Check here for latest news from the company as well as rehearsal room updates, articles from the creative teams and what we are up to next.
Rachel would demonstrate a series of yoga poses that we would then encourage, and support, the participants to shape.
It was impressive how quickly the young people picked up and remembered the different poses- even if they didn't always remember the name. What was really sweet, was witnessing them help each-other when making the poses together.
By Hannah Kelly
When I was asked to be an Intern for Tangled Feet’s Mindfulness Programme, I jumped at the opportunity. Through working with Next Generation Youth Theatre, I have seen how art can transform young people’s lives as their self-worth builds.
Anxiety is something I recognise in many children I have worked with in the past. A report from the Children’s Commissioner in 2017 found that there is an ‘epidemic of anxiety’ in young people. I believe the Mindfulness Programme came along at the right time.
KS1 children from Stopsley Primary School took part in the retelling of Tangled Feet’s brilliant show, ‘Butterflies’ over a period of 10 weeks. Led by Emily Eversden, we explored the butterflies you get in your tummy when faced with something scary or worrying. Alongside this, Rachel Rookwood introduced yoga techniques into the sessions. A sense of calm would often fall across the room (they could be very loud!) as they practised their yoga poses and focused on their breathing.
The children became braver as each session passed; it was touching to see their confidence grow over such a short amount of time. They began to openly share their feelings with the group. A few children were very shy in the beginning but by the end, they were all putting their hands up and getting involved.
My favourite week (and the messiest) was when the children each made a Storm Jar. They were told that whenever they felt a little wobbly and in need of some calm, they could shake the jar and watch the glitter fall. It warmed my heart when a little girl came in a few weeks later and said she kept it next to her bed.
The support they had for one another was undeniable and it became stronger each week. Whether it was helping someone up a rocky mountain they created, a hold of the hand or simply listening to one another, it was lovely to see. I felt proud and emotional in equal measure in the last session.
It had such a positive impact on the children, one that I hope they will carry with them. A focus on mindfulness in schools is something every young person deserves access to. It’s an opportunity for young people to connect with their emotions and become more empathetic towards others. In a world that seems more than a little scary at times, kindness and understanding will go a long way.
A massive thank you to Tangled Feet for this unforgettable experience. Tangled Feet are so full of heart and care and made me feel completely comfortable in my role as an Intern. I'm so excited to see what’s next for the programme!
By Rachel Rookwood
I was thrilled to be asked to take part in Tangled Feet’s pilot mindfulness project for KS1 children. Yoga for children and being able to offer it in schools is a passion of mine. I believe that we are facing a mental health crisis across all age groups and demographics. Anxiety and other mental health issues are becoming more and more prevalent in our young people with 1 in 10 children suffering with a mental health disorder.
Tangled Feet have an amazing show called “Butterflies”, and with the project leader Emily Eversden we set to work on creating a 10 week project telling its story. With the addition of yoga poses and mindfulness exercises we wanted to create a fun and interactive project that would develop concentration and improve behaviour as well as giving us the opportunity to talk about anxiety and how to deal with it. Fourteen handpicked children were excused from normal lessons at Stopsley Primary to take part with us and our pilot scheme was off.
Focusing on a different part of the journey each week we travelled on boats, walked up mountains, explored caves and meadows making new friends and facing our fears along the way. Highlights included making glitter jars to mimic starry nights and flying butterflies around the room.
The progress we saw each week was heart-warming, with the children always excited to see us and opening up more each week telling us about their worries and how they were going to face them as well as seeing improvements in their behaviour and concentration.
Every class ended with a mini meditation, letting them snuggle up with blankets and eye pillows for maximum relaxation. This was always my favourite part of class – watching them relax, take a break and let their little minds settle. It was also where the difference was really seen with the children settling quicker and more calmly each week.
The feedback from the children and teachers has shown that the progress was taken out of the project and into the classroom which is everything we wanted for this project! I can’t wait for our second run.
By Sara Templeman
Life expectancy in the UK is 80 years old. Most of Tangled Feet’s core ensemble and founding members will be turning 40 soon. It’s made us think about what life is like as you approach your expected halfway mark. Also what was it like half a life ago, and half that time again? What will it be like in another 40 years?
