Theatre41 – To The Future

Saturday marked the day which, when I curated Theatre41, envisaged would be our final day. I’ve much, much more to say about the month (and a little bit) that WBN have spent making theatre for Wood Street Market. But that shall have to wait because there’s something slightly more pressing at hand: we’ve been asked to extend our residency at Wood Street Market until the 16th June. That’s five more weeks.

So, just in case you’re not listening at the back: FIVE. MORE. WEEKS.

As CharlieWBN might say, CRUMBS.

In the next five weeks we’re going to do something a little different to how we’ve run the space until now. We’ve had our go at working out what a festival of new performance writing for Walthamstow might look like and now we’re looking for people who might want to use the space to test/ experiment/ make their own mildly crazy plans. We can offer Theatre41 for rehearsals, readings, scratches, workshops, get-togethers – and probably a few things that we don’t know the name of yet. Along with all the fixtures and fittings of Theatre41 (including lights and seating and a fully functioning, and attractively purple, kettle) we can offer various degrees of support in kind. Thanks to the support of Wood Street Indoor Market we can offer Theatre41 to you entirely free of charge.

You can see photos of Theatre41 here and there’s more information on Wood Street Market here.

We’ve got a variety of days still available between now and 16th June (including a couple of Saturdays and Thursday evenings where you can run performances if desired). I’m interested in hearing anything you might want to do with/ to the space but I’m particularly interested in helping projects/ ideas that are new and might not be able to find a home elsewhere (yet), things which support/ encourage new/ emerging theatre practioners of any discipline, anything that might come under the term ‘new performance writing’, projects that engage with empty shops and ideas which engage with the area/ community the shop is in. We’re also interested to hear from people who might be interested in running/ taking part in empty shop pop-ups in future (even if you can’t at this stage).

If you are interested please contact us at


Cold Writing: The Live Blog

So, somewhat soggy and laden with food stuff, your intrepid live blogger has arrived at Theatre41 just in time to watch the first rehearsal. If you’re wondering what Cold Writing is, let’s get you up to speed. On Monday we invited five writers into our shop to take part in a workshop, we gave them tea and made them do exercises and then sent them away to write a play in less than 48 hours. And now we’re rehearsing and staging them in under 12 hours. Because we like giving ourselves panic attacks.

12.50pm: Starting as we mean to go on there is talk of zombies. And what noises they might make. Because play one – a true first for WBN – has zombies.

12.52pm: “Let’s just try that again in relation to eating Steve”. A shopper is peering through the window seeming slightly scared. I don’t blame her.

12.55pm: There is some talk as to whether I’ve brought sausages in my picnic basket. For the entrails. I can offer up cheese and scones and orange juice but have failed entirely with the entrails. What can I say  – I’m not used to ZOMBIES.

13.00pm: First complet RUN-THROUGH begins! Turns out these zombies are funny.

13.06pm: A performer who’s auditioning for a role in A Night At The Dogs turns up mid-scene. I break three bones in my foot attempting to get to her without disrupting the run.

13.10pm: Notes. “It’s hard to eat people script-in-hand”. Quite.

13.15pm: Second RUN-THROUGH.

13.25pm: We’re all happy – including the market owner who has popped in and announced that she likes ZOMBIES. It is a clearly a winner.

[This is where we have lunch. There is much joy over cartons of orange juice and how they remind us of childhood packed lunches and I don’t catch up with liveblogging because I have a conversation with Anja, who runs the coffee shop just down from Theatre41, about places people have been stuck.]

13.45pm: We start staging the the second play. This involves moving a bench. Or rather – the bench of Emily and I carrying it from Brixton to Streatham fame. I bloody love this bench because I can be righteous about it and I do love theatrical righteousness.

13.48pm: We’re still moving the bench.

13.52pm: The bench has been moved back to within 10cm of where it started. We conclude this job has been done well.

13.55pm: We start rehearsing. This play is more about storytelling than about ZOMBIES. Don’t worry though, this doesn’t mean that the actors are getting out of doing silly moves in full view of everyone using the market. We like making them do that.

14.00pm: Having been eaten by ZOMBIES Steve is now getting to enact his best knarled-witch impression. It’s convincing.

14.05pm: On a serious note it’s always interesting how different writers take the same theme and space and twist it. This one’s more poetical and enthused with fairytales, whereas ZOMBIES was resolutely about now and laugh out loud funny.

14.10pm: There’s a monster in the play and, helpfully, there’s a giant paper-dinosaur in the window of the shop opposite us. Cue shrieks and free advertising.

14.12pm – 14.21pm: I go out of the shop to talk about THEATRE SCHEDULING.You can tell from the capitalisation that it’s one of the recurring features of my life at the moment.

14.22pm: I return to discover one of the actors has developed an incredibly strong Geordie accent in my absence. Right.

14.27pm: Talk about pace.

14.30pm: An owl hoot is needed. Joe has a go. It is decided that Joe’s Owl is asthmatic.

14.33pm: Joe makes up for this with his wolf noise and we agree that owl noises are over-rated.

