Chris Grady: A wealth of new writers and commissions to watch
It was a mad dash back from Edinburgh on Tuesday last, then meetings with my new good friends from DxL Creations, Tokyo in London, a quick trip to do shopping for my aunt in Suffolk and then a drive to Plymouth (stopping off to meet Australian cousins and give a lift to a French colleague on the way). Quite a couple of days.
On Friday night I arrived in Plymouth in time to see Le Tabou - the extraordinary new full two-act musical theatre piece by Gwyneth Herbert (music and lyrics), Kath Burlinson (book and direction) with Juliette Jeanclaude offering visual design and choreography. They started with a blank sheet of paper and nine days later they had 35 cast members and a full score, extraordinary. Then after a few days family stuff we were at Riverside studios to see another new piece, Burnt Out Souls, written by Alex Rudd (music), David Gale (writer) and directed by Hilary Westlake. This was a newly commissioned piece of post-apocalyptic choral music theatre precisely designed by Chris de Wilde and choreographed by Heather Douglas to give a sense of wonderful cohesion in this strange world. I hope we will be seeing both of these pieces developed further - they are rich and rewarding for performers and audience.
The second piece of the night was a re-awakening of Variété, the Lyndsay Kemp and Carlos Miranda piece which was the last work premiered by the Lyndsay Kemp Company in the UK back in 1996. It was originally intended for a cast of seven men, including Kinny Gardner who here re-imagined the strange circus world with a cast of 23 young performers (many of whom were not born when Jon Bromwich produced the original, and I saw it at Hackney Empire). It remains a strange piece but the careful skilled design (Chris De Wilde), lighting (Neill Brinkworth) and choreography (Darrell Aldridge) would have made Maestro Kemp and Miranda proud. A cracking band led by Sam Sommerfield gave rich tone to the original and some new songs/score by Carlos Miranda written for this production.
So sad to miss Conor Mitchell's The Dark Tower and the other five major productions from this prolific and extraordinary national music theatre company funded by ACE, NASUWT, and a fantastic list of donors, trusts, anonymous supporters and specialist grant makers. They'll be back on the audition trail early in 2014 - and hundreds of young people will have grown in creative and personal stature through their work in collaborative creativity this summer.
Then a quick Metta board meeting - exciting plans for 2014 for this creation of Poppy Burton Morgan and William Reynolds which punches above its weight in creating exciting new theatrical ideas for very different segments of the UK and international audiences.
And finally this weekend over to Colchester to the beautiful St Martin's Church (now deconsecrated) for a new collective created by theatre director Gari Jones to allow space for new writers and new emerging talent to have a voice and a space to test that voice. Renegade is a long way from Gari's acclaimed CV as an associate director for Harold Pinter on many of his productions in London and New York, and the creation of immersive theatre in the Depot for Colchester Mercury. Here he is returning to his roots of poor theatre, "new ways of thinking, a sign of the times, a needs must".
I'd not heard of poet/songwriter Jonathan Marriott - but I have now and I have his CD (check out his website). I didn't know that Charlie Hay, who I first met on the TRAIN scheme at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, was already getting noticed as a new playwright through submissions with Menagerie and other new work searches.
We saw her post-apocalyptic vision of a damned country from which there is little escape, Shed. It's beautifully written on a personal scale to hint at an epic canvas. A rather extreme allegory on the current situation in our world drawing on issues of leaked secrets, corrupt powerful leaders, and ever decaying communities but shining new profit centres... for the good of the people! Shed feels completely ready to go into a pre-production development phase and I so hope that she's picked up by one of the major new writing houses. We couldn't stay for her second new piece Cake - but she has kindly offered to email it to me and in the meantime check out her great blog.
Today, it's back to the desk and starting preparations for an autumn of Anglia Ruskin University, Japanese theatre project development (quick trip to Tokyo on 12 September for three days), and Russian visitor / gift attractions, plus CGO Surgeries monthly. Lots of planning to do plus reading Andrew Carnegie's biography in preparation for a workshop in Edinburgh for a new piece. Varied life - do I miss a full-time job? Nope.
But, dear reader, do remember that a freelancer always has space in the diary for the next project, a quick Open Space, a bit of consultancy. The dance card is rarely full... despite the bounce in my step.