Edinburgh Preview – Much Further Out Than You Thought

Much Further Out Than You Thought is a one-man show which tells the story of Lance Corporal James Randall, who finished his tours of duty in Helmand six years ago.  It is Remembrance Sunday, and he is in his living room in south London recording a birthday message for his young son, surrounded by childhood toys and memorabilia.  As the narrative progresses, it becomes clear that James is suffering from PTSD, and the audience learns how the collision of civilian Britain and front-line Afghanistan can lead to catastrophe.

I met with writer and actor Giles Roberts after the play’s preview at the Old Red Lion in Islington.  A charming and interesting man, he is as sympathetic and likeable as the character he portrays with such expertise.  Giles was quick to point out that Much Further Out Than You Thought is not intended to be anti-war propaganda – it is the individual story of a single soldier.  He does, however, object to the glamorisation of the army which appears to be taking place recently.

Although James Randall is fictional, Giles did have the help of two soldiers as consultants when he was writing the play.  He got the idea after watching a 1980s documentary called Four Hours in My Lai, about a massacre by US troops in Vietnam.  The personal testimonies of the soldiers particularly resonated with him, and he began to try to empathise with how an act of killing must irreparably alter a person, and how it influences them in the future.

We talked about the timelessness of the situation: young men are trained to kill, but what happens to that training when they come back home?  There has been a lot of talk about World War I in the last couple of years, and shell-shock cases have parallels with current incidences of PTSD.  But Giles emphasised that warfare is more asymmetrical now: there are no longer two rows of trenches and the enemy can be anyone and anywhere.  This causes the combatants to develop a sense of hyper-awareness, which, unfortunately cannot be easily turned off when they return to civilian life.

Despite having several writing credits for spoken word, Much Further Out Than You Thought is Giles’ first play.  As an actor, trained at the Oxford School of Drama, he has many credits to his name.  The play is directed by Bethany Pitts, and Giles spoke of the short rehearsal period with a director he already knew very well, and how interesting it was to come at the material from two different angles.  Much Further Out Than You Thought is the winner of a 2015 IdeasTap Underbelly Award.  With IdeasTap sadly having to close, Giles and Bethany will be among the last people to benefit from their invaluable help.

Much Further Out Than You Thought is at the Underbelly Cowgate (Big Belly), 56 Cowgate, Edinburgh, EH1 1EG, from Thursday 6th – Sunday 30th August 2015 (not 17th), at 3.20pm.  It is produced by the Molino Group.  For more information visit The Molino Group.

My Million to One – Worth £1 of Your Money!

For almost a year, I have been attending free events run by My Million to One, a charity run by Alana Hurd, and backed by such big names as Richard E Grant and Jason Flemyng.  I have been to Q&As with both the aforementioned actors, as well as director Hugh Woolridge.  I have also been at a Mind Body Spirit workshop and a discussion about producing theatre.  There have been many others that I have wanted to go to but time or circumstances prevented me, such as Tai Chi, circus skills and book publishing to name but a few.  The subjects covered have been many and varied – from new age thinking to the arts to business to extreme sport and even exploration: Sir Ranulph Fiennes was one of the many wonderful people to give his time to the project.  There have also been many raffles throughout the year.

The workshops and Q&As will be drawing to a close before the end of the year, but transcripts of the Q&As will remain available for members to download from the internet and there are also dozens of discounts and offers to help people achieve their dreams.

My Million to One was founded to found a home for abandoned disabled children in Southern Africa. Alana was asked to help whilst volunteering in the area, so she approached a couple of small, local charities that she knew very well and they agreed to adopt the children and give them a home.  However, she has to meet two criteria in order for the arrangement to go ahead.  Firstly, to find money every year to pay for the children’s home, plus all their needs, education & rehabilitation costs; and, secondly, to guarantee that the money will be provided for their lifetimes.

Alana has found a unique way to do it – By making £1,000,000 by 22nd November 2014.

When a million of you join MMTO, paying £1 (+ 11p credit card charge) each ONCE ONLY, the interest alone from the £1,000,000 will build AND fund the home for the children in Africa, never requiring further investment again.  This is a brand new charity model in its own right.

