Monday, 25 June 2012

Flushed at The Bikeshed Theatre

Exeter's Ignite Festival kicks off today and Theatre will take over the city. One of the first shows on the bill is Flushed from Theatre Rush at The Bikeshed Theatre and I recently found myself watching the YouTube promotional video for the production:

As Theatre explores new ways to promote productions and find new audiences, more and more promotional videos are appearing, which is great, but it can be hard to find a way to give an audience a sense of a production, especially when it's new writing and may not even be fully-formed at the time it starts to be promoted. That's why I wanted to highlight the video for Flushed, because I really like the way it manages to give you a sense of the play and the company. It's also enjoyable and nicely shot which made me want to watch the show and share the video.

But if you want to know more, here's the blurb from The Bikeshed Theatre website:

Four women

One bath

Can they fit in?

Flushed delves into the minds of four women who are facing up to their idiosyncrasies. We see moments of madness, insightful reflection and simple confessions that start to unravel their relationship with themselves. Who do you really see in the bathroom mirror?

Theatre Rush was formed only this year following the devised production of ‘Gesig’ which held its debut at The Bike Shed Theatre in December 2011, receiving a warm response by men and women alike. A company of female actors and practitioners shared the vision to deliver the bold truth about women starting with inspiration from Martha Graham’s quote:

‘There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all the time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost…’

Part-comic and part tragic, Flushed offers a window’s view to some of the mysteries women would prefer kept secret. Accessible to both the sexes, Flushed is honest, surprising and in some cases, absurd.

Flushed is on 25th (7pm), 27th (7pm) and 29th (6pm) June 2012 at The Bikeshed Theatre in Exeter.


Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Bristol's Sleeping Beauty: Why The Whiteladies Picture House Needs Your Help

The iconic Whiteladies Picture House is under threat as plans have been submitted to Bristol City Council to turn this beautiful building into a set of flats and a gym. But two men and their collective have no intention of letting that happen and they need your help.

It’s been just over 10 years since the Whiteladies Picture House closed its doors and like Sleeping Beauty it’s been waiting for a Prince to come and give it the kiss of life. However, Sleeping Beauty didn’t have a covenant on her that said she couldn’t be used as a cinema or for any other theatrical purpose. Having said that, no-one was determined to convert her into flats with a gym either, but that’s not the point of the analogy here...It turns out, Princes are like buses, and two have come along at once in the form of Alan Mandel Butler and David Fells.

When I turned up at the last Equity meeting, having not been for ages and having not read the emails the branch had sent out (sorry!), I’ll be brutally honest, I was expecting David and Alan, to be in their late 60s with no plan for the building beyond stopping it being turned into flats. Oh how wrong I was:

Alan and David: clearly not in their 60s and they do have a grand plan

My jaw dropped when they started to discuss their grand, yet financially viable, plan*. They intend to turn the Whiteladies Picture House into a community arts centre that consists of a 450 seat proscenium arch theatre, a separate 200 seat cinema/screening room, a large function room, foyer area, private meeting room and film edit suite.

They propose that the screening room/cinema would also be suitable for lectures and stand-up comedy. The function room, which was originally a ballroom (fully sprung), would be suitable for private functions or as a rehearsal space, cabaret comedy venue or as a large meeting room. They are also hoping that it will be put to its original use once again to host ballroom dance classes.

These pictures are from the Whiteladies Picture House campaign website. Click on them to visit the site and see more.

They aim to help local film-makers produce and showcase their work and hope to offer access to and training on film equipment, as well as a stock of owned cameras and access to the film edit suite. Completed films could then be showcased in the balcony cinema before the major features.
What is even more impressive is that they intend to do all of this whilst restoring this Grade II listed building to its former glory. They are both extremely passionate about old cinemas and understand, as well as appreciate, their cultural and historical significance. With this in mind they have been researching the building and sourcing vintage pieces they would love to purchase to restore the building with the love and care it desperately needs.

So what is stopping them from putting all of this into action? Money and Time. Not the covenant, as you might think, but money and the time they need to raise the money. Here’s why: the guys have worked tirelessly and have met with Odeon cinemas who will lift the covenant if The Whiteladies Picture House Ltd (the not-for-profit company they created to oversee the renovation and redevelopment of the Picture House building**) can secure the building. But securing the building is the problem.

The current landlord of the property has expressed no interest in the proposal itself, but would be willing to sell the property to The Whiteladies Picture House Ltd. So Alan, David and the rest of the Whiteladies Picture House Creative Collective (the group of people who have come together because they believe the project is something the city needs) started fundraising, but somewhere in the middle of all this, their hard work reminded other investors that the Picture House was lying unused and suddenly other proposals, old and new, started to creep out of the woodwork. Worse still, the decision to grant planning permission for the flats and gym is pending and will be decided in a few days time on Wednesday 27th June 2012. This is where they need your help:

A cover I created for the Downstage Write Facebook page

If the plans are passed, it’s the end for the Whiteladies Picture House as a community arts centre. So, assuming you cannot furnish them with £1.7million to buy the freehold, you can help them by signing the petition to support their proposal and/or you can lodge an objection to the flats/gym conversion by leaving a comment on the planning proposal. The relevant links can also be found below and on their website.

I really hope that David, Alan and The Collective are successful, because they have a fantastic, community-oriented vision for the Picture House; a stunning, culturally significant building which shouldn’t be consigned to history when there’s an opportunity for it to be part of our future.

I have provided a brief overview of the proposal in this post, but there is a lot more to it, so for further information visit their website.

*They mention the viability on their website, but at the Equity meeting concerns were raised about how they would generate income if they were successful in their plan and make the Picture House financially viable in the current economic climate. The answers they gave demonstrated a clear business plan and quelled the concerns.

