STEP UP Ensemble 2012-13 Updates

STEP UP Creatives Ensemble 2012 / 2013
It’s been an exciting time at New Perspectives HQ over the past few months, with our previous STEP UP initiatives developed and improved to form the new Emerging Perspectives schemes. We’ve been working hard to recruit a new cohort of talented East Midlands based artists and practitioners, and we’ll be keeping you posted on their work – but we’ll also be keeping you updated on what our previous Step-Uppers are up to – we’re hugely proud of the successes that our alumni often go on to have, and the 2012-2013 ensemble are no different.

Director Theresa Keogh headed up our street team in Edinburgh over the summer, and we’ve now taken her on as our Resident Trainee Director. She’ll be working with the Emerging Perspectives company, assistant directing on shows, and trying out some of her own ideas.

Jennifer Ellis is now working as Head of Education and Learning at the Crescent Theatre in Birmingham, and Emma Hayes is running the youth theatre at Mansfield Palace. And Jenn and Emma are working together on a new project for young people – keep your eyes peeled!

Sam Warren and Chris Walters have set up their own company: Fine Frenzy Theatre. They took a brand new show, Vessel, to Edinburgh – which had great responses from audiences and reviewers, and will be touring in the future. Chris has also been composing new music for performances and theatre trailers.

Designer Emma Pegg has just created the design for God of Carnage at Lace Market Theatre – with reviewers commenting that “the set deserves to win prizes”. Fellow designer Laura Burrows is working at the Junction in Cambridge, and as a studio assistant at a pottery cafe.

Dickie Garton has set up a new playwriting initiative called Act 2 which gives writers the chance to develop new work and submit it for rehearsed readings.

Charlotte Tomlinson is currently completing an internship in London with the Ambassadors Theatre Group. Deborah Carlin has been commissioned with her company Out of the Blue Arts to deliver workshops for young people in Selston. Ellen Hutchinson is continuing to study Theatre Studies at Rose Bruford, while holding down a new job with the ambulance service. Elanor Parker has been writing while she is looking for theatre work and recently had a poem published online.

What a talented bunch!

Tilly Branson, Associate Director, New Perspectives Theatre Company

The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock – In rehearsal with Assisant Director Theresa Keogh – Tech week

Theresa Keogh was a member of last year’s STEP UP Creatives Ensemble (2012 /13). She is now our resident Trainee Director and is currently assisting on The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock. She’ll be writing a regular blog about her time in the rehearsal room…

A sneaky picture of the set!

A sneak picture of the set!

The last month has flown by; we are currently in tech week. While the lighting and sound are being refined and polished, the set is being transferred from our rehearsal room to The Curve studio. It’s a hive of activity as simultaneously the actors are rehearsing. With the show already on its feet they are having a series of run-throughs in the lead up to the technical rehearsal.

Roberta Kerr getting used to the set during rehearsals...

Roberta Kerr getting used to the set during rehearsals…

As everything is being transferred to the studio they perform a run through without set, lighting, costume and sound- a pared back rehearsal which really highlights the extraordinary capability of our cast. Martin Miller embodies Hitchcock, it’s uncanny. He really inhabits the role and four weeks in I find it difficult to reconcile our cast with their characters. Anthony Wise is a ball of energy every morning and yet in seconds he transforms into the coolly still priest. And they are transformations you can witness for yourself as Roberta Kerr moves between her dual roles as Hitchcock’s wife and mother seamlessly and Tom McHugh between the Waiter and Screenwriter.

Martin Miller as Alfred Hitchcock

Martin Miller as Alfred Hitchcock

This move between characters is something I witnessed Tom do spectacularly just a month ago in Edinburgh in the New Perspectives show The Boss of it All– people still constantly ask me which of his two characters, Nalle and Finnur, Tom is most like… the truth is neither! There is no doubt how incredible the lighting, sound and set are in the production but it’s great to see that at the very heart of our show are brilliant performances of such a nuanced script.

