Blog

Spring and Emerging II – And Owl Pellets – Friday 6th April 2018.

Hi Everyone. Back again after a year. And it’s been… a year! …
….of great family change and break up, which has simply been… a painful time.

Now…. the bulk of the grieving over, supported so well by healthy eating, yoga, dance, supportive friends, and focussing on work and my children…. it’s once again a time of renewal, and wonderful new days ahead.

In June 2016 (so long ago now!) after the end-of-run dinner out for the cast & crew of “A Good Jew” at Planet India, Hove, we wondered down to the beach to hang before we said our farewells. As we stood at the water’s edge, we became a group of refugees, standing on a Libyan shore looking north over the Med, and yearning to cross. By the end of Oct 2016, the first draft of “I, Refugee” had been written.
It’s been through, 13 re-drafts (some major), 4 working titles, a rehearsed reading and a 2 full showcase performances since then, and now, after much development we’re setting our sails for beautifully refurbished Tara Arts, a South London venue renowned for celebrating diversity in Theatre. We’re not there yet, and a great sea called ACE  Project Grants Funding application stands between us. Wish us luck.

In the short term… I’m donning the garb of The Fool again in May’s Fringe to return to Exeter Street Hall, Brighton, with more of Happy Hour in London and Brighton and of The Silent Stream in Eastbourne. I took a break from the Fringe in 2017, becoming distinctly aware that it had become something of a comfort zone, and I yearned to fly the coup. Having loosened those gyves, I’ve flown back into the cage, perhaps more confident of knowing the door is open and that my year need even less partially revolve around Fringe timelines.

And the Fringe continues to be a good testing ground for new work, and I still see my Fool as something of a Crash Test Dummy (see below).
Although after every performance my belief that I “can do it” is reinvigorated,….. as every single time is an unknown…. i always feel quite some trepidation, uncertainty if I can “pull it off”. Who knows? Do you? The unknown is such a fertile place to play.
Someone very close to me was writing (in my Creative Writing class) yesterday,… and she wholly surprised herself (as she wrote a short story, in the fist person, about a girl who’s discovered she can fly)…. to discover  that she (her character) was coughing up an owl pellet. It was a small epiphany for her, blinking at what she had found within herself…. like when I discovered, under tutelage from my singing teacher, an amazing note I could sing, as a tenor. I just…. didn’t know I had it in me!
I’m very much looking forward to excavating again on stage…. a sort of… archaeology of the soul.
Oooh…. I think I might use that!
See you soon. JB.

———-

Spring and Emerging – Monday 3rd April 2017.

Lewes All Saints Centre on 1st April felt like a culmination of many things. There I played my solo fooling (improvised theatre) show “You Can’t Watch this Play” with wonderful musician Dave Molz and a very engaged audience. It was the last in a small run of 8 shows since December.

It’s been a long time since I watched a man step onto the stage at The Rondo in Bath, have very little up his sleeve, and perform a long evening of improvised interactive, yet moving and poignant work. It was all unscripted, all off the cuff, all in the moment, funny, whilst also emotional, deep,  and at times…. edgy…with the audeince involved, sometimes deeply too. Stillness and sensitivity were given space.
But still we witnessed a play, not a dance piece.
Still we witnessed narrative, not so much a piece of performance art.
That was about 15 years ago, and I said to myself… I’d like to be able to do… that.

I still can’t. I’m not that man. and I can never fully emulate his style…. But, after years of developing my talents through other forms of stage work and storytelling and improvised work…. many bits are falling into place, are added to by my own unique skills, and styles,  and I can now announce…. I’ve got… something.

It’s a thing… definitely a thing… a way…. to bring you… worlds.

The way, the “act”, is, like a tadpole transformed…. starting to gain its legs and can now walk pretty much unaided.

I’ve still got plenty to learn, but I feel I’m now ready to learn it “on the job”.
Indeed, I can only learn many of the remaining skills on that job, and so, if you come… prepare to be a testing ground…. for new and exciting adventures.

