Monthly Archives: July 2011

Sita Brahmachari – Diary of a week of Flying

My father Dr Amal Krishna Brahmachari. (1931 - 2008 holding the pidgeons in Trafalga Square) Arrived 1959 off the ship from India, with other doctors to work in the then new National Health Service.

For Sita’s blog, please visit her page at: http://www.sitabrahmachari.com/

A week that flew past – The Arrival

Tamasha and Circus Space present  The Arrival. A second year degree show at Circus Space.

Wednesday July 6th 2011

We took the overland into Old Street and I was able to show everyone the derelict house in Finsbury Park that I’ve always imagined that Obi in The Arrival (on the left in the photo) bought in the sixties and gradually renovated to become a refuge for new arrivals in Britain. This morning at breakfast the children were still talking about the show. My youngest daughter (aged six) asked  me if, when I wrote the story, I was thinking of Granddad. Children always amaze me with their insights.

My eldest daughter said it’s the kind of theatre people her age want to see. My son said ‘yeah, actually Mum it was really good!’ Praise indeed! They’re going back to see it with some of their mates on Saturday. They loved the fact that the work was an ensemble melding images, text, circus art, choreography, music and acting. It’s been a privelege to see this piece brought to life by the energy and skill of so many wonderful artists and actors.

Thursday 7th July 2011

Grahame Barker-Smith author of FArTHER (Winner of the Kate Greenaway award for children’s literature) come along to the show. This is what he said about the work…

The words, though spare, were beautifully weighted and apt. This was a feeling that ran through the whole piece, nothing overpowered, not the projection or the music, nor the words or the performers evidently advanced acrobatic skills. The acting too was measured and focused, but all together it expressed something that built from beginning to finish, like the making of an edifice, until what you had was something that satisfied and lingered in the mind. The experience of being an immigrant – though not my experience – was contactable somewhere inside me through the power of this art. It evoked a sort of unbidden empathy. Only something made and performed with heart, intellect and energy can do that.”


Louise Millar who is to publish her amazing novel ‘Playdate’ (Macmillan) next year also came along with me. We were both remembering when we set up our writing group to share our work, with no real thought that either of us could realise our dreams to be published.

Friday 8th July

Didn’t go to the show because my son was performing at his school fundraiser and I had to chop vegetables for the BBQ! He played in a band and solo and he seemed to have his very own fan club (other than his Mum) cheering him on. There were so many talented young people performing their work. It made me think of the bravery of performers and artists who give something from very deep in themselves to their work. At some level we all draw on our own experiences in expressing an artistic vision.

This is a particular skill that Kristine Landon-Smith has as a director, to bring the culture, background, language, history and skill of the individual artist to the texture of their work. In the case of The Arrival a company of international multi-lingual circus artists and actors are bringing themselves and their extraordinary art of flying and falling to a narrative about the eternally human story of migration. Kristine and I wanted the piece to explore, as Tan’s novel does, how this city and so many countries in the world are built through the imagination and work of generations of migrants. Obi, the old man in The Arrival is at the end of his life but he looks through memory’s porthal and remembers the moment of Arrival as if it was yesterday…

“Mists of memory, fog, what did they call it? Smog, fog… so dense I felt as if I was falling through clouds. Then through the rain mist I saw it for the first time, just like in a story book, text book, all glittering, the river flowing through the centre, and I think yes, this is my dream to make a home in this country… to bring my wife and son here..”

Saturday 9th July

My daughter and friends made it to the show… just! (leaving three seconds to spare!) having got carried away in the vintage clothes shops in Camden Town!
I want to thank all the friends and colleagues who came along. There’s nothing like having the people who’ve shared part of your history and helped you on your way, come and see the artistic work you’re engaged in.

Some friends came along with their children. At the moment when Kat, the trapeze artist flew, I watched the children’s faces…. they were literally lit up with the exhilaration of  live flight.  It’s wonderful to think that we might be able to create a show that appeals across age ranges.

My human rights activist friend Simon (name check Simon inArtichoke Hearts) said the storm at sea was like watching a Fellini film.

Sunday 10th July

Took my youngest to Queen’s Wood because she wanted to fly on the swing suspended from the great oaks. It’s too late for me (even though, since working on this show I have taken to getting on this swing when out on my morning run, if there is no one else around!) Watching her arch her back and glide through the air looking up through the leafy canopy the thought occurred to me that one day we may have a daughter run away to the circus!

