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Ned Glasier

Ned set up Islington Community Theatre in 2008 and is the company's artistic director.

Friday
Jul062012

Comforting

For the first time in a long while, I've been in a rehearsal room all week, working on a new play - Comfort.  Because I work predominantly with young people I very rarely get the luxury of a full time rehearsal process - most of the time it's about finding tiny snippets of time here and there and cajoling cast members (and their parents) to ensure everyone turns up at once.

So it's a real delight to be able to gather a small number of young people in a room and work in depth with them.  Last year we realised that Year 11 students were perfect participants for more intensive projects:  they all finish exams in late June and have at least 2 months of nothing before going back to school.  So we got together with the Rosemary Branch Theatre and created the Young Theatre Innovator Awards - the winners of which got to take part in a 3 week intensive project at the Rosie.  That project became Fifteen, a show about being fifteen created with a cast of, you guessed it, fifteen fifteen (and sixteen - sssh) year olds.

This year we've got a much smaller cast and have just finished our first week of devising with them and the playwright Hattie Naylor, a woman whose generosity and quiet confidence has helped build a lovely thoughtful atmosphere in the rehearsal room.  Working with a smaller group is a joy - at times last year managing fifteen became more about crowd control than directing - and it's enabled us to work in a very deep and collaborative way.

A big theme for us this year - outside of the actual work we've made - has been parents.  I've lost count of how many conversations we've had with our young people who've been struggling to manage their relationships with their mums and dads, and those whose dads just aren't in the picture.  So that became my starting point for this project, especially as time, history and legacy have been such a driving force behind our work this year.

Hattie came with something very different - a desire to explore the objects that we collect in life and that ultimately outlive us.  And so we combined our ideas and this week have been talking nearly non-stop with the young people about the objects that mean the most to them and the events that made them so significant - particularly in relation to their mums and dads.

Something else that Hattie has brought to the room is a fascination with how we talk: the ticks and quirks that occur naturally whenever we speak.  That's led us to start creating a play which is almost entirely verbatim.  A play that exists in the pauses, hesitations and hesitancy of spoken language.

We've never made a verbatim piece and it's been incredibly challenging for our young company members, five out of six of whom had never come across it before.  But there is something quite magical when they copy each other's speech patterns: little details emerge which you might never otherwise have noticed.

Doing that is very hard and, full time rehearsals or not, we've only got a week now to put the whole piece together.  So I'm not expecting a totally polished piece, or even a slightly polished one.  But I am really excited about creating something raw and experimental that I hope will be ever-so-slightly extraordinary and moving.

See some of the cast members talking about the first week in our rehearsal blog.

Thursday
Jun282012

Brighton

To Brighton with some of our key people today for a company day out.  Nine of us in total - Tina, Emily, Ola, Brian, Guy, Kirsten, Sarah, Innie and me.

Yet again I'm reminded of how much the company has changed in 3 and a bit years.  To think that we'd have so many regular staff members (some freelance, others permanent), all with a vested interest in the future of the company, would have been amazing in 2009.  And probably in 2010 and 2011 too.

But here we are.  Or rather, there we were, all ice-creams and crazy golf and a two hour discussion in a lovely shabby room at Brighton Youth Centre about what the company means and what we might achieve in the future.

There are big changes ahead for us: our new status as company in residence at Park Theatre, perhaps even a new name and identity, a new general manager while Kirsten is away on maternity leave.  And it's really important to me that those changes come with buy-in from our staff team and our young people.

Our discussion, of course, raised lots more questions than it answered.  Can we possible work as an ensemble when there are more than 150 members of the company?  What's more important, the work we make or our members' development - or are they (I think this) inextricable?  

We talked a lot about us being a third space.  A place away from home and school where young people can be themselves, can express themselves with the help of the tools gained through regular collaboration with professional theatre-makers.  We talked about how our mission is fundamentally political - to address in some way the space between young people and theatre, between yong people and their future, between those who have and those who don't, between young people and other young people.

Answers to all those questions and ideas will come and we will build the next stage of our company upon them.  One thing I know is that in order to do so we need a big team of passionate, thinking people - young and not-so-young.  And so it was meaningful and exciting to start that process today.

 

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