Huge thanks to all who’ve supported that journey (it’s hard to list them all here), and more recently… Dave Molz (wonderful pianist), Rowan Sterk (achieved percussionist), David Stephens (lights and moral support), Simon Scardanelli (Music). and all the audiences that have been integral collaborators without whom this work would fall upon deaf ears.

 

Trusting (Tuesday 1st November 2016)

Ok. I’m not a natural blogger. It’s been what… 7 months? Oh dear. Must do better.

I heard two quotes recently… one was from a man who was a refugee in the UK. He said that if you welcome refugees here, they will love you, and the country and be deeply loyal, in their gratitude, till they die.

Another, a woman involved, spoke of the best ways to rehabilitate offenders in Britain’s jails, which are struggling hugely under budget cuts. She said… the best way to make a prisoner trustworthy is to trust them. If they don’t have opportunities to show they can be trusted.. then they cannot show their trustworthiness, and they lose hope, and in despair…. they’ve nothing to lose from re-offending.

(This was one of the tenets of Project Return, a program of rehabilitating offenders in the Louisanna area of the US, founded by my late friend, Dr Bob Roberts.)

So… when we find the Syrian crisis impacting on migration, impacting on UK people’s views of migrants, and adding to a fear of being “swamped”, it feels sad that we voted not, in effect, to trust.

To trust in the EU, in those who want to come and work here, and in those who genuinely seek refuge here.
Even if some harm is done, schools get busier, hospitals get busier, buses get busier… to trust that more good than bad will come, of opening ourselves to who’s at the door is a way, not just to deal with international relations, but a way to, personally, go through life.

Trust is so vital to enjoying life and each other that to lose it is to lose our own lives before we’ve begun.

We have to step off the cliff. It’s a Fool’s game, but hey…

 

Suffice to say that to trust to committing to “A Good Jew” was…. A good plan, and all went swimmingly well.  We neeearly goodjewcastcancelled Falmouth, but in the end couldn’t resist the Cornish climes, campsite, and getting completely lost round Falmouth’s one way system. More seriously… it’s hard to believe that a play about The Holocaust would (generally) bring such large audiences, but we trusted… and (mostly) fared much better than we dared hope for. And what a lovely cast. It’s hard to put into words the unity and sense of family we co-created. Here they are now. Thanks to them all for their trust.

So what next. Well… it is tiring casting, producing, directing, acting, deeply mourning a referendum result 🙄  and wot not,… so the summer was a bit of a break, a chance to catch up on a lot of DIY, of gardening, of family time (not in that order), to visit Germany ( apologise for any jingoism they perceived from us), and a chance to research and write the latest… thing.
I felt like “A Good Jew” gave me more permission to go further into somewhere I’d as yet not got to….
“I, Refugee” (working title) might be in the region of that “somewhere”.

I must admit… I’m excited.

The world landscape feels unsettling at the moment, and to transform that…. into what excites me, to create from that material… is healing. Is an act of trust.

Play with it, rather than let it play with you.

It’s hard to trust… but if it wasn’t…what’s the value of doing so… of taking the leap of faith… into the unknown?

Sunday 27th March 2016

Hello. I’ve just got back from a long rehearsal of A Good Jew in Brighton, and have been welcomed home with home-made hot cross buns and chocolate. Go Annika!

Some would say it’s not fair to ask a cast to come in on Easter Sunday. They’re probably right. Being one of the cast, I’d definitely  prefer the director not to do it again. Although if we hadn’t then Pippa wouldn’t have been able to give everyone a big choccy egg each. Go Pippa!

The rehearsal went well. We did a full run through of the play, with as many of the props, costumes and sound effects as we could muster. Some of us seemed a little tired, and some of the play was a bit ropey, but hey… they’re all off book (ish), we’ve a month to go, and it’s hard to know how some of the scenes can be improved upon. It’s not “in the bag” but is at least being distinctly dangled close to “the bag’s” opening. Go Cast!

