Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Arts Funding: The Left Hand Giveth and the Right Hand Taketh Away

The mixed news from the Arts Council for England today has left the landscape of arts provision in this country fundamentally changed. Not as a result of the number of companies and organisations that have lost some or all of their funding, but because the flimsy veil has slipped from the Government's true face and their craven attempts at social engineering can be seen for what they are. The general public, should they have the will to do so, can examine the results of the Government's policies on arts provision and detect the undermining of opportunities for creativity and self-development that the arts provide.

Just as they have taken the scalpel to the NHS (operating without anaesthetic), and broken the spine of public libraries, so are they attempting to pull down the curtain on artistic endeavour. Not in a single swipe, of course, that would be too blatant, but in a more insidious manner. The big, tourist friendly organisations remain secure; they have had to take a little bit of the pain, we are all in this together remember, but they aren't facing closure. A number of companies from our neck of the woods - the North of England - have had their funding slashed or stopped completely. Red Ladder Theatre who have created some of the most powerful and socially relevant theatre in years are one example. Their left-wing origins and political allegiances, or their commitment to social issues won't have had anything to do with the decision, of course.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Dave's Update for March 2011

Happy March ladies and gents!! Well where do we start? Let’s get through the changes within the Company first.
Martin Knowles has decided that film making is for him, so from the beginning of this year he stepped down from acting roles with Paper Zoo and is now throwing his efforts into his new film company.
Ben Eagle has also decided on a change of direction and can be currently found visiting one of many drama schools and “Old Vic’s” around the country, auditioning for entrance to one of them.
Needless to say these two chaps are co founders of Paper Zoo Theatre Company and may well return at some point in the future should they wish to do so. In the meantime we wish them well in their respective career paths and hope to see them both soon.
And with regards to Paper Zoo it is onwards and upwards!
As you will have read, we are currently in rehearsal for Dennis Potter’s play, ‘Blue Remembered Hills’. Initially I had misgivings about the play but after just a couple of meetings the challenge it poses is something to relish. It is a wonderful story full of childhood friendships and allegiances that turn on a knife edge. The play is haunting and thought provoking in equal measure. The characters are children (played by children) during the 2nd World War down in the West Country, accents and all!! You can see the challenges already.
The tour dates will begin back end of June, actual dates to follow very shortly. We hope as many as you as possible, can see the play in the various venues we’ve got lined up.
Paper Zoo Theatre Company continues to go from strength to strength it seems with great encouragement and support from many followers of our work all chomping on the bit to see the next project.
So, on behalf of myself and the whole of the company, thank you for your continued support.
It is greatly appreciated.
Have a very happy Easter.
David x

Monday, 21 March 2011

Children During Wartime

It is a week away from the rehearsal studio this week. With our director away for the week we have decided that the best use of time is to get the lines learnt. Going over your lines is a task that most actors don't relish. This may seem ironic to most people as the whole discipline of acting requires study of the script. Memorising and interpreting the author's words is our stock in trade and yet it is still one of our least favourite activities. I, personally, find it easier to learn the lines in rehearsal, pinning lines and cues to the action of the scene. Other actors I have worked with have had different ideas - some like to have all the lines learned before they come in to rehearsals, others write their lines out several times, and I have met actors who record all their dialogue and cue lines to listen back to during the day. Whichever method works for you is the best one.

One definite benefit of studying the text is that it gives you time to think about your lines; not just how to say them but also what they actually mean. It always amazes me how relevant plays are. No matter when they were written, good plays will always chime with the times and speak to their audiences. 'Blue Remembered Hills' is about the effects of war on children; how their innocence is stolen by the events that they live through. They may not talk about it openly but children are deeply affected by calamitous events such as war. The characters in Dennis Potter's play are all aged around seven or eight years old. They are still small children and the adults that they refer to, the figures of authority, are never seen. The war is viewed through the children's eyes. They cannot fully understand the events taking place, and must deal with them by imitating the adults around them, taking on their mannerisms and using phrases borrowed from their elders. In the course of the play the children all lose their innocence. They encounter death and killing, and must deal with them. By the end of the play, the children have grown a little more devious and worldly.

Watching the recent television pictures from both Japan and Libya, it is clear to see that the children have been affected by events that they have witnessed and experienced. Their eyes have become more dull and lifeless. In truth they are probably petrified and unable to communicate with anyone. As actors we need to think about this when playing the children. We are not mimicking children's behaviours. Instead we are looking to play the truth of every scene.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Welcome to the Zoo

PaperZoo Theatre Company is into its sixth year of existence and continues to go from strength to strength. Back in 2005 when the Company formed, our aim was to bring great stories to audiences who, perhaps, didn't see themselves as theatre-goers. We continue to follow that aim now even though we have steadily built up an audience of our own. PaperZoo Theatre Company have presented 15 shows in a little over five years, we have played all over West and North Yorkshire and even ventured into Cheshire. We have been fortunate to have been commissioned by The National Media Museum in 2009 to produce a performance of George Orwell's classic dystopian novel 1984 to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the novel's publication. The Company have also presented works by Shakespeare (in the grounds of Bradford Cathedral), Samuel Beckett (in the Yorkshire Craft Centre Gallery) and an Easter Passion play in the Bradford City Centre. Two of our previous productions - Valentines and 2020Vision have been performed as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (the latter a rather prescient look at the effects of a catastrophic natural disaster on a team of call-centre workers) and we are delighted to be performing as part of both the Burley-in-Wharfedale and Saltaire Festivals again this year. Full details and archived images of all our productions can be found on the Company website which can be accessed here.
Along the way we have worked with 20 young actors who have all gained valuable practical experience through taking part in our productions. The Company has also been privileged to have benefitted from the generosity of Mr John Hurt who gave freely of his time to film exclusive sequences as Big Brother in our production of 1984.
We are currently in the throes of rehearsing our sixteenth production; Dennis Potter's play 'Blue Remembered Hills'. With several dates already booked and plenty more still to be confirmed soon, 2011 looks like being another busy year for all the Zoo Creatures. We will keep you updated on all developments via this blog, our twitter account and our official website.
Please do feed the animals!