A million sounds like a big number, but it’s really just 10 to the power of six, or in human terms six degrees of separation.  Let me explain.  I’ve paid a one-off donation of £1 to join My Million to One.  If I get 10 friends to do the same, that’s 101.  When each of those then gets 10 new friends to join, that’s 102, or 100.  They each persuade 10 other friends – 103, who invite 10 more friends each – 104.  Those friends do likewise and we have 105, and finally this last group each asks 10 friends and we have 106 or £1,000,000.  Plus my original £1 of course.  So in six easy steps we have created a forever home for disabled African orphans, and made an awful lot of friends.

Will you be one of my ten?

Read more about My Million to One here: http://mymilliontoone.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/my-million-to-one-the-3-whys/

or go straight ahead and join here: http://www.mymilliontoone.com/foyer

My Million to One really needs and deserves our support.  Join – and tell your friends!

Get Your Own Art – for Free!

OwnArt

Own Art is an Arts Council England initiative which gives interest free loans to individuals, in order to make purchasing contemporary art and craft easy and affordable.  They are celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, and, as part of the festivities, have commissioned Turner Prize winning artist Jeremy Deller to create a digital animation.  This work, which will be based on that he did for the Venice Biennale 2013, is to be split into 10,000 stills that will be available to download as individual unique works of art.

To be one of the lucky 10,000, subscribe (anytime from now onwards) to The Space newsletter at http://www.thespace.org/artwork/view/wesit#.U5wnqyJwZeU.  Once you’ve confirmed your subscription, they will send you an email with a link to claim your work, which will then be downloadable from Monday, 7 July 2014.

The full animation will be premiered on screen on Saturday, 19 July, at both Westfield Stratford and Westfield London.

Own Art was created to inspire individuals to take their first steps and buyers and collectors of contemporary art and craft, as well as to assist the galleries they work with, along with their artists, to be more sustainable as businesses.  Customers can borrow from £100 to £2,500 interest free, and spread the cost of repayment over 10 months.  A quarter of the loan amount each year, on average, is to customers with an annual income of £25,000 or less.  Since the scheme began in 2004, it has financed in excess of £25 million worth of sales.

Jeremy Deller has been making art since the early 1990s.  He won the Turner Prize in 2004 for the documentary Memory Bucket, and his work covers subjects ranging from exotic wrestler Adrian Street to international fans of 1980s band Depeche Model.  He has exhibited widely throughout the world, and in 2013 represented Britain at the Venice Biennale.

For more information on Own Art visit www.ownart.org.uk.  You can find out more about Jeremy Deller at www.jeremydeller.org.

 

Belfast Girl: A Love Story

As it’s now less than two weeks till opening night, I wanted to let everyone know about Belfast Girl: A Love Story, from London Irish Theatre.

Set in the aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement, Belfast Girl: A Love Story considers the human dimension of the Northern Ireland question, and uncovers the personal costs of political struggle.  Annie is the Belfast Girl of the title: a working class protestant who grew up during the troubles.  Her marriage to Orangeman Billy is on the rocks, and an unexpected visit from English Catholic Dave, her childhood sweetheart who she hasn’t seen since her teens, brings matters to a head in an explosive manner.  The play is written and directed by John Dunne, and features Mary Tynan (me) as Annie and Ian Macnaughton as Dave.

The story of Dave and Annie has been through several incarnations over the years.  The first, titled Belfast, premiered in the 1990s and featured the couple as teenagers, with Tanya Franks as Annie.  I become involved during the second incarnation, Belfast Boy, which was written to be the second play in a double bill with Geraldine Aron’s A Galway Girl, touring in 2009/10.  This was a two hander, with the older Annie and Dave meeting again after many years.  Belfast Girl followed in the summer of 2010, and I played Annie for the second time in a completely new work which also featured Annie’s brother and husband.  This play has recently had a Belfast run, in which the story was expanded to include two further characters.

