Homeward Bound is homeward bound

Next month we will be taking my current show Homeward Bound back to my roots. The show deals with our childhood dreams and I share the hopes of my mother and grandmother and the restrictions that were placed on them.

 

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I grew up in Bradford within a three storey household of women, three generations to be precise (one generation per floor) and I later moved over the moors to Hebden Bridge, where I lived for ten years and where my son was born. It will be nostalgic and very personal to play in my home town at the Bradford Playhouse, where my mother was (almost) a fixture, or so it seemed to me growing up. I would be taken on a Sunday, on ‘fit up’ Sundays to watch the technical and dress rehearsals and eat in the basement cafe and have a celebratory drink in the bar afterwards. Anyone would think that sitting through a technical rehearsal at such a young age would have put me off the theatre but it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to say that those Sundays and my parents love of the Bradford Playhouse is what prompted my own childhood dream… to work in the theatre.

14th April; The Square Chapel  Square Road, Halifax

15th April Bradford Playhouse, Chapel Street, Bradford

16th April Bradford Playhouse, Chapel Street, Bradford

With technical support from STS Stage Services

Tunnelling for Stories

During the month of February I am facilitating, alongside Dr Phil Smith, the Sited Theatre module for first year students at Plymouth University and we will take them away from the safety net of the campus and into new spaces across the city. Ironically we have been based this week at the Plymouth Athenaeum which, among its many spaces, is a 300 seater theatre. In its current guise it is a post war building (1961) that has all the hall marks of that era but, as with so many inner city buildings here in Plymouth, before the war there stood a much grander building. Designed by John Foulston, who was a leading architect in Plymouth for 25 years designing many buildings in Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport (including the Devonport Guildhall and Egyptian House in Kerr Street), the old building was very much in the Greek revival style. Owen, the key holder gave us a tour and was passionate about the history and the standing that the Athenaeum had had as a seat of learning with stories of Darwin and other scientific illuminates rubbing shoulders alongside the Beatles.

When the building was rebuilt in 1961 it was next door to Westward Television Studios (now a pile of rubble) and the ABC cinema (now the Reel Cinema), Westward used the theatre in the Athenaeum to mount their in-house game shows which they recorded from the stage. In order to do this they had to lay cables from the two buildings and built tunnels that ran from the two buildings to contain the electric cables. In 1963 when the Beatles came to Plymouth and played the ABC cinema they were taken from the Television studios through the tunnels to hide them from the screaming girls outside. For part of our tour we were taken down into the tunnels where the walls are peeling and the photographs of the Beatles lay hidden away underground.

These stories, alongside being in the space where history was made brought to life the past for us. The students came away with ideas spinning in their heads ready to take inspiration from the tour and turn it into performances. This was a wonderful start to the month, which will take them into unknown city territory to create pieces that hopefully will have the same inspiration that we found underground at the Athenaeum.

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There will be tours of the Athenaeum tunnels during the Plymouth History Festival which will run throughout May.

Great previews for Homeward Bound @BikeShedTheatre this Saturday

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We have had great previews for Homeward Bound as it started the South West tour at the Brewhouse Taunton. The Western Morning News on Sunday had a lovely double page article written by Jemima Laing, which you can read here. Also Exeter Life has a great half page spread by Sue Carroll -see below

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and the British Baseball Federation have this article on their website click here

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You can also hear me being interviewed by Matt Faulkner for BBC Radio Somerset here (at one hour and 25 minutes in)

Homeward Bound Autumn Tour

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I’ve partnered with the South West Baseball League to create a tour of Homeward Bound, my show about my son’s love of baseball and my own Northern upbringing. From September it will be touring to all the south west towns and cities who have baseball teams that play in the south west baseball league. In receipt of a Homeward Bound flyer or programme, audience members have the opportunity to a free training session with their local baseball team.

Photos by Lee Hind & graphic design by Kerry Eggleton

The venues are

Plymouth Fringe Festival

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Plymouths inaugural fringe festival is a week away, over 100 performances in venues all over the city. Plymouth has been in need of this for longer than I care to remember, I have witnessed a lot of theatre makers leaving the region to get their work seen in cities with more opportunities for independent artists. My hope is that audiences in the region get behind the initiative, come out and sample the work.

My own show Homeward Bound is playing Thursday 28th May at 6.30 and Saturday 30th May at 4pm. For more information click on the Homeward Bound tab above. For more information on the fringe festival go to http://plymouthfringe.com

Coffee with Vera returns to the Plymouth Synagogue

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When I first performed Coffee with Vera it was inside the vestry of the Plymouth Synagogue. My decision to use the vestry rather than the synagogue was twofold. The synagogue can be accessed through an appointment to view with a guided tour, conducted by the caretaker. It can be considered a performance in itself, which gives a particular reading of the site. This is very much a male dominated space where the men perform the service and the women are seated upstairs away from the males. This is, according to Rabbi Aaron Moss, so that both male and female can focus on their prayer away from the opposite sex, an opportunity to be with your ‘true self, to communicate with your soul’ (Chabad.org: online). Roberta Mock states that ‘women were (and still, in traditional Judaism, are) “exempt” (that is, excluded) from most religious learning, prayer, and ritual’ (Mock, 2007:2). Secondly, the vestry is a lived in space; the building houses two flats, one for a rabbi and one for a caretaker and there is a kitchen to make refreshments. ‘Women’s sphere of influence is defined exclusively in halacha, or Jewish law, as “domestic affairs”’ (Mock, 2007:2).