Today I’ve been thinking about honing the narrative, pulling through threads of the storyline and exploring what’s next in developing this piece into the full blown show along with the wonderful collaborative artistic team we are building… and all of us inspired byShaun Tan’s wonderful graphic novel.

Kristine- Landon Smith – Director
Sita Brahmachari – Script
Adam Wiltshire – Designer
Felix Cross – Composer
Mike Furness – Sound Designer
Rita Ray – Sound Artist
Barry Lewis – Projection Designer
LX Designer – Andy Purves
Image Consultant – Gerry Pilgrim

With thanks to Ice and Fire (A company exploring Human Rights Stories Through Perfomance) for giving  us access to Verbatim stories of contemporary refugees and economic migrants. Some of these stories have been integrated into The Arrival . iceandfire.co.uk/

Watch out for Tamasha Theatre Company and Circus Space staging of the full production of The Arrival in 2012 -The Olympic Year. (Co-created by Kristine-Landon Smith and Sita Brahmachari incorporating the work of a host of extraordinary artists.) For updates look up:www.tamasha.org.uk/

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Fin Kennedy’s Blog looking back at the Tamasha/Mulberry project

Image from Mulberry project 'The Unravelling'

Last month saw an unusual set of play readings at Soho Theatre. Featuring school students from east London performing alongside professional actors, these mixed casts were also interacting with recorded video footage and animation. This was the culmination of a unique and exciting collaboration – the first glimpse of an experimental partnership between Tamasha and Mulberry School.  As I sat in the audience in Soho’s intimate upstairs space, I felt the warm glow of seeing months of planning and hard work paying off – and that wonderful feeling when you realise that a creative project which, until that moment existed mostly in your imagination, has suddenly taken on a momentum of its own. It felt like the start of something really special.

In fact, it was barely six months ago that the whole thing was just a paper proposition. It was a rainy December afternoon when filmmaker Tanya Singh and I got together in a Kings Cross coffee shop to discuss putting in a joint application for Associate Artists at Tamasha. We’d been colleagues for some years, part-time artists-in-residence atMulberrySchool, as their filmmaker and playwright respectively.

So when Tamasha advertised for one of each of these artists, we applied together, suggesting a pilot writer’s scheme in which eight playwrights would come into the school, receive training from us both, and then take part in sessions with the students coming up with ideas for short plays.

What this was all about, for me, was two things.

The first was evolving the work at Mulberry. My involvement with the school stretches back to 2004, and in that time we’ve founded a theatre company together, written and performed new plays at Half Moon Theatre, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Southwark Playhouse, won an award, received national press coverage  and had a book of plays published. Mulberry is always seeking to create new opportunities for its students. When I first started it was taking plays toEdinburgh. Then it became offering apprenticeships in stage management or theatre design, filmmaking or radio – every year there was something new.

Forging a partnership with a professional theatre company like Tamasha felt like the next logical development. I wanted to bring a whole new cohort of playwrights into the school, with all the exciting new ideas that entails.

But secondly, it was about an ongoing interest of mine, increasingly to be found in the professional theatre industry, and that is about the relationship of professional theatremakers, particularly playwrights, to the society of which they are a part.

I believe the model is changing. I predict that the next few years will see a lot less of playwrights developing work on their own, isolated from the world around them. Too often this gives the impression that we are like poets or philosophers, abstract intellectuals observing the world without taking an active part in it. Playwrighting, for me, is a lot more down and dirty than that.

It involves leaving the house. It involves talking. It involves opening yourself up to new and sometimes scary experiences. Like the living, breathing art form it is, it involves empathy and active participation and embedding yourself within the world you are investigating so that you can truly understand the hopes, fears and dreams of your characters.

This is what Mulberry has offered me over the years, and it has been a real pleasure to be able to open up its doors to a new generation of writers.

Tanya and I were appointed in January and immediately set about planning and recruiting for our scheme. I was commissioned by The Guardian to write a feature looking at playwrighting in schools, linking it to other events such as the Bush Theatre’s schools season. There seemed to be something in the air surrounding playwrights and schools, and the article expanded on some of my aims for how our scheme might contribute.

