The CFC: Chichester Football Club, the building between the Squash Club and the Theatre. It’s a space the Pass It On team has been working in during the restoration of the Festival Theatre. It’s also where I’ve recently been part of a group opening large parcels wrapped in layers of bubble-wrap and sticky tape, containing framed advertising posters and production photographs of many of the actors who have appeared in plays put on at Chichester Festival Theatre.
The task involved carefully opening the ‘parcels’, each of which had been labelled with various identification numbers and recording information about the contents of each ‘parcel’. We were given a chart to complete for every step of the way, so that nothing was missed. This included details of the label, the condition of the piece, its size and whether it was in colour or black and white. This forms part of the archiving process that is taking place throughout the project. We then had to try and identify the subject/s in the photograph and the production from which it came. Not an easy job. Hardly any of the boards, on which the work was mounted, had any information as to what it referred. They were like lost souls waiting to be remembered.
Some of you may remember an exhibition that was held in 2012 at Pallant House Gallery to coincide with the Theatre’s 50th anniversary. Many of those who attended this exhibition commented on the creative display of ephemera from the Theatre’s history, including old programmes and set designs. In 2015, a new exhibition all about the history of Chichester Festival Theatre will tour several venues across West Sussex, though this time, the entire exhibition will be researched, curated and designed by Pass It On volunteers.
Last week we held our first session to introduce our prospective volunteers to the challenge of creating a modular and interactive exhibition. The exhibition will provide new insight into the inner workings of Chichester Festival Theatre, using items from our archive and memorabilia collection. We’ll also have access to archive footage from the 1960s and audio clips taken from the interviews we’ve been collecting as part of our oral history strand. This allows for interactive possibilities and we’re even planning on running special events and activities during the exhibition’s stay at each venue.
Over a series of posts, I’ll be exploring the casting of a handful of Hollywood actresses who have performed at Chichester Festival Theatre, including Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall, Joan Collins and Kim Cattrall. There is something of an air of mystery about a Hollywood star; how watching their screen performance is as close as us mere mortals could ever get. And yet, we must remind ourselves those immortal stars of the silver screen are indeed, real-life actors and actresses, and a thespian’s true calling removes all cameras and puts them onto a stage. A thrust stage, to be precise.
Joan Collins comes to Chichester
Joan Collins starred as Mrs. Cheyney in The Last of Mrs. Cheyney, the first production of the 1980 Summer Season, which also included Terra Nova, Much Ado About Nothing, and Old Heads and Young Heart. She was no stranger to the stage, having performed in the West End as a young girl since 1946 before heading to America to make her mark in Hollywood (although, of course, it was the television show Dynastythat she is most remembered for) .
@DrumheadDave follows the Pass It On account on Twitter. After nominating ‘Theatre on the Fly’ for CFT’s 100 Greatest, we asked him to share more of his memories about this unique temporary structure.
Of all the celebrations that took place for Chichester Festival Theatre’s 50th anniversary in 2012, ‘Theatre on the Fly’ was the one thing that really captured my imagination and compelled me to get involved. Theatre on the Fly seemed like a blank sheet of paper. It was temporary, it was on the fly, it was an opportunity do and try so many things that the conventions of the main house precluded.
“Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us”
Those of us who, like Oscar Wilde, instinctively know that we attend the theatre for the sheer love of the experience, will realise that it has something to do with the metaphysical scrapbooks locked away in our skulls – memories – the stuff of life. Like a good book, a humdinger of a tune, or a masterful piece of cinema, a Chichester Festival Theatre stage production is up there with the best of those cherished memories.
Nothing illustrates this so well as the transcripts of some of the interviews conducted by the dedicated team of oral history volunteers in the Pass It On project. These transcripts reflect a rich history of story-telling that complements the art of stage performance perfectly. Take, for instance, the reminiscences of Catherine Lambert, wife of the late Jack Lambert, Literary and Arts Editor of the Sunday Times. Catherine evokes the magic of a summer evening trip to the theatre in 1964 to see Peter Shaffer’s The Royal Hunt of the Sun.
