Workshops for young creatives

A series of weekly online workshops at Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake will provide young people aged between 14 and 18 years old who may not otherwise have access to the theatre industry an opportunity to explore roles in the theatre with practical insight from professionals who work in the field.

As the theatre industry continues to face huge challenges, Theatre by the Lake remains committed to its work with young people to provide opportunities for them to take part in creative activities, develop new skills and to provide insights into theatre-making.

This opportunity will see young budding actors and creative young people working with seasoned professionals, including: Kash Arshad, Director; Tatty Hennessy, Playwright; Oscar Toeman, Director, John Wilkinson, Director; Chi San Howard, Movement Director; providing an extensive oversight of roles within the creative industry in a range of fun and active sessions.

Each theatre professional will lead a workshop in their own specialist field encouraging participants to actively take part and, afterward, quiz them in a Q&A session which will give everyone an opportunity to explore the experts career to date.

The programme has been curated and led by Cumbrian theatre director, Lexie Ward.

These fun and relaxed workshops just require a computer or smart phone and internet connection, and nothing else that wouldn’t be found at home. They run from Monday 8 February – Monday 29 March,

To book the eight week series (at a cost of £48) visit the website (online booking only), or for more information about the programme contact lexie.ward@theatrebythelake.com

A limited number of bursaries are available. For more information and how to apply contact claire.dunk@theatrebythelake.com

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Come and visit Japan….

An opportunity to experience authentic Japanese culture is being offered by Théatre Lapis with Kuwento – 物語 (read as Monogatari): Revisited Tales of Japan and the Philippines, an online performance created through the collaboration between artists in the UK, Japan, France and Manila.

Written by Nozomi Abe and directed by Yojiro Ichikawa, it’s a digital storytelling exploration of Japanese folktales told in English, for children and all audiences all over the world. The aim is to raise and increase awareness of Japan, and its culture, and to invite the audience to the world of Japanese aesthetics.

It features three well-known Japanese folktales; The Tale of Princess Kaguya, Momotaro, and The Fisher Boy Urashima. These tales of love, adventure, and wonder — cultural masterpieces and treasures of Japan — have been passed down from generation to generation, imparting wisdom, igniting imagination, and entertaining audiences of all ages.

The online release will be on the Theatre Lapis Youtube page [https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-dvcdOiqmr-N06xn57oR_g] from December 18 featuring renowned Filipino actor and master storyteller Bodjie Pascua, international theatre artists Charley Magalit, Earle Figuracion, Natsumi Kuroda, Haruko Sekiya, Juna Shai, Kaya Yuzuki, Sok-ho Trinh, Paul Reynolds, and Melisa Camba.

The project is supported by The Japan Foundation, Manila, and is an international, cross-collaboration among Japanese, British, French and Filipino artists from different corners of the globe. Overcoming challenges of the isolation forced by COVID-19, the project seeks to create innovative ways of sharing stories even in a remote setup.

Théatre Lapis premiered on the New York stage in 2012, and has been creating productions internationally. Its aim is to question traditional boundaries including those that exist between musical and straight plays, between western and eastern cultures, and to seek other frontiers. Théatre Lapis is under the artistic direction of Yojiro Ichikawa.

Inclusive project wins top award for Battersea Arts Centre

Battersea Arts Centre has been named the 2020 overall winner and awarded the Community and Experiencing Culture prize from New London Architecture (NLA). The annual awards celebrate the very best in architecture, planning and development in the capital,  and this marks five awards in recent weeks which pay tribute to the community-driven vision at the foundation of a 12-year collaboration with Stirling Prize-winning architects Haworth Tompkins. The partnership project has opened up the building and led to the development of flagship Battersea Arts Centre programmes such as the BAC Beatbox Academy, the Scratch Hub and The Agency.