14.35pm: Possibly we are getting over-excited. Director Charlie has to step in re: ALL THE GIGGLING.

14.39pm: I realise, for no good reason, the last few entries of this blog have gone back in time. Hmm.

14.43pm: A young boy with a scooter is watching through the window. We’re debating health and safety of treehouse building now, so at least he will learn something.

14.47pm: And suddenly, after the storytelling and wolf noises and giggling, the tone of the piece changes entirely and there’s a lovely stillness in the room.

14:53pm: RUN-THROUGH.

14.54pm: Stop run-through due to Charlie causing giggles.

14.56pm: RUN-THROUGH!

15.07pm: Notes. We run some of the transitions again but everyone is happy.

15.10pm: We’ve misplaced the toilet key. This might be an issue.

15.13pm: Still no toilet key.

15.15pm: Stand down, toilet key located.

15.23pm: Trauma averted it’s time to start with play number three. This is a two actor piece so Joe gets to sit next to Charlie and “help” direct.

15.25pm: After ZOMBIES and fairytales we now have David Beckham (he’s local y’know).

15.28pm: Oof, one of those moments when you think a play is about one thing and then the writer flips it and actually it’s about something else entirely.

15.32pm: There’s a naturalness about everything with this one and it’s quite lovely to watch the actors.

15.33pm: I vow to stop being soppy.

15.35pm: We decide, since we’re in the grove, to continue onwards to piece four.

15.36pm: In the great prop-list of the day (a mirror, a vinyl record, a newspaper, a carrier bag) it turns out this is the piece that has three lighters in it. I don’t like to point out that last summer I spent an entire day having to complete risk assessments for one piece of touch paper in a fully protected theatre. Naked flames inside a shop-theatre which has tags and photographs hanging from the ceiling and audience in close proximity? HA HA HA.

15.38pm: The lighters are given to me and I hide them for ever more.

15.40pm: Steve gets over-enthusiastic and trys to stand on the bench. He almost falls through the window. RISK ASSESSMENT.

15.41pm: It is decreed no one is to stand on the bench ever again.

15.44pm: And now we’ve got some political theatre. This makes me happy.

15.48pm: Break for a talk about what the third person on stage does when they are neither storyteller nor main character. Suggestions are made but no conclusion quite reached.

15.50pm: EmilyWBN pops her head in to ask if she can run some tests for A Night At The Dogs outside the shop. This may possibly involve running around the outside of the shop.

16.00pm: Stage direction for a smoke machine. I’ve risk assessed one of those too. HA HA HA.

16.05pm: Sort of sad that no one is running round the shop yet.

16:07pm: Lovely change in pace in the piece.

16.08pm: There are now too 8 year old boys running around the shop. Their mother is, it is fair to say, not pleased.

16.10pm: Somewhat chastised a couple of theatre-makers run around the shop trying not to encounter the wrath of anyone’s passing mother.

16.14pm: More talk of FIRE. I see where the lighters come in. I check they’re still hidden.

16:17pm: RUN-THROUGH.

16.30pm: This piece probably has the most complicated staging of the four. “I’ll try and be okay with the physical contact…”

The One With Some Exciting News

On Friday I got some news of the variety that makes me do ridiculous dances in my living room (it’s a good job we don’t have neighbours opposite to watch me do this), both of which will allow me to add some new exciting things (or, as is my capitalisation penchant NEW EXCITING THINGS) to the Theatre41 programme.

First up, I found out that Theatre41 had been selected by the IdeasTap panel as one of the winners of the latest round of their Top-Up fund. I’ve been a member of IdeasTap since its very early days (and indeed was interviewed by them about making work for empty shops back in 2010) and I don’t even hold against them the fact that they are responsible for me no longer being able to say ‘I have never given a PowerPoint Presentation’*. Basically if you’re at all creative – in any of the ways it might be possible to be creative – and you aren’t a member then you should stop reading this and sign up immediately. This time the Top Up Fund has given £500 to 20 projects (and it’s a diverse and genuinely interesting bunch we’re part of). What the Top-Up Fund means to Theatre41 is that not only will we be able to film all of the pieces created for and premiered in the shop but we’ll actually be able to create a ‘Making of Theatre41’ record of the theatre, filming the process as we make the shop (and then unmake) it into a theatre. Beautifully transitory as a pop-up venue might be having a record of process is one of the ways the work becomes permanent – not just for us to learn from but also for anyone else who might be interested in undertaking such endeavours. And, in keeping with this, we’ll be putting the resulting film online (most likely in mid June), if only so you can undoubtedly get to laugh at how high and occasionally shrill my voice is.

That piece of news on its own would have been enough to have me do a dance worthy (or not) of Strictly round my living room but then, under sixty seconds later, I received an email to say that we’d been chosen to take part in National Theatre of Scotland’s ‘Five Minute Theatre‘. Now, it’s not exactly an understatement to say that both myself and Charlie WBN are hopelessly in love with the National Theatre of Scotland. It’s actually a little embarrassing if you get us on to the subject (I mean, it was they who led us to discover the TEAM and, crikey, do we hero-worship them). So to be making a piece of theatre for an NTS project? Just a little bit bloody brilliant. I’m going to be writing a blog post that goes into what we’ve got planned for our contribution to Five Minute Theatre (and its theme of ‘Protest’) in more detail in the next few days, along with when we’ll be filming the piece in Theatre41. But for now I will say we’ll be creating, rehearsing and filming the piece in Theatre41 – and, because I want to add another level of terror to my day, we’ll be live blogging the process too.