“It was a lovely journey in the car going down from London… I used to look for the line of the South Downs and I knew we were coming near to Chichester.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Robert and Philip in the Youth Theatre play, Jane”, said my mother’s friend to my mother, one day in late April, 1991. A stunned silence, then: “What. Youth. Theatre. Play?” was mum’s reply. The play in question was Ernie’s Incredible Illucinations; mum’s response was due to the fact she and my dad had expressly forbidden my brother Phil and I to be involved in it so near to our exams. So I’m ashamed to say, we snuck out of the house anyway each evening for rehearsals and performances. In hindsight, it was an extremely irresponsible thing to do, but I did say I would be candid about these memories.
Recalling memories of Chichester Festival Youth Theatre has been like re-reading a favourite book over again. And Ernie’s is my favourite chapter! As suggested above, recounting these would not be complete nor honest, if left to what we did on stage. When you have outgoing youngsters together in a theatrical environment you will always get the ‘high spirits’, and for me, these were the best bits of Ernie.
On Wednesday 25 June, 60 eager people gathered at the Library in Chichester to hear from Simon Barker, Head of English and Creative Writing at Chichester University. An English Professor and Theatre historian, Simon had been the first professional researcher to be granted access to the Theatre’s emerging archive and we were all looking forward to finding out what he had selected to share with us.
The musical has been around since the mid-nineteenth century. Since about 1866 theatregoers have been packing out auditoriums to see story, song and dance come together. Although opened in 1962, it wasn’t until 1981 that the Chichester Festival Theatre stage brought life to the musical with The Mitford Girls by Caryl Brahms and Ned Sherrin.
The Mitford Girls opened to mixed reviews, some dubbing it ‘marvellous’whilst others preferred the straight acting of the plays they had become used to at their theatre. However, in 1993, the hit show of the season was Pickwick; a musical based on Dickens’Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Both audience and Theatre staff adored the production and it went on to play at Sadler’s Wells, London.
As you may already know, we are running tours throughout Festival 2014. We are delighted to announce that these will be led by volunteer Youth Theatre members whom we are in the process of training as official tour guides. Our renowned Youth Theatre, led by Dale Rooks, is a huge part of CFT. Here at Pass It On, we like to take full advantage of this pool of talented, enthusiastic and passionate young people and recruit them whenever we can so that we can also provide them with opportunities to increase their skillset.You may remember our fabulous volunteer hard-hat tour guides of last year, Fay and Rob (recent architecture graduates) who are back to help us. As a logical development, the public and group tours we are running from mid-July will be architecture focused and celebrate the truly unique history and design of Chichester Festival Theatre. The whole group has worked really hard using their research to make the architectural jargon understandable – after our training session held last Saturday, our tour guides can now fully explain what a cantilever is, how cement is made (aggregate included) and will be able to tell you all about the original architects, Powell and Moya.
The tours will involve splitting 50 people into four separate groups each led by a different guide. The challenge is fixing a route where we all won’t bump into each other. There’s been lots of walking back and forth, heading up and down several flights of stairs, testing out the new accessible lifts and creeping into as many corners as possible to find the best route whilst showing off our renewed Theatre to its best advantage for everyone. This is whilst keeping the theme of a non-hierarchal space a priority (Find out more about this on one of our tours!).
This ethos was a huge part of the original Festival Theatre build in 1962, a project that relied on public fundraising by much of the local community to make Leslie Evershed-Martin’s hopes for a regional theatre come true.
It’s a philosophy that Pass It On aims to live by too. We are working in partnership with West Sussex Record Office to sort and preserve a paper archive for Chichester Festival Theatre; with an expert Oral Historian to capture living memories of the Theatre; with local schools to develop a series of teaching resources and with our own Youth Theatre to develop short plays and tours that draw on the Theatre’s heritage in a variety of different ways.