The international jury of architects, critics and cultural figures said: “The inclusive nature of the project signifies a new community-centred era for cultural buildings. It wasn’t just a restoration. It was a dedication to innovation, to craft, yet a really thoughtful way of evoking the spaces that were there before. You can read the story of the building by looking at it. It communicates to the visitor on so many levels and does that by being of service to a community.”

Architecture critic Andreas Ruby added:  “I also like the interpretation of what culture is. It’s not this kind of highbrow exclusive club kind of culture where you’re happy to be chosen while others are not. It’s integral and it’s inclusive and a kind of statement for our time.”

Battersea Arts Centre: celebrating creativity

In 2006, Battersea Arts Centre and Haworth Tompkins embarked on an ambitious capital project by applying the principles of developing a new show, Scratch, to the renovation of the building. The aim has been to open up the Lavender Hill premises into a vibrant, welcoming and more accessible hub, and to become one of the most flexible venues for performance in the countryTheatre artists, audiences and the local community have taken part by testing out and feeding back on ideas to reimagine the possibilities for the physical space, which all celebrated the rich and radical heritage of the former Town Hall building. 

During Punchdrunk’s groundbreaking, immersive performance of The Masque of the Red Death in 2007, disused spaces were opened up and audiences invited to follow their curiosity and explore every corner of the Grade II* listed site. Today, performances can take place in any corner of the building, the architectural innovations giving artists the freedom to take creative risks.

Last week, Director Suri Krishnamma and his crew won a Royal Television Society Craft & Design Award for masterfully realising an immersive theatrical journey through Battersea Arts Centre on screen. Performance Live: The Way Out (Arts Council England/BBC Arts/Battersea Arts Centre) was shot in an unbroken, continuous take and described by judges as “an astonishing technical feat” and a “seamless piece of storytelling”. The film is available to watch here

Thanks to the National Lottery and a range of corporate and individual funders, the £13.3m redevelopment effort has seen the Victorian fabric of the building conserved while ensuring its future as a resilient cultural hub. A small outdoor seating area has been transformed into The Courtyard, hailed as the UK’s most intimate open-air theatre structure. This allowed Battersea to be one of the very first venues to re-open after the first lockdown, hosting live comedy gigs to in-person audiences during the summer.

In 2015, before the capital project was completed, the building’s flagship auditorium was destroyed by a fire. This devastating set-back provided another moment for evolution. Out of the ashes, the Lower Hall area was redesigned into a new creative co-working spaceThe Scratch Hub has provided a home for local businesses, start-ups, artists, creative companies, charities and social enterprises in a COVID-secure environment this year.

When restoring the Grand Hall, Haworth Tompkins devised an innovative, lattice structure, inspired by the pattern of the original ceiling, which has made way for a more advanced technical infrastructure. The stunning atmosphere and enhanced audio capabilities of the space allowed Battersea Arts Centre to welcome new partnerships in a year defined by isolation. This includes the London Philharmonia, who made their Battersea Arts Centre debut with a socially distanced, classical concert series, The Philharmonia Sessions. There was also Live from the Grand Hall, two-way live streamed music and comedy gigs throughout October. Audiences tuning in from home were beamed in real-time into the auditorium to interact with the performers.

The process of opening up the building brought new possibilities to the artistic programme, but also renewed Battersea Arts Centre’s link with its heritage as a space for gathering, fostering new collaborations and radical ideas. Since it first opened in 1983, the old Town Hall has been a home to the Trade Unions movement, the campaign for Women’s Suffrage, and the first Black Mayor of London, John Archer. Its existence has also been repeatedly, and fiercely, defended by the local community since first being threatened with demolition in 1965. 

No faith, no hope, no charity: why isolation is making us selfish

Put the kettle on, make a pot of tea, for one. Plan dinner: no need to consider anyone else’s dietary needs and allergies. Eat what I want, watch what I want, listen to what I want. Discuss it all with only the teapot to disagree with me.