*In Autumn 2010 I was shortlisted for a project with IdeasTap and the Old Vic Tunnels and as well as doing a workshop (though we didn’t have to play odd workshop games that spring terror into my writerly heart) I had to give a presentation in IdeasTap Towers. But then, if I were to flip this, maybe I should be thanking them for being the reason that I taught myself how to use PowerPoint.

The one where Corinne has a lot of ground to cover

I’m not sure if the above tweet is exactly the correct way to introduce Theatre41. But I guess it’s a way. Because it acknowledges that I’m incredibly excited about the project (hang on, I’ll get to what the project exactly is in a second or two) whilst also acknowledging the OH MY GOD, WHAT HAVE I AGREED TO DO? nature of the endeavour. Maybe it’s just me (though, talking to friends that haven’t abandoned me because of the crazy that is just below the surface at any given moment currently, I think it’s the same for everyone who runs around wearing different work hats) but all my projects smack a bit of this. At some point I’d probably like to make some stuff in a sedate, ordered, non-seat-of-pants manner. See: PROFESSIONAL.

Just before Christmas I was told about a regeneration project which was happening in Wood Street Market, Walthamstow and it was suggested that I should pitch something. I initially scoffed a little for three practical reasons i)The occupancy of the shops was for a minimum of three months. Starting in February. That’s a LOT of shop space to fill with performance. ii) Walthamstow may well be in London but it is a London a long, long way from where I live. It’s the end of the Victoria Line for starters. And I don’t even live on a tube line. And finally iii) I’d made some sweeping statements about getting down to some serious writing in 2012, 2011 having mainly been made up of three house moves and the behemoth of taking a show to Edinburgh Fringe. I then either made a big mistake or did the right thing (depending on how you loook at it) and mentioned this to Charlie WBN and he looked at me like I was a bit daft for having any other thought about the idea. Of course we should pitch. And so I did – and then had at least one of my reservations soothed when it was suggested that there might be a system where a rolling programme of artists was created for one particular shop and, would I be interested? Yes I promptly replied (but I’d quite like to start in April). Given that we turned The Brixton Project round in six weeks (which included Christmas and New Year during which, apparently, it’s rude to make people work when you’re paying them in love and cake) anything later than mid-February would take on the sheen of all of the time. Thus when we were offered the shop for near to five weeks from the second week of April  I did a little dance around my living room. That screamed SO MUCH TIME.

And in some ways it has been. We’ve had time to curate something on a scale I’ve never quite attempted before, time to approach people we wanted to work with and cajole/ bully/ bribe them into working with us. There has been time for funding applications and for us to start working with groups in Wood Street even before we’ve got anywhere near the shop itself (just this week we held our first workshop with a class of Year Three pupils at the local primary school). There’s also been time to think about what we want Theatre41 (as we have named our shop) to be and do – both for the writers and theatre makers we’re working with and for the regeneration project and community we’re going to be part of. It sounds a bit ridiculous to say that working as part of the project to regenerate Brixton Village Market changed the way I think – I know, point and laugh, point and laugh – but it did. It made me think about my spending habits and localism and small traders versus big corporations and community – and what my role as a theatre maker might be within that (for, I have firmly concluded, we can have a role to play). I’m sure, in between the minute-by-minute blog posts peppered with capitalised words about some aspect of the project that is freaking me out, I’ll return to this subject in a less flippant manner. So time has been nice.


*blows into a paper bag*

See what I said earlier: professional.

Regardless, I have little time for sanitised blogging (read also: I’m absolutely incapable of doing it) so we’ll be documenting the process from this point onwards in all its terror, pain and (hopefully) glory.

The other thing to note is that in the expanding WBN family myself and Charlie have been officially joined by Drama Facillitator/ Theatre Maker Estelle Buckridge and Scenographer/ Theatre Maker Emily Harwood (and I’ll be making them blog here in some manner, though they don’t know it yet). That Estelle had to deal with the fallout of the whole launch-party-venue-has-flooded trauma of The Brixton Project and Emily made me a boat at 5.30am on the floor of a flat in Edinburgh last summer and they still want to work with us I shall take as a good sign.

Finally, our official programme of events is here. We’re waiting on a couple of funding/ inclusion decisions which is also why I’ve not indicated what’s happening on every day, do not worry: there will be something. Even if that something is tea and cake and over-excited chatter about theatre. There’s a couple of things we’re actively seeking writers to participate in so if you’d like to make some work for the shop see Cold Writing: The Forest or if you’ve got a short play you’d like to be read then Cold Reading might be the one for you. Any other questions, suggestions or offers of things to keep us warm – give us a shout.