This even filters through to our website. Many of the pages you can explore and browse through have been completed by volunteers. They have been briefed, or have come up with the idea themselves to research particular areas in the Theatre’s history. This way, the website is able to evolve in a very organic manner, with new pages being added by a whole host of volunteers.
Holly Stewart, a history student at the University of Chichester, has produced an extensive overview of the 50+ years history of the Theatre, working decade by decade. Her work can be seen on the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000 to the present pages.
For ninety seconds, in July 1991, the Olivier stage of the National Theatre, London, was mine. All mine. I remember the deafening silence. In that split second before my solo speech, it felt like an eon. I looked straight at the spotlights at the back of the auditorium and I remember the glare that thankfully masked the sea of faces in front of me. I could barely take it all in! How did I end up here…?
It all began with Anthea Dobry’s arrival as Youth Theatre director in November 1990. Anthea had come in after a year’s interregnum when Clare Rankin left in 1989; directors were coming and going so there was no real cohesive leadership and numbers of attendees at workshops had begun to dwindle. Anthea acted quickly to remedy this. Sometime earlier, the Youth Theatre had entered the National Youth Theatre challenge (now NT Connections) with a piece they had devised themselves called Happy Families, in 1989 at the National Theatre. They were one of the lucky entrants to be invited to perform this at the National at the end of the project. Anthea said we were to enter again.
This month we have been sharing our archive with local primary school teachers and asking how this could help them in the classroom across the full breadth of subjects they teach. Chichester Festival Youth Theatre Director, Dale Rooks, describes the process so far and tells us how it feels for her own work to become a teaching resource:
As part of Pass It On and in partnership with our partner primary schools we have set out to create three ‘playboxes’. One to focus on past performances at the Theatre, one to look at the spaces of the Theatre including the important thrust stage, and the third to focus on individuals and the contribution they have made to CFT.
By the beginning of May we had three different cardboard boxes full of material from the archive that could go into these playboxes, ready to share with the teachers from our partner schools. They then told us more about the curriculum requirements and how the items we shared with them might help with curriculum outcomes. Based on what they’ve told us, we’ve selected some things from our cardboard boxes and brought more items from the archive to put in – and in some cases we have asked our colleagues at the Theatre to make new things for us. Each time we’ve met we’ve introduced the teachers to more materials and more detail about how life at the Theatre works.
The Pass It On project is reaching a really exciting stage. Several of our different project strands, such as the Archiving and Oral History are slowly coming together, providing us with a range of different material that when combined, create a bigger picture, revealing the hidden histories of Chichester Festival Theatre (perfectly timed for Festival 2014’s ‘Hidden Histories’ Season). Each archive document, each recorded interview, each photograph and written account are like individual jigsaw pieces of a puzzle that has no definitive final image. The rest of this blog post outlines the ways in which some of these pieces are coming together, with snippets from an exclusive interview with current Stevie cast member, Chris Larkin.
We recently took our trained Memory Collectors to a Youth Theatre reunion (featured in the Chichester Observer). Many of the alumni’s stories surrounded the temporary studio space known as The Tent. When I first started working on the project, I had never heard of The Tent – it seemed a mythical creation that only a select few really knew about. Tracking down any information about it proved difficult, and even harder was just trying to find a picture of it.
The wonderful thing about my job is that I get to see all these individual jigsaw pieces the project creates, and start to build them as a whole. I’m pleased to say that for me, The Tent is no longer a mysterious black hole in the history of Chichester Festival Theatre – far from it. Our ever-growing archive (listed by dedicated volunteers) has provided a resource that can be used extensively by other members of the community. Through this, one of our volunteers, Amelia Mlynowska, has been able to undertake a research project for our website, using the archive to draw up individual summaries of the history of The Tent and its gradual transition into the Minerva.