For the next three weeks I will be performing Coffee with Vera within the Plymouth History Festival and I have been asked to perform within the synagogue itself so apart from the Saturday (when I will be in the vestry for the Sabbath) I will be performing within what I consider a male space. Will this change the performance? I have no idea but it will be interesting to find out.

Mock, Roberta (2007) Jewish Women on Stage, Film and Television. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

COFFEE WITH VERA
Saturday 9 May, 3pm to 4pm (in the vestry)
Tuesday 12 May, 11am to 12pm (synagogue)
Sunday 17 May, 11am to 12pm (synagogue)
Tuesday 19 May, 7pm to 8pm (synagogue)
Synagogue Chambers, Catherine Street, Plymouth, PL1 2AD
Watch Ruth Mitchell’s award winning performance of ‘Coffee with Vera’ in the Plymouth Synagogue, followed by coffee and cake in the Vestry with “Vera” herself.
Admission is free. Donations are welcome. Booking is essential via 07753 267616 or phccaretaker@yahoo.co.uk

Creative conversation or development discussion

When I travel from the south-west up the M5 beyond the turning for Bristol south and the airport you pass an orchard, row upon row of young apple trees in perfect straight rows at right angles to the motorway so you can see the precision of the planting. I don’t travel up with enough regularity to see the changing of the seasons but I am always taken with the industrial scale of it.

On a train journey from Plymouth to Exeter between Totnes and Newton Abbot there’s an old orchard, ancient gnarled apple trees some leaning perilously, some uprooted by recent gales, yet none seem to be dead roots still clinging on still grasping for life. In no particular rows or order with new saplings for 2015.

A morphing of these two orchards and you have the eponymous orchard in Natalie McGrath’s new play. This orchard is in the imagination both visually and mentally, we don’t have a huge set or projection to show the canopy of blossom, we only have words to paint the picture of the setting. The Orchard is an imagined meeting between two incredible women so, therefore if it’s an imagined meeting then maybe the space is imagined also and by painting the picture with words we can allow individual’s imagination to work allowing their own personal orchards to develop.

Dreadnought South West have been traveling with our Rebellious Sounds roadshow since the beginning of March, starting down in Redruth, traveling through Cornwall and Devon and up to Wiltshire. Every time we have shown the performance we have had a discussion with the audience (see the previous post) and I do mean discussion, some taking longer than the play itself. The conversation has enabled Natalie to cut and refine, to move around and allow issues to be heard in more detail. Whatever the audience feed back becomes part of the text development. We have changed parts around so that both actors have played both parts to see what differences that makes, we have gone from a nod to costume, to just wearing our own clothes. The feedback has been fascinating, all enthusiastic and constructive as if knowing that their thoughts will be used dramaturgically the audience are more animated in their discussion and, as the time goes on they start to think deeper about why they think or believe something. The play deals with politics, equality, pacifism versus militancy and friendship so this has also stirred up some emotions in the room particularly with a view to voting. One audience member claimed he had never voted only to be advised by another audience member that that was the wrong action to take if you want to make a point. Younger members of the audience have also been extremely eloquent in their views and one even wrote a review here. Many discussions, once broken up so people can get home, have carried on in little huddles so that you want to split a little bit of yourself into each group to get the continued thoughts, some of which would not be aired in a more public arena. This has all been an incredably interesting process for the writer as everything has been geared to the text and this is where now, as a performer I want to fly, I want to take the text to another level, to play the subtext, to find moments within the characters minds and thought processes where each other knows what the other might say. We have two more development performances on the 24, 25th of this month and two days in the rehearsal room with the script. This time we are expecting something bigger than just a tweak or a cut speech, this time Natalie is doing something ‘big’ and we don’t know what that will be. I do know that The Orchard at Plymouth will not be The Orchard that played Exeter, or Bodmin, or Teignmouth. In that respect each audience has been witness to a unique night at the theatre, never to be repeated in that mode again, and I don’t just mean the ephemerality of live performance but a different text to speak each time. Yet for the next two performances I have no idea what the text will be and that, my friends, is truely exciting.

The Orchard plays The Barbican Theatre Plymouth on 24th April @ 7.30pm http://www.barbicantheatre.co.uk/event-details/?eid=15826

and Appley Pavilion Somerset on 25th April @7.30pm – tickets on the door, contact avrilsilk@aol.com for information