To our amazement, nearly sixty writers applied. With some difficulty, we whittled this down to a shortlist of twelve, of which we recruited eight.

The standard of all eight writers was very high, though they had not necessarily had high profile productions at any major venues. One of the side effects of this recruitment process was a realisation of the sheer amount of playwrights out there forming a ‘critical mass’ of writers at a certain stage of their careers. Many have done all the new writer’s schemes, had readings and short plays on, and done everything literary managers have asked of them, but haven’t yet had a break in terms of a full production on one of the major stages. This is a side effect of the new writing theatre culture much discussed among playwrights. Corresponding with some of them during this recruitment process reiterated to me just how enthusiastic they are, and how under-used. They would be a great resource to tap into for some future movement.

It also made me aware just how much of this sort of schools – and community-based work was already taking place out there – though largely ‘invisible’ in terms of critical coverage. Moreover, writers engaged in this work tend to do so on an ad hoc, word-of-mouth basis; they are not centrally organised nor really all that in touch even with one another. There would appear to be potential here for some sort of structured network for writers engaging in this kind of work. I would hope that our scheme might be the first step down that path, and may one day end up offering these writers an institutional hub for their work.

Interviews for the scheme took place in January and February, the eight writers received a full day’s training from Tanya and I during February half term, and child protection training from the school the following week. They then had four after school sessions with a lively group of mostly Year 10 Drama students during February and March, with an optional dramaturgy and filmmaking sessions with myself or Tanya prior to their first draft deadline.

Each writer was asked to deliver a 10-15 minute play written for up to five parts which could be played by Mulberry students or recent alumni. Other than that, the brief was completely open, and writers were free to follow their own creative instincts and be led by the students’ ideas and interests.

There’s an interesting question here about how the playwrights’ role differs from that of a normal playwrighting process. The model we kept referring back to was the Edinburghplays I have written for the school, and which were published last year in The Urban Girls’ Guide To Camping and other plays. Clearly, I am neither female, Bengali, Muslim, a teenager, nor am I from eastLondon. In that sense a degree of self-effacement is required when writing plays for, about and inspired by the girls ofMulberrySchool. But just as clearly, rarely will a 15-year old, whatever their background, is going to be able to offer a fully formed play idea to a writer that needs no developing. The trick, I find, is to take the spirit of what they are offering you in these sessions, and read between the lines to divine the hopes, fears, dreams and values that lie behind the copious material generated by your discussions.

You also have the legitimacy to aestheticise. You are the professional writer after all. They provide the raw material. You discuss with them ways in which it might be shaped, talking them through what the implications of each direction would be. Then, week by week, you bring something in. Each week it comes a little more into focus. You show it to them, check they’re happy, listen to their suggestions, make changes accordingly – even at times passing the whole thing over to them for a while to do their own work on. Back and forth it goes, until eventually you have produced a creative product of some sophistication, which neither of you could have created on your own.

All this was supported by a large stock of creative exercises I had passed on to the writers during their training, which I had developed over many years at the school. Some of the writers used these verbatim, some adapted them according to their own interests, while some invented completely new exercises in response. One of the real joys of the scheme for me was to be able to pass some of these skills on, and see how they were adapted, evolved and put back into use with a completely new set of writers and students. Tanya is producing a set of short films showcasing some of these exercises and featuring interviews with both the writers and myself. We’re going to upload them onto teachers’ websites where they will be available for download along with the exercise sheets they are describing. (Keep an eye on the Tamasha blog, we might put them up here too.)

Tanya’s whole multimedia offer was enthusiastically taken up by many of the writers, and seemed to particularly tap into some of the students’ interests. Indeed, more than one of the plays ended up putting new media at the heart of its concept. There was also some imaginative use of technology in exercises to generate creative ideas. For example, with Tanya’s help one of the writers spent a session getting the students one by one to record private pieces to camera outside on the balcony, the idea being that they were contributing to a time capsule about life in east London, that would be opened in the distant future. The resulting footage was then reviewed by the writer, much of which fed into her final play. (Unfortunately the time capsule part was just a ruse – though one the students were in on.)

