Thursday 21 October 2010

The Dust Archive: Second Printing

I am really pleased to say that copies of the second printing of The Dust Archive by Annie Lloyd and myself are now available direct from Annie. Full details are below, and images are available here in an earlier post, here.

The Dust Archive: A History of Leeds Met Studio Theatre
Alexander Kelly and Annie Lloyd

A collection of memories from every performance at Leeds Met Studio Theatre. The Dust Archive book is a beautiful object in its own right comprising hand drawn images on tracing paper each referring to a particular moment from a particular show. Most of the significant UK performance makers of the last two decades are featured, including Forced Entertainment, Lone Twin, Curious, Reckless Sleepers, Stan’s Cafe and Third Angel. The book attempts not so much a comprehensive memoir as an imagistic and emotional recall condensed from hours of video of Alex and Annie in the act of remembering.

Not only does The Dust Archive celebrate the importance of a significant venue on the progressive theatre scene, its form and structure provide a valuable contribution to discussions around memory, archiving, engaging with the past and presenting recalled information. The tracings on the page coming up through the pages beneath add complexity and layering to the sense of fragility and unreliability in the notion of memory itself. This book is a work of art.

Alexander Kelly is Co-Artistic Director of Third Angel with whom he performs, devises, directs and designs new theatre and live art. He is Associate Senior Lecturer in Performance Practice at Leeds Met University.

Annie Lloyd is an independent producer who was Director of Leeds Met Studio Theatre from 1990 to 2009 where she championed and nurtured progressive performance work from the UK and beyond.

The Dust Archive is available for £15 + £2.99 p+p.

To order, contact Annie at: alloyd50 [@]

Monday 18 October 2010

Whatsonstage Interview

There's a new interview with me by Joanne Hartley on the Whatsonstage website, talking about the process of making What I Heard About The World. You can find it here.

Rehearsal Blog 9

Here's Lauren's report on week 6 of rehearsals, the final week in the Lyceum Theatre rehearsal room before moving to the Crucible Studio Theatre for production week. A week of some quite big decisions and changes.

Rehearsal Blog 9: When the World Became Very Big, and Then Very Small

So, the last week of rehearsals. Perhaps not perfect timing for a complete redesign of the show, but a feeling that it was necessary seemed to be shared by the group. Rachael suggested a new running order, and that the 'playing space' should be changed to be very wide and shallow. Props and furniture were scattered across the stage, each piece having one function but not being moved once its used. This forces the performers to move about and create 'business', making it more visually interesting for the audience.

Chris also suggested the idea of literally tracking the journey of the stories; for example the first two stories in the show are from Singapore and Liberia, so they could describe how you would make that journey in real life (since it was me that did the research I can tell you it involves three international airports and bribing a helicopter pilot).

The 'Massacre' section includes material that has remained virtually the same since the performance at Forge almost six months ago, plus a new lengthy text, but it was finally decided that it needed to be shortened. This was a running theme for all the texts that remain in the show, with most of the texts being tightened up, both to shorten the running time, and to improve the flow and dynamism of what remained. For the same reason, some changes were made to who performed the texts, also to ensure that no one performer dominated certain sections of the show.

Rehearsals continued in this vein, but something still didn't feel quite on Wednesday there was another development in terms of the staging, with the playing area reduced to a more intimate size. This obviously had implications for what the set looked like and how the performers interacted. Rachael had invited Julie Horan to work for a couple of days on the art direction, and between her and the group, a domestic feel to the staging began to emerge. The stage now read as a living room that the performers lived in, so this meant that it made more sense for them to tell the stories as much to each other, as 'out' to the audience.

A run-through on this basis with an audience of a few invited guests was performed on Thursday evening, which threw up some interesting points for the performers to consider, including the reading by some of the audience that Alex and Jorge are Chris' imaginary housemates.

One problem that needed solving at the end of the week was defining Chris' role; due to the nature of his texts, it wasn't clear if he was purely a commentator or a fellow storyteller aswell. Since neither the text or the set configuration was final until we moved into the Studio the next week, it was difficult to decide. Hopefully with a new venue and a new set, it would be one of those problems to which the solution would emerge in the space.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Rehearsal Blog 8: Forgive Them Father

Catching up with the rehearsal blogs from Lauren... this is for the latter half of week 5 of devising/rehearsals:

Post 8: Forgive Them Father, for They Have Sinned.

