Extracts from Chi and I by acclaimed actor, director and playwright, David Wood : Part 5, My work with Children’s Theatre
In 1978 I was approached by Peter Dews, the newly appointed Artistic Director at Chichester Festival Theatre, with a view to providing a Christmas production.
Peter was a celebrated theatre and television director. As it turned out, thanks to Peter, Chichester Festival Theatre became the venue for the 10th anniversary production of The Owl and the Pussycat Went to See… based on the verses and stories of Edward Lear. This was the show, co-written with Sheila Ruskin, that had convinced me, when I saw a week of performances at the Swan Theatre in Worcester, that children’s theatre was something I wanted to concentrate on. The first production of Owl at Worcester was directed by Mick Hughes, who not only became a famous lighting designer, but supervised the lighting for many Chichester productions. He did a great job on Owl, and the audience reaction from the children was passionate and heart-warming.
A year after its premiere, I persuaded my colleagues John Gould and Bob Scott to let me use our small production company to produce OWL in London. It opened successfully at the Jeannetta Cochrane theatre, was snapped up for publication by Samuel French, and for a few years became a Christmas fixture in London and in repertory theatres up and down the country. Cameron Mackintosh became involved, and together we toured the production a couple of times. Continue reading “Chi and I… Part 5”→
It does not seem very long ago that I was writing about looking forward to beginning rehearsals for Out of the Archive, and yet here we are already on the other side of the Scratch performance!
The auditions were well attended by a mixture of current and previous youth theatre members, as well as other 16-25 year olds in the local area who have never attended a group at CFT before. It was a strong group of performers who we had to whittle down to a cast of just seven, based on the types of characters we had to fill.
We then entered into an intensive rehearsal process over two weeks. Playing two characters in two of three very different plays is no easy task, but this is what we have asked of the majority of our actors. We began by blocking through each of the plays very simply – to get the shape of it and a feel for the changes in pace. Through this process we were able to pick out the key pieces of set, costume and props that we would need and used temporary found objects to represent them (including a seagull created from a large toy mouse and a rabbit ears headband, it’s amazing what you can find in a rehearsal room).
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.
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”→
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.
Between January and April of this year, 18 Year 11 Youth Theatre members and I were involved in creating a piece of Verbatim Theatre, a style of theatre where the text is taken directly from interview transcripts. As Youth Theatre intern, I was given the opportunity to run a project of my choosing. I decided to create and direct a piece of Verbatim theatre as it is a style that I had only ever written and thought about in an academic setting, never in any practical way. I asked for volunteers who would be interested in generating and performing such a piece. Continue reading “Word for Word: Chichester Festival Youth Theatre”→