Exploring The Dream

We are thrilled to be returning to Tokyo this summer to deliver a series of workshops on Acting, the demystification of Shakespeare and the art of storytelling through Theatre.

Very often, when we think of Japanese Theatre, we either think of its traditional forms such as *Noh, *Kabuki and *Bunraku or we think of high tech, off the wall pieces as demonstrated by a recent blog by Kate Beale.

But our journey to Tokyo takes us back to the very core of what Theatre, for us at StoneCrabs, is all about: storytelling and the personal connection an actor has to make with the world of the story in a very special meeting between the objective/want of the character and their own imagination. And this is what we have been asked to bring to Tokyo, a reminder, I suppose, of the humanity of theatre where the actor, the language and the story are the main focus.

Interact2014 StoneCrabs Theatre in Tokyo

Franko, Kwong and Tereza with the actors – Interact2014 StoneCrabs Theatre in Tokyo. Photo by Alan Figueiredo-Stow

We have had many meetings where we have discussed, planned and devised games, exercises (some old, some newly conceived) towards exploring Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (the selected text) with the groups, (we are working with a very young group of actors who are still learning and another group of more experienced actors, some who have worked with us in the past). Our main preoccupation is that the games and exercises we will be using will help us connect with the text in such a way to unlock our imagination and support the creative construction of a new experimental ‘Dream’. Our starting point for the work is always imagery and energy games, as we find that these allow for an interaction that will go beyond language, although language/voice/sound in itself is, for us, very important too – particularly a language that is highly poetic, sonorous and extravagant such as Shakespeare’s; we will play, deconstruct, but we will use the text with the original words.

To quote Cicely Berry “The more techno-speak takes over, the more we will disable our belief in language. Words have the power to disturb, surprise, delight and provoke, and they are happening in the moment – and between people.” – which summarises what we are trying to achieve with our work in Tokyo, to demystify Shakespeare and allow us actors, directors, theatre makers to rediscover the power of the word, and how that helps us to create and engage an audience craving for old tales.

Actors exploring the text with movement - Interact2014 Tokyo

Actors exploring the text with movement – Interact2014 Toky. Photo by Alan Figueiredo-Stow

None of us speak Japanese and the work is carried out through our wonderful translator/assistant director, Ecco-san; Ecco had spent time in London as a theatre practitioner, and this made our work very fluent as with speed, the conduct of our discussions, floor exercises and scene rehearsals were smooth and joyful. However, there might be some nuances and subtlety of language that get ‘lost in translation’, which often resulted in hilarious misconstruction.

We are ‘Exploring The Dream’ through the love relationships in the story: Theseus & Hippolyta; Hermia & Lysander, Helena and Demetrius, and Oberon and Titania, and have thrown in a bit of Puck for some fairy cheek. Our actors launched into the work with great aplomb, excited by the playful energy of the text, journeys of the characters and discovering thoughts, objectives, imagery, and the physicality of text and performance.

It is interesting to hear in Japanese Shakespeare’s text of iambic pentameter, rhyme, blank verse, intense imagery, in a language that has a very different spoken rhythm and sounds from English, let alone Shakespearean language. In the translation we are working from, much of the rhyme is lost, and certainly the iambic. What to make out of this? So, we concentrated on the ‘meaning’ of dialogue, the description of situations (as by Titania to Oberon of their quarrel), the imagery and its connection to the words spoken; we encouraged the sharing out of thoughts to the audience, and immerse ourselves into a world of magic that reflects the world of humankind. In understanding that when we ‘dream’ of things beyond the clouds, our lives take on the world of Oberon and Titania, are connected by Bottom’s ‘change’ to that world.

Interact2014 exploring a dream - miuko (helena)  and yuri (hermia)

Actresses Miuko and Yuri explore the characters Helena and Hermia. Photo by Alan Figueiredo-Stow

The time here in Tokyo makes real our ‘dream’ of taking theatre back to its storytelling roots, connecting the personal to the magical, with a little help from our Japanese friends. The weather has been kind to us too: hot sunny days with warm balmy nights, some bento to warm our stomachs and light sushi in the day to keep us going.

The process of exchanging ideas, techniques and work continues beyond our time here: as we leave Tokyo – we start reflecting on this ‘dream’ and renewing our plans to continue the work when we return in 2015.

