Posts Tagged ‘ Baz Productions ’

PROPHESY PRODUCTION NEWS!

PROPHESY

PROPHESY

Dearest Friends

As we gear up to Christmas, Baz can’t wait for 2013 and all it will bring.

Lots has come together these last few months, and we’re delighted to fill you in on our exciting developments in one big go. Here goes!

PROPHESY TICKETS ONSALE!

After announcing our production of Prophesy, opening on February 5th for 4 weeks in the wonderful Blackall Studios on Leonard Street, we are thrilled to announce that tickets are now available, and can be found via TicketWeb.

As with Macbeth, we would like to offer you, our friends, the chance to book directly with us to save pesky booking fees. Please contact emma@bazproductions.co.uk with PROPHESY TICKETS in the subject line if you’d like to find out more. We sold out our final few weeks of Macbeth so please do book early as we’d hate for you to miss out.

CASTING ANNOUNCEMENT!

We are also delighted to announce our talented cast, we’re thrilled to have them join us:

Natasha Broomfield
Leila Crerar
Geoffrey Lumb
Katherine Newman
Mark Weinman

NEW WEBSITE!

Why not visit our new improved website bazproductions.co.uk, where you’ll find info on the show including our flyer, updated pictures and news, and our revamped education arm which will launch in the next few weeks.

PLEA FOR HELP!

Finally, we need to ask you kindly if you’d be able to help…. Call it an early Christmas for us perhaps; it’s the season of goodwill and just think how warm & fuzzy it will make you feel. We are asking you to follow this link and see if you could help make our 2013 even better. We would be utterly grateful.

We look forward to seeing you in February, and many many thanks for all your help and support.

With love for a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

The Baz Team xx

A weekend of sport and drama …

On Sunday I had to drag myself away from watching the Paralympics on TV to go to observe a Baz workshop. My recent obsession with sport has come as a surprise. I was one of the people who sneered at the Olympic games as they approached and then have spent the rest of the summer completely sport mad. Channel Four’s amazing advertising campaign rang true – the Olympics felt like the starter and the Paralympics the main course and on reflection I think the Paralympics and Baz having many things in common…let me explain.

The Paralympics has traditionally been seen as the poor relation to the Olympic games and there hasn’t been an appetite for sport where the athletes have disabilities. It isn’t exciting, they’re not as good and mainly, there just isn’t the audience. The Paralympics 2012 has blown its critics out of the water – it is as exciting, they are as good and you only have to look at the packed stadiums to know that there is the audience. I think there is a similar attitude to experimental theatre – it is assumed that it isn’t the same audience as West End commercial theatre. When you think about a devised show about the Classic Greek Myths shown in an Art Gallery in Shoreditch it sounds like a minority interest for arty types. But if Baz stays true to its desire to create work with the excitement and tension of a sporting event then without a doubt there is a hungry audience out there.

I sat in the dark corner of the workshop watching the actors play games, improvise scenes and work on the text. There was a dramatic moment where Sarah took an arm to the face during a ball game and split her lip (perhaps in future she will not start a game with “I’m in charge and I can change the rules at any moment”!) but its the emotional punches that are the most memorable.

It was exciting to be present when the actors were given a script for the first time – several scenes had been written up from the exercises they’d been working on. Devising the play means that they are essentially getting rid of any writer. This is something I have always been suspicious of (which is completely separate from my own desire to be a writer, obviously!). I felt that by doing this, it was denying the play is most powerful element. However, watching the actors at work that afternoon proved enlightening in this respect. When actors are working with a script, they are usually exploring the discoveries of one person, the writer, but here the actors were exploring the discoveries they themselves had made and that didn’t feel any less legitimate. For me I felt as though it bridged the gap between drama and reality. If I needed any further reassurance about the power of the discoveries in workshops, I witnessed a moment which I’m still thinking about over a week later.

