Theatre Maker

Performer Practitioner

About


About

About

I have been a performer and singer for 40 years and a practitioner/director for the last 15 years living in London, Berlin and Birmingham. I am developing creative projects alongside building on my role as an educator.



Artistic Intentions


Artistic Intentions
Theatre Making
  • To develop the piece 'Broken' from a scratch performance previously tried out at the 'Lyric Theatre' as part of an MA.
  • To apply for funding and enrol creatives for the project 'Girls Like Us' - researched, directed and produced by Delyth Jones to perform at Arts Centres.
  • To tour an evolving autobiographical piece entitled 'Dysmortal Life' by David Hale and Delyth Jones. Originally directed by Lorna Laidlaw and most recently Alison Solomon.
Performing and producing creative projects, creating my own theatre work and championing new writing has been at the core of my theatrical career. My role as an educator has been a source of inspiration for recent projects - frustrations and observations from the world of teaching in particular. Insights into students’ wellbeing, deeper thinking skills and creativity, drowned in a never-ending cycle of tick boxes and assessments, have inspired my latest project. Further to this, consistent themes that have emerged throughout my work are things like disillusion, the frustrations of internet dating, mental health and most recently young people's identity.
I wanted to create theatre to challenge the uncomfortable truths and allow the audience moments of reflection. My own personal life has also been a stimulus for my creative journey. I have been songwriting since my teens and these songs have become an emotional diary tracking my struggles, insecurities and observations. Employing all of these creative motivations and crafting them into contemporary theatrical pieces is the aim of my ongoing work.

Creating a Theatre Company
Other People’s Shoes Theatre Company was formed in 2009 to develop new writing and provide roles for women, with a focus on quality roles for women over 30, portraying them in a different light to the ‘cliched’ stereotypes seen in many plays and on TV. I wanted to find writers who could write challenging, complex characters that reflect women in today’s society. The company has developed and performed ‘The Bird Box’ (2 female characters in late 30’s early 40’s, ‘The Waiting Room’ (3 female roles from 20-40) Artsfest, Old Jointstock Theatre, ‘Dysmortal Life’ (1 female role, female piano player, female director, female photographer and lighting operator). The last two with the writer David Hale, whom I met in Berlin and has since become a regular collaborator. In the future I would like the company to deepen its artistic collaboration with Lorna Laidlaw, Alison Solomon, Amelia Cardwell, Johanna Craven and other actors, directors and production staff towards the development of a theatre group committed to the production of challenging, original and thought-provoking writing for women.

Professional Work (non-devised)
Trained at Drama Studio London. Toured as ‘Columbia’ and ‘Magenta’ in the Rocky Horror Show and as ‘tribe’ in Hair. Lived in Germany for 8 years and sang ‘chorus’ for Starlight Express. Moved to Berlin and played ’Columbia’ in the Rocky Horror Show at Magdeburg Landestheater. News voice over at the Deutsche Welle whilst regularly performing blues/jazz with Pete Stingl. Have performed at the Crescent Theatre as ‘Natalya’ in A Month in the Country, ‘Joan’ Lucky Sods, various corporate and short films, Blue Orange Theatre ‘Barefaced’ and Birmingham Repertory Theatre singing French/ German chansons and performing Brecht’s poems as part of the Epic Encounters Festival 2014.

Singer/Songwriter
I began singing with my Welsh dad, singing folk. I then began my own career as a singer/songwriter working with Dave Lowe and performed my first gigs in Birmingham moving into blues/pop and a Piaf repertoire in London and Berlin. My own songs were an important part of the storytelling in 'Dysmortal Life'.

Testimonials


Girls Like Us


Girls Like Us 
 https://vimeo.com/402241997 
 
Why is this piece important? I was a teacher in the school, a unique opportunity to conduct interviews and provide questionnaires.  The students had built a relationship with me and were therefore honest. This piece is their voice.  We as an audience see and hear their voices and are hopefully touched but also perhaps concerned.

  • would like a public audience to have a glimpse of the realities for their children in school as a point for reflection and maybe action.