And does this self-centredness make me happy? Of course not. Helping others, doing things for others, not only makes you happy, it promotes a sense of purpose and satisfaction, lowers blood pressure, eases physical pain. But altruism is outlawed. I’m not allowed to do anything for anyone else. I can’t make a coffee for a neighbour, I can’t hug a friend who’s sad, I can’t drive my elderly neighbour to the shops. I can’t feed people.

When my sons were young, the house would always be full, with other people’s children, other parents, staying for impromptu meals, staying for sleepovers. Since my divorce, and the boys leaving home, my home has still been open to others. I love to create a comfortable space for friends to stay, I love to cook dinners, to squeeze as many folk as possible around my tiny kitchen table. No matter what THEIR experience, this was making me happy. As did those small kindnesses we do almost without thinking: watching someone’s bag on the train while they go to the buffet car; offering a lift to a hitch-hiker; holding a door open; standing for someone on the Tube.

Work, too, made me happy, using my writing and creative skills to help promote the businesses of invariably lovely people. Now those businesses are closed, or limited, or struggling, and I have no work. I’ve used the time to start writing a book, which satisfies the creative urge, but it’s all about self-satisfaction, and that nowhere near matches the satisfaction of doing it for others. My other great joy came from supporting small, provincial and fringe theatres, previewing and reviewing their productions to raise their profile and, perhaps, sell a few more seats. No payment, the occasional free ticket, but an immense feeling of satisfaction, of happiness.

Lockdown and isolation have left us bereft of faith, hope and charity. There’s no faith in an administration which has fed us lies, bombast and false promise. Hope is being eroded day by day because of that. And charity means so much more than giving money. Charity means love and caring. Charity is the enjoyment in doing my sons’ laundry (“please, bring some dirty washing” I beg them when they’re planning to visit); the warm feeling when I can invite inside a neighbour who’s lost her key; the joy of offering food and companionship to those who arrive at the door.

I’m sure there are couples, and families, who are by now heartily sick of each other’s company, but at least they have more than a teapot to talk to. Solo lockdown is mentally unsettling. I’m a social animal; I need the presence and stimulus of other people to verify my own existence, quite the opposite of Descartes’ I think therefore I am. I’m weary of being the sole occupant of my universe, of having no one else to think about – worry about – apart from me.

The notion of the exclusive support bubble to help single people is fatuous. If we had one person in our lives who wanted to spend time with us, exclusively, we wouldn’t be single. Instead, we have wide circles of friends, for different occasions and different activities, and they each may well have partners and children and extended families. So we sit here and talk to the teapot. “Spend as much time outside as possible,” said a wise friend, and indeed in the spring and summer that was the key to survival, not just the long walks and runs, but the companionship in the neighbourhood as families sat outside in their own gardens and chattered over the fence. Now I open the front door onto an empty street, a wet, cold, grey landscape that entices me out for a short time only.

A wonderful opportunity arose; I offered to take my neighbour’s son to school a few days a week. He’s great company, a pleasure to have around, and it’s a rare opportunity to be useful. His mum is grateful, but the joy is mine. When ‘this’ is over…if only I can resurrect a morsel of hope? …. the kettle will be on, the door will be open, dinner will be on the table. And yes, please, bring your dirty laundry too.

All Manchester wants for Christmas


FIFTY ARTISTS. SIX STREETS. TWENTY-FIVE PERFORMANCES.
ONE GREATER MANCHESTER.
A DIGITAL ADVENTURE INSPIRED BY THE VOICES OF THE REGION.

Created by an eclectic group of professional artists and community participants, the countdown to Christmas from the Royal Exchange Theatre will be filled with stories that celebrate the streets and voices of Greater Manchester in All I want for Christmas. From tales of contemporary city-centre tower blocks to the terraces of Glebe Street in Leigh, each day behind an advent calendar door, a short section of a story will be revealed, stories filled with hope, joy and Christmas magic from some of the most inspiring artists from, and connected to, Greater Manchester. It’s free to watch from Dec 1; just wait for the door to open and the story will begin.