During one exercise the actors were asked to write down a series of ‘Prophesies’ to their ten year old selves. This was the message they would have given the child they used to be, in order to prepare themself for their own future. The pieces of paper were put in a bowl and picked out at random by each actor to use in a stream of consciousness exercise where the prophesy itself was not heard. As the exercise ended we were about to take a break when, as an afterthought, it was suggested that the messages were read out loud. The author of each prophesy would be kept anonymous and everyone took it in turns to read them.

They were mostly predictable – aimed at inspiring and reassuring their ten year old self – “The best is yet to come”, “stop obsessing about things, soon you won’t care” and “work hard and you’ll get all the freedom you desire”.

Then there was “Nothing you do will make you happy”.

The mood in the room immediately changed and everyone looked concerned. It was completely unexpected and I have been trying to work out why it was so memorable.

Firstly it was because it was unexpected. Had each prophesy been that heart breaking it would have lost its power because we would have been sitting with our stomach muscles clenched, prepared for the punch. Such is the ‘X Factor’ effect, where the drama is lost because they have created a play where the tragedy is relentless. Every character has a sob story and we can see it coming from a mile.

Its a simple, obvious point and one that is discussed constantly – I suppose the complexity is working out how many punches an audience can take in one play before they start to clench. People who make drama often wax lyrical about not allowing their audience to relax, which is important if you use ‘relax’ to mean ‘uninvolved’. Of course you want the audience to be as involved as possible, but you do want them relaxed so that you can punch them as hard as you possibly can (metaphorically of course).

With the prophesy we don’t need to know who wrote it in order to understand that it says something very intense about childhood – and speaks directly to Baz’s central theme for their play which is ‘to investigate the notion of self-identity in children: the roles they take on, the expectations they have and the choices they make.’. Crucially ‘nothing you do will make you happy’ is not about how this particular 10 year old feels about their life  (perhaps the 10 year old was excited about his or her future) it is an adult who has experienced the childhood who feels that any attempt for joy was futile. The message is that the helplessness we all feel as  children, was in this case, correct.

Fate is constantly explored in the Greek Myths – famously Achilles was allowed to choose everlasting fame – for most of the characters their fate was non-negotiable. Cassandra’s prophesies may have fallen on deaf ears, but the truth they contained proves that the characters’ future was essentially out of their hands. This is sad enough when we consider it with adult characters we are so familiar with,  but to see it in the children is devastating and will be fascinating to explore in the eventual play.

Just as “Nothing you do will make you happy” was a dramatic moment that was rooted in reality of feeling, so the script that the actors worked on that afternoon about Cassandra and Paris was rooted in the explorations that had taken place during the workshops. Because the exercises had been about being truthful to how the actors felt in the moment, the script reflected that. I noticed one of the actors smile in recognition when in the new script Paris kicked Cassandra under a table. Although she was playing Cassandra that afternoon, and therefore receiving the kick, it had been her in a previous workshop as Paris who had been motivated to land it.

I went to the Baz workshop with my head full of sport and it was something I was thinking about while I watched the actors rehearse. My belief that the best sport cannot ever compete dramatically with the best theatre had already been shattered this summer – similarly after watching the workshop I no longer hold that the best devised drama cannot contend with a well written play. Writers and theatre do not have the monopoly on being thought provoking, moving, memorable and exciting. I’m off to watch Ellie Simmonds and Oscar Pistorius race for their gold medals and I’m waiting in anticipation for Baz’s upcoming show. The play will explore the moments in Paris and Helen’s childhood when they receive prophesies – and like my new found appetite for sport I am hungry for the potential tension and questions this investigation will provide.

Anne – Baz Curator

What do you get when you cross fifteen teachers with Baz … ?

A trestle table with crumbs and splashes left over from ravenous teachers attacking the tea, coffee and biscuits. A, now empty, circle of chairs. A few handouts dusting the corners of the room.

