Tag: Theatre for Young Audiences

Show Programme > They Called Her Vivaldi

“A show that leaves nothing unconsidered. (Even its show programme, a witty continuation of the performance by Kate Heffernan, is a work of art.)”

Irish Times

The 4th in my series of show programmes for Theatre Lovett went into circulation this week – for the opening of They Called Her Vivaldi and its month-long run at the Abbey Theatre (if you’re reading this before December 23rd, you can book tickets here.)

For this series of special show programmes, I start by sitting down with the script and, with the production design aesthetic in mind, I imagine each world to its fullest.

From this I write a full text before designing it into a programme-sized publication (have a look at the 3 previous programmes here.)

Written by Louis Lovett, They Called her Vivaldi is set in the imagined city of Triste, a metropolis carefully controlled by its cobble washers. The main characters (Cecilia Maria and her father) run a haberdashery, with buckets a large part of their trade. Throughout the play, things start to go missing, and Cecilia Maria sets out to find who is responsible.

So I pitched this 12-page show programme as a vintage tourist magazine, an official publication of The Cobble Washers Guild. The Guild sets about trying to encourage visitors to visit their city which may in recent years have acquired a reputation for robberies. The city’s slogan – “Triste: Leave Lighter” becomes an unfortunate allusion to the tendency of personal property to disappear. 

As always, the programme pokes gentle fun at the format of show programmes and is full of ‘advertisements’ drawn from the world of the play – all for Haberdashers of Triste in this case, and many trying to sell buckets and bucket-related paraphernalia.

There’s a Bucket List for the Grand Big Bucket Sale; the Dear Liza Bucket Puncture Repair Kit; the Dear Henry Vessel Replacement Scheme. There’s an ad for Gambas & Mermaid Organic Seaweed Detox Baths, Squeaky Feet Shoes, Auroara Oarealis Oars. 

Voiceless characters are given voices. In his Thimble-Sized Thesaurus, Timmy Thimbles explains the meaning of words from the play. Sebastian Sweep of the Cobble Washers Guild details the awards the city has won (including a Bronze Medal in Synchronised Street Sweeping at the 2014 Cobblewealth Games). 

 

And in a rare dialogue, the Narrator discusses the loneliness of narration. 

Elsewhere, there’s a pizza recipe (sponsored by Vesuvio’s Bucket-Fired Pizza). There’s a Word Search for all the items beginning with B for sale at Haberdashers (sponsored by Haberdashers of Triste). There’s paper folding instructions for the Zephyr Dell Peccadillo Paper Boat Canal Regatta. There’s an 8-step guide to dancing The Fandango (with dance move sketches taken from Louis’ rehearsal notebook). There’s tips on Invisible Sword Fighting. 

And 5 hats from Akram’s Hats of Weird have been hidden throughout the pages. 

This was another fun one to both write and design. 

They Called Her Vivaldi is a theatrical treat. Richly layered, its sheer attention to detail is just staggeringly good, right down to the lovingly detailed programme.”

theartsreview.com

 

Peat > Arts in Education Portal Guest Blogger

I was recently a guest blogger for the Arts in Education Portal, where I discussed the research and development period for Peat, including workshops at Sacred Heart National School, Portlaoise.

You can read the first post here and the second one here


The Arts in Education Portal is the key national digital resource of arts and education practice in Ireland. The ethos for the portal is about building a community of practice within arts and education, and providing a space where both artists and teachers can be supported and inspired. It provides a platform through which good collaboration practice in arts-in-education and arts education will be supported, developed and enhanced.

RELATED POSTS

Show Programme Series > Theatre Lovett

 

A real lesson in producing a programme, particularly for children” Lyn Gardner, The Guardian

Whether writing or designing, I have always been inspired by an attention to detail in production: the subversion of things we take for granted – the double-take.