The Royal Exchange, Manchester’s iconic theatre

Audiences will find the six short films scattered across the 24 days of an advent calendar, with an extra performance for Christmas Day. Set in the tower blocks of Manchester City Centre, on Cheetham Hill Road (Cheetham), Gigg Lane (Bury), Glebe Street (Leigh), Henrietta Street (Ashton-Under -Lyne) and Grey Mare Lane (Beswick) are stories of the communities and people who breathe life into these unassuming Greater Manchester streets. All I want for Christmas celebrates the Exchange’s city centre home and the areas of Greater Manchester that are part of the Theatre’s region-wide Local Exchange programme.

Bringing together film makers, directors, musicians, writers, performers, dancers, sound, costume and lighting designers, producers, dramaturgs, community partners and the staff of the Royal Exchange Theatre, All I want for Christmas has been created by artists including Hollywood actors and community ambassadors.  The team includes Gloria Akpoke, Liz Aniteye, Andy Barry, Hafsah Aneela Bashir, Suzanne Bell, Anna Berentzen, Alexandra Faye Braithwaite, Jude Christian, Philippa Crossman, Russell T Davies, Akiel Dowe, Tracey Dunk, Gordon Emerson, Juliana Fapohunda (I M Pact), Sophie Galpin, Annie Giles-Quinn, Conor Glean, Shobna Gulati, Cherylee Houston, Nimmo Ismail, Sonia Jalaly, Kit Jordan, Sabiha Khan, Zak Khan, Kieran Knowles, Nana Kofi Kufuor, Nathan Lea, Debbie Leach, Houmi Miura, Wunmi Mosaku, Ayanda (Yandass) Ndlovu (I M Pact), Farai Nhakaniso, Kate O’Donnell, Emily Paris (I M Pact), Maxine Peake, Ramina Radmard, Hannah Sands, Bryony Shanahan, Gurjeet Singh, Liam Steers, Sophie Stone, Ben Sullivan, Testament, TIME (Terriss Zure (I M Pact)), Chantell Walker, Don Warrington, Roy Alexander Weise, Becky Wilkie, John R Wilkinson, Carys Williams, Benedict Wong, Fred Yeomans and Maria Zemlinskaya.

Free on the Royal Exchange website https://www.royalexchange.co.uk/ and social media channels.  

1 – 25 December 2020
From 10.30am daily

A love letter to playwrights

After gaining a rapidly growing fan-base during its successful first season, Script in Hand will return this autumn to dissect scripts, talk play texts and explore characters from a mix of well-known playwrights paired with lesser known gems. Co-hosted by up-and-coming directors and script enthusiasts Lexie Ward and Meg Robinson, season 2 of Script in Hand will delve into a diverse array of 12 hand-picked plays and will see guest speakers join the duo throughout the season. 

Kicking off with POSH by Olivier award-winning playwright Laura Wade on October 7, Lexie and Meg will be joined by the first special guest of the season, director and JMK Runner Up 2019 Oscar Toeman to discuss what makes POSH the perfect play for the current times.

After covering a collection of beautifully-written plays such as The NetherRoss and Rachel and Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner in Season 1, Season 2 will throw the spotlight on ear for eye by Debbie Tucker Green, Guards at the Taj by Rajiv Joseph, Mr Burns by Anne Washburn and many more. 

Lexie Ward, co-founder of Script in Hand, says: “Playwrights really are the most talented and genius of folk, and this is basically our love letter to them and their work. We’ve spent our down-time putting together an incredible programme of wonderful scripts and have managed to secure some special guests who will bring a fresh approach and new angle to the discussion. There’s clearly an appetite for a podcast like this and we hope our listeners enjoy discovering new plays or revisiting ones they’re familiar with at a new level.”

Season 2 will also see an array of special guests grace the ‘podcast couch’ including directors Kash Arshad and Alasdair Hunter, and playwright Tatty Hennessy, author of A Hundred Words for the Snow, who will provide a backstage pass to the inner workings of her text. 

