Trestle Co Unmasked, Relaunches with Little IndiaDate: 25 September 2007
Trestle, the touring company founded in 1981 to specialise in mask theatre, has been – literally – unmasked. After two years of development under new artistic director Emily Gray, Trestle has relaunched itself as a “building-based, multi-discipline arts organisation”.
Artistically, that means that the masks have gone in favour of the broader vision of using physical and visual techniques to present non-verbal theatre. The company’s first-ever production without masks, Little India, opens on 1 October 2007 at Trestle Arts Base (pictured), its revamped home in St Alban’s, before touring to 20 other venues until 10 November.
Speaking to Whatsonstage.com, Gray explained: “We’ve had to go back to the beginning and work out who we are … Masks are a wonderful tool, a particularly good educational tool, but in terms of actual performance, we needed something fresh, a new stimulus.”
In search of such stimuli, Trestle has initiated relationships with several national and international companies. Little India is the result of the first of these, with the Indian theatre company Little Jasmine, who had a residency in St Alban’s in 2006. The piece reimagines the story of Shakuntala, from the ancient epic the Mahabharata, incorporating the South Indian martial art Kalari and set to original music by Little Jasmine’s Konarak Reddy.
Future collaborative projects include a vocally-inspired piece with the Polish group Song of the Goat and a flamenco-driven play about the life of 19th-century dancer Lola Montez.
All new productions will be launched at Trestle Arts Base in St Alban’s, Hertfordshire, ahead of UK tours. Since the company moved in to the converted Victorian chapel on the grounds of a former mental hospital in 2002, the venue has undergone a £2 million refurbishment and has been transformed into a well-established arts space for visiting companies including Gecko and the New Art Club. It’s also the scene of “Trestle Taking Part”, the company’s programme of over 250 workshops, residences and other local community and youth activities.
Giving an overview of the changes to the company, Gray said: “Over the past two years, I have been building a new identity for Trestle, an identity which launches this autumn and focuses on our three areas of Trestle Touring, Trestle Arts Base and Trestle Taking Part. All three areas are driven by a passion for theatre led by physical and visual forms rather than text … When the three strands combine, the international and local meet and explosive creative interaction becomes possible. This is the new Trestle.”
- by Terri Paddock