Only minutes before the room was buzzing with chatter, individuals tapping out iambic pentameter, discussing the exercises and swapping contact numbers. And someone (me) raiding the very last of the biscuits.

The afternoon had been spent with fifteen teachers from across four South London secondary schools, working with us on our approaches to text. The teachers threw themselves into the session with gusto, and much giggling and chatter ensued. We worked on getting groups of students feeling comfortable and confident in the room, how to work through shortened attention spans and ways of approaching Shakespeare’s verse with students.

I reminded them how in our experience the best verse speakers we’ve ever met are teenagers. That’s what’s so exciting about working with students, there is so much potential there. And yes, of course all classes can get chaotic sometimes, but so what? A little anarchy is no bad thing!

‘It’s funny how hard that was. I didn’t realise it was so hard just to get used to being looked at. Sounds silly. I hadn’t realised. That must be how my students feel all the time.’

‘The rhythms of verse, it’s just like music. I understand that.’

‘When actors speak verse like that – that’s when magic happens.’

STOP PRESS . . . . CASTING ANNOUNCEMENT

Baz Productions is incredibly lucky to have such a talented company of actors from which to source our cast, and now we are utterly delighted to announce that those ‘playing’ Macbeth with us this autumn will be:

Scott Brooksbank

Lucy Brueggar

Geoff Lumb

Ffion Jolly

Katherine Newman

We disappear into the depths of the rehearsal room and crypt from September 26th, and can’t wait to show you all what we have created when we emerge on October 18th.

What happens next …

This week Baz Education ran a Macbeth workshop with 9 and 10 year olds. In our rehearsals we talk ad nauseum about playing the story as if we didn’t know what was going to happen next. Suddenly we find ourselves in a room where our audience genuinely don’t know what’s going to happen next …

 

Me: Has anyone heard of ‘Macbeth’ before? What do you know?

Kid: Is it a love story?

Kid: It’s about desire.

Kid: Is there shouting?

 

Me: … so now I’m going to ask you a question and if your answer is ‘yes’ I want you to run to that end of the room and shout ‘AY!’. If your answer is ‘no’ I want you to run to that end of the room and shout ‘NAY!’ Ready? Should Macbeth tell his wife about the witches.

[general commotion, shouts of ‘Ay’ and ‘Nay’]

Kid: Can I go in the middle if it’s a ‘maybe’?

Me: Of course, if you want.

Kid: What’s the Shakespeare for ‘maybe’?

 

Witch: Banquo, your children shall be kings.

Kids: That’s much better – Banquo’s one is much better!

Me: Really?

Kids: Yeah definitely. Your children, that’s MUCH better. Poor Macbeth.

 

Me: … so Lady Macbeth and Macbeth agree that they are going to kill the king.

Kid: Oh yeah, I bet he creeps up on him in the dark and gets his food and then when he’s not looking he puts the poison in his food and creeps away, with a big smile like this because he’s just poisoned the king and he goes somewhere else and waits to hear the news so he can be all like ‘oh no!’ like he didn’t know already but he did. Yeah. I bet that’s what he does …

 

Macbeth: Murderers, kill Banquo – secretly.

Banquo [in audience, shocked]: Miss, can I fight him back?

 

Me: … and at this feast an uninvited guest turns up –

Kid: One of the witches?

Me: Not one of the witches, it was –

Kid: Banquo’s ghost?

Me: Yes!

Kid: NO WAY?

Me: Yes way!

Kid: NO WAY? I just guessed that! I just guessed that!

 

Me: … so Malcolm says …

Malcolm: Cut down a branch and hold it in front of you.

Me: When the army marches and each one holds a branch in front of them, what do you think it will look like?

[general amazement]

Kid: LIKE A MOVING FOREST!

Kid: No way!! They tricked him, the witches tricked Macbeth!

Kid: He thought a forest couldn’t move but it’s going to! They tricked him!