Theresa Keogh- Assistant Director

The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock opens at The Curve, Leicester on Friday 27 September and runs until Saturday 5 October. For more details visit http://www.newperspectives.co.uk

The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock – In rehearsal with Assisant Director Theresa Keogh – Set Design

Theresa Keogh was a member of last year’s STEP UP Creatives Ensemble (2012 /13). She is now our resident Trainee Director and is currently assisting on The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock. She’ll be writing a regular blog about her time in the rehearsal room…

The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock -  Designer Juliet Shillingford's research book

The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock – Designer Juliet Shillingford’s research

The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock -  Designer Juliet Shillingford's research book

The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock – Designer Juliet Shillingford’s research

One of the first steps in our process is seeing the set model produced by our Designer Juliet Shillingford. The first thing that strikes me is how closely the set reflects our script. The starting point is a white background and a blank canvas – immediately Rudkin’s subtitle “a working for the space” springs to mind. And yet it is anything but bare: there are so many potential uses of the set – a screen may move, silhouettes may be shown or images created on screens… or not. Nothing is fixed! Instead this is a set that is fluid. Not only does the sets ability to transform reflect the stream of consciousness of our narrative but also it opens up so very many options for the Director to explore.

The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock cast in-rehearsal

The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock cast in-rehearsal

The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock cast in-rehearsal

The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock cast in-rehearsal

I’ve found this to be one of the most exciting aspects of production: witnessing the rehearsal style of our Director Jack McNamara. The dynamism is not exclusive to the set but something he has extended to all aspects of the production. For example scene transitions, lighting, music and sound have all been introduced from the start of the process.  Of course these will be refined over the production period but incorporating these aspects so early has such a powerful effect… every single aspect is integrated, every aspect is constantly been honed and refined and so every one of these aspects works in tandem to create an incredibly unified show – The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock!

Theresa Keogh- Assistant Director

The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock opens at The Curve, Leicester on 27 September. For more details visit http://www.newperspectives.co.uk

Due Course rehearsals and tour

It seems like only yesterday that the 2012-2013 STEP UP Creatives ensemble met at NP HQ for the first time, and yet the intrepid group of twelve emerging performers, designers, stage managers and directors are nearly at the end of their time with us. As with last year’s ensemble, their year as part of New Perspectives’ STEP UP scheme has culminated in them touring a show they have created using the winning scripts from the DREAM UP writing competition we held earlier in the year. This year, writers were asked to respond to the phrase ‘starting out in the East Midlands’ and the ensemble chose four scripts to work with, all of which say something about what it is like to be in the East Midlands here and now. Over the past few months they have worked to combine these scripts into one piece of theatre, and written their own original material which expresses their feelings about the region. Due Course is the result of that work.
Last week the group joined us at New Perspectives full-time for six days of intensive rehearsal to put the show on its feet. As if creating and rehearsing a piece of theatre in six days wasn’t enough of a challenge, during the week the ensemble were also put through their paces learning Lecoq physical theatre techniques, and taking part in yoga, mindfulness, Alexander technique, voice work, script-writing/editing/dramaturgy, devising and improvisation. Our two designers have designed, sourced, built and painted the set from scratch; and along with our two assistant stage managers, bought and made costumes and props including everything from a wetsuit to various different realistic looking alcoholic drinks which get consumed in the show. With our very own composer in the ensemble we’ve also had original music created for the whole play.
Due Course opened at Create Theatre in Mansfield on Tuesday evening to a warm and enthusiastic audience response, and the ensemble had another successful and well-received show at the Assembly Rooms in Derby last night. After a day off today, the tour will continue at Manton village hall in Rutland on Friday evening, Lakeside Arts Centre in Nottingham on Saturday, and Thurgarton village hall in Nottinghamshire on Sunday.
Don’t miss this opportunity to see the work of talented writers and emerging creatives and performers from the region all in the space of 65 minutes!
Tilly Branson
Associate Director, New Perspectives

Rehearsal Diary | Charlotte Tomlinson, Assistant Stage Manager

This week we have been rehearsing our show Due Course full time, Monday to Saturday. As one of the two stage managers in the ensemble, I’ve been pouring various combinations of liquids (including black tea and soda water, apple cordial and very weak lager shandy) into several different receptacles to feign alcoholic drinks.