Mulberry’s students really deserve some credit here. They’ve been such an inspiration to me over the years, and I could see them working their magic every week with our writers. All the writers spoke glowingly of their student groups, with one saying she had never come across such self confident girls, and another describing her renewed respect for the ideas and opinions of young people. They all described how useful it was to bring in ideas week by week and gauge their group’s reaction. One of the writers described the process as like writing for their ‘first audience’ each week, while another admitted to having been worried about not finding a story, but in fact finding the problem was she had way too many. All of the writers agreed that bringing in new work to share with the students each week, based on the previous weeks’ exercises and discussions, was key to keeping them engaged and moving things along. But in terms of the creative product this also allowed students to shape the play ideas at a formative stage, which is a real USP of the Mulberry model.

All the writers said it was unusual to have a scheme with them as writers leading the sessions, as opposed to the directors or actors. Those with experience of young people’s projects that were led by others said how easy it was to step back as the writer. Leading the session yourself allows you to be more reactive, to jump on something that’s said and tease out the point.

There is an ongoing question about how useful or practical it is to team writers up with actors or directors as co-tutors, to generate dramatic material through improvisations rather than paper-based exercises. This is something I’ve still got an open mind about. Three of my four full length plays for the school were created in this way with a co-tutor, though as noted previously many of the writers on this scheme preferred being allowed to lead their own sessions, and almost all stayed at their desks. This does involve more concentrated work from the students though, and sometimes a few ‘up on your feet’ exercises at the start can be good to get some of that energy out of their system. But I wouldn’t expect or insist that playwrights had the skills to lead these exercises. Some will, some won’t. It does also have cost implications for future schemes if other tutors are involved. But it occurred to me afterwards that perhaps the writers’ training at the start could involve a session with a director, drama teacher, or youth theatre leader to give the writers a set of these sorts of exercises, to add to their toolkit. It’s always good to have a stock of drama games up your sleeve to fall back on.

One practical thing that worked well was pairing the writers up for the duration of the scheme. This was primarily a practical response to not being able to recruit a group of 4-5 students for each of the eight writers (this would have meant an unwieldy group size of nearly 40). But what it did mean was that the after school sessions had to be split into two halves, with one writer leading the first half while the other observes, and vice versa after a short break. All the writers said that being able to observe both how another writer works, and the students’ behaviour from a position outside that of session leader, was very useful.

In anticipation of a potential problem, I instigated a rule that creative ideas that came up in one half were the first refusal of the writer whose half it was. But in the end this didn’t really come up as a source of conflict. Both writers became quite happily involved in each other’s halves, and many spoke later about how great it was to be able to jump in. It didn’t ever seem like they were cramping each other’s styles.

Afterwards, some of the writers suggested a mid-way session without the students, where they can share their experiences with each other about what is and isn’t working. Unfortunately, the sheer demands of delivering a project like this week by week generally mitigate against having time for much critical reflection. We did some of this afterwards, of course, in an evaluation session, where some interesting debates began, for example around the usefulness of sharing a cultural background with the group that they are writing for and about and, relatedly, what the ‘culture’ of the Mulberry students actually was. One of the writers suggested that they were “not their religion or their ethnicity or their gender but they were just their age”, to which another writer strongly disagreed. While we did talk about these things individually over the course of the project, looking back we could have made some more focussed space for these debates, and maybe even recorded them somehow. As it turned out they mostly took place in the pub. Both Tanya and Tamasha’s curator Orlagh Woods pointed out that artists from other disciplines, such as visual or live art, much more routinely engage in these processes of self-reflection and theorising. Playwrights don’t so much, and I’m not sure why that should be.

Once the first drafts came in there was one in-class read through which took place in a timetabled BTEC and GCSE Drama class. We were lucky in being able to neatly tie this in to a module on professional practice which the students were working on anyway (this was a total stroke of luck – and the brainwave of one inspired drama teacher. Though we would certainly factor it into the plan next time.) Then there was just one more draft to go before the plays were rehearsed up for presentation at Soho.

The plays themselves were great. We had one about the death of a cousin, whose memory is artificially kept alive on recorded smartphone clips. We had another set in a near future dystopia where all stories were banned by the government. One was about a girl who mathematically conjures into existence her digital double, who proceeds to take over her life. Another was set entirely on Facebook. Yet others took place on a live TV chat show, or in a fantastical hospital ward that conducts operations to remove your responsibility. They really were a terrific range of ideas and styles.