 

Macbeth [reads]:’ Macbeth, your wife is … dead’ DEAD??!! My wife is DEAD? DEAD?

Lady Macbeth [from audience]: Oh my days, Miss I was lying down, I was LYING DOWN! Just like I was dead, and he says I’m dead! Oh my days, oh my days! It’s like I KNEW! Miss, I was actually lying down!

Macbeth: DEAD?? My wife is DEAD?

Kid: Why did she die?

Kid: She’s a loony, innit?

 

Me: … and then, at last, finally, Macbeth dies.

Mac beth: Aaagghhhghghghgaaahgghghg

[He dies dramatically]

Kid [spontaneously leaping up, conducting]: Da da, da da da dada –

[Entire class sing the Eastenders theme tune]

On being playful

I think I had always thought I was a pretty playful person. Not quite grown up. Prone to fits of giggles. Childish.

A few weeks ago, though, I’d been privy, as an adult minding the group, to a big make-believe game played out between about 5 boys. It was as detailed as it was dramatic. A whole world was created, involving various wars and leagues of rebels and spies and rescue missions and prisoners and journeys. Think Star Wars meets Spooks meets the Odyssey.

Vicious spells were cast with outstretched arms accompanied by cries of ‘Hakuna Matata’, relationships shoaled their way fluidly between brothers in arms and deadly enemies, and flocks (sometimes they 5 became flocks) of them would vault over the sofa to crouch behind and launch missiles at the oncoming army.

When I say it was 5 boys, I do mean that – although technically, I suppose, you’d have to argue that it was 4 boys and a man. But the way he played, this grown up, with utter dedication to the game, never once glancing up at the adults with a sheepish ain’t they cute look or patronising them or engaging in doublethink. He became, for that short time, a genuine and utter equal – and the thing that mattered, the only thing, was the game.

And I realised I’d never seen a game quite like it. I’ve seen adults play games with adults, adhering carefully to the rules and articulating intelligent observations afterwards (or using the game to showcase an open / flirtatious / courageous quality). I’ve seen adults play games with kids, where they take the role of parent or fun older sibling – but in these cases, no matter how involved they get in the game, if another adult enters a shared look will flash across the room, a complicit look which understands yes it a kid’s game, but hey I’m going with it for a bit.

In our rehearsals we play games a lot: running games, team games, story games and big field games (most of which have origins in either drama or kids games, but which I adapt as we go, screaming new instructions at the often confused actors as they throw themselves valiantly into each task). And now more than ever I see the importance of them. The well known and usual points include: bonding a group, warming up the body and mind, shaking up the tempo, knocking people off balance and getting people simply to commit to a moment. Now I see they can also find in you a meeting place of complete conviction and utter abandonment. High stakes and deep joy. Adult horror and childish delight.

And fun. They can be achingly fun.

I’m wickedly scheming what games we will play next time. That in itself, I have to be honest, is a bloody good game!

Stand up if you’re terrified

The Porter Speech

One moment I had personally been dreading was the porter speech, which Sarah introduced to me with a stand-up comedy routine in mind. Sarah was up for being experimental and the brief was loose enough to be creative; however terrifying the words “stand” and “up” were to my ears. Perhaps our porter spoke in modern language, maybe it was a new speech concocted entirely from mine or Sarah’s experiences, or maybe we just used the original text, as written. The homework Sarah set me initially felt too much like fun to be work; which was to watch You Tube excerpts of Stewart Lee!

It felt dangerous, even sacrilegious at first, to be deconstructing the work of such a comic genius, but in the end it made me appreciate his skill even more. Sarah and I noted the devices used by great comics – the refrains, the timing, the ‘rule of three’, re-incorporation, exaggeration, absurdity, bathos, musicality…

Everyone has their own taste when it comes to comedy – but I was starting to notice what it was about my favourite comics that I found so appealing. They seemed so “right”. They knew they were right about what they were saying – it was the ultimate rhetoric – they could win the argument. It’s quite sexy. It makes them somehow omnipotent – if done right of course.