  • I want students to use the performance as a platform for Q & A sessions about their feelings of identity, the unsupervised areas in school and the everyday challenges they face.  


What do I want to do with it?
I am applying for Arts Council Funding to re-rehearse the piece, develop and re-structure during the R&D. I hope to get the permission to allow the students to perform their words- offensive or not for a public performance. I want 'Girls Like Us' to be a true portrayal of girls in education in 2020.

The piece was originally performed as part of a new Festival created by my MA Cohort 2015/2016 'Contemplate Festival 'and the students performed at the John Terry Building Coventry University 12th December 2018. They performed it in school to Year 8 and 9 with Q and A sessions.

My inquiry focused on female identity in education and what affects that identity within a school environment.  As a teacher/researcher I adopted the role of a participant/ observer producing questionnaires and conducting open ended interviews in July 2017 at Bewdley School with year groups (7-10) with 5 -7 participants in each group.  These interviews were translated into physical movement and verbatim. My role was the one of Director/Writer/ Movement Director.  Each group included students with diverse academic abilities and social backgrounds.  In addition, as a theatre maker my inquiry hoped to challenge my own established modes of directing by following the Frantic Assembly model of creating movement before text and structure, whilst staying open to discoveries and developments in the process. I was also hoping from my study of applied theatre that it would be a transformative experience for the young performers involved.

I met with the performers to develop skills in movement and potential movement sequences in the Summer. I collaborated with the performers and professionals, Gemma Evetts (dancer), Reaya Sealey ('Strictly Arts' and 'Women Writes') and Kayleigh Johns (Wolverhampton University dance graduate). I collaborated with Diana Stoica (Actor, Writer) whose text beautifully wraps up the piece. This work was captured at Coventry University.

We then rehearsed once a week whilst I was teaching. We developed a close relationship during the working process that was uncommon with younger students with a teacher. As well of the themes of friendship, social media and mental health a theme emerged during the process of sexism - sexist comments from boys during unsupervised movement in the school. Some of the language was used in the performance with permission from the parents. The offensive language used on Instagram, texts and those words said from student to student was not allowed. (Refer to podcast to my for reflections on this)

The images used in the performance were to reflect the social climate the girls were living in. I also interviewed a past and current Head of Bewdley and teachers to allow the audience to hear the opinions of staff before the students were allowed their voice
.
I developed the soundtrack and worked with singers.


How it evolved -

Sections from my journal

I endeavoured to build a script that reflected a true sense of the students and how they felt. I considered in my journal that there is ‘definitely an authenticity to real words and I think I am going to have to put the text together myself... which I had only intended to do for half of the text. I didn’t realise that text could sound so false or that I would even know what sounds bad’. The verbatim also contains colloquialisms, their vocabulary, their pauses, stumbles and their age is clear. Verbatim allows the writer to consider ‘what makes one person interesting and another one dull?' There is an artistry in creating a character and selecting the words. The interviewee needed to be honest and younger people can be wonderfully open. It is their choice of vocabulary or an emotion revealed that you instinctively feel but realise they are unaware of. I chose to use the word ‘popular’ repeatedly in one section because it captured the voice of the original interviewee. It also added a sense of youth and has a comedic element, though perhaps at the expense of the interviewee. There is a responsibility to consider the feelings of the young girls interviewed, they doidot see the humour of their own situation. What to include and not linked to a central part of this research inquiry- ethics and within the school environment safeguarding. Refer to podcast.

Authorship was explored when collaborating with the students, (some who are not actually in the piece) to empower them and involve them in as much of the process as possible. Not only were they involved in the original research but they would proofread and change or edit a word that they felt was unrepresentative of their world, in the scripted piece. I also asked them to read out loud to see if my edited text functioned theatrically. We discussed questions raised by my research and further writing tasks were set in response to comments they shared. In my journal I noted that ‘Much of the content seems to be focused on the negative aspects of the girl’s life and I don’t think that school always feels like that for them.’ After the writing task I wrote ‘one of the students has confessed to a bullying incident at Primary School and a threat of rape. She consequently self harmed. There is a real confessional quality to this work- that can be therapeutic for the child involved but was also problematic for me as a teacher in the school. Do I share this information? Do I feel this is too honest for an audience?’ On reflection I did feel it was too honest and could be recognised by her parent. The event was also discussed between myself and the student and had been dealt with at the time. It was still obviously a part of her identity and she wanted me to know. I agreed with her to just use the friendship section.