At other times, myself and Elanor have been resetting crates for the stage, helping the designers to paint flats and going on shopping trips – whenever we haven’t been in the rehearsal room on book, taking notes and acting as prompt. The week has been intense but enjoyable.

One of the most memorable moments for me was standing in for Ellen for a run through. I am not an actor, so this was a rather strange experience – and I was on the verge of bursting out laughing a number of times! I honestly don’t know how the actors do it, but I guess that’s they’re job!

I’m looking forward to getting started with the performances, and our tech day at Create theatre in Mansfield on Monday. It’s going to be another learning curve…

Charlotte Tomlinson, STEP UP Creatives Assistant Stage Manager

Due Course | Rehearsal Diary | Dickie Garton, Writer and Performer

Monday 24 June 2013

First day of rehearsals for Due Course. Pretty easy day for me really – Mel’s Leaving Do and Priorities were being rehearsed, neither of which I’m actually in. Instead I spent most of the day writing another bridging sequence (with the help of Debs) and running lines with people. Spent the last hour working on the prologue, which is still looking fairly messy – we made some progress, but it feels like this section has a long way to go.

Tuesday 25th June

Better day today, felt like we nailed the prologue down a lot more this morning. Tilly introduced some Lecoq stuff to the ensemble which helped a lot in creating diversity in our movement styles. Also had some fun creating tableaus from the various plays using costumes – Chris and I were accused of ‘sexually abusing the show’ by Tilly.

Played a game of keepy-up which is apparently going to be an ongoing thing – I let the team down repeatedly in establishing a decent record, but it was fun. I seem to be establishing a reputation for being clumsy, ripping maps in half and snickering at innuendos (I do this a lot- but surely ‘Croom is playing with Susannah’ deserved a laugh).

The afternoon was good too – worked through Until Then. Script is down now so finally getting comfortable with the character of Liam. Got my costume now as well – snazzy cardy over browny-green ‘river person’ gear. Finally got to see a run of Mel’s Leaving Do, which I really enjoyed – some interesting but good choices have been made. It is horrifically awkward and Tilly has really extracted the comedy from certain bits- for example, when Ryan (Chris) makes his drunken speech it seems like he is about to stop at one point, much to Tim’s (Sam’s) relief, but then he carries on.

Spent some time practicing dressing Chris as Croom, which was a bit awkward but fun and I think it will look pretty cool. Overall it felt like a full, productive day – we still have a lot of work to do, however.

Note of the day from Tilly: ‘please do not refer to your fellow actors as “fridge”.’

Wednesday 26th June

Got to New Perspectives sickeningly early – even so, I was the 8th person there. People seem to be getting keener as the week goes on.

Started with a long vocal warm up, which was surprisingly effective – my voice felt quite powerful by the end of it. After this we spent a long time working through the prologue – we have a lot of the costume and set/props now so this was a lot more fruitful, and it felt like we made considerable progress with it.

Began running through properly after lunch, with the beginning of Until Then followed by the play itself. This felt okay, although I got a little bit tongue-tied and the new set took a while to get used to. Made it through the Until Then/Mel’s Leaving Do bridging sequence after much repetition. There’s a bit where I guzzle of mouthful of what is supposed to be white wine, but is actually apple squash. I grimaced, and Tilly asked if I was going to be okay to drink it- totally convinced by my brilliant acting.

I’m aware of how little time we’ve spent on the latter 2 plays, but the method of running through the whole thing in order means that we’ll be working on that stuff solidly tomorrow. This feels like a slightly odd way of working (normally I would expect to fully block and rehearse the scripted plays separately before looking at scene changes), but it seems logical when it comes to this show.

Current keepy-up record is now 38 after a spectacular round just after lunch.

Friday 28th June

Two-thirds of the way through rehearsals, and the tiredness that has begun to strike people down has finally hit me. Today we began doing stumble-throughs of the entire show. We did surprisingly well, I thought – a few hiccups, but after today it feels like we actually have a show.

The much-anticipated pasty-day was a bit of a disappointment – no veggie pasties left, which ruled out several ensemble members. There were actually only 2 pasties left, which Jen and I snapped up. Much annoyance as my big bag of doritos had disappeared from the cupboard, and no-one in the building claimed responsibility. Laura and Emma P were temporarily the prime suspects, as they had stayed in the building til late last night and weren’t around to deny it – but it turns out they had no idea about it.