So over a cup of tea at my flat, with low expectations and high anxiety, I sat opposite Sarah as she coaxed some stories out of me, and told some of her own to reciprocate. And that was all it was. Telling stories. She asked me to re-tell some, perhaps with exaggerated character descriptions, or the invention of an extra character to make it “3”, to heighten reactions of the characters, and to use refrains, a la Stewart Lee. I took her advice and we told stories all afternoon. It was exhilarating.

With this newfound confidence gained from sitting in front of a trusted friend, fellow actor and business partner over tea and telling stories (why the hell was I so scared?!) I remembered a story in particular about a temping job on “the gates of hell”, or Barclays Bank as it was known at the time. With Sarah’s “golden rules of comedy” I bent the story in a ‘hilarious’ direction and prayed she would be amused by it. We were busy that week so I auditioned the routine at her over skype. And she laughed. So that was good.

When it came to performing it Sarah had talked about “units” of thought, almost like flash cards, and so I distilled the speech to some anchoring phrases or words to aid recall. However, as I practiced telling the story, flash cards seemed superfluous. After all, memory experts advise using stories as mnemonics to remember phone numbers or other such banal lists. A story, that you understand and have to an extent lived through, just sort of takes care of itself…

Which is what the stand up speech did really. I was blinded by the lights initially, which helped with the fear, but the aural reaction (er, laughter) was palpable, enjoyable, and made the audience seem very close and participatory indeed. The space helped – they were in a tunnel of darkness, I was in a tunnel of light opposite them, so I felt a very direct contact with them. It was like performing inside theatrical blinkers – no one was looking right or left, their attention was dead forward. I even began to look them in the eye once my eyes got used to the light. It was immensely freeing and I felt pretty invincible for about an hour afterwards.

I wonder how we’ll do it in October…

Money makes the world go around

Money makes the world go around
The world go around
The world go around
Money makes the world go around
It makes the world go ’round.

Sadly, last week we discovered we didn’t receive the Arts Council Funding we applied for. Despite an application assessed as strong throughout, and a strong recommendation to fund our project (with particular praise for our innovation, our company structure and our finance planning), it seems there just wasn’t enough to go around. The decision is bittersweet; to find out there was nothing we could’ve done to strengthen our application and improve our chances was tough to hear. There simply are too little resources to fund everything, which is indicative of the climate as a whole right now, and I’m sure we share our disappointment with many other worthy projects.

A mark, a yen, a buck, or a pound
A buck or a pound
A buck or a pound
Is all that makes the world go around,
That clinking clanking sound
Can make the world go ’round.

So – where do we go from here? Well, we apply again! But with a 3 month turnaround on decisions over 10k, we’ve decided to put a corporate funding plan in place, and apply for a smaller amount which can be assessed in a shorter period. This means it’s all hands on deck as we look into other avenues to raise funds – we’re launching our schools work, with the help of the newly assembled Baz-Ed team, and have used the lessons learnt from the showing in April to reassess our budget.

Money money money money money money
Money money money money money money
Money money money money money money
Money money

Mainly, though, we need to find lovely companies and individuals willing to invest in the arts.

This is easier said than done – large corporate companies are notorious to infiltrate, so we’d like to ask you a favour and give us a helping hand in the following ways…

  • If you work in a company that may be interested in arts investment, please let us know who we should contact.
  • If your company has a team that deals with corporate responsibility, please could you let us know. We’d love to drop them a line and see if our work and ethos would sit nicely with theirs.
  • If you have a friend/brother/mother/cousin who works in this sort of area, we’d love to speak with them and pick their brains, please let us know.
  • If you yourself, or a lovely friend/brother/mother/cousin/fairy godmother likes giving and helping people achieve their potential and has an interest in the arts, please let us know.

With only 4 months to go, we need to act fast.