Broken


Broken
'Broken' was performed  by the at the Lyric Theatre as a collaborative project with Frantic Assembly based on an image as the genesis.  It was scripted and verbatim with movement choreography developed and supported by Scott Graham (Frantic Assembly), Eddie (DV8)  and the cast was provided by Scott Graham and the 'MA in Collaborative Performance Making' students.

What do I want to do with it?
This was a scratch performance. It had positive feedback from both the company and audience members. The themes of anxiety, depression and psychosis are still very current in today's society. The key focus was on those people who live with sufferers of mental health; partners, friends and family. I would like to conduct more research with people in Birmingham, which would lead to a R&D with a core group of performers. I would like to explore verbatim as well as written text. I will continue to build partnerships with creatives in London and seek a movement director in the West Midlands as I believe the themes lend themselves well to somatics and visual metaphor.

The process
Amelia Cardwell and myself decided to base our research on those who work or have relationships with people with mental health. Mental health was also an illness we both understood due to our own personal experiences of the illness.

My role was agreed as a co director, collaborating with Amelia Cardwell (movement director) on the genesis of our piece, given the working title of ‘Broken’, which was performed at the Lyric Hammersmith in London. At The piece showed how mental health impacts the lives of those who ‘care’ either in the professional arena or the personal. It had elements of verbatim – real interviews re-constructed – and some scripted from the interviews by the writer David Hale, with whom I have collaborated before. Amelia and I used questionnaires to interview friends, family and colleagues. Anne Bogart stated that to create theatre: ‘You need to say something. You need technique. You need passion’ (Bogart :2007)








Dysmortal Life


What do I want to do with it?

This is an autobiographical piece and therefore is consistently evolving.  It is time for the next draft which I will  do by using verbatim and David Hale's comic genius. I need to change the framing and bring it back to it being less of a talk and more...just me. 'Its all about me' as David Hale wrote in the Waiting Room! When we behave as we do with mental illness, it is not always conscious, although it has many moments of dark comedy.  We do what we do to get through the day.  It is also influenced by experiences of being from the baby boomer generation as well as being a feminist tract. 

The show was originally put together in 2012 and performed at the Stratford Fringe. Just as some of my song lyrics came from darker periods in my life - the show was born from personal experiences and deals with themes of loneliness, depression, hedonism, internet dating and dysfunctional relationships. The songs in the show were written when the events in the ‘real’ stories took place - so they provide a darker more honest narrative to the black comedy of the monologues. I worked with David Hale, a writer and friend who wrote the Waiting Room, which was also performed at the Old Jointstock Theatre Birmingham. Helen Gould and I co - wrote the music and performed the songs live at all the venues. Lorna Laidlaw (Coronation St), the director, chose to frame the piece about failed relationships and the hazards of particularly electronic dating, in a ‘lecture’ type format. Lorna always felt that the structure of the show gave an impression of two disconnected stories – so we have changed it and the character steps out of her own lecture and with the audience reflects on her own life – finally accepting her illness, her mistakes and by the end she is hopeful, honest and far more self aware.

It has since been performed at Camden Etcetera London, London Fringe and the Kitchen Garden Cafe, Birmingham after some new direction (Amelia Cardwell, Alison Solomon) and some script add-ons (Delyth Jones and David Hale)

I want to tour the show as I believe it is still a relevant topical piece of theatre.  It travels from Birmingham to London Berlin and back.   I believe the changes have made it a stronger, more authentic piece. It can be performed with or without a piano player and is technically simplistic- mike, props and a power point. It would work as a stand alone performance or as a later evening ‘cabaret’ style format as it features live music and visuals combining to create a cabaret/chanson aesthetic.

