Friday, March 30, 2007


Constance Brown: Day 10

My suspicion is that if you are devising a show and writing a blog about the process you probably aren’t spending enough time or energy thinking about the show.

I'm not going to jeapordise the show, suffice to say, it’s shaping up well. A good show feels well within our grasp, the trick will be to ignore this show and go for the great show that’s out there somewhere.

Tickets are now on sale for the World Premiere and subsequent performances at Warwick Arts Centre. Remember, it's already Sold Out in Vienna, so please buy your tickets now to avoid disappointment (as they say).



Thursday, March 22, 2007


Cold Dirty Fun

Be Proud Of Me, winter 2003, a former lathe factory, sub-zero and a black-out. Home Of The Wriggler, winter 2005, a former something factory, sub-zero and no daylight. Now, The Cleansing Of Constance Brown, now, a former metal salvage unit, it feels like sub zero and the floor is black with a hundred years of oil and grease. When I first moved to Birmingham in 1991 I loved walking the streets of Digbeth and through raised roller shutter doors watching things being made. The Flaneur of 2007 can repeat the journey and see theatre being made, open to the street, it’s ludicrous. Stories of companies disappearing to the Tuscan Hills or Central Spain or the Slovenian countryside to spend months preparing to change the course of theatre history make now total sense. Who’d come here to work in these conditions to try and do anything strip the tin from the insides of old tin cans?

Hopefully this will be the last show made by Stan’s Cafe in these conditions. We seem to be on the cusp of signing a deal that will bring us a new, long term, purpose built office and rehearsal/performance space. It can’t come too soon.

Aside from this moaning it is perhaps important to report that the show is developing very well despite the adverse conditions. Craig with various assistants has constructed an excellent, full-scale mock-up of the set for us to work on and it is fantastic; a kind of theatrical particle accelerator where the smallest gestures gain huge energy. At the moment you can do almost anything on the set and it looks fantastic, the problem isn’t going to be coming up with ideas, but how to chose the correct ideas, how hard to push them and how to make thing hang together.

Great cold dirty fun.


Friday, March 16, 2007


Building Site Visit

And yesterday I was in Luxembourg. Of All The People In All The World is going to be part of a big Capital of Culture exhibition there, so time-out from highly stressful negotiations over a potential new home for Stan’s Cafe and preparations for the start of full-on rehearsals for the Cleansing Of Constance Brown, for a site visit.

They are undertaking a remarkably ambitious project there. In a vast former Steal Plant outside town an 11 Zone installation is being set up to run for a minimum of six months. We are to be Zone 7: Understand. It feels as if you could plonk a couple of Tate Moderns inside the vast main hall where the bottom half of a Satern V rocket appears to be being constructed out of wood. Tens of thousands of water bottles are being marshalled in sand as waves washing on the shore and so on. I am shown round being told what is going to go here and what is to be installed there, “this will be the main entrance, with doors here and here”, “a staircase will come down here”, “two huge banners hang down over there”. Around us railings are being welded into place, angle grinders are send orange sparks arching as they cut through steel mesh. The whole thing opens in about a month.

It seems implausible that all will be ready, but everyone seems relaxed and as you look more carefully you realise that they are closer than you’d think. They are mostly just adding to the building’s kit, rather than stripping it out, lights and speakers have been subtly integrated into the original machinery in many of the spaces.

After a trip round I sit down with a coffee, huddled in the management’s office scribbling notes for the team:
Rice in easy to lift 10kg bags.
Go big on Environment and Golbalisation themes.
Echo elements of other Zones (see separate notes).
Place table at the far end of space.
Bring thermals.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Wim Vandekeybus: Return Of The Old School

A small Stan posse took a trip last night to see Ultima Vez at Warwick Arts Centre. The performance Spiegel, a compilation of scenes from a number of the company’s early shows, was both wonderful and tantalising.

It was a treat to see glimpses these pieces that have past. I am a sucker for bodies flying through the air, trials of strength and trust, running in circles, gestural movements snapping back and forth, collisions and catches; who wouldn’t be. At the curtain call the notion that these generous people have put themselves through all that, in some small way for you, is humbling. You leave feeling exhilarated and feeble. You’re jealous, you spent the whole night wishing that were you on stage with the endorphins pumping. The movement vocabulary is powerful and direct, you can imagine yourself in the thick of it. With a bit of practice you could give it a go, in fact when you get home you will, you’ll give it a go and to hell with the ornaments and soft furnishings.

The show was magnificent in its moments, yet not as satisfying as their previous show Blush had been. There lingered a sense that things weren’t totally coherent, that sometimes ideas, great in themselves, failed to add up, wonderful choreographic ideas were cast adrift. I was always conscious of watching a collage and left having had a great 90 minutes but wishing I could turn the clock back and see all the material again in its original setting.



Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Endurance Performance - It's a way of life

One of the things I've always loved about Stan is that we're not so much a theatre company as a group of people who perform life. That pompous sounding definition is the only way I can describe the chameleon roles I assume for the company.

