News

Emerging from Lockdown – thoughts and future plans

The week before theatres ‘locked down’ I watched four live performances. Gecko’s Little Space at the New Wolsey Theatre, Northern Broadsides’ Quality Street at Bury Theatre Royal, a dress-run of Eastern AnglesRed Skies and finally, Luke Wright’s The Remains of Logan Dankworth at FAYAP (a portakabin in Framlingham). As the week (9th – 15th March) unfolded, things got weirder. Events were being cancelled. I would no longer be travelling to London for the ITC Conference, and I was relieved.

On Tuesday the 10th I had (sort of) happily hugged and tapped toes with friends in the bar, and sat next to strangers in the crowded New Wolsey auditorium. But, by Saturday night, I was slightly nervous about seeing the Luke Wright gig. But I did, because, for me, travelling ten minutes down the road to sit in a familiar community venue in small-town Framlingham felt like a relatively low-risk activity. I’m glad I did. Luke was brilliant as always, and it was poignant to hear him say that we were probably watching his last live gig for quite a while (he was right).  

My reaction got me thinking. When all this was over, could small-scale, hyperlocal, community-focused, rural touring be one of the ways out? I wrote a letter to The Stage, they published it, but they edited out the stuff about rural touring. So, like a dog with a bone, emailed Lyn Gardner. She saw something in the idea. We had a chat ranging over a whole load of topics – the potential for Coronavirus-friendly, drive-in theatre in rural settings; cabaret-style seating; the nimble and responsive nature of small-scale theatre companies with low overheads and flat management systems. But the thing that stuck out for me was the word ‘confidence’. How will we rebuild the confidence of funders and encourage them to resume their support, how will we rebuild the confidence of theatre companies (those who have survived!) to invite audiences back, and most importantly, how will we rebuild the confidence of audiences to once again sit in a crowded room with a bunch of strangers? Big questions.

On the crucial topic of finance, my work is reliant on Project Grant Funding from Arts Council England. This was suspended for a very good reason. In the first instance, ACE needed to divert funds towards its NPO organisations. And, hats off to them for their speedy support for individuals and Non-NPO companies. The theatre industry is a finely-balanced, interdependent ecosystem. Along with many other Freelance Creative people, I benefit from a healthy and solvent NPO portfolio. I’m at the bottom of the food chain. And, thankfully, I’m still being ‘fed’ by doing a bit of freelance project work for Eastern Angles.

But my other freelance work has virtually dried-up. The day before the suspension of ACE Project Grants I had submitted an application to do some community engagement theatre work with young people in Stowmarket. Bad timing! I will now need to re-submit my application once the fund re-opens. Two other projects I am involved in are also ‘on simmer’ whilst we patiently wait for a nod from ACE.

So, here I am, interviewing people who live and work on the Norfolk Broads for a future Eastern Angles show called Booming Voices – a wonderfully ‘mindful’ activity taking me into some fascinating conservations about birds, boats, butterflies, conservation and climate.

And, I’m currently having some very cautious but comfortingly up-beat chats with venues and programmers about future tours of Natalie Songer’s Satellites (about family, space exploration and the fascinating horror of World War 2) and Shamser Sinha’s Collapsing Stars (about love, taxi-driving and lives of a British Pakistani family).

Onwards!   

Murray Lachlan Young latest news

The Mystery of the Raddlesham Mumps may be in lockdown….but Murray, Matthew, Nina and all the other members of the team are busy thinking of digital ways to engage young audiences.

For example…..we are looking for children aged 7 – 11 (but older is fine!) to help create Murray’s next show.

Read on for more info:

Murray Lachlan Young enlists young online creators to inspire new show.

Acclaimed poet, performer and broadcaster Murray Lachlan Young is seeking the help of children from across the country in the creation of his next show.

Following the success of The Mystery of the Raddlesham Mumps, a gothic comedy theatre production aimed at family audiences, Lachlan Young is now turning his attention to a follow-up epic-poem, Iffly Sney and the Tandlesham Nook.

“Soaked in atmosphere….six-year-old Hilda gives it 10 out of 10: a “really hilarious” show!” The Guardian (and companion) on The Mystery of the Raddlesham Mumps

“Gloriously bloodthirsty and deliciously devilish…a terrific showcase for Murray Lachlan Young’s verbal dexterity and gallows humour” The Stage on The Mystery on the Raddlesham Mumps

Iffly Sney and the Taddlesham Nook is a new folktale-inspired show telling the story of brother and sister Atom and Lunar and their quest through a magical forest in the company of Iffly, the kindly giant and the mysterious Old Mother Redbeard.  