We paired the plays up according to cast size, so that one cast and director could work on two plays. It was agreed to cast four professional actors, one per play pairing. This was not because each play required an adult part – many didn’t – it was felt important to give students the opportunity to work alongside professionals.

Tamasha did a great job of recruiting four young actresses who were all excellent role models for Mulberry’s students. The four directors were also good choices, and all had trained under Kristine at one or more of the Tamasha Developing Artists workshops. It was a good opportunity for trainee directors to put this training into practice in a schools environment. This combination of everyone learning something was absolutely in keeping with the Mulberry ethos of developing artists as well as students, and created a warm and mutually supportive working environment.

The writers had an open invitation to drop by whenever they could and some were able to. This was an important learning experience for them about what in their writing did and didn’t work once it was up on its feet, and some further changes were made in the rehearsal room. Kristine from Tamasha came in on the final day’s rehearsal and offered notes to the directors on what she saw.

There was strong interest in the Sohoevent and it was well-attended by theatre professionals. The Mulberry girls did us proud – some were actually so good that they had people asking after their availability! Alas, most have to finish school first. But one of the sixth formers was recruited for a reading at the Blue Elephant Theatre earlier this month.

I know from my own work for Half Moon Young People’s Theatre over the years that the ultimate test of any play is to go in front of a teenage audience. I hope any future scheme will find a way of doing this. It is an important part of the writers’ development.

There were some unexpected spin-offs from the partnership which give some indication of the range of possibilities which a future collaboration between Mulberry and Tamasha could contain. Tamasha’s Artistic Director Sudha Bhuchar has been in discussions with some Bengali parents sourced through the school, as part of a new play she has been developing. Mulberry was also host to a Tamasha workshop on careers in professional theatre, in which students heard about a range of careers in the arts including stage management, lighting design, costume supervision and marketing.

Tanya has also been in contact with Sita Brahmachari, a Tamasha writer and Artistic Associate, regarding a possible creative writing and online multi-media collaboration around her new children’s novel, working with Mulberry students via English, Media and I.T. classes.

All this indicates a two-way aspect to the Tamasha-Mulberry partnership which could continue to benefit both organisations in the future. For example, Mulberry students could be involved in Tamasha through its productions and Tamasha Developing Artists programme and there are possibilities for Mulberry to host placements or engage artists in their ongoing school shows.

In their final evaluation meeting with us, the writers expressed delight at the confidence this scheme had imbued them with in going into schools and cultural contexts different to their own. Yet they were also hesitant – unsure about precisely how to go about creating those opportunities for themselves, from scratch, without the institutional support and access of a managed scheme like ours. Tamasha and Mulberry are uniquely placed to broker these opportunities for these and future writers, and to take the Mulberry-Tamasha working model out to other schools acrossLondon.

Conversations are ongoing between both organisations about exactly what form that might take. But watch this space. Our pilot scheme might be about to take off.

 

 


Actor’s response to ‘The Arrival’

Shalini Peiris as Roshini in 'The Arrival'. Photo: Barry Lewis

“Having been part of the first workshop stage last year, it was extra special for me to come back to Roshini and The Arrival. Coming in at week 3 of rehearsals to a new company of circus artists, a new actor to play alongside, a new script and a new set design was quite a welcome! From the very first rehearsal, I could see the mammoth amount of work and detailed effort that Kristine and Sita have dedicated in building on the momentum of that initial workshop week and moving this developmental process forward.

It was such a joy and privilege to work with the company and creative team– I spent most of the time in awe at the amount of talent in the room. For not having known each other for that long, we quickly became a very strong and solid ensemble. It was lovely to see how the circus artists gradually became more confident and grounded in their abilities as actors– it added another layer of detail and depth to their physical performance which was really beautiful to watch. It never ever felt like Okezie and I as the actors were working by ourselves on stage. Some of the most beautiful moments of the piece were found in those collaborations between circus and drama, the circus performer and the actor. The Ship scene has always been one of my favourites and is a perfect example of how richly you can create a world on stage with artists of different disciplines.

The key to this production is the depth of detail. Nothing was overlooked – the moving musical compositions, the beautiful projected images that accompanied the play, the striking yet simple set design, the harrowing sound effects and effective lighting all played such a key part in heightening the work on stage.