Over the years, with more or less success I've been a long distance driver, bouncer, labourer, teacher trainer, film director, carpenter, cleaner and just occasionally actor. It's a working and living existence that suits my easily bored nature as I try on different hats like an illegitimate son of Mr Ben.

No project requires this broad base of skills more than 'Of All The People In All The World. The Art/Science/Anthropology/Performance/Mathematics/Poetry/Factory crossover that is intrinsic to the show seems to inevitably confuse audiences according to the context it's presented in.

At Warwick Uni we were asked if it was a promotion selling rice to students; I've been told to stop tampering with the artwork like an errant cleaner, asked if I was a scientist, a statistitian, when the performance will start, when the exhibition will be ready, who's doing this?

In the context of WomAdelaide Festival it felt like the political aspects of the show could lead us to being read as activists, eager like so many other of the acts to alert the audience to the plight of this or that people or some aspect of their own grief-stricken story. Hopefully what always saves the show from inducing some kind of compassion fatigue is a sense of humour. I think we managed to find that mix in our blood-boiling tent as some of the 5,700 people who came through walked carefully round, wide eyed, half crying, half laughing - a state which I seem to be permanently in while performing the show.

It was an intense weekend!

Jake Oldershaw



Adelaide, all done and dusted, we got there just a week ago and now me and Jake are back at Singapore airport with a few hours to kill before the final leg back to London.
WOMADelaide - my first experience of a big music festival, going as an artist is the way to do it. With a back stage pass that allows you some moments of peace away from the crowds, a bar with no queue ( same with the toilets) and an air conditioned dressing room ( not really a dressing room more a trailer, we shared it with a french visual arts company called Quidams, they seemed a little grumpy but their show was beautiful)

My first experience also of OATP in a tent, I started with my usual attention to detail, straight lines, carefully arranged rice, clean and neat. By the end of Sunday I had to let go to the WOMAD spirit, the tent was full of grass, ants, and people. We did our best to stop the ants making off with some individuals, (they were very persistent ) I also had to ask a kid to pick up his football. Despite these extra anxieties and the incredible 100 degree heat the show was a great success with the tent constantly full of people. I spoke with a lot of people, including an aboriginal women proud that her people were included in the Australian population stats.

From MASS MoCA to WOMADelaide a crazy few weeks of snow, sun and rice and I can't wait to be home.


Thursday, March 08, 2007


Constance Brown Sells Out

Further to the post of 14th December, 2006: rumour reaches us that the entire run of The Cleansing Of Constance Brown had sold out in Vienna before we started rehearsals last week.

Credit goes to Weiner Festwochen for having a great relationship with their audience (and to us for proposing a show that only needs to sell 25 tickets to be sold out).

Now we just need to make the damn thing.



Monday, March 05, 2007


Dispatch From Budapest

One thing which I haven't been able to get out of my following our time in Budapest, is the British Council questionnaire. I've always known that their agenda is essentially a diplomatic effort, but I was amazed to see it presented so bluntly by young Hungarian recruits, funded by British Council Hungary, asking visitors if Of All The People In All The World had 'improved their perception of Britain'.

Seemed a big ask of anything, let alone a theatre company. Thing is, when I sneaked a look at the answers, most said 'yes'. I now hear that the thinktank Demos are claiming that culture can solve international disputes, based partly on research gathered from the British Council.

I've been used to making claims about the arts before - finding it sitting in regeneration/health/education agendas - but this is a new one. We appear to be involved in resolving the war on terror.

What makes this job more worrying is how vulnerable we are to dodgy translation. I massively enjoyed the confusion of a Hungarian radio reporter when Jack appeared to be telling her that he formed the Stan’s Cafe as a ten year old boy.

Nick Walker

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Constance Brown: Day 1

This blog won’t descend into a blow by blow account of our devising process, we’re not conceited enough to think this of any interest and I’m not candid enough to admit until afterwards that there are ever any moments when we think that everything is anything other than totally on track to being a triumph.

This said, today, Day 1, was a great start. Everyone was fired up, everyone is excited by the possibilities, everyone was firing ideas off. It looks like a fine team.

With luck the resolution on this image is high enough to give you a flavour of the day without being so high that rival theatre companies can nick our exciting ideas.



Yesterday and Today

A good Do at Frankley Community High School yesterday evening, celebrating all the creative partnerships work with an exhibition. Lots of parents and teachers turned up, which is always key. For the first time we saw the great carnival costumes that Ana and a new collaborator Gary had created with the pupils, they were spectacular, thoughtful and playful. There was a bit of shock in the air as the presence of Paul Chowdhry AKA DJ Moyma had lured in kids whose presence on the school premises is never guaranteed in school time, never mind after school. It was a good punctuation point for the work that’s being going on out there.

This morning is a very exciting one: the first day’s rehearsal for The Cleansing Of Constance Brown. On the equivalent day for the two previous shows I have been terrified, now it is pure anticipation.



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