“I have had a dream, past the wit of a man to say what dream it was” – Bottom

Franko Figueiredo, Kwong Loke & Tereza Araujo

*Noh is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 13th century. Many characters are masked, with men playing male and female roles. Noh Theatre

*Kabuki is a classical Japanese dance-drama. Kabuki theatre is known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers. Kabuki Theatre

*Bunraku is a form of traditional Japanese Puppet Theatre, founded in Osaka in 1684. Bunraku Theatre

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Why should a young person apply to the Young Directors Training Programme?

Applying to the Young Directors Training Programme with StoneCrabs Theatre Company has completely changed my life. As an aspiring Theatre Director, I felt this opportunity was not to be missed, and exactly a year on after I applied I know I could not have been more right.

The programme itself is nurturing, welcoming and, crucially, it facilitates you to get out of it as much as you put in. I imagine every year the programme must feel completely different because the participants make the programme what it is. In my experience, I have made some friends for life and a solid network of young creatives to start my career with.

StoneCrabs Young Directors Festival: 'Luna Park' directed by Hattie Coupe

StoneCrabs Young Directors Festival: ‘Luna Park’ directed by Hattie Coupe

What can be guaranteed is that you will be working with a group of people who have been individually selected for their work ethic, enthusiasm and skills. It is up to you to find out each other’s strengths and work as a company in order to produce the Young Directors Festival, which is such an exciting feature of the training programme. You are pushed to work efficiently within a strict time and financial budget. These kinds of challenges expose our unknown strengths and weaknesses – an invaluable process in order to grow as people as well as theatre makers.

The play, which I chose to direct for the Young Directors Festival 2014 called Luna Park, was selected with one other play, The Man Who (dir. Ellie Chadwick), to be taken for further development and presented as a double bill at Canada Water Culture Space. It was an amazing experience to see how our work could transfer from one venue to another and the opportunities and limitations of the touring process.

StoneCrabs Young Directors Festival: 'Luna Park' directed by Hattie Coupe

StoneCrabs Young Directors Festival: ‘Luna Park’ directed by Hattie Coupe

A month or so after the training programme had finished; I was awarded the Young Director Award from the Equity Foundation in the form of paid employment as an Assistant Director.

I feel I have had such a successful year with StoneCrabs Theatre Company and I could not have asked for a more supportive start to my chosen career path, unfortunately a rarity for young people today. It is an infuriating position to be in; knowing you want to work as a Theatre Director but not being able to see how you can do it, never mind trying to explain your plan to your friends or family. StoneCrabs Theatre Company have given me the space to train and experiment as an artist which have in turn exposed me to opportunities that I would not have even known about if I never applied. My advice is to apply, and be persistent in chasing your aspirations, as it could be the difference between achieving them or not.

Hattie Coupe

Hattie Coupe

 

Hattie Coupe

StoneCrabs Young Director 2014

This years StoneCrabs Young Directors Programme is now open. Click here for more information and to apply. 

Theatre Noir premières in London -‘Hamlyn’ by Juan Mayorga at The Space

It has already been five years since I took part in the StoneCrabs Young Director’s Training Programme and since graduating in 2009, I have developed my own craft as a Director and have seen other Directors that were on my course excel in their practice and grow as artists.

The cast of 'Hamlyn' in rehearsals

The cast of ‘Hamlyn’ in rehearsals

Mayorga’s language, with its constant threatening subtext, is a real highlight” – The Stage on ‘Nocturnal’ (2009) The course had a strong impact on me, as it gave me the opportunity to develop my directing skills, be aware of the practicalities when working on a play, and most importantly, it was the push I needed to get into the Directing world. But the best part of the course has been the strong support that the Artistic Directors, Franko and Kwong, have shown me all these years. This year, I managed to get a project, that is very close to my heart, programmed at The Space: ‘Hamlyn’ by Spanish playwright, Juan Mayorga*.  And From day 1, (when I was considering venues, making the Arts Council application, figuring out Casting and developing a Marketing Strategy), to now, Stonecrabs have always been there, guiding me and providing me with inspirational support.

