My Big Fat Cowpat Wedding, written by Sayan Kent, directed by Janet Steel / Steve Johnstone and produced by Kali Theatre in collaboration with Black Country Touring and Arts Alive, was first created in the Autumn of 2014. With support from the Rural Touring Network, the show toured to Village Halls across England and Wales and was a great success. So popular, infant, that two years later a retour is currently underway.

Here is some information about the show on the Kali Theatre website ….LINK

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The cast at Weston House Farm, Chirbury, Salop. with our farmer and inspiration John, who introduced us to the farm and his 220-strong dairy herd. L-R; Shri Patel, Genevieve Helson, Janet Steel, Sukhraj Dhillon, me (feeling quite at home), John Brook and Steve Johnstone.

The new production premiered at Newhampton Arts Centre last week before hitting the country lanes of Shropshire, Cheshire and Worcestershire in its first touring week.

Below is a trailer for the show, edited together from extracts of a performance at The RFH, South Bank Centre, May 2015, and featuring the original cast of Aimee Berwick, Sheena Patel and Aaron Virdee;

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for Marion McRae Thorpe

7th May 1944 – 5th September 2016

marion-mcrae-thorpe

(read at Eckington Church, Worcs. friday 23rd September 2016)

I feel very honoured to have the opportunity to talk about a period in Marion’s life which was significant, not just for her , and Mike, but for so many friends – some of whom are with us today.

For a brief but magical 3 or 4 years in the early 1980’s a flower came into bloom.

Weoley Hill Scouts and Guides was already a busy, thriving community in SW Birmingham, but when Marion, and Mike volunteered to set up and run the first Venture Scout Unit – Pisces – with male and female ventures, one can only imagine what they thought they were taking on; especially given their busy working lives in their respective teaching institutions, not to mention their own family commitments. Nor could the family have foreseen, and I include Cathy and David here, that their ‘family’ would grow overnight.

What Marion and Mike did between them was to bring together disparate groups of young people – helping us to recognise, harness and focus all that raging teen spirit; all that potential and energy in the most positive, creative and fruitful ways.

Marion was always so brilliant at sussing people out. So sensible to every individual’s needs, interests, issues. So warm and so open to possibility; fascinated with wanting everyone to reach their potential. So patient and generous; forever with that winning smile, with a brow that said: Come on then, what have you got? Encouraging us to think, discuss, to question and embrace the fulness of life by doing it. Getting out there and actually doing it.

Pisces had bags of personality, and the environment that she created with Mike heaped opportunities upon those of us who were hungry for it.

She encouraged self-motivation; she trusted us and expected us to take responsibility, to organize, to stretch ourselves, raise the game; showing us horizons that most of us didn’t know were there.

Weekends of adventure – spent camping, climbing, canal-clearing, hosteling, raft-racing on the Severn, doing sports competitions; overseeing the publishing of a Group magazine: Evenings of enlightenment; with talks by visiting specialists, cookery evenings, film and band nights, car mechanics, parachuting, abseiling…

But impressive though that all was, it was not just the activities – for what are they without the friendship, laughter and above all conversation;

…because you could talk to Marion about anything. Real, honest and open conversations that covered all manner of subjects – philosophical, political, personal. Conversations over skittles or darts in the pub; conversations in deep snow on the top of a mountain or in a garden around a campfire. These were the conversations that you wished you might be able to have with your own parents, but were somehow unable to.

Marion, and Mike, seemed to me to be model humans, genuine, beautiful, inspirational people with qualities that you would ever want to aspire to.

A conversations in the back of a yellow minibus somewhere on the A5, which I remember, in which we asked Marion to tell us all about Love. We, eager sponges –  as her captive audience, whilst Mike took his turn to drive with a contented grin on his face, as she recounted their meeting, their time in Cambridge, their romance, and their enduring partnership.

I can’t apologise for including mentioning Mike so much, because to talk of Marion is to implicitly include Mike, and vice versa. They were inseparable to us.

If we were walking with Mike, then Marion was walking with us too.

The door was always open, they shared their house, their meals, home-brew; opening their hearts and their lives with us. I know I am not alone in saying I learned so much during that time. It really was the time of our lives.

Even though it was a relatively brief period, that friendship, and the impact of that magical time, over 30 years ago, has never and will never disappear. Forever after, Marion was there for us, unconditionally encouraging us through the joyful events, and supporting through the difficult / fractured times that life sometimes throws at us.

 

Marion, for showing us what it is to be a beautiful human.

for helping us to become the people we are

We love you and we cannot thank you enough.

 

GR



A Leap in Time

29Feb16

imageWearing the same T-shirt, but having shed several skins. ‘ Nipper’from Class Enemy, performed at the Dukes Theatre, Lancaster, May 1985, gets a makeover.



Vampomimic

08Dec15

Production shots taken by Nicola Young of Vampomime!, which opens this week at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry. Written and directed by Nick Walker, with Jack Trow, Miriam Grace Edwards, Katy Stephens and the voice/vapes of Connor Nolan. Vampomime! Runs through until 2nd January ’16.