Script in Hand is available across all podcasting platforms including Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts; search ‘Script in Hand’. Listen again to the whole of season 1 on demand and join the team for season 2 on October 7 with a new episode released every Wednesday. 

Going undercover in Manchester

AN afternoon/evening of comedy and variety is set to be staged in what is claimed to be the world’s first undercover drive-in theatre in Manchester.

The family-friendly socially distanced event on Saturday, October 3, starting at 2pm, features stars from Britain’s Got Talent show including ‘Lost Voice Guy’ Lee Ridley, Ben Hart, Steve Royle and Nabil Abdul Rashid.

Lee was the first comedian to win Britain’s Got Talent in 2018. Prior to that he had made his first stand-up appearance in February 2012, and has performed on The Royal Variety Show, Live At The Apollo and the New Year edition of The Last Leg. He also appeared at over fifty venues across the country on his debut UK tour.

 In 2017, magician Ben made it to the final with his outstanding close-up conjuring skills. Before that success, As a 16-yearold Ben was awarded the prestigious Young Magician of the Year and is one of the youngest ever members of the Inner Magic Circle. He has starred on TV in Killer MagicBen Hart’s Life Hacks HoaxNow You See ItThe One ShowLen Goodman’s Partners in Rhyme.

 This year Steve wowed the show’s TV judges with his comedy juggling skills. Steve also an actor and writer is a regular headline act at The Comedy Store and his television appearances include Phoenix Nights, Max And Paddy’s Road To Nowhere, Peter Kay’s Britain’s Got The Pop Factor…, and Stand-up Britain. He was also featured on the Granada programme Behind The Scenes and That’s Entertainment and was voted Entertainer of the Year at the inaugural Red Rose Awards

Comedian Nabil was one of the judge’s Golden Buzzer act’s this year and will be hoping to go one better at this year’s live semi-finals. In 2010 he became the youngest black comedian to perform stand-up at the Hammersmith Apollo and has performed at Comedy Cafe, Comedy StoreJongleurs and Choice FM Comedy Club and was chosen to perform at the premiere of the film of Omid Djalili’s film The Infidel

Daliso Chaponda, who will compere the event, has appeared at comedy events around the world and is also a writer, creator and host of the Rose d’Or nominated BBC Radio 4 show Citizen of Nowhere.

Tickets are priced at £18 per person and can be purchased by following the link here – driveinside.co.uk

 The event is being held at the pop-up DriveINSIDE Theatre, Medlock Street, Manchester, M15 4GU

DriveINSIDE Theatre

A spokesman for event organiser Gag Reflex said: “When arriving on site at Medlock Street each car will be allocated its own marked area where they will be able to sit in a ‘bubble’ at a safe distance from the next group. LED screens hung over the stage will relay performances and a full PA rig will ensure that everyone will see and hear all the action.

 “Staff will be circulating with soft and alcoholic drinks, and the audience are also welcome to bring your own food and beverages. Anyone wishing to sit outside their vehicle is welcome to bring folding chairs, or there is a hire facility on site. Safety and hygiene will be paramount which includes regular cleaning of the onsite toilets and touch surfaces.”

Peter Devine

Digitally romantic

Theatre by the Lake in Keswick is teaming up with Wise Children to support their live broadcast of Romantics Anonymous.

Wise Children, Bristol Old Vic and Plush Theatricals announced that Emma Rice’s critically-acclaimed musical adaptation of Romantics Anonymous will be performed at Bristol Old Vic, and broadcast live, direct to audience’s homes nationally and globally.

The show will be available to stream as a ‘digital tour’ between Tue 22 and Sat 26 September, following the cancellation of its US tour due to Covid-19.  In a wonderful act of industry solidarity, partner theatres across the world will sell tickets for different nights of the week.  Each night will be tailored to audiences in different parts of the world, and there’ll be a sprinkle of local flavour added before each stream begins.  Theatre by the Lake’s broadcast as part of Scotland and the North’s performance is on Tue 22 September at 7.30pm. 

