Mirrors and antimacassars: Freefall’s first design meeting

The Freefall team has spent the past week peering into elderly ladies’ bedrooms. Not as criminal as it sounds: yesterday, we had our first design meeting for this double bill of new plays, on at the New Wimbledon Studio from 10 – 13 July.

For The Bear, The Owl and The Angel, much enthusing was done over chintzes, hair-oil stained antimacassars, carpets with nausea-inducing patterns and net curtains with more layers than a Pinter play.

The day’s most over-used phrase, ‘I love that [insert unsightly home furnishing, circa 1980]. I mean. I don’t love it. I actually hate it. But in the context of the play… I LOVE IT!

Meanwhile, our most triumphant discovery, after twenty minutes poring over a picture of an elderly lady’s front room: ‘There are three bouquets of flowers on that windowsill. I didn’t even notice because there are just so many florals everywhere!’

Our visual stimuli for the second play of the double bill were more abstract: we looked at colour palettes, photos of half-glimpsed reflections in mirrors, contrasts of light and shade. This haunting image we found particularly spoke to the mood and palette of the piece. 

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A – slightly/very circuitous – internet search also pulled up a fascinating sequence of photos of 1930s American psychiatric hospitals, which seemed all to be characterised by hard benches in never-ending corridors and a pervasive atmosphere of neglect and misery. 

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Next week holds in store a trip to the space and the hopefully directly proportional brewing of cups of tea to ground-breaking design ideas. 

 

 

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Interview with Freefall playwright Becky Prestwich

We chat to playwright Becky Prestwich, writer of one half of our forthcoming double bill  Freefall, about children’s moral responsibility, nature versus nurture, and the haunting power of the past. No big ideas, then… 

Your play The Bear, The Owl and The Angel deals with the reunion of two brothers, Robbie and Steven, who share a dark childhood secret. What was the inspiration for the play? 

I was working in a Sure Start and went to a training session on how the stories children tell reveal their fears and anxieties. I was interested in exploring an adult character who used stories in the same way, so I decided to write a play which began with a bedtime story. The fictionalised version of Steven and Robbie’s story was the first thing I wrote – I found the ‘truth’ from there.  I also liked the idea of this quite macho, successful, show-off man who is unable to articulate the most significant event of his life except through a children’s story.
 
Your play The Boy in the Photograph also looks at the relationship between parents and children and the ways in which family history comes back to haunt us. What interests you about this theme?
 
Alongside writing, I work with children and young people and as a result, I am really interested in how our lives are shaped by our early experiences – in both good and bad and ways. I’m really interested in how a society looks after its children – but I’m generally better at writing about characters than theories and ideas. So, how those ideas about nature versus nurture and our responsibility to our children manifest themselves in my writing seems to be in a preoccupation with plays about family.
 
What are you working on currently?
 
I’m currently working my first radio play – an afternoon drama which will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 this spring. It’s another family play – it tells the story of three generations of Jewish mothers cooking together and is very much inspired by my own experiences as a new(ish) mum.
 
 

Which writers are you particularly influenced by and why?

 
Influences are difficult…. I read a lot, and watch a lot of drama, both on stage and on screen – and I think it all sinks in somewhere. The writers I like and admire include Bryony Lavery, Alan Bennett, Chloe Moss, Jack Thorne, Abi Morgan, Chekhov, Tennessee Williams, Simon Stephens, Conor McPherson and Martin McDonagh – all in different ways and for different reasons.
 
The play centres around a childhood tragedy: both brothers’ lives are defined by one long-ago afternoon and one rash action with dreadful consequences. We’re encouraged to think about the issue of children’s moral responsibility and the extent to which children can be held legally accountable for their behaviour. Do you think this is an area that society struggles with generally?
 
I think society struggles with ideas to do with justice – and whether people who have done wrong should be punished or redeemed. I also think society struggles with how our children should be seen; children are often painted as either pure, innocent angels or feral demons. So, when these two things come together I think all kinds of difficult – and interesting – questions come up.
 
If these interviews have piqued your interest, you can book tickets for the double bill here: http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/new-wimbledon-studio/
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Interview with Freefall playwright Matthew Bulgo

With only a few months to go before our production of Freefall: A Double Bill, we decided it was time to catch up with the writers and dig deeper into the world of the plays. Matthew Bulgo talks us through the genesis of his piece, Lacuna, via jamais vu and jammed bookshelves.

We love Lacuna‘s delicate, heartfelt exploration of the way in which grief can shake the foundations of a person’s existence. The play’s central character, Kate, wakes up in hospital one day, with no memory of how she got there, nor of who she’s left behind. What prompted you to write the play?

