Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Endings and Beginnings

Writing this from stifling London. The bright lights and loud noises are startling and it is bizarre seeing more people than sheep in a day. The final night at Old Chapel Farm began with me ringing the old church bell to call the merrymakers inside. From here we began to tell our story and lead around 70 people over the site for an evening of poetry, shadow puppetry, instillation and original music amongst other things. There were definitely some hairy moments; particularly being upstaged by a pooing dove in the barn on my part and there was a particular issue with timing in general - apparently 70 people don't move that quickly as a whole. BUT, there were also moments of pure joy and amazement; the full moon rising over the far hillside just as everyone left the chapel after the final chapter was particularly magical.
After the performance itself was over, the evening rolled on in true festive fashion. Kevin pit roasted a lamb which was apparently delicious, the musicians played on into the early hours (Cornelius the mandolin player even got on his bike and cycled home at 5am!) and Gary told some of his traditional stories by firelight. Bella and I fell asleep in a field at one point and I apparently fell off the bench after a bit too much whiskey. There was singing round the campfire, led by the beautiful Orla (who also wrote a song especially for the show) and I ate the best sweet potato of my life (and there have been some good-uns). Bella and I even managed to run a workshop the next morning despite the horrific hang-over beasts that were smashing around inside our heads. We even fitted in a trip to the swimming hole with the other women WWOOFers before the journey home.
I think the real highlight of the whole evening was getting the chance to meet the local community and hear what they had to say about what we'd done and hear their stories in return for ours. There is such a wealth of story there and I cant wait to return to find out more. The story we created was born out of the location and the reasons for celebrating the time of year. I for one have a desire to create a piece of work that finds story from the inside out of the community. This trial residency seems to have lifted some threads which are ready to be teased out and drawn together into a richer, more complex and more human piece of work. All thoughts are to the future now... I think we've started something rather exciting.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Feathers and Fleece

We are sitting drinking tea on the terrace. Bella is making a wreath for the Sun (played by Chris the Adventurer) and Shane is showing Andy Warren the recorder player our amazing words on the landscape. Kevin just walked passed with a barrel of elderflower champagne which is apparently ‘really fizzy’. Everything seems to be in place. We decided against another run through today. Maybe that was a bad decision but it feels like it might just run out our energy before tonight. We sort of know what we’re all doing anyway.

I promised I wouldn’t say this aloud but it looks like the weather is holding. At some point I shall stop making outdoor theatre but the plus points are too tantalising.

Bella is now decorating the wreath with pheasant feathers. We have decided Chris will be shirtless. And sombre faced. He will be slowly unwrapped from his binding to the massive monolith in the middle of the garden. The Blindman will unravel the chrysalis made from very thin sheep fleece (used for keeping the vegetables warm on frosty nights). This is the part where we stray into the realm of performance art/pagan ritual- not sure how it will be received in rural Wales but we thought it was worth the risk. It will at least give everyone something to talk about, or a reason to chase us out of town. We shall see…

One of my favourite bits....

This is seen from the dovehouse before I slam the window and tell the story of the Moon's inability to commit. The quote is a 17th Century welsh proverb.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Farm Life

Some photos from the farm; sunrise on the longest day, the yurt we are sleeping in (now refered to as 'The Ranch' by Shane), me walking to the swimming hole, swinging in in the woods.

Moon Magic

We have just stumbled our way thorough a 'walk through' with Kevin Fran and the WWOOFers . It was quite exposing but there were definitely moments of magic. And moments of total farce. Its amazing how quickly things can come together after a fist run and some feedback. We've already re-jigged the sticky moments to work better. One good thing is that the story seemed to come across well and that's the point really.

We had a wonderful moment of collective compromise in the pond earlier. Shane and I were trying to submerge our giant balloon moon under a rock-anchored tarpaulin so that it could magically be pulled free by the man fishing for the moon and rise up to the surface to every one's amazement. This was harder than we anticipated... whilst I stood on the pontoon in my underwear looking into the murky leach filled depths of the pond below, contemplating how little I wanted to dive in and sink the balloon moon (Shane had already stated he could not go in because he 'is recovering from the flu'), who should walk by but Chris the valiant WWOOFer. He dived in with aplomb on our behalf but proceeded to loose both the tarp and the bricks to weigh it down almost immediately in the 6foot depth of water. His struggle ended in failure, apparently it's quite hard to pull a balloon down under so much water, let alone cover it with a tarp and bricks. We came up with a much better way of the moon appearing which involves Shane drop kicking it out into the pond whilst everyone is looking the other way at the Gypsy puppeteers. No swimming required.

Bella and I went down to the stream for a sunset dip last night, slightly pissed on honeysuckle wine. We walked home up the valley through a tunnel of trees, found a glowworm to guide our way and watched the moonlight illuminate the valley around us. Sickening isn't it? It is a privilege to be making work in such an incredibly romantic place with such inspiring people, but hopefully we are paying for it in sweat and stress as zero hour approaches. We ticked off lots on the mega list today which feels good. Perhaps we should burn the beast when we are done, though that amount of paper may be better used mulching the onions

What the Hell is Going to Happen - the List

As promised, the mother of all lists.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Today began with a mother of all lists. There are cross references for locations, props, costume and people involved at various stages (video to follow). When something is covered, it gets circled. Simple. We are crunching on through and some lovely moments have been devised.
I personally had some fun developing the character of the flighty moon who tells her side of the story from a cage in the dove barn. I think I found it easier once I identified the aspects of her that are in me; not being a natural performer I think she has turned out alot like Kirsty As The Moon who enjoys the falling in love more than the earth-bound reality. I also get to reference this Florence song which makes me happy. I countered this dramaturgical genius with some very shonky dancing with Gary under the Rhododendron tree, but hopefully people will be looking at the beautiful setting and Gary's perfect poise more than my two left feet at that point.

