Thoughts and Flirtations

50 Word Reviews: 3 Winters, Bull and Charles III

50 word reviewsWe like theatre. We like words. So here are words (50 or fewer to be exact) about theatre we have seen recently. (Next time we’ll publish them before the shows concerned close and everything).


3 Winters (Written by Tena Štivičić, National Theatre)

Ambitious (if uneven) mix of family drama and national politics that melds a great collection of roles for women with a wooshy set and several heart-pumping speeches about communism. Continues National’s trend of under-edited new writing, but important and moving on a history I feel ashamed for knowing little about.



King Charles III (Written by Mike Bartlett, Almeida @ Wyndhams)

Impressively and unnoticeably written in verse, King Charles III is too predictable in the first half and not challenging enough in the second. Easy laughs abound and much fun is to be had here but flimsy cause and effect and characters mean it feels underwritten. Good populist fun.



Bull (Written by Mike Bartlett, Young Vic)

Slick dialogue, direction and acting doesn’t mask the fact that in scale, imagination and scope Bull is disappointingly slight. Casually, maybe facetiously, bleak (with no possibility for change) I was never going to get on with Bull: humanity is both more terrible and more beautiful than anything on offer here.



(NB: We actually like Mike Bartlett’s work A LOT, but – more messy, complicated, problematic, joyous stuff like Earthquakes in London and 13 please.)

The shows Estelle is most looking forward to at Ignite 2014

Before writing this I checked my diary from last year, and was shocked to discover I had spent less than 48 hours in Exeter last year for Ignite 2013. The whole thing was such a whirlwind that I am delighted to say I will be around for the whole of this year’s festival! So, how to spend my time? Well, I currently have my eye on these:

The Love Project – Ellie Browning

At our beloved (get it?) Bike Shed Theatre, a piece of verbatim theatre about that most enduring  thing: Love. I missed this at Edinburgh last year and am delighted I can get to see it at Ignite. I remember reading about it and thinking this is exactly the sort of work I am interested in. Real people, real stories and LOVE. Looking forward to it.

The Ballad of Martha Brown – Angel Exit Theatre

Public Hanging in Dorset, during Ignite Festival? Don’t mind if I do. I loved The Ballad of Martha Brown from the talented (and very energetic) Angel Exit Theatre. This story has drama, intrigue, comedy, music and incredible physicality.

Dirty Decadence – Theatre With Teeth

For my third pick I am intrigued by Theatre With Teeth’s Dirty Decadence. Having seen and loved Posh I am excited to see their take on the topic. I have to say I’m surprised this wasn’t one of Charlie’s picks as he set up the company back in 2007.

It has to be said here that I really wanted to pick Gloriator but the darstardly Mr. Andrew Kelly got there first.

The shows Corinne is most looking forward to at Ignite 2014

Choosing three picks was tough, not least because there is an adaptation of Beowulf in the festival and there are very few times in life when I could legitimately roll out the fact that I have read Beowulf in its original Old English. Having held in any obnoxious showing off, however, my three picks are:

The Very Thought – Rose Biggin

One of the most interesting blurbs in the festival: feminism and pole dancing. I know a fair amount about one and nothing about the other (I’ll let you guess which is which). Plus the blurb also makes it sound like we’ve got an unreliable narrator going on, which might be my favourite writing device ever.

Stuff – Juncture Theatre

Last year at Ignite not only did Juncture Theatre perform the beguiling A Little Nonsense they also united with WBN on Cathedral Green to triumphantly complete the I crossword (with only one cheat). Even without those credentials, however, as a genetically pre-disposed hoarder, my own relationship with, well, stuff would have me intrigued.

Help – Viki Browne, Jointventure Theatre

At the start of our residency last Autumn the Bike Shed asked if a local, recently graduated director could observe during some of our R&D time. We said yes, and the director turned out to be Viki (on an entirely unrelated note, whose dresses I’d admired from a distance during Ignite 2013). Not only did Viki engage with and give us some incredibly valuable feedback on Blueprint she also ended up performing in Walking Stories. I’m a sucker for a one-person show (see Rose’s above) and I’m properly excited to finally get to see Viki’s own work.

The shows Andy is most looking forward to at Ignite 2014

My top 3 picks for Ignite:

1. Gloriator– Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at Bike Shed.
A Very Very Famous actress (and her brow-beaten PA) attempt to perform all of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator armed only with some small cardboard props and one big ego. An absolutely hilarious piece of clowning- two very talented performers getting themselves into all kinds of absurd tangles. You have to see this.

2. Wildbore– Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Exeter Library
Solo performer Jesse Meadows reflects upon her life with her grandmother. A poignant examination of aging, bereavement and love between generations, told with humour and optimism.

3. Current Location– Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Exeter Library
Fellswoop theatre make really good shows. This is a tense and thoughtful play about a small, tightly-knit community facing catastrophe.