My work on Theatre Lovett’s show programmes is dominated by this interest: taking something throw-away and turning the tables on it, subverting the audience’s expectation in terms of the aesthetic and the content.

This is particularly rewarding when working with the rich tapestries woven for young audiences by Theatre Lovett.

Working initially with company directors Muireann Ahern-Lovett and Louis Lovett, I then sit down with the script and, with the production design aesthetic in mind, I imagine each world to its fullest. From this I write a full text before designing it into a programme-sized publication.

Taking a sideways glance at what is happening on stage, the articles, fake ads, and interviews riff and expand upon the play’s imagined universe. I try to pack in as much content as possible, filling each page to the last, offering as many moments of recognition and reminder as possible for the young audiences.

I try to give a sly voice to voiceless and minor characters, while poking gentle fun at the format of show programmes – and at Theatre Lovett’s leading star (sorry, Louis!).

Originally called The Trumpeter, the series for Theatre Lovett began with an edition for The House That Jack Filled by Finegan Kruckemeyer. The story of an old hotel, Louis played every one of its vast cast of characters. The programme included an interview with Harrison the Housecat, Mr Truro’s Spectacular Guide to Playing the Spoons, a recipe for Crepes Suzette by mischievous twins Charlotte and Brian and a series of unusual hotel facts (including the mysterious story of the train on Track 61 and New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel).

The Girl Who Forgot to Sing Badly (also by Finegan Kruckemeyer) has been performed at theatres and festivals all over the world. Its Peggy O’Hegarty comes from a family of packers, and the programme was thus pitched as a special edition packing manual. It included Peggy’s Packing Particulars, a series of facts about packing, Louis Lovett on Packing a Play, instructions for how to play a game called Packed Like Sardines and, lastly, sadly, an obituary for Hildegaard the mouse.

The latest was for A Feast of Bones. Originally produced for Dublin Theatre Festival in 2013, the edition was updated for its run at On the Edge Festival Birmingham and Baboró Galway in 2016. A Feast of Bones was set in a restaurant called Le Monde Bouleversé in the wake of World War I, and so its programme became a menu.

In its mix of wit and wisdom, Theatre Lovett’s show programme series is a beauty, capturing the humour, logical absurdity and intelligent detailing of Kate’s writing”Louis Lovett and Muireann Ahern, Theatre Lovett

 

 

 

 

Peat > Work in Progress Showing (On the Edge Festival Birmingham)

BOY:   I’m trying to remember all the toilets I’ve ever pood in. All the bits of me I’ve left all over the place. I wonder where they all went after I flushed ?
GIRL:   Into the sea, like everything, like plastic 
BOY:   But I wonder do they meet up again? I bet they do. I bet there’s one big floater somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean stuck together with plastic bottles
GIRL:   And plastic bags and wrappers and those beer can rings that seagulls choke on
BOY:   And what about all the baby teeth I lost? I was always swallowing them. I swallowed one on a bouncy castle. And one scoring a goal. And another one laughing at a joke. My last one is hanging on by a piece of skin. What if it ends up out the other end and out to sea? In a big poo island of plastic and teeth.

In June, I spent a week at The Ark developing the text with director Maisie Lee and performers Nyree Yergainharsian and Lloyd Cooney. We shared our findings with The Ark’s Children’s Council at the end of the week and, the following month, we presented a work-in-progress showing at On the Edge World Festival of Theatre for Young Audiences in Birmingham to an audiences of artists, producers and presenters. Sharing our ideas and listening to the feedback of audiences young and experienced has been invaluable. Peat began life as Elk, as an exploration of the extinct Great Irish Elk.

As development progresses, the elk itself started to take a back seat, as bigger ideas began to emerge – ideas of preservation, migration, extinction, life, death and mortality. The text which is now emerging is something of a slant on Hamlet’s gravediggers for young audiences – a metaphysical conversation rooted in the world and perspective of two 12 year olds.