A number of things inspired me to write Lacuna. I’ve always been fascinated about how the human mind works and in particular memory. I read a newspaper article about ten years ago about a woman suffering from ‘jamais vu’ (which is one of the lesser-known siblings of ‘deja vu’) – she’d been in quite a traumatic accident with her daughter and following the incident she didn’t recognise her daughter at all…in fact denied ever having a daughter. It was almost as if her brain was protecting itself from thinking about the accident but cutting any ties to anything or anyone connected to it. It’s a real psychological rarity. That was a sort of starting point – the idea that each and every human being responds to stress or grief or trauma in an entirely unique way, psychologically. I kept the article, and even though I’d never written anything before at the time, I sort of knew I wanted to use the story as a starting point for writing a play.

Both the play’s characters, David and Kate, are searching for something: memories that have vanished; love that has been lost. How did you hit upon the title, Lacuna, and what does it mean?

I can’t entirely remember the moment when I hit upon it as the title for the play. I’ve never been too good with dictionary definitions but I would say it’s a gap or a missing piece to a story. 

One of the lovely things about this richly poetic play is the way in which its characters take us on a journey out of the real world and into the mysterious landscape of the mind. Is the boundary between naturalism and unreality one that you are particularly interested in exploring more generally in your work?

I think I was very interested in exploring that territory at the time that I was writing it. Lacuna is one of the first things I ever wrote and I think I was still trying to work out what my voice was. I think most of my work tends to end up somewhere in the ballpark of ‘poetic realism’. But I don’t really like labelling things…so let’s just call it ‘writing’!

What are you working on currently?

I have a few pieces that are bubbling away at the moment. Right now, I’m working away at a short piece for Dirty Protest Theatre. I’m also working on a full-length piece about how we never quite shake off our childhood fears – it’s sort of an odd love story about a guy who’s afraid of everything, in a very childlike way, and a girl who’s become very cynical and jaded. I suppose they end up teaching each other a lot about ‘how to live’.

Which writers are you particularly influenced by and why?

Ooo, too many to mention. Pinter, Osborne, Albee, Wesker, Lorca. More recently, Adam Rapp, James Graham, DC Moore, Will Eno. And in terms of fiction, Raymond Carver, B. S. Johnson, J. D. Salinger, Graham Greene.

To illustrate his point, Matthew sent us a picture of his – very well-stocked – bookshelf…

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Lacuna was developed at Sherman Cymru; do you see the workshop process as an important part of the development of a new script and why?

I think it’s important for a writer to hear their work and to see it realised, whether that be in a production or a reading or a workshop or whatever. I think the learning process only really started for me when I was given those sorts of opportunities.

Check back soon for an interview with Freefall‘s other playwright, Becky Prestwich, and in the meantime you can watch the trailer (see our last post) to find out more about the show.

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Trailer for Freefall at the New Wimbledon Studiio

The Bear, The Owl and The Angel by Becky Prestwich

Lacuna by Matthew Bulgo

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Our next production…

Our next production...

FREEFALL: A DOUBLE BILL

The Bear, The Owl and The Angel by Becky Prestwich

Lacuna by Matthew Bulgo

at the New Wimbledon Studio from 10 – 13 July

Maybe I should go. Freefall, and see where I land…

Sometimes, when people vanish, they leave things behind them: a hat, mittens, handfuls of dried flowers. Sometimes there’s nothing left at all except for ash, grey sand. Maybe not even a shadow on the ground.

This double bill of poignant new one-act plays by Matthew Bulgo (Last Christmas, Dirty Protest/Clwyd Theatr Cymru) and Becky Prestwich (Streetlights and Shadows, Time Out Critics Choice) deals with aftermaths, the silence after the wave’s swept out from the shore. How do you pick up the pieces when they’re too painful to hold? Or is it easier to give in to the weight of the snow and the pull of the sand? What happens if you just let go…

Two acclaimed writers tackle the subject of traumatic memory with startling, poetic vision.

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Production video: The Ones Who Kill Shooting Stars

It’s been a long time coming, as Bruce Springsteen might put it, but here is a little video of snippets, snatches and segments of The Ones Who Kill Shooting Stars.

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Nice little image for In the Garage

…courtesy of the excellent Tim Foley….

 

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Three Streets is back in the rehearsal room!

…This time just for a wee short play, called In the Garage, by very lovely new writer Bea Appleby, which will be on at the Southwark Playhouse as part of an evening of short plays curated by Little Pieces of Gold (who are a very excellent outfit – you can visit their website here – http://littlepiecesofgold.com/) on Sunday November 18th, but, for however brief a period, it’s still great to be rehearsing again and generally keeping Three Streets alive. It’s also lovely to have a writer in the room again. 