Belfast Girl: A Love Story returns to the two-handed format, but with a twist.  There may be only two actors, but there are more than two characters!  I’m really looking forward to playing Annie again, and would like to invite readers of Notes From Xanadu to join the audience.  Previous versions Belfast and A Belfast Boy have both received critical acclaim from the press, and Belfast was a Time Out Critic’s Choice.

“John Dunne’s sensitive squint at the Ulster legacy adapts well to the stage.  What’s impressive about the rapid stucco of tense, bite-sized scenes is that they’re eloquently counterpointed by a driving commitment to character development.”  Time Out

“A sharply realistic play still willing to speak for love, however guarded, as the central human value.” City Limits

 “Fantastically gripping.”  What’s On

 “Moving stories in an Irish odyssey.”  Camden New Journal

Belfast Girl: A Love Story is playing on both sides of the Thames this Summer.  It opens on 20August 2013 at the London Theatre, New Cross, running nightly at 8pm until 24 August, with a Sunday matinee on 25 August at 4pm.  It then runs from 27 to 29 August nightly at 7.30pm at the Babble Jar, Stoke Newington and from 30 August to 1 September at the Precinct Theatre, Islington, with all performances there also at 7.30pm.  Tickets can be bought on the door, from the London Theatre Box Office (www.thelondontheatre.com), and from www.irish-theatre.com .

Belfast Girl: A Love Story

 

Adopt an Orchard

orchardAs someone who loves apples, I was intrigued to hear about Octavia’s Orchard, a new green space commissioned as part of Southbank Centre’s Festival of Neighbourhood.  Inspired by the work of Victorian social reformer and founder of the National Trust, Octavia Hill (1838-1912), it has been  designed by architectural practice What if: projects, in partnership with the National Trust’s London Project and Southbank Centre in order to highlight the continued lack of access to green space in high density housing areas and open up the opportunities these neglected, forgotten and unloved spaces in the city can offer to urban communities.

The orchard is currently located on the Southbank Centre’s Mandela Walk, but, London urban community groups are being invited to take home part of the orchard,  Each of the four inner-city housing estates chosen will take home eight apple trees and one of the benches, to form the nucleus of their own permanent orchards.  The four successful applicants will also be twinned with four of the National Trust properties – Fenton House and Garden, Osterley Park and House, Morden Hall Park, Sutton House and Breakers Yard – and will receive support and training from their expert gardeners.  Planting will take place at the beginning of September.

Interested groups wishing to apply should email octavia@what-if.info.  For more information, visit the What if: website at http://www.what-if.info/Octavias_Orchard.html.

By notesfromxanadu Posted in Features

A Liar’s Autobiography

Anyone who knows me reasonably well will be aware of my penchant for Python (almost to the point of annoyance sometimes to those who don’t share my sense of humour), so, as you can imagine, I was looking forward to this film enormously.  Unfortunately, I am still looking forward to it!  Due to technical hitches with both the 3D and 2D versions, the press screening failed to take place at the allotted time, and the press conference went ahead with the majority of journalists present (myself included) not having seen the film.  Which could be described as just a little bit silly …..

Director Bill Jones described Graham Chapman’s memorial service as the first time he got drunk, and spoke of the film as a way of celebrating Chapman’s life and achievements.  Terry Jones spoke of Graham as a complex individual who didn’t really understand himself and who was looking for who he was.  Michael Palin described the film as a homage to Graham, and confirmed that it was as close to a Python reunion as we were ever likely to get.  Both spoke of Graham’s sense of stillness, and described him as their leading actor.  As the press hadn’t seen the film yet, a lot of the questions from the floor were more generally about the Python oeuvre than specifically about the film in question, which led to some interesting reminiscing such as Terry Jones describing smuggling the tapes of Series I out of the BBC to copy on a Phillips VCR before they were destroyed.

The screening has been rescheduled for 4pm this afternoon, but unfortunately one of my other jobs prevents my attending (plug for The Castle at the Lord Stanley in Camden, opening tonight:) but I can tell you that the film uses audio recordings of Graham’s reading of his book, subtitled The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman, combined with different styles of animation to reflect the different styles of humour, with fourteen different animation studios being involved in the production.  Not having seen it yet, I cannot give an informed opinion as to it’s watchability, but with John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin and Terry Jones all involved (Terry Jones plays Graham’s mother, apparently), not to mention the late Graham Chapman (as himself) I know I definitely will be giving it a viewing as soon as I get the chance.

