Sarah’s week….

So last week I escaped the Big Smoke and headed off into the country to work with a group of gap year students on Iphigenia at Aulis for six intense days.

What a week.

We’ve galloped our way through the text without pausing for breath. We’ve messed about with language, studied mythology, explored what it means to be ‘active’, played with movement and physical relationships, improvised music … the list goes on and on. We’ve ad-libed with saxophones, harmonicas, ‘penis buckets’ (don’t ask), ladders, music stands, whiteboards – raiding rooms for anything and everything we could get our hands on.

Of course it’s lovely for me to be playing with the same stories and characters that we are feeding into the Baz project Prophesy. But the biggest thrill of the week has been discovering that these students are the most healthily competitive bunch of people I have ever met. It’s a joy. Give them a game, an exercise, a scene, a line learning challenge, whatever. They listen quietly, nod sagely and then explode with energy and bravery, playing to win like I’ve never seen. And wow, they work fast.

Here’s to these students who are fast becoming an impressive set of theatre makers. The next generation is ready … steady ….

PROPHESY workshops in action

Workshops are now back in full swing, and already we’ve been amazed and awed at the bravery of our actors and what they’ve created. It has only gone to excite us even further about what is to come. Paul Biver came along to a recent physical workshop and helped document the experiments. We liked them so much, we thought you’d like a little sneak look inside our workshop room….

Coming up over the next few weeks? More physical work led by company member, Ian, and a session messing around and creating the music that might inhabit our worlds by our resident sound designer, Carl Prekopp…..

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All images by Paul Biver.

The Value of Art

 

This week Baz has twice been reminded about the Value of Knowledge within the arts.

 

On Saturday we spent an exhausting 4 hours sat around the table that was acting as the Baz office and scrawled over flip charts with marker pens as we were led through an energising and focused brainstorm by a fundraising professional. We have been lucky enough to have secured knowledge and advice from some incredibly talented and skilled professionals over the last couple of years whilst we have stared up adoringly and lapped up every word. Frankly, we’ve been shameless – bribing a fundraiser, a PR creative, a musician, a School Drama Head, a website designer, a programme designer, a social media expert and countless other talents with coffee and wine as in order to pick their brains and benefit from their generosity. And each time they agree and share their knowledge with us I almost pinch myself… Infact, no… I really do pinch myself. Because their skills and knowledge are so valuable. Not just in terms of our appreciation, but in a monetary value to us both that increases our worth, and a value that is placed on their time. These lovely people are trained and skilled in something that they trade with on a daily basis in their day jobs. It gives them a value as employees, and the more they’ve trained and the more experience they have, the more valuable they are. To then let us in and share that skill so freely catapults us past the hard graft they’ve undertaken to learn their trade straight to the rewards that we reap, and that’s a big ask. I wouldn’t walk into a hairdresser and ask for a free cut and blow-dry for nothing just because I was a bit cash-short that month.

 

There is a value in skill and there is a trade and a transaction required if we aren’t able to pay for them in a conventional way. This may be bottles of wine, or large shouted thank-yous, mentions and recommendations and constant promotion, free tickets, or the promise of payment properly next time – all sealed with eternal gratitude and the promise of a warm fuzzy feeling in return. We must ensure that this is not forgotten and that we honour it in return in order to build and nurture these relationships that as an industry we so often rely on.

 

But we must also remember that equally there is a value in our own artistic work that as a community we often forget and can all too easily find it being taken advantage of. Actors/musicians/writers/directors (and a whole host of other artists – delete as appropriate) often find themselves working for free and asked for large favours that no-one would consider asking of friends and colleagues in other disciplines and industries. As a company, Baz are determined that an honest day’s work should be rewarded by an honest day’s pay and a large part of what we do is an attempt to urge artists to remember the skills they possess and the value they hold – beautiful skills that have been developed over years of study and training and that should be celebrated and protected, not exploited. That’s not to say we shouldn’t always be looking to help and support each other, just that we should also ensure we are not taking, or being taken, advantage of.

 

We have recently been lucky enough to join forces with People at Play, a collective of multi-disciplinary companies that are working out of Pimlico Academy and attempting to establish a way of supporting each other, trading our valuable skills and paying back to the community who allow us to use their space for free. On Thursday we were reminded again about the value of artists and the need to share and appreciate each other’s skills as we all freely debated how this would be achieved and revelled in the opportunity to mould and influence such an important scheme. We may not all do it the same way; we may assign different values to our skills, and we all have different things we can trade in return, but we must always ensure that trade is completed, honoured, and respected if we wish to continue to use it.

 

And on that note, I’m off to thank that lovely fundraiser again….

PRODUCTION ANNOUNCEMENT – PROPHESY

 

 

What happens to you if you are told your future? What do you do with that knowledge? What happens if you are only a child when you find out?

 

BAZ Productions are delighted to announce PROPHESY, due for production in early 2013. Devised by the ensemble, this project will develop through improvisation. Taking characters from the classic Greek Myths in settings not unlike modern Britain, we will be exploring the notion of self-identity in children: the roles they take on, the expectations they have and the choices they make.