We also, this week had two other fabulous achievements. (i) We launched our crowdfunding campaign to help raise money to pay for the show (props, costume, travel, Accommodation, marketing) and (ii) we seem to have found our technical operator for a large chunk of our upcoming tour! That’s a load off, I can tell you! Go Bernadette Ward!

So… what else to tell you about? Slowly finding most of the costume and prop items. Pippa has run up our Nazi arm bands, our SS uniforms arrived (and fit!), as have a German and a Russian trenchcoat, a Russian army hat, and a 3d-printed Luger 08. Go Prop and Costume fairies!

Moving on from “A Good Jew”…. In my last post I mentioned going to Edinburgh and I was literally moments away from registering my show “Licence” when I woke in the night and realised…. that I didn’t want to be away from my family for so long! So I put the plan into mothballs for another year. 2017 may be that year. Go Family!

Lastly for now, having really enjoyed my performance of The Silent Stream at Angel House at the start of March, I’ve booked two more performances, one in Brighton and one in Croydon. The first is at ONCA, which is a space dedicated to environmental arts, and happens to sit on the very spot where The Prince Regent began building the sewer that he would use to control and suppress the Wellesbourne, the underground stream that flows through Brighton and which threatened his project to build the Pavilion. Thanks for the gig. Go Onca!

Actually… talking, as the first paragraph of this post did, about taking a break (or not) from rehearsals to honour a holiday, I did actually cancel last Thursday’s rehearsal to honour a birthday. Mine! Go me!

(Now I just have to explain to the missus why I’m not doing the same for hers. oooh… not good. )

Monday 8th March 2016

Welcome back, if you’ve visited before! Hello! if you haven’t.

So… last night was our first performance of The Silent Stream for about 18 months. We had a packed and super-appreciative house at the plushly restored Regency Angel House opposite the Angel statue on the Hove seafront.

Reprising a one man show takes some energy to get all the lines refreshed, get costume in place (big thanks to Gladrags in Brighton). But it’s always worth it, and Stream (actors alway love to shorten or give nicknames to plays…. not sure what we’ll do about “A Good Jew”) has a way of catching me out, in how emotional the demands within it are. It has a lot to do with  distant fathers (something I know a little of – but don’t hear that as a sob story), with disconnection with much-loved siblings, and with denied children. It’s a’plenty painful at times, as well as a riot and a lark. We hope to get Stream back to Angel House again within the year. Watch this space.

And the process of arriving at and leaving Angel House made me feel the Angels were smiling upon us. Parking a long car with trailer (a lot of kit, and extra chairs needed a trailer in tow) in Brighton on a Sunday, 4 different times (there were a lot of moves to and from BUCFP where we were also rehearsing A Good Jew yesterday afternoon) needed fairies that would provide us parking spots that were two car lengths long. At each of the 4 stops the fairies delivered, and even provided us with a free left over parking ticket passed on from a departing fairy driving a 4-wheel drive. The whole event went like that, with wonderful hosting from Phill who runs Angel house; the Company, and friends all mucking in with all tasks; and from the most excellent David Stephens who flawlessly took on Technical Operation on the show. A brilliant collaboration of locals, venue and Company. Thank you, all.

A Good Jew is coming along apace. Most of the scenes are finding new depths of emotion and meaning as we pass through them time after time. There’s a lot of hard work going into the making of this play, from the Company,…you’re in for a profound experience. And each of the performances are filling out more each week as they find their ways into their characters. It’s exciting to see how they are developing.

To dress them all, and put weapons in some of their hands, we spend some of our time between rehearsals hunting for WW2 German militaria. It’s an odd world, but there’s some odd stuff and some “interesting” people out there! Nuff said.