And now for something completely different.

A Liar’s Autobiography is showing tonight at 9pm at Leiceister Square Empire and on Friday at VUE West End at 3pm as part of the London Film Festival.

Mary Tynan

Co-Opera Co – Singers Helping Singers

This summer, Co-Opera Co. will present two much-loved operas, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, at the John McIntosh Theatre of the London Oratory School.  On tour later in the year, the company will also revive its successful production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. All three operas will be sung in English.

Founded by soprano Kate Flowers and lighting designer Paul Need, Co-Opera Co is an innovative opera company, striving to help singers earn while they learn, and promote the welfare of professional opera singers.  I asked Kate to tell me how the company started and how it has progressed since its small beginnings.

After our first discussions about the lack of an apprenticeship stage in a singers’ training – over far too many glasses of red wine one night in Dublin!  – Paul and I decided that we should do something about it.  I suggested one to one sessions – he suggested starting our own training opera company!  So it is Paul we have to thank for being the driving force behind Co-Opera Co, from its inception.  I set about calling all my friends and colleagues in the business – over 50 of today’s eminent artists who became our members – and Co-Opera Co was formed on June 13th 2008.”

We first opened our doors in January 2009 with a series of weekend workshops run by our members, one of whom was the legendary Philip Langridge, sadly no longer with us. In August that year we ran our first summer season, with two performances each of Albert Herring and La Boheme – produced in just three weeks (we must have been mad!), with the wonderful Chroma Ensemble as our orchestra.”

To give the singers the chance to see what it would be like to perform in a different space, the company also took both shows for one performance each to The New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth.

2010 was the year the Co-Opera Co Orchestra was formed, and the company toured 7 performances of La Boheme and the Marriage of Figaro to 7 UK venues in four weeks.  2011 saw the tour grow to 25 performances in 12 weeks, with two new productions, The Magic Flute and Carmen.

Leading up to their summer season and UK tour in the autumn the company runs a comprehensive training programme, Connections, where participants work on every aspect of opera.  I asked Kate Flowers to give me a flavour of how it works.

“Connections has grown out of those weekend workshops back in 2009 and has again developed in a very organic way, taking into consideration what singers have told us that they want – this year we held a series of one day workshops in the spring.  Each workshop was run by one of our members working with up to 12 singers. Each workshop had a theme suggested by the member running the workshop – Sir Thomas Allen for instance wanted to work with the singers on Listening and Reacting;  Janis Kelly on Body, Soul and Voice; and David Parry wanted to work on singing True Bel Canto.  With everything that we have learned about what singers need, Janis Kelly is developing a fully integrated 3 month course – Professional Connections – which will cover every aspect of being an opera singer, and we are also working on a new course – Opera Matters – for opera enthusiasts and those singers who perhaps do not wish to follow a professional career but who nevertheless would like to explore the genre and work on their personal progress.”

“Because we work with so many levels of ability – and we have no age limit – in the various training programmes we run – to be honest, we will accept applications from anyone who has a real desire (and ability) to be involved in opera.  Obviously for the touring operas we need to be able to present a truly professional standard of performance (and therefore performers) to the audiences – and to the theatres.”

We have had singers as young as 15 – our Harry in Albert Herring for instance – Marina Lawrence-Marrha – and this year we have a singer aged over 60 in The Midsummer Night’s Dream – neither of them have any qualifications – other than a true ability and a longing to sing/perform.  (Marina by the way is just about to start a foundation year at the Urdang Studios and we like to think that her experience of performing with Co-Opera Co. went a long way to developing her aptitude and enthusiasm for performing – she is simply wonderful.)”