My memories of the summer of 1989 are of a summer of firsts. It was CFT’s first season in the new Minerva Theatre and it was the first time the Youth Theatre was officially in the season programme. It was my first main part in a Youth Theatre show and it was my first kiss, (albeit courtesy of the stage directions of the play). The shows were Lords of Creation by John Wiles, a stage version of DH Lawrence’s The Rocking Horse Winner (my show) and A Mad World my Masters by Barrie Keefe. If the Tent had lent its atmosphere to creating the world of the play, the Minerva gave its essence to the world of the professional theatre. For of course, that is what it was. The resources we had (technical, stage management, dressing rooms and acting space) were those also used by the Festival Theatre professionals. Speaking for myself at least, I didn’t realise until later how lucky we were.
I am part of a group of volunteers involved in oral history interviewing for the Pass It On project. My most recent interviewee was John Gale OBE, who was involved with Chichester Festival Theatre from 1983 and was Artistic Director from 1985 to 1989.
His enthusiasm and affection for the Theatre was typical of our interviewees. They all continue to care for the Theatre and their generous sharing of knowledge and experiences is giving the Pass It On Project an immense wealth of fascinating information.
We met at his house and having set up the recording equipment and tested the sound levels the process began, as usual, with recording the date, place and our names and then asking the interviewee to spell their name, and give the place and date of their birth.
“Very few of us had done any archiving before and I had always thought of it as a rather dry and tedious activity. How wrong can one be?” – Liz Juniper, Heritage Volunteer Representative for the Lavant Valley Decorative and Fine Arts Society
For the last three months, our NADFAS volunteers have been working their way through piles and piles of press cuttings, listing them onto a database in detail so we can gain a clear overview of what press cuttings our archive holds – what productions are reviewed, what news is covered, who was visiting, when and why. This is particularly important for future researchers interested in the Theatre’s history, who will be able to search the database by year, by production and using key names.
A lot of the work I’ve been doing lately for Pass It On has concentrated on the early years of the Theatre. Founded in the sixties as a theatre for the community, by the community, I like to think that nothing has changed regarding this statement. There is something, for sure, about being a local Cicesterian and feeling tied to the Theatre. This was something that was important to founder, Leslie Evershed-Martin, from the start:
“What else made Chichester the right place for this idea? Naturally, I favoured Chichester because I live there. Few could live in such a city for long without loving its unique atmosphere, and I had always wondered how we could preserve its importance.” The Impossible Theatre (1971, page 9)*.
Rachael: Many interesting memories and stories were collected on Saturday 5 April when myself and a team of Memory Collection volunteers from the Youth Theatre attended a reunion for Youth Theatre alumni. Armed with Dictaphones and clipboards, our aim was to try and capture some of the memories of CFYT.
Although a little timid at first, it didn’t take us long to begin approaching people. We went into the hallways to conduct the interviews as the main hall was full of the sounds of old friends reuniting, chatting about their lives and reminiscing while sharing a drink (or two). The interviews were around ten minutes long, with an objective of collecting as much detail as possible and hearing all of the stories they had from being in the Youth Theatre.
Although we started with the same question for each interview, “So, could you tell me about your time in the Youth Theatre?” the stories and memories that we collected really varied from person to person, as everyone we asked remembered different things from their time. I got a lot out of this day personally, as I learned how much the Youth Theatre and CFT itself has changed over time.
What do an estate agent, a filmmaker, an office manager, a comedian and an actor have in common? Not much. Yet one evening this winter, a group such as this came together in a London pub; some of us had not seen each other for decades. To us the common factor was clear – we had all been members of the Chichester Festival Youth Theatre together. The bond we formed then was still as strong after a quarter of a century.
But why now? Why had we rekindled that bond? What had changed?
To answer this I need to take you back to one afternoon the previous October. As I was about to leave my office for a meeting, the phone rang. “Rob, it’s the police?!” said my colleague. I never made it to that meeting.
My younger brother Phil, another old Youth Theatre member, had passed away suddenly at his home, and a concerned neighbour raised the alarm after he’d not been seen for several days.