** Once restored, this company intends to take on day-to-day operation of the venue.


Whiteladies Picture House Campaign Website (

The Planning Application (If you want to add an objection, you need to click on the 'Comments' tab)

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Fertility Objects: What's it all about?

Fertility Objects is the fourth production from the new-writing company Butterfly Psyche Theatre and starts at the Rondo theatre in Bath this Wednesday (20th June 2012). As I follow some of those involved on Twitter, I thought I'd find out more about the production.

The poster for Fertility Objects

Do you know a couple who are ‘trying for a baby’? Or suspect you know a couple who are? As you get older, the answer seems to be ‘yes’ on most days of the week. Fertility Objects is a play about three such couples who have hit a few bumps on the journey to parenthood and have ‘broken down’. They are trying to keep going and through the course of the play we discover if they will succeed in reaching their destination.

Image ©Lisa Hounsome 2012

The play is written by Alison Farina, Butterfly Psyche Theatre’s Artistic Director, and directed by Hannah Drake, the Rondo's resident Intern Director (and winner of the Elsa Roberts Prize for Directing). It is a deeply personal and delicate subject for many, but, as part of her research, Alison held interviews with men and women who have been affected by fertility issues and she had this to say about the experience:

“I was struck by how many people were affected by infertility and was moved by how many of these individuals were so supportive and encouraging of the project. It is such a personal and even taboo issue, despite its commonality and is rarely discussed openly. The challenge with this kind of subject matter is making a show that’s emotionally engaging without being a sob-fest, but I think we’ve cracked it!”
Alison Farina, Writer of Fertility Objects

Image ©Lisa Hounsome 2012

According to Japanese tradition, if a person can fold 1000 Origami cranes, they will be granted a special wish and designer, Natalie Remington, has incorporated this tradition into the design of the show:

“Our set design is based on the idea of Origami mobiles; since this show is about people wishing for a baby, we thought the idea of making the 1000 Cranes for them was both appropriate and poignant.”
Natalie Remington, Designer for Fertility Objects

The beauty of Theatre is that it allows you to explore emotions and situations that are close to you and also opens windows on to new experiences. Both reactions to a production can inspire questions and after the show on Wednesday 20th June, Butterfly Psyche Theatre are giving you the chance to get some answers. There will be a post-show discussion with the team from the Bath Fertility Centre, including Medical Director, Nick Sharpe Matron/Fertility Services Manager, Helen Kendrew, an Embryologist and their centre Counsellor (this event is free and will take place just after the performance).

Image ©Lisa Hounsome 2012

With a subject matter close to many people’s hearts and a cast consisting of Oliver Millingham, Shane Morgan, Justin Palmer, Jenny Johns, Anna Westlake and Fleur Ward, it’s firmly on my list of shows to see this week.

The show runs Wednesday 20th - Saturday 23rd June (8pm) at the Rondo Theatre in Bath and links for booking and further information can be found below.


The Rondo Theatre

Bath Box Office

Butterfly Psyche on Facebook

Butterfly Psyche on Twitter

Bath Fertility Centre

Hannah Drake

Natalie Remington

Monday, 4 June 2012

Saturday Shorts 3 at The Bristol Folk House

The place to be this Saturday 9th June at 7.45pm is The Folk House on Park Street, Bristol watching Saturday Shorts 3. Tucked away behind the Children's Hospice shop and Nomad Travel (if you’re walking up the hill and you reach the Spar, you’ve gone too far!) you will find a haven of creativity and this Saturday it will be the venue for a showing of 6 new short plays.

The 6 plays have been selected from over 200 entries and will be produced as script-in-hand performances, directed by Pameli Benham and Duncan Bonner. If you’ve never been to a script-in-hand performance and aren’t sure what one is, the plays are performed with costume and props, but the actors maintain the script in their hand as they perform. It may sound distracting if you have never watched one, but when I am in the audience I forget the actors have scripts, they just become part of the action.

It’s a brilliant opportunity to watch new work which may not otherwise have the opportunity to be performed, or before it’s picked up for full performance. It also provides feedback for the writers, who can see how an audience responds to their work and may make alterations based on the reaction.

The actor folk for Saturday Shorts 3: (top row) Alan Coveney, Jason Bailey, Me - Annette Chown, (bottom row) Duncan Bonner, Marie Clifford, Paul Currier

I performed in last year’s Saturday Shorts and I had a great time so I’m really looking forward to this Saturday. The plays selected for 2012 are as follows (the descriptions are from the Bristol Folk House website

'Our Space' by John Yates - A bizarre pair tell us of the life they lead entirely within the boundaries of their own home.

'The Philosopher Barber' by Belinda Dixon - A moving comic monologue about rites of passage, the power of words, and a nice, neat short back and sides.

'Welvis' by Stephen Rhys Gage - A down-at-heel entertainment agency turns out to have a more sinister side.

'Tescoville' by Katherine Mitchell - A tense comedy in which a man is held hostage by his ex-partner who is seeking the child support money.

'Joe. Morag. And an Urn' by Andrzej Wawrowski - A touching comedy in which an estranged couple scatter the ashes of the adult education tutor who brought them together.

'The Hunt' by Alan Harris - A strange and atmospheric tale in which a young man rescues his sister from a life as a hound.

Duncan preparing to be The Philosopher Barber

I will be performing in ‘Tescoville’ and ‘The Hunt’, and at the time of writing this, I know as much about them as you do, but from their descriptions, they sound great, so I cannot wait until Saturday!

Tickets are £6 and available from the Bristol Folk House (T: 0117 926 2987)