This year the company is rehearsing four operas over four weeks – Hansel and Gretel, Don Giovanni and a revival of The Magic Flute for a tour to 12 venues – at the moment (still more in the pipeline), preceded by a new venture: the Summer Opera, which is a four week course in which 30 singers work on their own opera ( A Midsummer Night’s Dream) with the Director Peter Watson, Conductor David Gostick and Choreographer Jenny Weston, performed at the John McIntosh Theatre on 17th and 18th August.

James Bonas, Director of Hansel and Gretel, believes the work of Co-opera is very important, because “There is a real shortage of programmes and performance possibilities for younger singers to gain experience once they’ve left formal training. The opportunity for near enough a hundred people to spend a summer together doing coaching, master classes, and rehearsals in one place is remarkable. It’s the chance for everyone to make contacts, get experience and take hold of some big roles that they wouldn’t yet get their hands on in the larger companies.”

James also told me about the people involved and the rehearsals for Hansel and Gretel.  “The cast is small actually – just five singers.  Then we’ll have the Co-Opera orchestra and backstage there are the stage manager, deputy stage manager and assistant stage manager.  Rehearsals have been swift. We’ve had a couple of weeks working in a rehearsal room and now we’ll have a couple of weeks onstage doing technical work, lighting and then bringing in the orchestra. With those time frames there’s no mucking about – we started with a day of music and then were up on our feet staging the scenes the next morning.”  

They did spend one Saturday morning playing games and dancing with the singers playing Hansel and Gretel.  “It’s always so important as an adult acting a child that you remember that the child is not childish – they don’t walk strangely, they don’t pull faces constantly and they don’t whine. I think we have a tendency to do an impression of a kid rather than simply being very direct and straightforward in the world – which is what young children actually are.”

Talking about opening night (Thursday 23 August) James says, “I think it’s a bit like having a baby – a mixture of excitement and terror. You’re kind of looking forward to it but you know it’s going to take a heck of a push to get there.”

David-Milner Pearce, who is playing the title role in Don Giovanni, told me that this production is anything but traditional.  “It is set in a Contemporary Art Gallery and the Don himself is based around a Damien Hirst.  To keep thing current we have made slight tweaks to the libretto, but the translation by David Parry works very well.”

Kate and Paul’s vision for the future of the company is to eventually create a Centre of Excellence: “a theatre of our own with rehearsals studios, technical workshops, etc – based around a main touring company and with a training arm for professionals and non-professionals of all ages. A lottery win would certainly help with that!!  But in the absence of that, we are aiming to  build a commercial side of the business to provide year long employment to our associates – and our beloved Co-Opera Co. Orchestra –  by moving our rehearsals for the touring productions to Easter next year, in order to prolong the touring season to include the festival market, and developing the Summer Opera Course so that August becomes the focus of the training element – and of course Janis Kelly’s Connections Programme- and Opera Matters –  which we hope to launch next spring.

Lastly, I asked Kate Flowers what Co-Opera Co means to her.  “Everything – well after my three sons and my mum that is.”

“Since Paul Need and I first started talking about the possibility of helping singers as they enter the profession, I have found that my time – and Paul’s – has become almost entirely devoted to running the company, coaching and training the singers and generally making sure that Co-Opera Co. achieves what we set out to achieve four years ago.  I would like to emphasize that everything we are doing here at Co-Opera Co. is done with no outside funding whatsoever – we rely on box office sales – especially in our London shows during August which have the potential to raise enough money to significantly reduce the unfortunately inevitable deficit we will face at the end of the season, and that whilst we pay all our members for the work they do with our singers, musicians and technicians, and we pay our associates for their performances and pay for and organise travel and accommodation on tour, neither Paul nor I have paid ourselves a penny during the past four years – and we will not even consider doing so until we have reached the point where no-one has to be asked for a contribution.  I say this because there might be a perception that there is something other than altruistic about the way we run Co-Opera Co.  To be honest, I would never have imagined that I could ever be so enthused about something that had no personal financial gain – and I think I can speak for Paul too here – but we really are doing this, we believe, for the greater good.”