It really was such a privilege to be part of this process. Shaun Tan created something very special with The Arrival and the incredible feedback that we’ve had from our audiences, many of whom were moved to tears by what they saw just confirms that. The story holds such a strong resonance for not only those with an immigrant history, but for anyone who’s been brave enough to search for greater things in life.”

Shalini Peiris – Actor in ‘The Arrival’

Photo: Barry Lewis

“When I was asked to take part in Tamasha’s and Circus Space’s fusion of theatre and circus I jumped at the chance. The concept seemed very unique to me and I was fascinated as to how it would work. I am happy to report that it didn’t disappoint, certainly from my (as a performer’s) point of view and I’ve been told from an audience’s point of view as well.

I was hugely impressed by the skill level, in their various disciplines of the 2nd year students at Circus Space. But what impressed me most was that as rehearsals progressed, the students were able to find a focus in the performing (of their skills) and acting that for me brought a different dimension to what we traditionally think circus to be; they really took me (whenever I could watch) on their individual journey and consequently gave real depth to the work we were trying to produce.

Kristine Landon-Smith created something quite filmic and beautiful, something difficult to comprehend during rehearsal; until I saw the set, costume, lighting and sound in full. It really does have the ‘wow’ factor.

Kristine and Sita Brahmachari (writer), along with the circus artists and performers, have brought to life Sean Tan’s amazing images in a non conventional way that, in my opinion, works beautifully.

I believe that the only fair thing would be for the piece to grow a little bit more to a full blown production and be in a wonderful space that is deserving of it. Bring on 2012. Whether I’m involved or not I’ll certainly be buying a ticket, it will be phenomenal.”

Okezie Morro – Obi  in ‘The Arrival’)

'The Arrival' - Photo: Barry Lewis


Week 4 Photographs of ‘The Arrival’ by Anna Nguyen

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Observers on ‘The Arrival’ – Weeks 3 & 4

Image: Barry Lewis

“So, as I sat down to write this, I thought – ‘how can I transfer all of my reflections into just a few paragraphs..?’ However, it soon became clear, that what’s even more important is my own personal journey within this process… And it’s been an incredible one…!

During one rehearsal, I remember Kristine saying to the group; ‘ this show is a series of beautiful images’ and that is most definitely true. I’ve been particularly struck by the beautiful aesthetics, and the real simplicity of the images that frame the scenes..

Learning to become an ensemble is a real skill. Through the process, these talented circus artists have opened and grown together to become just that – an ensemble. While the hands-on approach of play, and really looking at the performers to see what they individually and collectively need, has remained the same, what has changed, has been the opening and expansion to incorporate and hold all of their circus disciplines as well. This nurture, and real understanding of what is needed at any given time, helped to create and consolidate real trust in the room, whilst also building an ensemble energy – vital ingredients for any theatrical piece.

Observing the process this time around, things just fell into place even more. That wonderful, yet essential marriage of doing as much prep/research as is needed, and then whilst in the room, allowing things to simply unfold, with the trusting of instincts (both the director’s and the actors’), and the careful set-up of play and improvisation. And with each layer, the piece becomes more alive and thrilling. One instance where this happened for me was the use of the actors’ cultural context. This often helps to bring a piece of theatre to life, as the text automatically becomes very ‘full’ and alive. And whilst the use of the cultural context is one layer, it can often inform, and expose further layers.

And what a thrill it is to watch a circus artist in their zone, with their discipline… from the adrenaline-fuelled flying trapeze, to the beautifully graceful cloud swing. These are images I’ll never forget! They evoke such powerful emotions.

I’ve always loved how we don’t need words to create or express an emotion, and this piece is a prime example of that. Scenes were created with such simplicity and sensitivity, using the circus disciplines, playing with levels/heights, and adding delicate music – the experience is a feast for the senses – a kaleidoscope of emotional colour.

‘That for which we have words is already dead in our hearts.’ 

Renu Arora – Observer

Photo: Barry Lewis

“The opportunity for an emerging artist to observe a professional production from start to finish is an incredibly valuable experience. As a huge fan of Kristine’s practice the observership has allowed me to get close and personal to a true representation of her practice.