I confess I find van-loads and get-ins energising; even exciting. Whilst it is arguably the hardest, most arduous part of gigging and something oft to be dreaded, Stan’s Cafe prides itself on an history of everyone mucking in. There are plenty of jobbing actors who might balk at the idea of emptying a truck or shifting set, but if you’ve made your own work with co-operative principles then you know that the energy of a team comes from shared responsibilities. “All things commensurate with small-scale touring” was the phrase I remember from Red Shift contracts.

The sight of a loaded Paul Matthews artic leaving A.E.Harris last month made me immensely proud of the company’s achievements, because getting this show up and running at all, let alone abroad, is a huge undertaking.

Three days later Robbie (the driver – fresh from travelling with DV8 and a recent tour of Italy with our friends at Imitating The Dog) arrived in the Car Park behind Klub Stodola, Warsaw. Assisted by a shaven-headed Polish crew looking like paramilitaries, we unloaded the trailer and brought “The Cleansing Of Constance Brown” to audiences for the first time since Tanztage Potsdam, back in May 2011.

I’d been wanting to record a timelapse of the get-in since we started the project back in 2007. Thanks to the power of iPad, the task was made simple. Above is a rough, low res documentation of the get-in / bump-in / fit-up followed by a dress run of the show, prior to it opening as part of the XXII Crossroads Festival of Live Arts.


Office Party

When you’re changed and ready, enter in doorway of F pissed. Start solo dancing US.

JP (Alex) comes up and starts flirting, then others come US, congratulate the birthday boy. JO handslap, CS twirl.

Count in 4 beats for start of the dance.

Dance DS in unison, then freeform as lads get matey and show you the surprise lurking in door B. Grab bottle of wine, from watercooler and enter B.

When cake is brought in sing Happy Birthday!

When B2’s starts run US and round to door 4, take orange (preset) and place it in crook of neck. Stand in doorway with GB playing pass the orange.

When GB moves out of doorway continue dancing US, watch CS and JP getting frisky, then start up conversation with GB about party etiquette. “Isn’t Stephens married?” etc.

GB gets personal. Then CS interrupt conversation and bundles you into door B.

Get changed into underwear (vest socks and pants).

Keep trousers to hand. Dump remainder.

When BR enters as stripper, grab bra and knickers (preset on props table or hanging from lx stand)

Take truncheon and beat yourself 10 times (shadow of raised arm appears on inside of door). Simulate strip by throwing bra then knickers into the corridor over their heads.

Crudely apply lipstick and eyeshadow. (pour wine bottle over head for bedraggled look if necessary)

Put handcuffs on and conceal key either in sock or on props table (you’ll need it later!)

When CS takes photo, throw him the trousers.

Put your handcuffed hands between your legs.

When mix of Two Tribes becomes muffled enter door B, slowly step fwd pissed, revealing the make-up and cuffs to the audience.

Attempt a pathetic escape from the cuffs, then stumble slowly US, pausing as Gar walks (unseen) from SR to SL.

When you get US to wall CS grabs and turns you, marching you DS where you collapse fwd onto JO body.

It’s time to brush the cobwebs off an old classic. The Cleansing Of Constance Brown will be performing in little more than a week’s time at the Crossroads Festival of Live Arts, Warsaw, after 4 and a half years dormant. Like many of the ensemble-devised works in the Stan’s Cafe repertoire there is no definitive script. Without an audibly spoken text the show exists principally in the body-memory of those who have had the pleasure of performing it. Individual notations exist for each performer-role, as compiled in the event that an original deviser became unavailable for a gig. As it happens – with the show proving to be one of the most successful in the company’s history – no single performer has performed at every destination. Infact the only member of the team to have been present at every gig has been Nina West, intrepid composer and sound op.

The above extract is from my personal notes, prepared for Chris Corcoran in advance of shows in Koln, spring 2010. Combine this with six other simultaneously-performed, task-based scripts and you end up with a spreadsheet which resembles a definitive log of the show.


Kiln ensemble (the artists formerly known as Kindle Theatre) return to Summerhall, Edinburgh this August with The  Furies; a brash, glammed-up retelling of the revenge narrative of Clytemnestra against brutish husband Agamemnon. The show takes the form of a rock gig, with The Furies as girl-band, driving the story along with songs and extended voice – all accompanied by enslaved rhythm-section, Donna & Blitzen (aka. Phill Ward & Russell Collins from Sylvia)

This will be the first appearance of KILN ensemble at The British Council Showcase, which is held every two years as a showcase for the most innovative and exciting new work emerging from the UK.

The Furies performs in the Dissection Room, Summerhall, from monday 24th to friday 25th August, nightly at 11.55pm.

Link to the Summerhall Box Office

THE FURIES from Mathew Beckett on Vimeo.


J&H_IMG_1430 copy

A still from Jekyll and Hyde, Chung Ying Theatre (HK) / Red Shift (UK), Platform Theatre, Central St. Martin’s, UAL, London, July/August 2015.