Don Giovanni is on 22 and 24 August 2012, Hansel and Gretel on 23 and 25 2012, all shows at 7.30pm at John McIntosh Theatre, Seagrove Road, London SW6 1RX.  Tickets are priced between £10-25 and can be purchased online at http://www.ticketweb.co.uk/user/?region=xxx&query=schedule&promoter=co-opera.  The theatre is wheelchair accessible, and free parking is available next to the John McIntosh Arts Centre.

The tour covers Croydon, Yeovil, Wolverhampton, Darlington, Epsom, Manchester, Bury St Edmunds, Wellingborough, Buxton, Camberley, Blackpool, Hertford, and Southport, with further dates to be announced.  For more information please visit www.co-opera-co.org.

Mary Tynan

Science meets Art at the Enlightenment Cafe

An exciting and unique new theatrical project will be taking place from 31st May – 4th June in the vaults of the Old Vic Tunnels.

Presented by LAStheatre, the Enlightenment Café combines the beauty of science with the power and imagination of immersive performance in a place of exploration, where people from all walks of life can debate, play and laugh the night away.  Only the tedious will be off limits as The Enlightenment Café aims to provoke imagination and intrigue; scientists will demonstrate their art and artists will demonstrate their science.  Scientists in residence include Tim McInerny, Stuart Clarke and Alex Bellos.   This is an interactive adventure where new theories can be mooted as to why things are, how they got there and what will happen next. The Enlightenment Café will delve into topics ranging from astronomy to paleontology, from My Little Pony to zombies and from art to invention.

Doors to the Old Vic Tunnels will open every night at 7pm, and the evenings will be split into three sections: firstly, a period of immersive theatre and free exploration; secondly, stage pieces and panel discussions; and, finally, live music and entertainment. Each night will have a different theme and aesthetic but will all inspire, breaking away from the idea that science and facts can only be learnt in a lecture theatre or laboratory.

Times and tickets for all events at the Enlightenment Cafe can be found at http://www.eventbrite.com/event/3487295595. Tickets are priced at £15 with a booking fee of £1.55.  For more information about LAStheatre visit www.lastheatre.com.

Mary Tynan

Be Part of Art!

Have you ever wondered who the Mona Lisa was? Or perhaps imagined what it would be like to see your likeness on display in a gallery?

Next month, Gérard Rancinan is offering attendees at his Wonderful World exhibition the chance to be immortalised as part of the final composition in the series, which will be shot entirely on-site at the Londonewcastle Project Space.

Presented by The Future Tense in association with Opera Gallery and Londonewcastle, Wonderful World is the concluding part in Rancinan’s seven-year Trilogy of the Moderns.  Fresh from La Triennale di Milano, photographer Rancinan brings this revolution in three acts to a close, debuting the complete Wonderful World series to the UK public.

With galleries one and two housing the main exhibition of 15 large format works from Wonderful World, gallery three will feature a purpose-built set and studio, offering a voyeuristic glimpse behind the scenes of a fine art photo shoot. Repeat visits will reveal the organic nature of studio life – part art installation, part film set, part soap opera – as the shoot moves from concept, through production and postproduction, to the climactic unveiling of the finished work at a special reception on Wednesday 20th June.

To celebrate the completion of Trilogy of the Moderns, The Future Tense will publish a new print edition by Gérard Rancinan. Limited to a signed edition of 20 + 4 Artist Proofs, the work will be available only to those attending the show. A pop-up store will also sell related merchandise including the supporting books.

Wonderful World will open to the public at a launch reception from 6.30pm on Thursday 7th June 2012 (part of East London’s First Thursday late night art openings) and will remain on view until Sunday 24th June 2012.  Photoshoot auditions will be held on Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 June, from 11 am to 6pm, with the shoot itself being on Monday 11 June.

Wonderful World runs from 7 – 24 June 2012 at Londonewcastle Project Space, 28 Redchurch Street, London E2 7DP:  Tuesday to Saturday, 11am-7pm; Sunday, Noon-6pm; closed on Monday.  There will be an artist signing on 16 June from 12 – 1.30 pm; curator-guided tours on 17 June at 12, 2 and 4pm; and an unveiling reception on 17 June from 6.30 – 9.30 pm.  For more information visit the artists website at www.rancinan.com.

Mary Tynan