Last Monday was the inevitable Brighton Fringe brochure launch event. ….. we’re on page 100 and 101, and will be at Exeter Street Hall this year.

And meanwhile, I’ve been continuing my process of working toward doing a show at Edinburgh this August. The venue is now confirmed, and the registration almost complete, so in theory…. I’m going! Yes, another one man piece, no, not a premier. Licence. One of my favourite pieces, but unusual for Edinburgh, as they tend to only programme 1 hr pieces, and this one’s…. 2.

And lastly the course at Evolution Arts is back on from 23rd April. A summer of theatre for any of you wanting to… dig in.

 

 

Thur 18th Feb 2016

Welcome to our blog. Bear with us as we find our way into it!

2016 has opened well with a flurry of activity to cast “A Good Jew“. We’re nearly there, with just Freddy / Karl to cast.

Many have asked me why I wrote A Good Jew. What brought me to it? My relationship to The Holocaust is complex, starting not in history lessons at school (as I gave up history at school at age 14) but with visiting Houston Holocaust Museum, Texas. This experience had a deep impact, which was further added to by reading (“If This Is a Man”, by  Italian Jewish writer Primo Levi; Schindler’s List, The Reader) and by films (Schindler’s List, The Pianist, Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Life is Beautiful, Sophie’s choice, Marathon Man) and by visits to The Imperial War Museum, to The Jewish Museums in Frankfurt, and in Aschaffenberg, and listening to stories about expropriation of Jewish property in Bavarian villages from members of my German family. Between them, I have been drawn into the horror of human behaviour in extreme conditions and been brought face-to-face with the sentiment “But, for the grace of god, go I”.

The story, as refugees flood across Europe, the far right rises, and the European experiment is faltering,  also has immense echoes for our time.

In the meantime, rehearsals have started, and we’ve done extremely well in just 4 rehearsals. The play is already taking shape. We’ve a hard working and sensitive cast. You’ll love them I’m sure.

The play has already brought about some synchronicitous happenings. In Lewes Library recently I found a great book about Theresienstadt concentration camp, where A Good Jew concludes. The very next night I was at a friend’s housewarming, and got chatting to a woman. After a few sentences we discovered we both had an interest in the Camp, and then it transpired she was Ruth Thompson, the  writer of the very book I had borrowed the day before! I was very glad to be prompted by her to attend the Holocaust Memorial Commemorations in January at Lewes Town Hall, and there I met many lovely people, including Tim Locke whose parents came across on the Kindertransport, and whose grandparents were sent to Terezin, and did not survive.

———-

Meanwhile, re-learning lines…  28 solid pages of lines, no less, is part of the work of reprising my one man piece The Silent Stream. Learning lines is not my favourite thing to do, i must admit, but learnt they must be if I am not to stand there on stage and just open and close my mouth and nothing come out this coming 6th March. This blog is my latest procrastination! To help me I’ve been using my new smart phone!! (inherited from my tec savvy recently-deceased mum) to learn lines, and one recording felt good enough to share… so you’ll find it on The Silent Stream page. Thanks to my mum for enabling that! She was a keen local historian, and told me of the Woodingdean Well which is the inspiration for The Well, of which The Silent Stream is a prequel. NB: Talking of underground water… The Silent Stream is of course, partly about The Prince Regent and his Pavilion, but also about The Wellesbourne that he diverted so that he could build.

My mother’s death in May 2015 may have also released a little fairy-help, which might be able to take me and a show to Edinburgh in 2016. This is uncertain, but finger’s crossed.

In the meantime, I might be back in June and July running my acting classes again at Evolution Arts, in Brighton…. depending on sign-up numbers. Apparently there was a flurry of interest the day after the course was cancelled due to low take up, and EA are keen not to let that happen again.

So… it’s off to another rehearsal tonight. Deep thanks to Brighton Unemployed Centre, Families Project for in-kind rehearsal space help. We’re deeply indebted to you.

JB

Comments are closed.

Scroll Up