2013 and Everything After

For the first time since March in 2013 we’ve had a six weeks where we’ve not been either making a new show or touring an existing one. This break finished last week – there was a re-draft of Blueprint which basically involved me, a white board, a marker pen and the frantic look of someone who is attempting to make a play which is composed of fifty individual one minute plays work (seriously, who thought that was a good idea?). This third draft of Blueprint is nicknamed the “jenga draft” for very good reason. Today Charlie and I had our first proper text meeting for Regeneration which we’re developing with support from Rich Mix, having scratched 15 minutes of it in November at Salisbury Arts Centre’s Practice. And soon Estelle will be back in the rehearsal room with Reasons for Listing. And then more Albion in the spring. And Blueprint in the early summer. And onwards, (hopefully) onwards.

But with this (slight) down time we’ve done some thinking and planning and (even) some not-working. So, possibly falling beyond even the category of being “fashionably late”, here’s our look back – and forward – of WBN…

Andy @ Residency Celebration Favourite WBN work related thing of 2013: Taking Beneath the Albion Sky back to Exeter’s Bike Shed Theatre in October. Albion had already appeared in two incarnations at the Bike Shed, once at a scratch night the previous November, and then for Exeter’s Ignite Festival in June. When we showed up again in October, Albion had just done two weeks in very different spaces in Hackney and Bristol. It was great to perform it again in that lovely, bare cavernous space, which suits the mood of the piece perfectly.

Favourite WBN non-worked related thing of 2013: It’s Thursday Night. It’s Scarborough. You’re cold. You need a drink. It’s time for MECCA BINGO, people!

Something that was hard or difficult in 2013: Rehearsing at the WBN office at the Albany is normally a pleasure. Charlie and I would sit with a coffee while he patiently waited for my brain to start working, then we’d lay out our chapter titles for each section of the show on a little trail of A4 sheets, and then we’d absorb ourselves in our work, serenely focused on our own little creation without any distraction from the outside world. Unless it’s a Wednesday afternoon and the market is on just outside our window. Some of those market traders like music. Doing the quietest, saddest, smallest piece of the play while the finale from Les Miserables is blaring in through the closed windows was difficult, but oddly moving.

Something you’re looking forward to in 2014: The next Christmas social, in which an even greater variety of alcohols will be consumed, and I will hopefully have another religious experience while watching It’s A Wonderful Life.

Charlie @ Residency Celebration Favourite WBN work related thing of 2013: The opening night of Albion at Ignite Festival in Exeter in June. The feeling that all the work had been done (finally!) and people really liked the show and maybe I sort of knew a little about what I was doing. That I wasn’t entirely deluded about writing and directing!

Favourite WBN non-worked related thing of 2013: Running manically across Salisbury in order to catch the last train back to London after Salisbury Arts Centre’s Practice (with Corinne being ridiculous and not being able to breathe from the running), making the train, having a great creative chat on the way home and then eating a nice burrito from Waterloo Station.

Something that was hard or difficult in 2013: Working TEN days in a row at Spektrix in order to make up for all the time I’d taken off for WBN.

Something you’re looking forward to in 2014: Still being alive come Christmas and not being a hollowed out husk of a human being. Oh, and hopefully finding an excuse to turn up at Ignite Festival.

Corinne @ Residency CelebrationFavourite WBN work related happening of 2013: All of Ignite Festival with its glorious sunshine, theatre for a pound, talking into the early hours of the morning about the meaning of life, meeting other awesome theatre makers, falling in love with the Bike Shed, Albion being better received than I could have imagined in my wildest dreams and the feeling – the one you can’t put into words – sitting in the audience of the first night performance and just knowing. When I look back on that week I want myself to know that I’m not hopelessly romanticising – it really was that brilliant. However, notable other mentions have to go to performing Reasons in its first library in Scarborough (which felt like the play coming home) and the post-show talk on Reasons which Andy, Estelle and I did with a group at Headway South East in June which resulted in the best, most insightful discussion I’ve ever had as a writer with audience members. Oh – and, and! – multiple audience members asking me if I was a physicist after seeing Blueprint.

Favourite WBN non-work related happening of 2013: Board Game Mania which descended on us during our residency at the Bike Shed, which resulted in a trawl through all the best (and worst) board games of the 1980’s and included a raft of new rules for the more mundane ones (largely involving shots of vodka). And dancing in The Yard’s empty bar with the rest of WBN to “I’ve had the time of my life” at midnight, with the bar staff letting us finish before they closed.

Something that was hard or difficult in 2013: The balance between producing the work and actually being creative with your head in the rehearsal room, I think we’re all still working on how we manage this (or if, indeed, it is possible to do this). Also, Andy and I losing in the final of the Dawlish Warren table hockey tournament to Estelle and Charlie.

