CAJ Collab @ Poplar Union

Michael is a lovely man and a dancer and he was in the year below me at Calder High School. I hadn’t seen Michael in years until he came to see Above the Mealy-Mouthed Sea at Omnibus Theatre last September.

It wasn’t long after that that I got an email from Michael, telling me that he’d loved the show and asking me if I’d like to be involved in a new project he was developing with his friend Eve called CAJ COLLAB.  This is how he described it to me:

“the concept is we facilitate a collaboration between two artists who haven’t worked together before. In the space of one day, they meet, work together to create a low stakes score/work which is performed that evening. It came from our desire to create collaborations/performances away from the high stakes, labour intensive structure of funding – rehearsal – performance.”

I was really excited by this prospect and thought it was an incredible and intriguing idea! I signed up straight away and the date was set for September 16th.

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Photo by Jack Smith

The artist they paired me with was Akeim Toussaint Buck, Akeim is a dancer, beatboxer, writer and musician and he uses a loop station like me. He’s one talented guy and it was a pleasure to work with him.  I recommend you check out his stuff! I’ve got to hand it to Michael and Eve too, I think they chose very wisely when they paired us together. Our styles are complementary but not the same and it was amazing to learn new skills and techniques from him.

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Photo by Jack Smith

As the day approached I got increasingly nervous, although the stakes were low there’s still something terrifying about having just one day to create something to present in front of a paying audience. I’m also really keen to incorporate more physical/dance strands into my performance work so I was really looking forward to dancing with Akeim but a little bit anxious that, because he was a trained dancer, I wouldn’t be able to keep up!

The venue was Poplar Union, I hadn’t been before but is a fantastic venue,, really lovely. The performance space is very flexible and there’s a lovely cafe with great food and a fantastic community feel.

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Photo by Jack Smith

It turned out that I shouldn’t have been nervous at all. I often find the anticipation of something scarier than the reality of it. When we got in the room together, the process was surprisingly easy…

In the morning, Akeim led a physical warm-up and we discussed themes we wanted to explore. I was keen to explore our ideas about the city and had the idea of keeping the curtains open and performing against the large french doors that ran the length of the back wall. The big windows looked out on to a park, a housing estate and then, beyond that, the towers of Canary Wharf; a snapshot of the variety of landscapes that make up London. We actually used some of the outdoor space as well, as you can see in the photo below.

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Over lunch, Akeim told me that he was becoming a father, that his girlfriend was expecting a baby in February! So, as a result of the fact that parenthood had been on Akeim’s mind, the piece we made centred around wrestling with the idea of whether London – the city we both live in and love – is a good place to bring up children. The whole childrearing/London issue had been on my mind a fair bit too (not that I’m expecting a baby!) so we had a rich seam of thoughts and ideas to mine.

 

Here are some of the techniques we used to collaborate:

  • We did a couple of free-writes with ‘the city’ and ‘childhood’ as starting prompts. We then used choice lines of the material we came up with to create more material and movement from
  •  We created a movement sequence together based around ‘Hedonism’, each adding a phrase
  • We improvised conversation which we then took the best bits out of and used them as a loop to create a backing track to move to
  • One of us laid down the beginnings of a song and then the other one added harmonies and melodies to it
  • We took it in turns to tell each other a story about our childhood and the other one provided percussive backing

We made material fairly easily and then it was a case of stringing it together, of finding an order that felt right and creating transitions.

The whole thing was an amazing experience. I loved the getting stuck into some movement too although, to be honest, I was incredibly sore the next day! Akeim and I have even discussed the possibility of sourcing some funding to develop the work into a finished piece, so watch this space.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the first ever CAJ COLLAB back in July but I heard that it was amazing and very, very different from ours. I strongly suggest that you follow CAJ COLLAB on Instagram here so that you can hear about their next event and go!

And please check out Akeim, see what things he’s got coming up and support him if you can. He’s actually got a new solo show on at the fairly new Streatham Space on Wednesday 10th October, you can buy tickets here. It’s also on at Home in Manchester on the 26th and 27th of October. Tickets here.

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

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New Newsletter!

Hello! I’ve decided to let a monthly newsletter do most of the talking now. I’ll still post on here sometimes with more detailed insights or thoughts about the work I do but as of September 2018, I’m going to keep people up to date with most news via a newsletter.

If you’d like to receive the newsletter, you can sign up here

 

Make Mud Press Chapette Book

Something lovely arrived in the post last week. A small chappette book made by the amazing artist Jessica Jane Charleston who runs an independent letterpress publishing house called Make Mud Press.

Jessica first got in touch with me at the tail end of last year asking me if I’d be interested in collaborating with her on a small series of chapbooks she was planning to make. Jessica has made six chappette books over six months with six different women writers she admires, one of whom is me! She’s made six beautiful books, each including one of her own linocuts, in limited editions of only 50 each and I’m so happy to have been a part of this unique and beautiful project.

I sent some poems over to Jessica from a series I’d been working on following two women, who were friends at school, over the course of their, very different, lives.

The poem that Jessica chose was a sonnet I’d written whilst I was away in Spain called ‘Eight months pregnant and Shitting it.’

We’re going to be celebrating the birth of these completely beautiful books on the 6th of June at Caravanserail bookshop in Shoreditch. There’ll be readings from the writers and wine and nibbles and an opportunity to buy the books. It’ll be great.