The Waiting Room


The Waiting Room

' I used my knowledge of Delyth's trials and tribulations, successes and failures – and, most importantly, her considerations regarding the meaning of all these – as a basis for the setting and plot of the Waiting Room. The play is set in an audition room for a low budget fringe play in Hackney (David Hale writer)

I initially met David Hale, the writer, in Berlin, and he knew how hard I persevered to maintain my career as an actress and as a single parent even with the language constraints I faced in Germany. When David went back to Vienna, he asked me to read a play he had written. This was the first time I became aware that he wanted to write. We met again in Birmingham, where he was doing an MA in playwriting at Birmingham University.  His play, ‘The One’, was shocking and dark, but very moving and raw. It reflected themes in David's life, particularly in relation to homosexual relationships. I was not sure if he would want to write a play for women. However in 2006, I spent a lot of time in London doing courses at the Actors Centre, and a showcase with Chrys Salt. All my stories about getting back and to between Birmingham and London, the highs and lows of preparing for the showcase and my passion to progress as an actress were discussed on his balcony in Hither Green. We also discussed the style of a possible play - a modern female drama with a 'Waiting for Godot' style. David was inspired and he seemed really excited about his new piece, later called ’The Waiting Room'

I had already formed a company 'Other Peoples' Shoes with Tracey Sheldon (actor) and Julie-Ann Dean (voice over artist) joined the cast in Birmingham. We did a read through of Hale's play and decided that we wanted to do it. It struck us all as a very challenging play – there were very long monologues and hyperbolic rich dialogue. We advertised for a director and eventually chose Vik Sivalingam (http://viksivalingam.com/), who had just finished an MA in directing and later that year directed a play at the Young Vic.
A short excerpt of the play was performed twice at the 'Artsfest' in September 2007. The first performance was at the BBC Studios in the Mailbox, and the second at the CBSO Centre. It was clear from these performances that the play was funny and engaging with two very different audiences for both.
It was then formally re-cast and a rehearsal venue was offered for free by Frankie (former manager) at the Custard Factory Birmingham and two young female actors both trained at the Drama Studio, joined the cast. I produced and performed in the piece which was put on at the Old Jointstock Theatre in Birmingham.

I was beginning to build my skills as a producer as well as an actor whilst still working full-time and bringing up my son Oliver. My role had autobiographical elements and this style led into the creation of 'Dysmortal Life'.

The Bird Box
The Bird Box, written by Johnny Goddard. It was about two women who internet date, and both end up in the same Theatre box to meet the same man. Their relationship, which develops from initial misunderstandings, empathy and ultimately to one of friendship, is eventually stronger than their need to get the ’man’ We performed it at the Door, Birmingham Repertory Theatre.



Workshops


'I absolutely believe that theatre as a young person was vital to me not only for creativity and academia but also for my mental health'
My approach is to combine influences from innovative companies worked with or studied such as Lumiere and Son, Peta Lily, Punchdrunk and Frantic assembly whilst combining my own experiences of autobiography, black comedy, physical theatre, music (pre-recorded or live) and verbatim. I also draw on professional workshops with the Actor Centre London and the 'Be Festival Birmingham.'
This will benefit the schools by providing workshops by a specialist (s) who not only has experience in education but extensive professional work. Recent training in devising with Frantic Assembly. Industry training at the Actors Centre. An experienced producer, director and performer of original writing.

Workshops -Enhanced DBS and Safeguarding Training

Bespoke workshops can be created for all key stages according to your needs.

PRIMARY
KS2 (Yr 6) and KS3 (Yr 7)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone using physical theatre based creation of the final challenges that Harry, Hermione and Ron are faced with.
Skills include: collaboration, movement skills, creative thinking, ensemble, character and script writing (more able) transitions, retrieval. Workbooks available.