Development and showing supported by The Ark A Cultural Centre for Children, Theatre for Young Audiences Ireland and Culture Ireland. Written by Kate Heffernan. Directed by Maisie Lee. Performed by Nyree Yergainharsian and Lloyd Cooney. Originally supported by the Arts Council’s Young People Children and Education Bursary. 

Peat Research > Aprilfestival and Danish Schools

 

DanishSchools-MainImageAprilfestival: Teater for Små & Store is an annual performance event for young audiences, each year taking place in a different Danish town. This April, over 100 Danish and international companies performed over 600 shows in diverse spaces – from classrooms to viking halls to basketball courts – transforming the 2015 host town of Frederikssund (50km outside of Copenhagen). Traveling to the festival with the support of the Arts Council’s Travel and Training Award (with the Elk project and questions of accessibility on my mind), I was thinking about the festival’s amazingly enabling ethos and core aim – to give every single child in a regional municipality a theatre experience. And I was curious to see how the performance work would fit into non-theatre contexts, how it was changed by the fit-up nature of the festival, by the rough-and-ready settings – and how those spaces were in turn transformed.

I visited some brilliant schools. The performances were woven into the fabric of the day, children moving from maths class to a show to language lab to lunch. Even in the smallest schools, performances might have been taking place at the same time in several classrooms, the gym, the library, the yard. In little rooms, tables and chairs were rearranged into improvised raked seating, windows blacked out with refuse sacks and parcel tape.

For me at least, the less dynamic work was that which attempted to impose a theatrical space where none existed, an obsession with drapes and rigging and blackouts and theatreness, to recreate a black box or proscenium arch, to try too hard to hide the fact that we were in a classroom or a gymnasium. And on the other end of the spectrum, the vibrant work for me was so often that which did the opposite – embracing the non-theatrical nature of the spaces in order to elevate the space and the work itself, an attention to detail and artistry that suspended them without hiding or apologising for them – transforming and reawakening them into an other world.

DanishSchools-BlueChairs  DanishSchools-WoodenChairsBand  DanishSchools-VolleyballSand  DanishSchools-WoodenChairsScoreBoard  DanishSchools-GymView  DanishSchools-WoodenChairsSoccerGoal  DanishSchools-WhiteCyc  DanishSchools-YardwithedBench  DanishSchools-TurquoiseChairs

A plastic bucket school chair takes on a life of its own. The coloured stripes of a multi-use sportshall floor become a key aspect of Lisa Becker and Claus Carlsen’s Besat af æbler for Teatrer Nordkraft (an early years live-art work and my hands-down highlight of the festival). A glossy classroom whiteboard acts as the perfectly reflective projection backdrop for the Northern Lights above the Tundra in World Images by Teater Madam Bach (directed by Imaginary Theatre Australia’s Thom Browning).

So many brilliantly found spaces transformed, so many times I thought, “I really want to make a show here.”


OTHER THOUGHTS

Elk was in my mind. I was thinking about the pathos of a creature doomed to extinction, about how to have an open and frank conversation about the vast world we live in with young audiences while at the same time offering a steady and sympathetic guide to navigating that bigness. And so it was brilliant to be immersed in Danish work, a tradition that does not shy away from the oftentimes dark reality of the world we live in. I encountered performances that dealt in many different ways with death, change and loss.

Teatret Gruppe 38’s Morket Ligger Under Sengen / The Darkness Rests Under the Bed was another highlight of the festival. A story about an older couple who return home to stay with their son, it drew gentle and playful parallels between a toddler’s fear of what lurks beneath their bed, and an elderly person’s fear of what might come in the night. The simplicity of its storytelling, its matter-of-factness, its placement of youth, age, life, death, light and dark on one plane and in one breath will stay with me.


BESAT AF ÆBLER BY LISA BECKER, CLAUS CARLSEN + TEATER NORDKRAFT

MØRKET LIGGER UNDER SENGEN BY TEATRET GRUPPE 38