Thanks to Facebook the news spread like wildfire. Instinctively, I wrote on Phil’s wall “I love you, Phil.” Fairly ambiguous in itself, but my best mate, another CFYT alumnus, Dan, who knew what had happened, also put a message. “Rest in Power, buddy.” Soon messages of sympathy, bewilderment and shock started to arrive. I realised many of these messages were from CFYT people that I hadn’t heard from for many years, sharing fantastic memories of Phil, offering support and sending Facebook friend requests as though I had seen them yesterday.
Every Wednesday, Marilyn and Sue (some of our scanning volunteers) arrive at the Record Office in Chichester and set up for a session of digitisation (this is where we create digital versions of archival documents and items through computer scanning and Photoshop editing). Using a detailed record list which our archive volunteers fastidiously create every Monday with Gillian Edom, our archive training officer, they identify what’s most interesting, culturally significant or even what has been requested by researchers. They pull out specific boxes from the archive and begin to scan the hidden treasures inside…
Sue and I started our scanning experience for Chichester Festival Theatre in 2013 and we have to say, felt very privileged to be able to scan some of Leslie Evershed-Martin’s scrapbooks at what was his Chichester home. We did the scanning in the dining room; above the mantelpiece was a very impressive portrait of Sir Laurence Olivier (known as Larry to Leslie Evershed-Martin and friends). We felt he was keeping a watchful eye on what we were doing with the scrapbooks. The books were very enlightening and included a very valued account of fundraising, first productions, and the casts, programmes, after Theatre party invitations and press cuttings from the 1960s – 1990s. Sue and I have now been dispatched to the Records Office for our current scanning adventures, which so far have been very interesting and varied. One of our more recent scanning sessions included an annotated script, production photos and press cuttings of The Seagull produced in 1973, which we believe maybe used for inspiration by the Theatre’s Young Playwrights scheme. All in all, I can’t wait for what’s next to come for us.
After several successful Memory Collection events in 2013, we are going even bigger and better in 2014. 11 Youth Theatre members are taking part in our Memory Collection project, attending training sessions run by our Oral Historian, Rib Davis, in effective interviewing techniques.
The session began by Youth Theatre members simply asking each other about their connection to the Youth Theatre. Surprisingly, many of the answers were incredibly similar. We realised that the use of closed questions narrowed down each answer making it difficult for personal stories to develop and discover things the interviewer didn’t already know.
Rib then got pairs to practice using open-ended questions with such phrases as, “Could you tell me a little bit more about that?” and “How did that make you feel?” The difference was remarkable – when people are given the opportunity to talk, they really will! This type of interviewing also allows for a much broader scope of discussion and several members remarked how much longer they were able to interview for.
Clarissa and Grace are two of our wonderful volunteers currently working in the archive. They are history students from the University of Chichester and as part of their course they were given the chance to take part in a work placement. They decided it would be beneficial to experience history in the workplace and thought the Pass It On project held at the West Sussex Record Office (in partnership with the Festival Theatre) was the perfect opportunity as they wanted to know how an archive works, what is stored and why. Though they are both working on separate tasks, their involvement in the project “is exciting for the both of us. It has also helped us to get to know Chichester better, and although neither of us are from the city, we now feel like part of the community.”
Clarissa: I’ve been working on sorting through and listing the Christmas productions that were put on at Chichester Festival Theatre each year. This goes back to the early 1970s. I have found it interesting to see what shows were staged over the years and sorting through production files has opened my eyes to how much work goes into putting on a show!
The Pass It On project is a real voyage of discovery, not just in terms of the history of the Festival Theatre, but also the opportunities it presents to bring the worlds of heritage and theatre together. Now in the second of our three years, we are being experimental and exploring how the objects we uncover in our archive can be used to inspire new creative work.
We are embarking on an exciting project called Out Of the Archive, which draws on several areas of the Festival Theatre’s activity. A group of early-career play writes, alumni of the New Writing South and Chichester Festival Theatre’s Young Playwrights scheme, are currently developing a short series of 20 minute plays inspired by our archive.