Space - the question is posed by the scientist who is heading the world global crisis meeting 'we will be leaving the earth in the next two weeks' things have got too bad' 'we need your best... space experts who will join the space mission to find our next planet'
Skills include: spontaneous improvisation, character profiles leading to characterisations, physical and vocal skills, sustained improvisation, spaceship design. Workbooks available. Props provided.

The Lost World by Conan Doyle - an adaptation of the original story,  This is a devised piece that is suitable to show to KS1.
Skills: summarising, storyboarding, character development, staging, scriptwriting, narration, use of key props, lifts (Frantic Assembly) and animal creations. With a moving audience - in-the-round staging.

Ceville - Animation voices and Stories- story writing, vocal workshop, accents and dialects, voice over style performances.

SECONDARY KS4/KS5 2/3 hr workshops

  • Devising using verbatim - Interviews and questionnaires to create script, characters and playing with semniotics by using improvisational techniques
  • Structuring a devised piece and learning how to develop scenes
  • Interpreting text through applying various techniques learnt in my professional life and the Actors Centre

Physical theatre Advanced Devising KS5 (2 or 3 Hours)
With a physical theatre practitioner.
For students with an experience of devising but wishing to take it further. We will look at a wide range of theatre styles and techniques that the students can use in their own devising work. Techniques will include Physical Theatre and Story-telling, Site-specific Performance, Object Transformation, Working with Scale, Choral Movement, Verbatim Theatre, Starting with True stories and Building an Ensemble.







Soundcloud


Dysmortal Life by David Hale

Captured at Camden Etcetera London 2014

Contact


Team


Alison Solomon

Director Producer

Reaya Sealey

Movement Director

Reaya is a professional actor and dancer/movement director based in the Midlands. She started her training whilst studying performing arts at Sandwell College, going on to complete the highly coveted Flying Start course directed by Birmingham City Council, and then later completing a Batchelor’s degree with the Birmingham School of Acting. During her time there Reaya performed in many shows including Bedlam, Threepenny Opera, Pheadra and The Last Days of Judas Iscariott just name a few. Upon graduating she formed the company ‘Strictly Arts’ alongside Corey Campbell, alongside pursuing her own freelance acting and performance work. Reaya recently took part in the Critical Mass playwriting course as well as Trainee assistant Director for the ‘Sister Hood’ at the Belgrade Theatre, and is now in the process of setting up her own production company, ‘Women Writes’ empowering women by telling BAME stories which focuses on female leads, by female writers. Our aim is to generate a body of female work for female voices so that the productions can be seen by many audiences on a variety of platforms.

Lorna Laidlaw

Director

Getting it Straight (National Tour), Big for me little for you (Midlands Arts Centre), Magic Earth Magic sky, (New Vic stoke tour, Midlands Arts Centre, Pentabus Theatre Co national tour) Nativity, (Birmingham Rep) Wizard of Oz (Barford Primary School)l, Rain Forest Symphony, (Play house/tour), Bun and Cheese, (Old Joint Stock), Jack and the Beanstalk, (Community Production), Patrick and Bernadine, (Crescent Theatre/Regional Tour), Caribbean Kitchen, (Birmingham Rep/ Regional Tour), Book Face,(Old Joint Stock), Faith, ( Iceandfire), Stranger in the Park, ID-79, In Between the Music, (Grass Routes:Cuttings Birmingham Rep), Lite, (The Public) Mr Soon Come winner of MVSA, Best Black Theatre Production, (The Drum ) Dysmortal Life (Stratford-upon-Avon Fringe Festival) And many more. You can also see Lorna in Tikkabilla, BAFTA winner Grandpa in my Pocket, Little Human Planet and Doctors playing the irrepressible Mrs Tembe.

David Hale

Writer

David grew up in the north west of England but lived in Vienna and Berlin in the late eighties and the nineties. In 2000, he returned to the UK to study Playwriting at Birmingham University. In 2004, his translation of the Austrian play ‘The Chairwoman’ by Werner Schwab toured the UK and Ireland to critical acclaim. His play ‘The Waiting Room’ was produced at The Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham in 2009. David is presently collaborating with Delyth Jones on her one women show and a production of his play ‘A Birthday Present’,