The cast of 'Hamlyn' in rehearsals

The cast of ‘Hamlyn’ in rehearsals

compelling creepiness…nightmarish power” – The Guardian on ‘Nocturnal’ (2009) ‘Hamlyn’ has won several awards and national prizes in Spain, including Spain’s National Theatre Award. Mayorga’s work is quite new to the UK, until today only his play ‘Nocturnal’ has seen a full production in London and this will be ‘Hamlyn’s’ UK première. Mayorga’s work has been previously described as ‘Theatre Noir’, if such thing exists, his work is most definitely compelling and exciting. ’Hamlyn’ has been on my mind for some time now, and it is thrilling to finally bring it to the British stage. I am currently starting week 2 of rehearsals with an incredible team and a strong passion to share this powerful and engrossing story with an audience. Can’t wait to see you there!

Sandra Maturana

Director

In the meantime check out Hamlyn’s trailer: http://www.hamlyn.org.uk/videos.html The Space currently has an EARLY BIRD ticket offer – 2 tickets for the price of 1 when you book between 22 and 26 April and quote RAT

*Juan Mayorga was born on April 6th 1965 in Madrid. He studied in Munster, Paris and Berlin gaining a Doctorate in philosophy. He taught mathematics in Madrid and now teaches Playwrighting at Madrid’s Real Escuela Superior de Arte Dramatic. Founding member of the El Astillero theatrical collective. In 2007 he was awarded the Premio Nacional de Teatro by the Spanish Government

Creating Space for Young Directors

After finishing university I moved home to South East London and got a place on the StoneCrabs Young Directors Program in 2011, something that I am incredibly grateful for. I then went on to successfully gain support from the John Fernald Award, which allowed me to continue my training with StoneCrabs and join multiple productions as an Assistant Director. I have since gone on to get paid employment as an Assistant Director as well as directing my own projects.

I really think that programs for directors, like StoneCrabs’, are so important for the ecology of performing arts in this country. If you look at acting for example, there are hundreds of ways for actors to train and systems in place to help actors to grow as artists. From an early age there are clubs and summer camps and youth theatres to help teach actors the skills of their craft.

Asphalt Kiss ' at The New Diorama Theatre - Director Franko Figueiredo, Assistant Director Ferghal Crowley

Asphalt Kiss ‘ at The New Diorama Theatre – Director Franko Figueiredo, Assistant Director Ferghal Crowley

But the same does not widely exist to help directors. I know of two regional theatre companies which last month advertised training positions for directors; the first had 200 applicants per place and the second had had over 160 per place. This clearly shows that there is a huge demand for director training but that there are a precious few places to support a healthy pool of emerging directing talent. Where the StoneCrabs program was key was that it combined the skills of directing with the logistics of producing; all the ingredients of being a theatre-maker.

It is now two years exactly since I completed the Young Directors Program, which for me culminated with a staged reading of Simon Stephens’ “County Music”. The program was a perfect introduction to the art of directing, but it was only an introduction. The past two years have been as valuable as the first few months for me learning about what it is to work with actors and how to tell a good story in a theatrical way.

Currently I am very interested in lots of Chinese plays and aim to direct perhaps one or two in the not too distant future. Having lived and worked in Beijing, I really want to bring out a side of China we just never see in the news.

'Country Music' by Simon Stephens directed by Ferghal Crowley at The Albany Theatre

‘Country Music’ by Simon Stephens directed by Ferghal Crowley at The Albany Theatre

StoneCrabs is a great company for bringing diverse and unseen work into the UK and I think there is a real appetite for international work in London.

For any directors that are in the early stages of their career, there are a few websites that should become essential viewing for opportunities and ways of meeting people in a similar position to you.  Ideastap (www.ideastap.com) has regular “briefs” that can be applied for as well as the Ideastap Spa which offers workshops and seminars on all sorts of topics. The Young Vic’s Directors Network (http://directors.youngvic.org/) is one of the best organisations to sign up to as it offers training, networking and also has frequent jobs posted. Get Into Theatre (http://getintotheatre.org/) has some very good general information as well as lots of opportunities for people interested in working in theatre. And I also really like going to some of the Platform discussions at the National Theatre (www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/) where you can hear a bit more about a show’s creative team and where their ideas came from.
Ferghal Crowley
Associate Assistant Director
StoneCrabs Theatre Company