Wednesday 24 April 2013

GIFT "Solo" Workshop

Next week at GIFT (a properly brilliant festival, check out the line-up here) I'm running a workshop called "Solo" Performance. The speech marks are there because solo work is, of course, rarely made alone. I've been thinking about this recently for a number of reasons. 

Since January I've been working on Hannah Nicklin's solo performance A Conversation With My Father, and after a slightly convoluted (on my part) discussion about what to call my role (somewhere between mentor, director, dramaturg and co-devisor), we've opted for "Made in collaboration with". Sometimes, I think, that role is simply being in the room; or leaving the room, coming back with soya hot chocolate and saying, "how have you got on?" And sometimes it's saying, "Why not try this?"

I'm co-supervising a series of graduation pieces at Leeds Met at the moment, a number of which will be solos. The university has a no solo-working rule for the studio spaces - for Health & Safety reasons. I don't have a problem with that, and in fact an advantage is that it means the student/artists have to have someone in process with them.  It puts me in mind of Alex Swift and Daniel Bye's great project, Can't Do This Alone, which was born when they invited anyone making solo work to join them in the workspace when they were making paperhouses and The Price of Everything, respectively.

In a lot of my work making shows with students (and also in our project Homo Ludens) I find that what I often do is create a frame or structure in which they are invited to create their own material - often solo performances - that are still made in collaboration with the group.

And recently I've been performing The Lad Lit Project again, which, as I've acknowledged before, is a solo show made by more than 40 people. The content of The Lad Lit Project was sourced from a number of people who came in to tell their stories, and was shaped by key relationships with my Third Angel co-director, Rachael, and with Dee Heddon. But the mode of delivery and storytelling was arrived at by having other performer/devisors in the space with me, at different stages. Initially this was because we thought there would be three people on stage. But latterly, when we knew it was a solo performance, it was still useful to have other people getting up and doing stuff with me; trying things out in pairs and threes in order to generate material that would eventually be performed solo.

So that thinking has informed the workshop for GIFT. Here's the blurb:
"Solo" Performance 
Saturday 4, Sunday 5 May, 10am-1pm, Gateshead Old Town Hall
Third Angel’s Alexander Kelly leads a workshop exploring group strategies for making solo performance work – as rarely is solo work actually made alone. Using rule-based devising exercises, the workshop will draw upon autobiographical, story telling and research-led approaches to making solo performance work. The workshop will conclude with a short group showing of some of the material generated.  
This is a two part workshop, Saturday and Sunday morning. Participants will also be asked to carry out a short (30 minute) research task between sessions.
 Booking info here.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Playing Detective (2)

The recordings of Slung Low's last 15 Minutes Live are up on Soundcloud now. I wrote at the time  about what a great event it is.

It's lovely to listen back to my piece, Playing Detective, performed by me and the brilliant Lisa Howard. I was mildly dreading hearing myself, (I've never quite shaken off the "Do I really sound like that?" feeling) but actually it was pretty okay. Composer Heather Fenoughty, the band*, Alan Lane, Matt Angove, John Hunter and the rest of the Slung Low team** really did a great job. Big thanks to all of them. And I have to say, the other performers who are in the other four pieces are really remarkable - check them out, a brilliant bunch, elegantly directed by Alan.

Inevitably, I listen back to it as a writer and hear a work in progress. There are things I'd change about this piece itself (less clues, mainly, to give them a bit more space), but also I hear it as one output of the ongoing Clues project.

I'm reading detective fiction again (as well as books about maps [of course] and astrophysics/philosophy for 600 People), at the moment. I've finally got around to Ian Rankin's Rebus, and have recently discovered Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie (both recommended). I think this one will crop up again in the future.

*John Arnesen, Chris Brain, Tom Collingwood, Sam Jones, Chris Noble
**Laura Clark, Lucy Hind, Danielle Le Quesne, Alice Bolton Breeze & Andy Thomson

Thursday 11 April 2013

600 People update

The planned first performance of 600 People, as part of Is There Anybody Out There? at The Orangery in Wakefield last month, was snowed off. We weren't sure if we could get all the performers and organisers there, let alone an audience. We talked about it on the Friday afternoon, and decided to make the call on the Saturday morning.

This was a strange experience in terms of performer energy - even once a postponement was looking likely, I had to continue rehearsing as if it was going ahead.  Preparing a new piece has a very different trajectory to touring or reviving a piece, of course. We often (and I'm sure many other theatre makers do, too) talk about a new piece being "ready for an audience". We don't mean it's finished, but rather that we're not going to learn much more about it in the rehearsal room; we need the live response of an audience to give it a new, different energy. We're ready for the clarity and inspiration that performing to people-who-haven't-seen-this-before gives you. 

With 600 People I was ready to perform what I'd got, ready to see what an audience made of it. As the snow continued to fall on the Saturday morning, and news came in of people stranded on motorways, and other shows across Yorkshire getting cancelled, we knew we didn't have any option. 

My planned schedule for this final day had been a couple of runs in the afternoon and then the show. So I postponed all of that last-leg in my head, and it felt weird for the rest of the day. A nice bonus afternoon with the kids. In the evening, I didn't do anything else instead of the show, I just didn't do the show.

This week it was confirmed that Is Anybody Out There? is happening next week - with the same line up, which is great news. In the meantime we've also confirmed that it will go to GIFT in Gateshead in May.

This morning I walked to work, via the dentist, and performed 600 People to myself (either side of a filling). Considering its such a new piece, I was relieved that so much of it was still there, and pleased with how several new - better - phrases and links popped in to my head as I ran it. Another couple of runs like that and it should be ready for an audience.


Third Angel presents
600 People
Written & performed by Alexander Kelly
Inspired by conversations with Dr. Simon Goodwin

Is Anybody Out There?
The Orangery
Thursday 18 April, 8pm

Thursday 2 - Sunday 5 May 
Schedule to be announced.

Originally commissioned for Northern Elements, a development programme funded by Arts Council England and managed by ARC, Stockton Arts Centre.