Other partner theatres include Belgrade Theatre, Berkeley Rep, Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival, Bristol Old Vic, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Derby Theatre, Eden Court Higlands, Exeter Northcott, HOME, Lighthouse Poole, Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse, Marlowe Theatre, New Zealand Festival, Norwich Theatre Royal, Oxford Playhouse, Roay & Derngate, Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Singapore Repertory Theatre, Spoleto Festival USA, St. Ann’s Warehouse, Storyhouse, The Festival Theatre, The Lowry, The Old Vic (where Wise Children are a Company in Residence), Theatr Clwyd, Theatre Royal Bath, Theatre Royal Nottingham, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, York Theatre Royal.

The world premiere of Romantics Anonymous was originally produced by Shakespeare’s Globe for the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse by special arrangement with Radio Mouse Entertainment

Outdoor theatre comes to Battersea

Theatre Lapis is to stage outdoor concert production of a new Japanese-British collaboration musical Pearl and Dagger at the Bandstand in Battersea Park  on Sunday (Aug 16) at 1pm.

Pearl and Dagger is a newly devised musical inspired by a Japanese folktale, and is a  collaboration between British and Japanese artists, combining both Western musical theatre and Japanese tradition.

It tells the story of a young woman overcoming the grief over her deceased mother through the journey to discover the secret of a mysterious island and the meaning of real bravery. The narrative aims to raise and increase awareness of Japan and Japanese culture, and this performance is a short concert version of the show which had its premiere workshop performance at The Other Palace in 2019.

This 30 mins concert version at Battersea Park is an experimental theatre project under the current COVID restrictions.  Says the theatre: “We are exploring how we can connect with the audience and provide them with theatrical sensation in an outdoor environment while strictly following the social distance policy.” Admission is free.

Screen Shot 2020-08-14 at 08.08.38

Pearl  and Dagger – the staged reading 2019 – excerpt
https://youtu.be/RejXzwvAvrI

Further details:
https://theatrelapis.org/pearl-and-dagger-concert/

Apocalypse now….

We hardly need reminding that we are living in uncertain and scary times where the future really is unknown. Across the world, creative industries have been hit hard. Theatres are shut and may be the last public spaces that reopen. Numerous projects and festivals have been cancelled or postponed, leaving hundreds of thousands of creatives in an extended period of little to no income and instability.
Screen Shot 2020-07-30 at 10.15.52

It’s meant that globally people are experiencing rapid change in their lives which can lead to varying degrees of emotional distress and instability with their mental health. “It can truly feel like the world is ending,” says Sophie Rivers who is teaming up with Harpy Productions, joining all the other creatives who are working to keep the arts alive in a virtual medium. “We feel that creative outlets are essential in this time of turbulence.”

So for one night only, a variety of artistic creators will be coming together to stream original theatrical works – all of which will be themed around the Apocalypse and the end of days. Like No Tomorrow: An Apocalypse Anthology, will stream live on 17 August, at 7.30. “We engage this subject, swaddled in real anxiety, with satire, dark humour, and hope. We seek to emphasise the voices and interesting perspectives in our diverse industry,” Sophie says.

The money raised from patrons and the audience members will be directed to The Samaritans Organisation, who provide support to people affected by emotional distress and may just need  someone to talk to. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Samaritans have been actively enhancing their services to accommodate this growing need, as well as establishing a new, confidential support line for NHS and social care workers.

The event is free, but the organisers are asking for optional donations to The Samaritans Foundation.

Harpy Productions are  part of The Thornhill Theatre Space World Wide Fringe Festival, and have a huge array of artists collaborating on this project, with nine pieces of theatre, including monologue, short plays, and spoken word.
“The theme is all about the Apocalypse, which has unfortunately been a relative topic for a while,” says Sophie. “I wanted to turn that real anxiety into art. By doing this event, we are supporting isolated artists, new writing, and an amazing association focused on mental health.”