The rest of the week was spent developing each story section individually, with a view to having another run-through of everything on the Friday. This focussed on what the performers will actually do whilst telling the story, especially if they are the narrator.

Most intriguing of these sections came from Jorges’ experience of confessing to a priest when he was young. This links to a ‘sin line’ in France, which we were surprised to discover still exits and was immediately worked into the show.* Since a lot of the stories are told in the first person, it didn’t feel like a problem that one of them is actually a personal experience, but it was also attempted with Chris confessing to Alex.

On Friday the performers did a run-through of all the developed material, in a rough order without any transitions or ‘connecting’ sections and it came to almost two hours. This was a little more than the performers were expecting, but didn’t see this as a problem as they felt the show would shrink with further rehearsal. In discussing it in the afternoon, some sections were agreed on as needing big changes, but no-one was prepared to rule anything out entirely at that point.

There was still a hesitation about the role of the screen and live drawing, but it was left until further development was done to make the final decision. It was also thought that Jorge needed more 'normal' things to do and say, as there was a danger that he would be seen as the 'clown' of the trio by the audience.

At this point, some stories that were on the ‘in the show’ pile had been left undeveloped, and would probably remain so as there was already a lot of material written or prepared. The week ended with the performers feeling pretty happy with how the material was coming to life, and were hoping for more of the same next week.

*If you feel the need to confess any sins to an automated Frenchman, the number is: France 0982 463 438

Friday 1 October 2010

Rehearsal Blog 7: What We Think About The World

Here's Lauren's report from the first half of last week - which was Week 4 of the devising/rehearsal process.

Rehearsal Blog 7: What We Think About the World?
The first task of the week was to do further work on the opening of the show, as it felt important to use the introduction as an implicit statement of intent, and to have it decided in the performers’ heads. This didn’t quite go to plan however, as discussion drifted back to the intentions of the show as a whole.

The material at times feels like the results of a fact finding mission (this perhaps reflects the methodology of getting the stories in the first place), and it was thought that maybe this should be embraced; the show is a snapshot of the world, the performers have heard about it and are ‘reporting back’ to the audience. This allows for the idea that the world the performers describe can only be their interpretation of it, as well as using Portuguese and native tongues when naming countries.

Alex’s ideas about the show changed a lot over the weekend, and some of them were discussed and tried out. He suggested there should be 24 stories, one for each time zone (though this isn’t mentioned to the audience), and that they should be placed on a map but not a literal one, perhaps one made from spotlights. The stories should be character focused, although not necessarily the central character(s). There was debate about whether having a map on stage all the way through would create the same problems that using lots of flat daddies would. Perhaps markings on the floor could suggest a map?

Sifting through the material already generated, and choosing other stories to make a total of 24, quickly made it obvious that this was too many. There were also big geographical gaps in story locations; it wasn’t decided definitively if this was important or not. It was agreed that the rest of the week should be spent developing each of the stories not yet touched on, with the aim of putting it all together on Friday for a run-through. For the time being connecting the stories was not important.

On Tuesday, the Brand Awareness, Radio Silence and Emergency Exit stories were looked at in more detail, which bought up thoughts about the physical aspect of the show. What should performers not actively involved in a story do; should they be on or off stage, should they be setting something else up for a future story, should they just disappear for a bit? Minimising the number of props used, and using them several times was thought to be a cleverer way of dealing with telling some stories. For example a radio is being used during Radio Silence, but could also be used for Massacre, Night Flight and Sin Line. This way all the props could be on the stage all the time, in line with the store room aesthetic the group have been discussing.

The development of Radio Silence induced an interesting debate, as it tells a story where sympathy for an Israeli family could be inferred as taking sides in a particular, complex conflict. Should the way the stories are presented be influenced by the performers’ opinions; does this make it not What I Heard About the World, but What We Think About the World? Some discussion about whether the show was obligated to mention Palestine in the interests of balance, or whether this was too much comment, and the show should just to present the world as they have found it. The performance is a version of the world, and the audience should be allowed to take from it and create their own, new world.