In order to tap into the minds of future audiences, Murray and the creative team are looking for youngsters aged 7 – 11 to assist in the creative process.The idea is to involve children in both the making of the new live show and the design of a computer game.

 “It’s a brilliant project,” said Murray Lachlan Young, “the idea is to create a digital interface for children to pass through into wider performance and creativity.”

Using online resources and digital technology, Murray and his team will reach out to primary school-aged children, asking them to become creative agents, contributing ideas, images and feedback which will help inspire the making of the brand new Iffly Sney theatre show.

“The children will be amongst the very first people to see and read parts of the first draft. We really value their opinions and the unique ideas they have to offer and we know their creativity will actually shape the final look and feel of the piece” said Murray.

The Mystery of the Raddlesham Mumps, a spooky story of a young boy who inherits an enormous ancestral home with a hilariously grisly backstory and a sinister butler, was due to tour venues this Spring with performances taking place across the UK. But, along with other theatre productions, the tour was cancelled with the arrival of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Fortunately, Raddlesham Mumps is a multi-media experience – in addition to the live theatre performance, the creative team has also produced a studio album of the show (available for free during Covid19 on soundcloud), a tablet/phone prequel game, and a VR experience as well as a beautifully illustrated hardback book (with illustrations by fashion designer and artist Julie Verhoeven). So, even though the live show was pulled, audiences are still able to experience the story in other ways.  

“All the ways of experiencing Raddlesham Mumps are different,” said producer Matthew Linley, “but all have a common theme. On our creative journey we were joined by the University of Essex and, through their EIRA scheme, we explored the impact of telling the story in these different ways. Now, these findings have been shared at conferences across Europe, and are influencing the development of our next project, Iffly Sney and the Tandlesham Nook.”

So, how do children get involved with the creation of Murray’s latest offering, Iffly Sney and the Tandlesham Nook?

“We were meant to be developing Iffly in rehearsal rooms in the East and North West” explains Matthew “but Covid19 put a stop to that.  However, thanks to the understanding and flexibility of Arts Council England the creative team will now be running the R&D in the digital space from their own homes up and down the country.  A key part of that R&D will be reviewing and working with the material the children send us.”

Working with the digital storytelling company Metro Boulot Dodo (MBD Limited) with input from primary school teachers, Murray Lachlan Young has developed a series of learning resources linked to the National Curriculum which are available on both the Raddlesham Mumps and MBD Ltd websites. By working through these online activities, children will have the opportunity to learn whilst also contributing to the research and development of Iffly Sney.

And, with the suspension of the usual school timetable, these fun and interactive lesson plans and worksheets are also a perfect resource for parents and carers looking for home-schooling activities.

“We may have had to rip up our initial development plans for Iffly Sney and start all over again,” said Matthew Linley, “but we’re really excited by where this new digital audience-focused creative journey is going to take us!”

Developing Your Creative Practice

Thanks to Arts Council England, I have spent the last ten months ‘developing as a freelance Creative Practitioner’. I have learnt loads of new skills, been to some brilliant towns and cities, formed some fantastic new partnerships, made some wonderful new friends and theatre-making contacts and turned the spare room into an office in the process. Now I’m writing my end of project Activity Report, I’m realising how many amazing arts projects I’ve been lucky enough to work on since February 1st….

An Honest Gentleman (Stuff of Dreams Theatre Company), The Mystery of the Raddlesham Mumps (Murray Lachlan Young and Matthew Linley Creative Projects), Edith – in the Beginning (Stuff of Dreams, National Trust, Bury Theatre Royal, The Garage Norwich, Colchester & Ipswich Museums), Footsteps (tusk. theatre company and Women’s Voices/Women’s Votes Festival), Satellites (Natalie Songer & Colchester Arts Centre), Our White Skoda Octavia (Shamser Sinha & Eastern Angles), English Civil Whore (Play Nicely) and The Numerous and Varied Assassinations of Oliver Cromwell (Mark Finbow/Keeper’s Daughter).

In that time I have also created a website for my work, annoyed the hell out of people with my increased Social Media activity, attended a series of ITC training courses and attended four conferences/symposiums: Family Arts (Liverpool), Theatre & Touring Symposium (London), National Rural Touring Forum (Bangor) & Audience Agency – Making & Measuring Social Impact (Leeds).

My ‘development’ ends on Saturday. Or does it? Every day’s a school day in this job. I’m looking forward to continuing to work, learn and have more developmental theatre-making fun throughout 2020!