So what’s In the Garage about? Well, it’s a touching study of father-daughter relationships: Rachel, in her mid-thirties, comes back to her parents’ house to clear her boxes of childhood paraphernalia from the garage. Jim, her father, tries to persuade Rachel not to open the lid of one of the boxes, but it’s too late: the lid’s been lifted not just on a pair of fluffy handcuffs and a giant cut-out of Yoda, but on a flurry of memories, recriminations, accusations and resentment that cut across the years and to the heart of Jim and Rachel’s relationship.

A play for anyone who’s ever wondered how it’s possible to love your parents (or your children) so much and yet at the same time to find them the most exasperating people in the world. We’re also very pleased to be reunited with TOWKSS actor Clare and TOWKSS sound designer Max on the on the project. 

A couple of (very grainy – actors, if only you’d stay still!) rehearsal shots – more to follow next week. 

 

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Rachel tries to persuade her father that her primary school photo really is worth looking at, but Jim is having none of it. 

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Roll on more rehearsals (in a rehearsal room that is, appropriately enough, garage-cold) and then the performance next week! 

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Review of the reviews

TOWKSS may be over, but the last review is still hot off the press. Now they’re all in, we thought we’d distill all the words that have been said about the production into one handy blog post. Here goes…

****, The Good Review, Alice Sillett

http://thegoodreview.co.uk/2012/10/the-ones-who-kill-shooting-stars-the-white-bear-theatre/

‘sharp, witty dialogue’

‘Gregory Finnegan is effortless as the alcoholic Henry’

‘Paul Hayward as Dumas provides the strength and vulnerability required for the role’

‘Clare Fraenkel is skilled at conveying the tension between fear and excitement which seems to fill Alice’

****, Backstage Pass, Steve Stubbs

http://www.backstagepass.biz/2012/10/theatre-review-ones-who-kill-shooting.html

‘warm, engaging and brilliantly funny’

‘The dialogue is at once both poetic and hilariously matter-of-fact’

‘The simple staging also suited the surreal, whimsical feel of the story, with the soft lighting and gentle wind creating a dreamlike atmosphere in the White Bear’s small auditorium’

‘Special mention in the cast must go to Gregory Finnegan, who brought a charming vulnerability and yet sharp wit to the role of Henry, and Paul Hayward, who expertly conveyed airman Dumas’s confusion at being simultaneously dead and yet alive. Clare Fraenkel was also a sweet, spirited Alice, tinged with an underlying hint of sadness’

****, The Public Reviews, Steve Barfield

http://www.thepublicreviews.com/the-ones-who-kill-shooting-stars-white-bear-theatre-london/

‘This British production should help cement [Conall Quinn’s] reputation as an important, emerging writer and one whose forthcoming plays should definitely be watched.’

‘There is some excellent acting throughout and some rather graceful, well-conceived direction in the intimate space of the White Bear’s stage by Alice Malin’

‘an equally striking soundscape created by Max Pappenheim’

‘Gregory Finnegan in something of a tour-de-force, creates a melancholic, alcoholic, child-like loner, with sturm und drang dramatic tendencies balancing his shy eccentricity’

‘Damien Tracey’s Edward [is] a wonderfully arch and satirical portrait’

‘sparking and clever dialogue’

****, Views from the Gods

http://www.viewsfromthegods.co.uk/the-ones-who-kill-shooting-stars.shtml

‘A surreal piece, [the play] wears its influences on its sleeve but is also original, fresh and very funny.’

‘Alice is played with childlike vigour by [Clare] Fraenkel’… ‘a magnetic and warm presence’

‘[Gregory] Finnegan’s Henry is charmingly naive and truly sweet’

‘[Damien] Tracey does a sterling job of making Edward initially unpleasant and slowly revealing his truly vile nature until the play’s climax’

‘Hayward and Dominic Ridley do a great job of literally corpsing on stage’

‘Director Alice Malin has paid attention to the smaller details and it shows, right down to each character’s fully-rounded physicality. Making the most of a tiny space, the action is well blocked, clear and determined but this necessary economy never seems too rigid or forced.’

‘Conall Quinn has emerged as one of Ireland’s most exciting new voices, if you believe the hype. And in this magical staging of his fanciful, sharp script, it’s almost impossible not to.’

 

Bargain Theatreland, Amy Lawrence

http://bargaintheatreland.com/the-ones-who-kill-shooting-stars-2/

‘a peculiarly marvellous tale’

‘the hilarious Edward (Damien Tracy)… provides the audience with much enjoyment’

‘Tom Wickens’ lighting design is naturalistic and stylised in equal measure’

‘watching The Ones Who Kill Shooting Stars is like witnessing a poem unfold in front of your eyes’

British Theatre Guide, Howard Loxton

http://www.britishtheatreguide.info/reviews/the-ones-who-ki-white-bear-thea-8107

‘Conan Quinn has a gift for words as well as a fertile imagination, not least in his description of Mrs Tilling waking up in the morning, and the actors show a similar relish for words. They play them with forceful energy that pairs realism with a conscious theatricality to combine a real feeling of aloneness with a satirical comment on their wayward Irishness.’