Something you’re looking forward to in 2014: Finishing Blueprint (looks like it’ll be three years from initial idea to finished staging) and doing at least one project during the year that I couldn’t predict doing at this moment.

Estelle & BingoFavourite WBN work related happening of 2013: Part of ‘Walking Stories’, our outreach project at the Bike Shed: hearing Ryan’s stories first hand and then seeing his monologue performed by three different actors and his story being interpreted on stage with images. All with him in the audience enjoying his moment of fame.

Favourite WBN non-work related happening of 2013: Fun with dabbers on my first ever bingo experience at Mecca Bingo in Scarborough!

Something that was hard or difficult in 2013: Navigating to our cottage in the dark in Exeter – deeply stressful, writing our application to become a Community Interest Company (drafting and redrafting our aims) but really worthwhile. Preparing the curtain-raisers for ‘Walking Stories’ in only one day!

Something you’re looking forward to in 2014: Bringing Reasons to a larger audience (and redirecting it with a different Joseph).

Lucy @ Residency CelebrationFavourite WBN work related happening of 2013: Watching the penultimate performance of Beneath the Albion Sky at the Bike Shed Residency. It had been preceded by a curtain raiser performance of ‘Walking Stories’ which was created using stories collected from members of the local Headway group. It was wonderful to see the stage as an equal playing field for people of all backgrounds and experiences to have their stories told. The mix of producing work with theatre professionals as well as with local communities is my ideal way of working! So, when WBN asked me to be an Associate Artist of theirs directly after this show I rather gushingly and over enthusiastically accepted! And that is my favourite WBN work moment of 2013.

Favourite WBN non-work related happening of 2013: Arriving at the official WBN cottage in Exeter in the pitch black. Then waking up at 7am the next morning and discovering we were surrounded by green fields and hills. And then going out in my pyjamas to frolic with the local dogs and horses….much to the dismay of other WBN members who I woke with my squealing.

Something that was hard or difficult in 2013: As an actor / freelancer it is always the bits in between acting work that are the most genuinely difficult. It means though that you flipping love when your real work comes along and difficulties within that theatre / acting work are just exciting challenges to be creative with!

Something you’re looking forward to in 2014: Work in progress performance of Regeneration at Rich Mix. And also working on my own writing ideas.

Old Maps

This is a ley line:

The St Michael's ley line

This particular one is the St Michael’s ley line. It’s an imaginary dot-to-dot across southern Britain, connecting various pre-historic and medieval monuments,.

Ley lines were first proposed in 1921 as an archaeological theory. Albert Watkins suggested that in an earlier age, when this country was covered in forest, there were a few straight tracks that crossed the island from coast to coast. Important sites of pilgrimage were therefore built close to the tracks. His idea did not catch on with other archaeologists. They pointed out that, given the large number of historical landmarks littering the map of Britain, almost any straight line you draw across it is bound to hit a few.

Nevertheless, since the 60s a New Age mythology has been built up around the lines. Writers have claimed ley lines are natural sources of ‘vital energy’, that they having healing properties, that they are somehow linked with feng shui, ancient astronomy, or the Nazca lines of the ancient Peruvians.

Here’s an article on ley lines as part of an ‘earth matrix’. There’s a lot of information in that article and I wouldn’t beat yourself up if some of it didn’t make sense to you. But while we might all enjoy a smug laugh at the mystics, I can’t deny that there’s something seductive about looking at a map and seeing, buried underneath the motorways and rivers and other lines carving up our island, evidence of an ancient order totally different to our own.

Well, recently I found something that gives me that feeling. This is the Atlas of true names. It shows the original names of towns and cities, translated from old English, Gaelic and Danish. These names evoke images of what familiar places may have looked like a thousand or so years ago- when Hampshire was an ‘enclosed settlement’, and Scotland the ‘land of darkness’.

Take a good look at this map, and you start to picture a densely wooded island filled with separate peoples living in fortress communities named after their leaders- the Red One, the Short one, the Hasty one- it might help you to translate those town names if you bear in mind that in Old English ‘ing’ meant something like ‘the people of’. Also, good to know there was a whole town of people living ‘on the edge’. So they weren’t so different from us alter all.

And there’s so many mysteries in those names. How much more tattooed were our ancestors than their neighbours? Just what went on at the sinister-sounding ‘Important Place on the Remote Farms’? At what point did London change from being unfordable to unaffordable?

It’s refreshing to look at this island of concrete and gardens and see a wilderness. It is a world that has now been entirely abolished, and even in the remotest corners of Britain you can only catch a glimpse of what that world might have been like. But it’s good to remind yourself how recently, in fact, this land was cleared and tarmacked over. On the scale of human history, it was not so long ago that we moved from farms and fortresses to subways and skyscrapers. We’re still using the names of Saxon chieftains to guide us from one service station to the next. There is a long and rich history to this island, and you’re living in a particularly strange and tumultuous part of it.