Writing in 1986, Leslie Evershed-Martin reflected on the Festival Theatre Building; the strengths and weaknesses of its design and the reactions and perceptions people held about it. The below extract comes from his book The Miracle Theatre (1986:p33).
‘Over the years there have been many amusing descriptions applied to the look of the building. Correspondents have vied with one another in their inventiveness and the following are some of the examples:-
– “An enormous home plate in a tight little ball pitch.”
Sadly, this week sees the lovely Rachel leaving her role as Heritage Activities Trainee. Three trainees will be hired across the span of the project; I’m extremely happy to introduce myself as the second.
Although I know I have very big shoes to fill, I’m so excited to be joining the Pass It On team and look forward to working with our fantastic volunteers on a range of projects.
Having lived in Chichester for nearly two decades, I have very happy memories of the Festival Theatre and have even performed in the Minerva. This was for the Shakespeare Schools’ Festival in 2004 (we summarised The Taming Of The Shrew in twenty minutes – I had the pleasure of performing ‘character parts’). Continue reading “Joining the Team”→
Susan Potter, Sonia Rasbery and Louise Pack are our external evaluators for the Pass It On project. They have worked on the evaluation of a range of high profile arts projects including Outside In – originally based at Chichester’s Pallant House Gallery – that is now being developed nationwide.
Susan Potter, Project Evaluator, talks about their role within the project:
Over the upcoming months, we three will be interviewing, filming, asking you to complete participant questionnaires and requesting feedback about the Pass It On project. Then we’ll analyse all of the data, ready to produce a short film and full written report. But why are we doing all of this you may be asking? So just before we begin, we thought we’d take a moment or two to explain why!
Introduction: A few weeks ago Youth Theatre Intern, Kate Hunter, wrote about the process of creating Youth Theatre performances inspired by items from the Theatre Archives. Last week we had the privilege of watching the 36 Youth Theatre groups performing what they had come up with over this past term. The varied interpretations and responses to the heritage material were fantastic and the creativity of all the groups was really impressive. As part of this project the Youth Theatre members conducted research into the item they were inspired by, below is the research and explanation for one of these performances, written by Alice Banfield from one of the year 11 Youth Theatre groups.
Rachel Bingham, Heritage Activities Trainee:
For our stimulus our group were given a series of newspaper cuttings from 1965 relating to Laurence Olivier and announcing the splitting of both Chichester Festival Theatre and the National Theatre Companies. This happened when John Clements took over the position of Artistic Director at Chichester, ending the direct association of Chichester with the National Theatre and forming an independent company. Prior to this Olivier was Artistic Director to both Chichester Festival Theatre and The National Theatre. It was at Chichester that he formed the company that would unite with the Old Vic to create the National Theatre Company. Continue reading “Our Archive Inspired Performance”→
Earlier this year I attended a conference called Artists in the Archive; thinking about the possibilities of artistic responses and interpretations to archival material. This is something Pass It On is really interested in exploring further and it was fantastic to see some really exciting examples of this from across the country.
The archives of Chichester Festival Theatre are rich with stories of the past 50 years; the triumphs and challenges of its theatrical life. The overarching narrative is one of overcoming great difficulties and achieving the impossible, indeed the founder; Leslie Evershed-Martin’s two books about the Theatre are called “The Impossible Theatre” and “The Miracle Theatre”. It’s an inspiring story of what creativity and vision can achieve and one that certainly does, and hopefully will continue to, inspire others for years to come. Continue reading “Artists in the Archive”→
Did you know that the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon was designed by Britain’s first female architect? Or that The Old Vic in Bristol is the country’s oldest theatre in terms of continuous use? Or that Laurence Olivier first found himself on a thrust stage by accident; when rain forced a planned outdoor performance of Hamlet at Elsinore into a nearby hotel at the last minute in 1936?