Saturday 29th June

Armed forces day nearly made me late – had to walk up to Royal Centre to catch the tram. When I told Tilly about my missing doritos she said it was the angriest she’d ever seen me.

Really put through my paces today – This morning Debs and I were led through a series of exercises to loosen up more and access our characters better. This was fun – most of it was centred around box-stacking while maintaining a certain behavioural quirk (written on flashcards), and we also did some work on maintaining eye-contact while stacking crates.

The most productive part, though, was where we had to insert a certain rude word into our lines, to help us find the correct emphasis – which was incredibly useful. This enabled me to be a lot angrier as Liam. Also I was forced to go through Until Then without letting my hands drop below my waist (my hands have always been a problem in acting), which felt awkward but gave me a better idea of what I should be doing – I suppose even if a hand gesture seems like too much it will always look smaller on stage. We also did some stuff with objectives, which was done using footballs – I had to try and give Debs a ball while she tried to take one off Theresa (who was filling in for Jen).

Exhausting but useful morning. Final pot of coffee at lunch, shared by Emma H, Charlotte, Debs and myself. Feel glad to have provided the cast with a fix of proper coffee each day.

Did two full run-throughs this afternoon- minus Ellen, who had to work today. Charlotte stood in for her, while Tilly read her lines – this was surreal, but Charlotte did a brilliant job considering the complexity of all the routines we’ve established this week. First run wasn’t brilliant – I forgot a lot of the Liam stuff we’d come up with this morning (although Tilly said she was very impressed) and a few things went wrong with the scene changes. Second run was a lot better. Finished the day by packing all the props up ready to be loaded into the van on Monday. Excited – it all feels real now, and I believe that this has the potential to be a brilliant show.

Waited around for a lift afterwards, and Laura and Emma P joked that I looked like the kid whose parents had forgotten to pick him up. They have done some excellent work, and have put in tons of hours to get everything ready. I feel like the combination of the brilliant design, gorgeously atmospheric music (written by Chris), slick acting and excellent scripts will make this a top-notch show. Not to forget the rigorous direction by Tilly and Theresa and tireless organisational efforts by producers Charlotte and Elanor, without which we’d have only a pale imitation of a piece of theatre.

Emma Hayes | Due Course | Performer

Sunday 9 June 2012

Sunday was our last meeting before rehearsal week and whilst the pressure is definitely on, it’s exciting to think the show is now only just 3 weeks away!

We spent the morning looking at two of the four short plays in the production. This gave us a chance to contemplate character motivations in more depth, and explore the relationships between them. It also gave the performers a much needed opportunity to go over their lines!

In the afternoon however, we all came together as a group and started working on the prologue. It was really nice to all be back in the rehearsal room as an ensemble and get everyone energised and involved. We spent some time experimenting with noises and physicality, creating different shapes and images, as well as trying to develop a language of movement for the whole piece.

Due Course rehearsal 9 June - 'Maps' Due Course rehearsal 9 June - 'Rain tableaux'

Whilst this was fun and we came up with some good ideas, we also came up with a lot that didn’t work. I think for a while this left some us feeling a little despondent and lead us to doubt ourselves. But spending time playing around and discovering that some things just don’t quite work the way you thought they would, is of course, a natural and very important part of the rehearsal process.

It was late in the afternoon when I think we all just started to panic. Instead of enjoying experimenting with ideas, we weren’t sure what to do next and were suddenly in danger of trying to ‘play safe’ as it were, forget what we had worked on, crawl into our comfort zones and hide behind the text. After some deliberation though, we realised that we didn’t want to do that at all – we still wanted to push and challenge ourselves as theatre makers, but at the same time, we had to make sure what we were doing served a function. This was evidently a significant experience for the group that will really help us in next week’s rehearsals.

We finished off the day by looking over some more design ideas and now I’m really excited to see it all start coming together!

Emma Hayes, Performer, STEP UP Creatives Ensemble 2013

Due Course will tour to five venues across the East Midlands – Tuesday 2 – Sunday 7 July. For more information visit our website.