Set in two contrasting worlds of ‘Troy’ and ‘Sparta’, we will explore the moments in Paris and Helen’s childhood when they receive the prophesies that, when they grow up, bring about the complete destruction of their families and worlds.

BAZ will explore how that information affects them here and now and as a result how they relate to those around them. PROPHESY will continue to build on BAZ’s methods of working that were established in Macbeth and we cannot wait to show you the results…..

Follow the Leader…..

London Arts Orchestra did something rather wonderful recently. They opened up the dress rehearsal of a Mahler concert to the public. For free. Added to which they let us, the audience, sit in the orchestra among the musicians. I sat in the strings section. It was wonderful.

To sit immersed in the music rather than receiving at a distance it was extraordinary. Of course there were loses – sometimes things sounded quite odd because other parts of the music were overpowered by the instruments you were closest too. But what you gained through this unique experience far outweighed those loses: the music surrounded you, it engulfed you, it became a part of you. Or you became a part of it. I’m not sure which.

The biggest revelation for me, though, was sitting facing the conductor. I’d never been able to watch the conductor like this, close enough to see every expression on his face and hear every syllable or count that he uttered.

He was an exceptional leader. He conjured the musicians, beckoned them, guided them. He had humour, passion and humility. Every now and then he’d stop the music and work a section until it was right. A brave decision to make with an audience in the room, but one that earned him respect. He’d made it clear, they meant business and they weren’t going home until they were done. However his manner was gentle, approachable, even waving mid-bar to a little girl who was proudly sat among the horns.

Watching him at work was inspiring. Watching the room at work, guided by him, was incredible.

Neatly, recently I’d been pondering the question of leadership. What are the qualities one should cultivate? As someone moving into directing, it’s a big question for me. But actually, I realised, almost all of us will be asked to be leaders at some point or other in our lives. Whether as director, teacher, manager, team-leader, stag-do-organiser or parent. And without question all of us will be led. Bad leaders are all too common (we all loved David Brent because unfortunately we knew him), but thankfully good leaders are out there too. And then there are those leaders who raise the bar, those who allow individuals to grow and collectives to flourish.

Books are my first port of call when I want to learn something new. So I’ve been reading up on book about directing (In Contact with the Gods), books about management (look up Susan Vinnecombe) and books about teaching (pretty much anything by Ken Robinson). As we all know, though, the best way to learn is through doing. And when you can’t do, watch.

All I want to do now is watch more conductors at work. I guess I’m going to have to blag my way into more orchestras. Perhaps I’ll need to take up an instrument as cover …

Epilogue – Final Part

For our Christmas blog, we publish the fifth and final audience member that completes Epilogue, Joan Stansbury’s poem inspired by Macbeth. We wish you all a fabulous Christmas and much love for a prosperous New Year.

[In October – November 2011 Baz Productions put on Macbeth in the crypt of St Andrew Holborn with a cast of just five multi-tasking actors.]

 

EPILOGUE

 

After a performance of the Baz Macbeth five members of the audience gather up their props and reflect on the evening’s experience.

THE CRITIC

(Fiddling with the pen in his top pocket)

.

I drank a glass of wine: my first mistake.

Was terrified I might not stay awake.

I know Macbeth by heart: a run of the mill

Production woozes like a sleeping pill.

.

Needn’t have worried. They made their audience work.

As soon as I thought about an actor’s take

on a taxing role, he or she would dissolve

before my eyes and speak in another voice.

Who’s …? Is it still …? Yes of course.

Same character, same intensity of thought:

the same, but from a different angle of view.

Concentrate. Admire each effortless pass

of the role from head to head. You can’t nod off

for a single moment: you dare not miss a trick.

No – not trick exactly, but a turn.

This taking turns can at the start bemuse,

but then invigorates, keeps me alert.

.

They turn us turn about for different scenes.

No flats, just painting in sound and pools of light,

a shift in mood among the shape-shifting

characters. We drift from vault to vault.

Macbeth – or is it his wife –  smiles and offers

me a chair. Now we’re at the flicks:

a flat soft-focus black and white England

projected on the wall. Back to Scotland

three dimensional in full warcry.

.

Exhausted but wide awake I need a drink

as sedative to take me down from a high.

How to review? That I’ll have to think

through and round. No notes: I didn’t try.

Too busy listening, connecting, disconnecting.

In the round. A bit Brechtian? This red

faultlined patchwork of brick inset with Roman

and medieval stones and disconcerting

concrete lintels I feel quite at home in

in the same somewhat confused confusing way

that I feel at home in this new-old old-new play

that burns and bubbles in my busy head.

.

When I get home will I recognize my wife?

And if, I wonder, if indeed I do,

which wife from which strand of our shared life

will it be, or will she be someone new?

.

Odds bodikins, how am I going to write a review?

Epilogue – Part 4

The Fourth installment of Joan Stansbury’s poem, inspired by a visit to Macbeth.

 

Epilogue

 

THE P.E. TEACHER

 

(taking down a whistle from a hook in the wall)

 

Fit and lean, they worked well as a team.

Planned and executed each exercise

with care and precision. Breathing well controlled.

Gestures economical. Disciplined.

None of that hugging, showing off nonsense,

although they pleased the crowd well enough.

Concentration excellent. Great performance.

 

Memo to self: try five-a-side next term!