Each day I arrived at Circus Space, I would have my morning coffee in the Juggler and decide one thing to focus intensely on for that day.  However no matter how much I chose something different the focus always boiled down to Language and instincts. As I sat pensively on the gym mat at 9:45 on a Tuesday morning, I closed my eyes and listened intently to Kristine’s voice:

“Right we’re just going to do the street scene again this morning to 11 o’clock”

“It will be a bit tedious, but if you commit 120% then it will move along very quickly, it’s already looking very good, and then you can have a  twenty minute break.”

“And because I’m so nice we are only going to work to 3 o’clock today, so you can have extra time for training. So can we all get ready for the street scene”

The sheer clarity struck me. In one swoop Kristine had set up the morning, informed everyone what to expect, instilled her own confidence and set up a reward system. It would seem that Kristine’s approach of ‘Actor Led’ is mirrored in her rehearsal room direction as well. Her decisions were born from an ability to sense how the group was feeling each morning and afternoon, and from there deciding what she would need to do in order to work well. This can be a scary thing for some directors, because it is so open to the moment and anything could happen, or change rather.

For me it has been particularly integral part of my development as a young director to undertake the observership shortly after the Actor / Directors Lab. I remember hearing certain phrases and small details that Kristine had said, but never really being able to make sense of them. Well, not until The Arrival.

For example, she always spoke about not ignoring what is happening in the rehearsal room. On day three of The Arrival, the session was stopped and everyone one was called into a circle. As I watched Kristine, I observed the students meddling nervously with their shoe laces.

“As a director it is important for me to address a resistance in the rehearsal room, when there is one, and find a way to dissolve it, as it can be very hard to continue and have a really fruitful process if it does not get resolved at an early stage. So I just wanted to call this circle to invite you all to come and tell me how you are feeling about this project at the moment? Is this what you had expected, are you happy, are there things that really work for you? etc”

From far right of the circle a voice appears, “I am really enjoying the process, but to be honest I was expecting there to be more circus. It seems that it’s more ‘theatre with circus’ rather than ‘circus with theatre’. Personally for me I find it a bit weird we have to justify all our tricks through a narrative, especially as circus is such an abstract thing already”

From that moment on an escapade of hopes, fears and worries cascaded into the middle of the circle. As I observed Kristine tackle them head on, sometimes faltering, sometimes succeeding to stretch their minds, it became more apparent to me just how important and unavoidable this discussion was. From this point on the road was a lot smoother, the minds of the performers more flexible and the director had gained the company’s trust.

It is integral that a rehearsal room is set up correctly, and what Kristine does so well and courageously is recognise the individual needs of each person on board the project, and face emotions and dilemmas head on.

This was the most profound part of my journey as an observer, and it is certain things like this you cannot learn through a book, teaching or advice, but only through demonstration.

Thank you Tamasha for an exhilarating experience that will forever contribute to my work as an Artist.”

Anna Nguyen – Observer

Photo: Barry Lewis

“For a process that had so many ideas, theories and images, to consolidate this into words seems too difficult. I entered the process very eager and enthusiastic about the experiences ahead of me. I leave the research and development still eager and even more enthusiastic about my endeavours.

Kristine approaches her work with such an open mind. Each day offered a new improvisation and a fresh exploration, conquering the ambiguity of creating something tangible.  I was particurly taken back by the vast amount of research that has gone on before we even entered this space. This was so easily seen in how Kristine approached working with the students. It added ease in the rehearsal room; all that the performers needed to do was to trust Kristine and the team at Tamasha. To trust the director’s vision is always at the centre of any work, as once this is established, something unique happens. After a discussion I had later with Kristine, she acknowledged this moment when addressing the street scene. Unfortunately I was away this day, so I saw this moment at a later time in the process. On entering the rehearsal room at the final stages before performance, it felt dramatically different. The trust was so apparent and strong. The space was one of excitement, anticipation yet conclusion. The set was so cleverly matched with the narrative and formula of the piece.

Shaun Tan’s The Arrival images were so brilliantly utilised and expanded. The birds suspended from the ceiling covering the right-hand side of the space were an artwork in itself. The images carefully crafted by Kristine were ever evolving ‘stills’, lifting off the page of The Arrival and into the physical. The structure and order of the scenes exposed the trap of this constant and universal cycle of immigration. Yet as I left the performance it felt like just a taster of what is to come. For this I wait as I started, just as eager and enthusiastic.”

Alice Jordan – Observer

Photo: Barry Lewis


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