Home office

Free Creative Writing Workshop at The Garage

Free Creative Writing Workshop

Weds 30th October 2019

2.15pm – 3.45pm

Studio One, The Garage, 14 Chapel Field North, Norwich, NR2 1NY

A close up of a logo

Description automatically generated

Join playwright Karen Forbes from Stuff of Dreams Theatre Company for a FREE fun and informal introduction to writing for the stage. Karen studied scriptwriting at the University of East Anglia. Her plays include Rebellious Sisterhood, which focused on the lives of Suffragettes Emmeline Pankhurst and Grace Roe, and Edith in the Beginning, a new play about the discovery of the Sutton Hoo treasure. 

This 1 ½ hour workshop will include an introduction to all aspects of playwriting including theatre terminology and idea brainstorming. Using Karen’s latest play (Edith – in the beginning) as a starting point, we will focus on bringing real-life, local heritage characters to life. This session will also look at the art of ‘Wellbeing Journal Writing’, a fantastic skill that allows us to explore our own feelings and emotions through expressive writing.

No experience necessary. Bring a pen and notepad! Age 16 plus.

To allow this workshop to be fully accessible to d/Deaf or hard of hearing participants, the session will be supported by Tricia Spencer, a Communication Support Worker and native signer (Tricia has a Deaf brother and daughter).

This workshop is supported by Arts Council England.

To book a place contact: karengoddard@stuffofdreamstheatre.com or ring Karen on 07789 933558

Creative Writing Workshops

As part of the Stuff of Dreams Edith Pretty project I’m currently working on, it’s been pleasure to be able to work in partnership with Colchester + Ipswich Museums, Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, The Garage in Norwich and Lighthouse Women’s Aid in Ipswich setting-up a series of Creative Writing workshops run by playwright Karen Forbes. These Arts Council-funded sessions will not only introduce participants to the basics of scriptwriting, but they will also provide an introduction to Wellbeing Journal Writing, a simple expressive writing exercise that we can all do to explore our own emotions, experiences and help maintain good mental health. The workshop at The Garage will be accessible to d/Deaf and hard of hearing participants through the generosity of the venue’s Executive Director, Adam Taylor. More info here: https://www.facebook.com/events/530640804423239/?ti=icl

The Garage, Norwich

Edith in the Beginning

Some fantastic funding news….we’ve just heard that Arts Council England will be supporting performances of this new play by Karen Forbes, produced by Stuff of Dreams Theatre Company. This site-specific production, inspired by the life of Edith Pretty, will be staged at National Trust Sutton Hoo on August 24th, 25th & 26th. The investment from ACE will help us do some great community engagement work with Colchester + Ipswich Museums, Bury Theatre Royal and The Garage in Norwich as part of the project. Book here.

English Civil War Theatre Projects

I’m working with Keeper’s Daughter Theatre Company and Play Nicely Theatre Company on the Arts Council funded Research & Development of two new plays. Volunteers in the Huntingdon area are gathering information that will be used to inspire and create new scripts which will explore different aspects of The English Civil War.

Writer Mark Finbow said: “The research collated by the community research group will feed into the creation of two new scripts which will then be taken forward into rehearsed readings at The Key Theatre in Peterborough.”

The first play will explore the assassination attempts on Oliver Cromwell focusing on Edward Sexby and members of the Miles Sindercombe Group.

The second play will explore the fascinating lives of women who dressed as men in order to fight on the frontline during the English Civil War and highlight women’s roles in society during this time of conflict.
To find out more about the projects contact Mark Finbow at
civilwar1642@gmail.com

The Man Play

Great to catch-up with playwright Aisha Zia last week at the National Theatre Studio. Aisha is working with Good Chance Theatre (The Jungle) on the development of a new script exploring what it’s like to be a British Muslim Man in today’s world. Really enjoyed watching the first sharing of this work and talking to the cast about their own experiences and seeing their stories and devised movement incorporated into the rehearsed reading.

Heritage Sites

Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich

Over the past few months I’ve been working with rural touring theatre company Stuff of Dreams on their Spring Tour, An Honest Gentleman. Having seen Christchurch Mansion used as a venue for talks and theatre productions I knew it would make the perfect setting for Stuff of Dreams tale of 18th Century highwaymen (and highwaywomen!) With help from the brilliant staff at Colchester & Ipswich Museums we’ve just staged two sell-out performances of the show in the atmospheric entrance hall of this beautiful building. With the help of funding from Arts Council England we were also able to employ BSL interpreter Caroline Smith to make the second performance accessible to all our audience members. It was great to see arts and heritage combining to create a really fun, immersive and site-specific evening’s entertainment!