Tag Archives: university of plymouth

More Coffee with Vera

Coffee with Vera returns to the Plymouth History Festival during May, so if you haven’t had the pleasure of coffee with Vera yet, come along, it’s free. The show runs for 50 minutes and then afterwards there is the all important conversations with the coffee and, if we are lucky the kosher cake!

WHEN ? Wednesday 11.5.16 @ 11am & Saturday 14.5.26 @ 7pm in the Plymouth Synagogue, Catherine Street PL1 2AD

I believe Wednesday is getting pretty full but if you want to come please book a place via this number 07753 267616 or phccaretaker@yahoo.co.uk

Coffee with Vera is a performance I made as part of my MRes in Theatre & Performance at Plymouth University.



Taking the specific out of Site-specific


Vera in the Vestry at the Jewish Museum, London

Taken on a phone camera by a member of the audience we will forgo the quality and look at what the picture tells us.I was invited to perform my Plymouth University MRes practice as research piece at the Jewish Museum after performing at the Plymouth Synagogue – the site it was inspired by and intended for. So what does one do when you take the specificity out of a site-specific performance? In this instance I was performing in a room that usually housed talks and readings, it was geared up for this activity. Part of my performance involves taking family photographs out of a suitcase and placing them on a table but as I had an AV system at my disposal I thought I would take advantage and project images behind me as I related to them. I had originally thought I would just project an image of the vestry, the room I used for my Plymouth performance, behind me and imagine I was within the room and not change anything in my text. Then as I went over my script I realised that there were things I had to explain to an audience who were not actually sitting in the vestry. Things that the Plymouth audience witnessed first hand. Therefore before the ‘performance’ started I gave a brief talk to contextualise the vestry, it’s place within the city and why I had come to make the performance there. We decided to call the performance ‘a performance talk’ which seemed to fit well within the space that is set up for that. Having decided to contextualise it I then took advantage of the fact I could project larger images behind me and continued to produce images to help the audience visualise my content. Therefore, in the end I constantly referred to my performance in the vestry and didn’t try and pretend I was there. I have to say that my performance was geared up to allow those references. I had always referred to Vera in the Vestry as ‘starting a cultural conversation’ and felt that I could just interject at times without taking anything away from the text. There was even someone in the audience who had been with me at a point I refer to in the performance so I asked her if she remembered, which also highlighted the conversational aspect. The feed back was really positive, people liked the ‘talk’ aspect and the information about the Plymouth synagogue, indeed the wider context about Plymouth and where the synagogue sits within the city. I had feared that would come across as a history lesson.

In Plymouth I welcomed the audience into the vestry as if there were coming to a coffee morning and I was the host, I offered coffee and cake and introduced people to one another if I saw fit – just like a host would if people were arriving at their home and introductions were needed.


In the museum I hadn’t any coffee or cakes but the event space was directly next to the museum cafe which worked really well. The audience arrived and I told them to get a coffee and introduced them to whoever was waiting in the cafe. This had been the interesting part in Plymouth for me, people on arrival were always questioning whether I was in character as Vera or Ruth. They couldn’t work it out, I was greeting them as Ruth but seemed to be attired as someone else. This made me question my ‘performance’ as myself and how being a host is actually a performance in our everyday life. In the museum I was replicating this part of my performance by greeting people as they arrived and keeping up the appearance of being Ruth whilst obviously about to be someone else.

And now Vera is going to Latitude and will be performing in a caravan or tent. How will I adapt for an audience of five? Well, I will remember the campsite retreat where I did a ten minute performance and take inspiration from that. I think a 1950’s flask is in order, to give my audience some coffee and I’ll have some Kit Kats handy. Watch this space and I will tell you how it goes. Oh and keep your fingers crossed for good weather, Vera doesn’t camp very well.

Coffee with Vera in the Vestry


COFFEE WITH VERA IN THE VESTRY: sharing a cultural conversation

A solo site-specific performance                    Created and performed by Ruth Mitchell

Wednesday 22nd May @ 3pm and 7pm       Sunday 26th May @ 12 noon

In the vestry of the Plymouth Synagogue    Catherine Street, Plymouth

A performance of stories  about identity and heritage from the oldest Ashkenazi Synagogue in continuous use in the English speaking world. Join Ruth and Vera Jockleson, chair of the Ladies Guild, for an informal coffee morning.                                  This is a free event and is part of Ruth’s MRes in Theatre & Performance at Plymouth University.