Bad Faith

Bad Faith is a project I first started thinking about when I met amazing Belgian choreographer Tara D’Arquian about two years ago. Tara is one of the most hardworking and visionary young artists I’ve ever met and she had an ambitious plan in mind.

Her plan was to create a dance and text piece with a broad reach, exploring mental health, womanhood and, to my amazement, she’d seen me perform and wanted me to write the text for the piece.

This task was a big, big change for me. For a start, I’m not that used to writing work for other people to perform and, of course, although a big fan of contemporary dance, I had never written work to fit into a dance piece.

During the development process, I was lucky enough to go to Brussels to the beautiful space belonging to L’Escaut Architects. The atmosphere and attitude of the L’Escaut building was lovely, with architects and artists coming together to cook and eat lunch every day.

 

 

It was fantastic just watching the dancers and the amazingly watchable actor and theatre-maker Hannah Ringham.

But perhaps my favourite part of the whole process was working with our fantastic extended cast. I had the privilege to meet and work with nine women, all 60+ from all sorts of different backgrounds and with a wealth of fascinating experiences. I ran creative writing, performance and singing workshops with them where they created material around themes of the body and also writing that nurtured both the central character Nora and themselves. During the show, the extended cast sat in the audience and spoke and sang their own beautiful writing from their seats. It’s been just over a month since the show and I miss these wonderful and inspiring women so much already.

 

 

The completion of the development of Bad Faith felt like a very big project coming to an end and I felt all the accompanying come-downs of that! Now that it’s been a month since the show, I can reflect on the work and tell you that I’m incredibly proud of what we achieved. It’s not an easy mission to work with such contrasting languages, dance and poetry, within the same piece and my hat goes off to the whole creative team that made it happen. There will, I’m sure, be more chances to catch this show in the future.

You can read the four-star Guardian review here.

 

 

Hello again!

Given that I haven’t written a blog post for almost a year, there’s unsurprisingly a lot for me to catch you up on! The blog slides when I’m busy and wow, I’ve been very busy! It’s all good though. Business is booming!

First of all to say I’m going to try a new approach to the blog, blogging shorter things more frequently. A friend of mine suggested this and I think he’s right. So although I’ve got an awful lot to say, I’m going to keep this one short and all about Rear View.

The Rear View bus is going to rev itself up again as the IOU team heads off on tour in 2018 to…

Halifax (April), Brighton (May), Stockton on Tees (August), Coventry (September) and Grantham (also September).

It’s been ludicrously wonderful working on this show. I’ve sat on the bus and watched the alternative version written and performed by Cecilia Knapp and it’s amazing. It’s cinematic. Along with the soundscape it feels as if you’re seeing the world in one long tracking shot and it’s unclear whether what’s going on in the streets is happening anyway or has been choreographed especially for you. The show explores memory, music, a sense of place and loss and there are two versions, one written and performed by Cecilia and one written and performed by me. I’m particularly excited to be touring to Halifax as I grew up there and so I think that the memories that the character recalls will sit especially beautifully there.

I’m so proud of this show and I can guarantee it’ll be like nothing you’ve ever seen before. If you can make it along to a show this year, I strongly advise that you do!

And working with the team at IOU is great! It’s really fun being on tour with so many people, there are ten of us on the team that makes the show run. It’s a real joint effort. And it makes a nice change from touring solo (more of that in the next piece. I’ve not done a single post on my big project  Above the Mealy-Mouthed Sea  which has just finished, but there’s so much to say!)

Anyway, until next time which will (hopefully!) be much, much sooner.

 

REAR VIEW

Over the last year or so I’ve been working with the incredible IOU Theatre on a groundbreaking show called Rear View. It’s certainly the biggest and most ambitious thing I’ve ever worked on and its development has been a wonderful and rich experience for me.

Now, our national tour has begun. I spent the last week of May with the wonderful team in lovely Norwich and it was so, so much fun. We’re touring to 6 festivals across the UK this year and another 4 next year.

I won’t talk too much about the show here, partly because I’ve hardly got a minute at the moment, mainly because Norfolk and Norwich Festival have made this brilliant short film, explaining all about it!

You can watch it here.

Enjoy!

 

Where text and dance meet…

A couple of weeks ago, I worked for a week alongside amazing choreographer Tara D’Arquian, incredible dancers Amarnah Amuludun & Laura Doehler and magnetic Actor Hannah Ringham. Nemesis (working title) is a project let by Tara which aims to explore ideas including inner daemons, madness and heterotopia taking some inspiration from the writings of Borges.

It was an amazing process. We wanted to reach a place where we developed movement and text simultaneously, to get to the point where the audience may not know whether the movement inspired the text or the text inspired the movement, where both forms were supporting each other.

We also worked with a small group of women aged 60+. Their role was to sit in the audience as an ‘extended cast’ and to sing and move and speak with material we created together through creative writing workshops.

We’re extremely grateful to Arts Council England, Trinity Laban and Greenwich and Lewisham Young People’s Theatre for supporting this short period of research and development, both Tara and I are really excited to keep on experimenting with how our two practices can intersect and expand each other’s possibilities.

Here’s a video of the sharing at the end of our two weeks of research: