Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Music in 'The Nine Lessons of Caliban'

We have not up-dated our rehearsal blog for some time because we have been focussing more on making films that describe and show the processes we have used to make The Tempest. These films have been made by Ann Pugh of Redweather Productions and document our work on The Tempest, including our devising process and rehearsals.

Our hopes and plans for these films are to design and build an educational web resource that will include such materials as scripts, poetry, art work, design notes and plans as well as useful links and other resources. We will also have suggestions and ideas for group discussion and practical activities, which we hope will help students, practitioners, teachers and others to engage further with how we make theatre, inform their own work and learn more about us as a company.

For this post on our blog, we thought people may be interested to know about a workshop for The Nine Lessons of Caliban that we had with Sarah Moody in September 2010.

We did not have long to rehearse for The Nine Lessons but the script developed quite quickly, with Claire Williamson and the Firebird Poets working together to write new lines and links between poems to create a complete and coherent piece of work. We also used a couple of extracts from Shakespeare's The Tempest, Caliban's famous 'Be not afeard' speech and used some of the insults and names that Prospero calls

Caliban: moon calf, monster, slave, hag-seed mixed with some of the names that members of Firebird have been called in the past: subnormal, low grade and brain lost. This made concrete the connections we had made between The Lying Doctors and The Tempest. Please see News blog for more information about this connection. 
Liz with cello

One of the main aims of The Nine Lessons was to create a multi-media choral poetry performance that would include projections, music and sound. As part of this, we wanted to work with Sarah Moody again and develop the piece musically. Because of lack of time and funding, we have only managed one workshop with Sarah to date, but this one workshop was great and enabled us to develop the sounds of the island, the bells of Milan and a new dance piece, featuring Sarah and Alex on guitars. The workshop was based around Sarah providing as many musical instruments as possible, showing how each one could be played and then supporting everyone in Firebird with the time and opportunity to play, experience and explore as many instruments as they wanted to. The workshop ended with a recording of each person playing the instrument of their choice, as well as a recording of the 'sounds of the island.' 

Richard (above)  and Tina: the bells of Milan

Monday, 8 February 2010

Prototype - Experiments in Theatre

On November 15th 2009, we presented an extract from The Tempest at the Tobacco Factory as part of Prototype – Experiments in Theatre. For more information about Prototype, please visit http://www.theatrebristol.net/

Prototype is an opportunity for people to show ideas to an audience about work in progress, to ask the audience questions and get feedback about the work. Prototype is held about four times a year and gives different groups or individuals the chance to test out their ideas before they develop a completed piece of work.

On 15th November, we were made very welcome and we had some useful and helpful feedback from the audience. We enjoyed seeing other people’s work too. Previously, we had been to about three other Prototypes as audience members before we did this one. They are great events and a good way to meet people, share ideas and get positive feedback.

The scene we did from The Tempest was the death of Sycorax and we asked the audience members three questions about the extract. We had the following feedback, care of Katie Keeler at Theatre Bristol. Katie said,

Lots of people told me how interested they are in your work and how much they had enjoyed the extract. The consensus was that it is fantastic and very unusual to see a large cast of interesting people and that there is a certain presence about the work – moving and atmospheric. Here are the notes from the evening.

What did you think of the puppet representing a young Caliban, did it work?

Completely understood it. Delivered very well.
Would have liked a little bit more movement.
Simplicity was good – but a little static.
Yes – a little bit more movement. Perhaps hands and arms - would heighten personality.
Voice on the other side would be better.
Why are you using a puppet if you don’t want to use it! Why not use a puppet?

I think the stillness of the figure is really lovely. It doesn’t matter to me that he doesn’t move. Presence in the space is nice.

What did you think of our use of poetry in this scene?

The poetry was very well delivered. It was very moving.
I liked the sense of it being read rather than being learnt. It was like a book illustration combination with the static figure. How about moving the background?

Do you think the cardboard tubes worked?

It was very symbolic. The loneliness of being surrounded but being completely alone. The music and the concentration was very moving.
I felt that something needed to happen with the tubes before they go off again.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Workshop at St Brendan's Sixth Form College

On October 7th we did a workshop and presentation at St Brendan’s Sixth Form College. The workshop was planned so that Firebird Theatre and 25 theatre students from St Brendan’s could work together. One of the positive criticisms we have received from past workshops is that students would like to work more closely with Firebird Theatre Company. We decided to plan a workshop that would involve the students working with us around a scene from The Tempest.

We wanted to try to show the students how we approach our theatre work. These were the main points we wanted to share with them.

How we look at the characters in a story and what happens to them; how we use our own experiences, our own feelings and emotions to do this. We identify with the story; we study and explore the characters in the story and all their relationships.

How we study the story and the themes that come out of the story; we discover our own meanings and thoughts about it. In the end we make the story ours through what we understand about it and how we want to tell it.

How hard we work and we always work together. Each one of us is important to Firebird. We have no stars. We all support each other and help each other on stage. We describe ourselves as a family of actors and we work as a team.

The workshop focussed on Prospero’s rise to power as a magician. Firebird gave examples of some of the theatre conventions we use to make our style of theatre, to tell stories in our own way. We then worked with the students in four smaller groups and came up with masses of different ideas, which were shared with everyone at the end of the workshop.

Some of the ideas that came out of the workshop will be used in Firebird’s performances of The Tempest. Thank you to the theatre students at St. Brendan’s Sixth Form College for a great workshop session together and for helping us develop our ideas around The Tempest and running workshops for young people.

Comments from the students
“They taught me to be very creative and that good ideas can often begin with a simple improvisation.”

“Just being in a group working completely together was incredibly effective because no one felt they were at a disadvantage and it was easy to listen to everyone’s ideas.”

Comments from Firebird Theatre
“It was brilliant. The students were good and very nice. It was a really enjoyable way to link-up with the students.”

“The students are very good to work with. They have enthusiasm. They are young and energetic with fresh ideas. We do feel this is the right way to work, more practical workshops where we work together with young people.”

Monday, 18 January 2010

Working with musician, Sarah Moody

We have been working with Sarah Moody, the musician. Sarah plays cello, violin and accordian, all instruments that we thought were good for the music in The Tempest. She will join us and play live at all the venues we visit with the play. We think that she has added something very important to our telling of the story of The Tempest. We would like to upload some extracts from Sarah’s music for our play onto our website soon. The music has helped us get over some of the big emotions and feelings in our telling of The Tempest.

We used a recording of Sarah’s music for the extract that we showed at the Tobacco Factory for Prototype. It was very powerful and helped us to show the grief and loneliness that Caliban may feel when he loses his mother, Sycorax.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

"No sex before marriage!"

"No sex before marriage!"

Extract 2.

In The Tempest, this is the scene where Prospero gives Miranda to Ferdinand. We call this scene, no sex before marriage! We have continued to experiment with the idea of everyone who is representing Prospero wearing glasses. Prospero has eyes everywhere, he sees everything, he knows everything; especially what Miranda and Ferdinand are up to, we think the glasses show this! When we were playing around with this bit of the story, we again realised how Prospero controls everyone and everything. Daniel and Jenny are playing Miranda and Ferdinand, both are keen to play these roles in The Tempest. In Firebird, we tend to cast the play in this way, people start thinking about the role they would like to play over our long research period, whilst we are still ‘playing’ or ‘messing’ around with the story.
As we develop our rehearsals, we will continue to post up-dates here.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Exploring and developing our ideas about The Tempest

We have experimented with different people playing different roles, both men and women playing Prospero and Caliban.

Extract 1 from our scrapbook

Exploring and developing our ideas about The Tempest

We have spent a long time looking at the characters in The Tempest and their relationships with each other. This helps us to understand the story of The Tempest. We have also been looking at the ‘back’ stories in The Tempest, what happens before the play begins: Prospero as the Duke of Milan and his daughter Miranda before they come to the island; Sycorax banished to the island and the birth of Caliban; the island before any human being arrives on it.
This period of looking at the story, playing and messing around with the story, is very important for us. It is part of how we understand The Tempest, how we want to tell the story and what it means to us. We have kept scrapbooks of all the work we have done during this period and include a couple of extracts from our scrapbooks here. The scrapbooks will help us develop a working script for The Tempest. We are now scripting the story of The Tempest as we will tell it and we will use this blog to let you know how rehearsals are going.

Extract 1. We have explored ideas and feelings around name calling, being the punished and the punisher; the differences between being a master, a servant and a slave. There is a feeling that Caliban changes into what Prospero calls him: Vile monster, slave! How does Caliban feel? It reminds us of the work we did on The Lying Doctors:

When you are called a name enough
You get to think it is right
You can't get away from it
(from The Lying Doctors).

Prospero is very powerful at the height of his magical powers and we have been experimenting with the idea of having more than one person playing Prospero. We have also been experimenting with different conventions (making a rule or agreement about how we show/represent something on stage) to show Prospero as being played by more than one performer. Note the glasses: every person who plays Prospero wears identical glasses.