‘Alice Malin’s production drives things on; you forget about literal logic and stop looking for precise meaning and go along with the actors’ belief in their characters.’

Entertainment Focus, Carys Jones

http://www.entertainment-focus.com/theatre/articles/the-ones-who-kill-shooting-stars

‘a wildly surreal, romantic, dark and humorous play’

‘The performances given from the cast [are] simply superb’

‘Conall Quinn’s writing and dialogues are at times breathtakingly poetic, very dark and yet littered with humorous undercurrents.’

‘Although simple and minimalist, the set design is very effective. Added with the striking sound effects, of the sound of the sea gushing around this small theatre room, it gives it a slightly eerie and cold feel.  This is particularly striking against the blackened walls and the almost non-existent lighting, which gives it an almost constant twilight feel, this adds to the effect of the drama and perfectly matches the storyline.’

‘magnificently theatrical’

Reviewsgate, Francis Grin

http://www.reviewsgate.com/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=6438

‘…this play does not demand answers, rather it takes its audience on an intriguing surrealist journey.’

‘Director Alice Malin captures some striking imagery on stage’

‘Henry and Alice (wonderfully played by Gregory Finnegan and Clare Fraenkel) mesh both childlike innocence and adult sadness, making the characters very endearing to watch’

A Younger Theatre, Veronica Aloess

http://www.ayoungertheatre.com/review-the-ones-who-kill-shooting-stars-white-bear-theatre/

‘Conall Quinn’s story has a bittersweet tone, embodied by the endearing Finnegan.’

‘The way the characters inject life into Dumas is a beautiful contrast to the stark reality of war and the hordes of the dying. This is reflected exquisitely in an earnest monologue from Dumas as he talks about being dead to his friends and family in America, as if he somehow realises the reality of his situation. In a strange way, TOWKSS pays homage to the dead of World War II by creating a life after death; and here, the line between life and death is blurred.’

‘There’s a simplicity to Alice Malin’s direction which allows the script to stand on its own two feet’

‘The White Bear Theatre space is a difficult one to work with and Malin makes the most of this with a minimal set, and the quirky, dynamic use of the wheelbarrow in which Alice transports Dumas’ body.’

‘the set is graciously quiet’

‘a wonderfully surreal play’

Harper’s Bazaar Blog, Ajesh Patalay

http://www.harpersbazaar.co.uk/blogs/the-ones-who-kill-shooting-stars

‘Going to see any new writing in a pub theatre can be a gamble. I’m glad to say this paid off.’

‘Written by the hugely promising Irish playwright Conall Quinn, this play is strange and beautiful and sings with brilliantly lyrical language.’

 

Everything Theatre, Louise Kerr

http://everything-theatre.blogspot.ca/2012/10/the-ones-who-kill-shooting-stars-white.html

A funny and beautifully poetic script with some fantastic characters’

‘ The razor-sharp dialogue between [Gregory Finnegan and Damien Tracey] is most enjoyable’

‘Fraenkel is a strong actress who brings great charm and plenty of energy to her role’

‘The costumes too were as authentic and well thought-out as anything you’re likely to see in a big budget West End play’

‘a top class script’

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Quod fuimus, estis, quod sumus, vos eritis…

TOWKSS, what a lovely creature you were. You were born eight months ago, almost to the day, and now you’re officially over. Beginning in an awkward email thread, you are now a jumble of damp boxes, a series of Ebay adverts (4-iron and a gramophone, anyone?) and a few flats stacked out in the rain.

TOWKSS’ earthly remains:

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So, TOWKSS, what have you given us?

Amongst other things: the Mills Brothers on loop in all of our heads, collapsing wheelbarrows, the chance to work with some really amazing people, endless innuendo-induced hilarity, an appreciation for long-johns and lobster pots, a panoply of punishing hangovers… and a massive sense of pride and nostalgia.

Like any favourite child, you’ve had your moments. You’ve been immensely frustrating (the collection of wheelbarrow #3 and the Big Get-In Van Debacle were personal low points), but even when you lobbed obstacles at us (indiscriminately and determinedly as Henry firing flares), you were also, always, immensely rewarding.

But who needs to hear about how much we’ve loved this weird and wonderful play and the people working on it when you could be looking at pictures of get-out silliness instead. With that in mind…

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Producer + pliers = terrifying…

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Tom, lighting designer, surveys his boxed empire…

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…and Vicki struggles to decide what to keep as a souvenir.

Stay tuned for a review of the reviews (we’re still waiting on the final few to emerge before we have our complete haul).

And, of course, hold onto your hats and the seats of your trousers for news of Three Streets’ next production..

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