Shane has cooked dinner with Abraham tonight. Abraham has never cooked before but has the most amazing smiley face we have ever seen. He is volunteering here on the farm as a WWOOFER (volunteer through an organisation called World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) along with Pauline from France, Yvonne from Switzerland, Alex from the US and Rachael and Chris from the UK. Its an amazingly varied bunch and they are all up for helping with the performance (we didn't really give them a choice about that). Chris will even be mummified and re-born as the Sun at the end of the piece. What a joy to have such a smashingly enthusiastic bunch of people to work with! Fran and Kevin had about 100 WWOOFers come trough the farm last year and they are vital to the running of the place and loads of other similar projects over the world.

Allegra visited last night and this morning and gave us some of her ever brilliant advice. It was invaluable to have an outside opinion from someone who is familiar with performance practice. She also had a few inspirational pep talks up her sleeve (as ever) which I would be lost without. Thanks for that.

Off to drink a bit more honeysuckle wine and to tackle how the blind man will fish the moon out of the pond. We have a giant white baloon and a digereedoo to hand to acomplish the task....

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lovers' Music

Peter Timmins (on fiddle) and Andy Warren (on recorder) are local musicians who came round for the evening and played us some music. We thought this would work wonderfully for the lovers who nearly kiss under the rhodedendron tree. Or possibly to lead the audience from there to the pond where the old man fishes for the moon.

Exploring the Barn for Bird-Moon Lady Encounter

This is us going for a wander in the barn, where the doves live. Thinking of putting me in the cage construction on the wall above the shit-filled bathtub. The Moon is a flighty thing and easily flustered.

Questions Questions

Yesterday was a day of questions; who is this man? Why do they say that? What’s the point of that bit? What’s happening again? When’s dinner? It was a long day with some sticky moments but we now seem to have arrived at a story and a journey. We walked it thorough with Kevin, Fran and some local musicians who came up for the evening and it felt like an important moment.
We are telling the story of a man, blinded by the light of his son, the Sun. The man shows us his memories and we see how he fell in love with the Moon when she fell into a lake. She gives birth to a Sun but we all know the Sun and Moon cannot share the same sky and she leaves the man with their brilliant child. The man cannot bear to look at his beautiful child as he reminds him of his true love too much. The man kills the sun, but as he is a star and now a dying star, he bursts in to a supernova of light, blinding his father as a last act of justice. But there will be other Suns as other men fall in love with other Moons and the sky and the wheel of the year turns again.
So that’s the nub of it. There are 14 locations, poetry, song, puppetry, a bird/moon woman in the dove barn, an eggspert hatching new life in the kitchen, a wake in the cellar, shadow-play snogging in the tree house and words written on the landscape in flour. We will cover life, death, celestial orbs, love so painful it leads to murder, murder so poetic it might be myth, hope, loss, memory and mourning, flighty lovers and the beauty of the Sun and Moon rising. We have four days, four players and no budget. Challenge Anneka has been blown out of the water.
So we will keep asking questions and questioning our selves because that’s how you make work and move forward. One question we shall not be asking is; can we do it? It’s better not to ponder that one too long, lest we give the wrong answer.

Monday, June 21, 2010

1st day at Old Chapel Farm

Today we woke at 4:30am to see the sunrise. I was the official wake up call for the rest of the company who are here; Bella, Gary and Shane. It was worth the curses and the sight of Gary stumbling about in a sleeping bag. Violently pink sky over the hillside that slowly diffused through orange and gold on this the longest day of the year. We are staying in a beautiful Mongolian yurt in a sheep field next to the farmhouse. We had to chase the sheep out from under the raised platform on which it rests before settling down for the night.

We have been brainstorming since then, mostly fuelled on the inspiring places on site and tea. We have been playing with shadow puppets in the tree house, fishing a moon from the pond and comic strip bull fight (where the bulls are played by lambs in capes). We have also watched chicks hatch and tried the nettle beer (which is lovely after a few glasses).

Today has been a day of quantity; we have documented ideas all over the farm and have too much material already, but this feels like a good place to be. It’s too early to be editing , right now we want a messy mass of material which we can fish the best bits from. A story is starting to emerge from the chaos but it will take a bit of eking out.

This will be something different for the area and the audience and we are having to think carefully already about how far we push the weirdness. Can we expect people to follow a blind man by a spool of yarn reeling out from his back with their eye closed? Can we be sure they will want to have an intimate encounter with a man in a bathtub full of rose petals? Probably not. But that’s not to say we’re going to shy away from pushing a few expectations. If what we create is compelling and entertaining then we can get away with the off bath tub brief encounter. So that’s the challenge.

We’ve spent a lot of time talking, walking round the site and scrawling our ideas on a massive roll of mulching paper (used to cover the space between the 3000 onions planted in the top garden earlier in the year – as Fran says: “If you can see earth, weeds can see light.”). Somewhere we found time for picnic lunch on the lawn with salad and strawberries from the polytunnel- funny how we fitted that in! After supper, we are heading out to look at light. How it changes over the course of the evening and how this will affect the ideas we’ve had. We’ll be playing with torches, candles and lanterns and making shadow puppets. We shall also be drinking a few bottles of wine in the tree house, maybe to watch the sunset from there and end the longest day in the tree tops looking out over the vast stage we have to play in.