These are just a sprinkling of great facts that poured from Elain Harwood, Senior Architectural Investigator at English Heritage, last Thursday evening (7 November) at Chichester Library as she put Chichester Festival Theatre’s landmark building into a national context. The depth of her knowledge on the subject was breathtaking; Elain began researching post-war theatre buildings in the mid-90s on behalf of English Heritage. It was through this research that she stepped off a train at Chichester station one sunny afternoon and first set eyes on the one-of-a-kind Festival Theatre building. This eventually led to Chichester Festival Theatre being listed at grade 2* status in 1998.
Over the summer Creative Arts student Alice Du Port spent time researching and exploring her interest in Theatre Design by delving into the items in our archives. During this time Alice also had the opportunity to talk with world renowned scenographer Pamela Howard who explained more about her designs for the 1980 production of Terra Nova, staged at Chichester;
In the summer of 1980, Chichester Festival Theatre’s main stage was transformed into a barren ice land, representing the stark and freezing Antarctic, for Ted Tally’s Terra Nova. In the archives is a selection of Pamela Howard’s designs for her Chichester Festival Theatre productions; including this one. Continue reading “Exploring Theatre Design”→
Concrete is the single most widely used material in the world and was fundamental to the construction of the Festival Theatre. To explore and share the significance of this material to the Theatre, we ran our very own concrete- making workshop earlier this year.
Prior to starting as the first Heritage Trainee of Pass It On earlier this year, I had never really thought all that much about concrete. I was vaguely aware of concrete constructions nearby; indeed the infamous Tricorn Centre loomed large as a landmark of days out in Portsmouth until its demolition in 2004. Nevertheless, voted by Radio 4 listeners as the most hated building in Britain and described by Prince Charles as “a mildewed lump of elephant droppings”, this didn’t do much to raise my awareness or appreciation of concrete as a building material.
I share a long history with Chichester Festival Theatre (CFT). I was part of the Chichester Festival Youth Theatre (CFYT) for 10 years and we performed numerous productions during this time. I acted, sang, danced and played in the band. I took part in carnivals, concerts, street performance and took part in creative workshops about performance poetry, set design and circus skills.
So it felt natural that, after my English Degree, I would gravitate back towards the Theatre. I joined the Young Playwrights Programme and then the Advanced course at CFT which was run in partnership with New Writing South. The course was brilliant, inspiring and covered a wide range of topics. We explored writing dialogue, characters, plots, genres as well as having theatre visits, discussions and visiting writers talk to us. One of my pieces, Occupied (2012), was performed in the Theatre on the Fly, whilst my other short plays, The Knock (2011) and First Visit (2010), were performed in The Minerva Theatre. Continue reading “Writing Pass It On!”→
As a Youth Theatre Leader at Chichester Festival Youth Theatre, my challenge this term is to encourage a group of 14 and 15 year olds to create some interesting pieces of theatre using historical stimuli – not as easy as it sounds, but certainly a lot of fun!
I run sessions for two Year 10 groups and have chosen two stimuli from the archives: correspondence regarding a charity cricket match between Chichester Festival Theatre and the RSC in 1986 and letters containing information for young people participating in a professional production of Jane Eyre in the same year.
I began by thinking of exercises that would allow Youth Theatre members to create performances based on this particular material. Cricket is an especially difficult topic with which to inspire teenage girls (and some boys). Introductory sessions included creating freeze frames to represent different stages of a cricket match, flowing between each one and moving to the sounds of Soul Limbo – a classic cricket theme. Following this, the freeze frames were combined to create whole group images of a cricket match thinking predominantly about clear body positioning and facial expressions.
This year as part of the annual Chichester Festival Theatre Heritage Open Day, members of the public had the opportunity to go on hard hat tours of the current renovation works on the Theatre. This was a rare chance for people to see inside the incredible architecture of the Festival Theatre. Additionally it was also a chance to see the work being done to enhance the Theatres iconic and prominent hexagon shape, around which my art workshop, also part of this year’s Heritage Open Day, was based.
Being a fine art graduate from Chichester University and having run workshops within social care, this opportunity was perfect for me, combining two areas of interest and work.