Marks … set … go!

The problem with large numbers …

Already I don’t like the title of this. It’s not a problem. Why should it be a problem? Let’s try again.

Many characters. Few actors. How could we play?

It’s something we are tackling with Macbeth. And I got to wondering – how have other people approached this … challenge? Come on, let’s stand on the shoulders of giants – or at least get a good look at the view before shimmying down and doing something else.

So I racked my brains. And then asked other people to rack theirs.

The immediate answer that came to my mind was doubling. Lots of doubling. I’ve been in many a production that required me to ‘double’. In my experience it’s meant hours in the rehearsal room trying out various accents or postures, and then hours with design departments trying out different costumes and wigs. To ensure that the characters I am playing seem as different from each other as possible. This inevitably leads to quick-changes in the wing. Endless quick-changes. Endless.

Of course it need not involve all that donning and doffing of wigs. Just a change in … something. Intention. Physicality. You know. A change.

That’s fine. That’s one option, which can be stunning when done well. Many plays involve a little bit of doubling, a servant here with the best friend there. But some really do go hell for leather. ‘Stones in his Pockets’ is probably a famous example of this. Examples othes came up with were:

‘Diary of a Nobody – 4 actors performing 46 parts at The Royal & Derngate, Northampton. So convincing that a large man with a beard playing Mrs. Pooter made everyone feel for her when her son left home and the audience referred to the actor as “her”.’

‘The Tempest at the Globe, circa the early 2000s. A three man job – not three man because the Globe couldn’t afford a full company (my assumption, that is!), just because. I think it started with Mark Rylance performing the entire storm with the ship and everyone on it on his own, using a chess board. It was hilarious, fascinating and moving all at the same time.’

I saw it too, and think I remember (I’m sure I remember) at one point Mark Rylance standing with his head in a noose as one character, then taking it out and talking to the space in the noose as another. And I remember thinking that talking to thin air made total sense – because he wasn’t talking to thin air. He was talking to a man with his head in a noose.

But what else? What else is there?

Cutting characters. That’s another common one. Why do we need both Ross and Angus to tell Macbeth he’s going to be made Thane of Cawdor, just one will do. Why do we need all three messengers, hey, let’s just give first messenger a Blackberry… But where does that stop? Do we need all three witches in Macbeth, won’t just one do? Actually come to that, do we need both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth? Umm, hang on.

Last year I tripped down to the Scoop to see the Pantaloons’ Macbeth with a friend. Their Macbeth was performed with five actors – and much cutting characters, doubling actors and hilarity ensued. They created their witches out of stunningly effective puppets – who could appear, disappear, change their movement from something old and fragile to something inhuman, be fast, be slow, move in and around the audience, fly and were genuinely other-worldy – and these puppets, I think, could be picked up whichever actors were available in any given scene.

So creating characters the whole company can play. That’s another option. Something I’m very interested in at the moment, as it happens.

What else, though.

Something symbolic? I was in a production of Richard III last year and when it came to the final battle sequence we only had a few actors and little-to-no budget with which to play. So we pumped in sound that mixed house music with helicopters and sirens, and played it at the loudest level that was legal (believe me, official-looking people came in with their little boxes and measured the volume precisely). To it we created a movement sequence which repeated and speeded up, over and over again, building for several minutes to the point where the actors were barely able to continue. Then we cut the sound. And there was just us, standing and catching our breath. Battle over.

I guess that was symbolism, right? It was something. A representation of something. A representation of something happening to lots of people. Or something.

Hats, limps, twitches, accents, chess sets, puppets, dancing and more. Lots lots more. There will be hundreds ways people have solved the problem – sorry, tackled the question. In the words of one director I worked with, ‘It’s all makey-uppy’. So what does it matter if one person plays one hundred people, or one hundred people play one person? Baz is going to be tackling this question in October. And I have to say I’m excited.

What are we going to do? Umm … watch this space!