work with Year 7-9s has included units on Boal, Medieval mystery plays and Animal Farm. My work day a week at Beech Hill special school includes units on masks, Of Mice and Men and returning to deliver arts Award as an advisor.
My work for Lakeside Arts Centre continues with a placement at Oak Fields School. Here I’m delivering a storytelling unit using the book Children of Winter as a stimulus that will then be developed into a designer performance. This will be the first time I’ve directed young people with severe learning difficulties and I’m looking forward to using multi- media, sensory interaction and use of the ensemble in order to achieve this.
Dracula was well received at Nottingham Playhouse and had much positive feedback in the reviews that we received (please see review page) It was wonderful to return to the theatre as a freelancer to direct another Advanced Youth Theatre production, making this classic tale accessible to modern audiences.
I’ve had a varied, excited and busy first term away from full- time theatre.
I’ve been teaching Drama at Djanogly City Academy, which has reintroduced me to teaching GCSE Drama and working with pupils who predominantly have English as a second language.
I really enjoyed my term as Youth Theatre Director at Lakeside Arts and directing a response to The Picture of Dorian Gray. Exploring the theme of What is beautiful? was an interesting one to approach on so many levels. Our route took us to The Ugly Duckling and white feathers floating down from the ceiling under theatre lights. Beautiful indeed.
My Drama sessions with the autistic boys at Woodlands school went so well that they invited me back to deliver more. I found the challenge of beginning with multiple props and costume and gradually throughout the sessions reducing thes , so that imagination could be encouraged, an exciting one.
Unlimited Theatre performed a Christmas sharing tracking the story of an elf who was sacked by Santa for turning up late for work! I love the imaginative way that this group develop the story themselves and decide what will happen with the plot and characters. Children’s imaginations take them to so many wonderful places.
The most exciting development is that I’m currently creating my own theatre company and producing a new devised play in 2015 that will tour. It’s called Missing Pieces and is in the funding and development stages. I’ve already had a lot of interest in the play and the partly autobiographical story it has to tell. Watch this space for further details.
Next term I’m teaching Drama at Brunts Academy in Mansfield. Part of this work include teaching at Beech Hill Special School, which I’m really looking forward to after my positive experience at Woodlands.
I will be leading Drama days exploring David Almond’s text Skellig with Year 7 pupils at Bilborough Beechdale Academy in January. The focus is to encourage creative thinking and develop a joy of the book that they are studying in their English lessons.
In February I start rehearsals for Dracula at Nottingham Playhouse Theatre. I’m really excited about directing this Advanced Youth Theatre production written by Liz Lochead, that will be performed in the studio from 14th-18th April. Designed by Nathan Rose this will hopefully be a visually exciting reinvention of the Bram Stoker classic.
Over the summer I finished in my role of Youth Theatre Director at Nottingham Playhouse, after nine years. My final performance was Equus by Peter Shaffer, with the Advanced Youth Theatre Company in the Neville ‘Studio’ . This space provided an intense, immersive experience for the audience who acted as jury for Alan’s crime. I had a wonderful creative team working alongside me on this play including Tim Ford, Associate Director at The Curve, who was our movement director, Eleanor Field, Designer , Steph Bartle, lighting designer and Thomas Preston, sound designer.
The play was very well received and sold out, with critics giving very generous feedback (see press page)
I will be continuing to work for the Playhouse on a freelance basis, including planning and delivering the half- term youth theatre groups in October, that I founded eight years ago.
I will also be working on the Enabled Upstart group this month. A special work experience package for young people with learning disabilities. The group will create a piece of drama and find out about careers in the theatre throughout the week
I will also be delivering workshops at Woodlands School with students with levels of autism. These workshops are in response to the book Skellig that they are studying should create interest around the characters and themes.
I’m about to commence a term working with Nottingham Lakeside Arts, leading their 14+ Youth Theatre group. We’re basing the term’s work on ‘Dorian Gray’ to link in with the production of ‘Doreen Gray’ by Lipservice Theatre Company, that is being performed at the theatre this season.
I’ll be working alongside new assistant, Rachel Armitage, at the beginning of her theatre making career, which is always exciting for me; sharing the planning and thought process of my selection of material, exercises, stimulus and directing.
The group will create a devised response to the novel and it’s themes on the Nottingham Lakeside Arts main theatre on November 28th 2014.
I’m also moving into a new term of Unlimited Theatre, the company that I founded, based at Heymann School in West Bridgford. This group, especially for 8-12 year olds, focuses on the process rather than the end performance. Promoting creativity and encouraging imagination.
I also do a lot of Arts Award moderations around the country at this time of year so all this should keep me busy!