I will also be giving a performance at the Jewish Museum in London, on Sunday 30th June.

Documenting practice – Lee Miller

Just attended my first lecture, although not strictly for me – it was an undergraduate gig but a few MA students gate crashed, actually we were invited to go because yes it was precisely for us but I’m a student now and want to sound anarchic. The lecture was ‘Documenting Practice’ something I’ve not done previously, I’ve evaluated and written journals but the idea that I can document as I go along is a great way forward. When I was an undergraduate it was all notebooks and pencils, no youtube or flickr to record my work but this is precisely what we are being encouraged to do. Out of over 70 students in the lecture theatre only 2 of us were on wordpress so I’m reckoning the aforesaid blog tool will get a large hit of new blogs from Plymouth at around teatime today.

These online web tools are there to help us capture and store our work and ultimately share our research so here’s the list

Twitter, wordpress, tumblr, vimeo, youtube, flickr, pinterest, prezi, scribd, google+, feedly

I’m just going to tweet this as part of my online presence in the class and will leave a longer thought at the end of the first week.

Hidden City Handbook

My MRes has partly come out of my involvement, over the last five years, with site specific events within the city of Plymouth. In 2008 I got together with another theatre maker, Rachel Aspinwall to create something in our joint home city, the result was a week long festival of new writing performed in buildings across the city that were either hidden away or had a hidden story behind them. As a result we were commissioned by the University of Plymouth to write a book about the process.

here is the beginning of the book explaining how we started Hidden City

Points of Departure

When we first started to exchange ideas for ‘making something happen’ in the city in which we lived, we were influenced by our backgrounds as performers, theatre makers and culture seekers in other cities across the world. What we found to be lacking in Plymouth were opportunities for the talented emergent and established artists of the city and region to develop their work, work together (or even discover each other‘s existence), and to have their work showcased locally. How could the city’s cultural community grow and flourish if so many of its artists left, or felt the need to make work elsewhere once they reached a certain level of development? We set up our company, Part Exchange Co, in direct response to what we saw as a ‘gap in the market’ in order to offer Plymouth and its regional artists (many of whom regularly travel elsewhere to develop and present their work in a professional context) the opportunity to create and network in their own city.

Deciding to embrace the opportunity that being a non-building based company gave us, we chose to focus on making site inspired work outside of conventional venues and reach non-traditional arts audiences in the process. The question was: what should our first project be?

Plymouth was – and still is – undergoing enormous re-development. Buildings and sites of interest, including many that were standing empty, were all fair game. Making a response in performance to this fast changing city seemed a way to intervene in the giant game of building and knocking down of sandcastles that was going on before our eyes. With our shared background in working in new theatre writing, we settled on the idea of a festival of site-inspired performance that would prioritise working with the city’s and region’s writers and artists, bringing them together in exciting new collaborations and in engagement with a city and  its changing landscape. As we traveled the city’s streets looking over potential sites for our festival, we found that the most intriguing places, those that spoke to us, were those that had been hidden away. These sites included both grand and gracious buildings and far less distinctive structures that also happened to house extraordinary history. Something in their desertedness left space for the imagination and, as we discovered more about how they had come to be the way they were, we learnt a tale of another city, of many other cities, different to the one that we thought we knew.

It was about at this point that the city itself started to intervene. Once it had started to speak, it was impossible to stop it, talking ten to the dozen, gathering pace, taking us on a helter-skelter ride of serendipitous meetings and revelatory moments.                                  The city of Plymouth is a fascinating entity. It is an imposing military town bristling with war ships and nuclear submarines, has a quaint medieval quarter full of cafes and antiques shops, is a post war planner’s dream of pedestrianised shopping streets and ring roads, and is an elegant seaside retreat in one of the most beautiful natural harbors in the British Isles. At the time we were developing our ideas, it also had the ward with the highest indicators of deprivation in the country. Its public image did not do justice to the complexity of its diverse identities. Blossoming under our investigative gaze, the city best known for Sir Francis Drake, the Blitz and the Pilgrim Fathers was revealing a host of other histories. This was no longer just about what we wanted; it was also about what the hidden city was demanding.

So the Hidden City Festival found its name and its aim, grounded in and inspired by Plymouth, its communities, its built and natural environment and its history and heritage.