In this intergenerational show we ask different age groups these life questions. What’s your world like? What do you care about? What’s important? What do you look forward to? What will life be like in 10, 20, 40 years time?!
A report from the Children’s Commissioner at the end of last year found that there is an ‘epidemic of anxiety’ in young people. The number of children seeing psychiatrists has risen by a third, with the highest increase – 31% in a year – seen in those aged 9 and under. It’s a shocking rise. (Thanks to Flossie Waite from Children’s Theatre Reviews for digging out the statistic).
It was this sort of news that prompted us to make Butterflies, a Co-Production with Half Moon, that used anxiety in children as a starting point for a show for 3-8 year olds. We first started making the show in 2017 and did some test performances at Half Moon. This year we have developed the show and it’s touring until Nov 24th. Alongside the tour we have launched a Mindfulness programme to run in four schools in 2019.
The performance of Butterflies depicts a journey of three characters as they encounter various anxieties. We developed ideas for the types of anxiety they would feel through research, development rehearsals and some workshop sessions with a group of young people who refuse to go to school due to extreme anxiety (part of our Dramatherapy programme in Croydon). We focused on anxieties that are often deep rooted in our hearts and minds (separation anxiety, the dark, loud noises, heights) alongside ones that are learnt or developed as we socialise and grow up (anxiety over failure, public perceptions of us, not knowing what might happen next).
For children all of these anxieties are keenly felt. Anyone attempting to get a young baby to sleep in their own room or be ok at the morning drop off knows how strong the anxiety over separation is felt (by both parties). We all have these and are often born with inbuilt triggers to make us worry in order to survive. Even the very young have ‘butterflies’ We recently did a workshop for under 5’s who were seeing Butterflies the following week to discuss the feeling of ‘butterflies in your stomach’ or the fear over not knowing what will happen next and these are feelings that are strongly experienced at that age.
As we grow up and start to socialise and go to school the anxieties grow and become more complex. The worry over changing year groups or a whole new school, getting things wrong in class or in life and the perception of you by your peers and elders. There is an anxiety to trip you up everywhere.
In Butterflies and our Mindfulness programme we highlight that a small dose of anxiety is vital to help us get through the day unscathed (not run into a road, jump off a wall, to be ready for an exam) – it’s when the anxiety starts to take control – when it slips into the driving seat of our lives- that’s when its debilitating and can make you ill. With the show and workshop programme we want to look at how we can live with or ride with small levels of anxiety and when there is a surge then friendships, creativity, talking and practical exercises can help.
Our school years require so many skills, in particular how we adapt, how we cope with change. Imagine in your adult working life having to change your boss, your work setting and your aims and targets every 12 months. Now apply this to when you were 5. Transition is difficult and for some children it can feel impossible. Through our discussions with teachers across all key stages and our own experiences in schools it had become clear that there are two particular years were the transition for students was a bigger jump. Year 1; where students move from the free flow play model of reception to more structured learning, and at the other end of the spectrum year 12; where the move from GCSE to A Level requires a more independent learning model. Teachers have reported that at these transition points symptoms of anxiety were more prevalent and mental health, particularly at year 12, started to suffer in some students. A report released today from Action for Children finds that 1 in 3 teenagers are suffering from anxiety. This is something that absolutely needs addressing nationally and it seems that this is becoming more apparent to Ofsted.
“Good mental health is the foundation to young people achieving their aspirations. There have been changes to the Ofsted common inspection framework, and these are centered on emotional wellbeing.” Innovating Minds. To be outstanding schools must enable students to be able to “make informed choices about healthy eating, fitness and their emotional and mental wellbeing”.
Tangled Feet’s mindfulness project is being funded by the Luton Arts Fund supported by Luton Borough Council & Luton Culture. It is aiming to create a safe space where students can explore their feelings physically and verbally, work with them, talk about them and also learn specialist tools that they can utilise when they feel that panic building. We are working with a mindfulness teacher to create a programme of bespoke sessions for each of the 4 schools involved in the pilot project. The objective is to give students the ability to take more control of their emotional wellbeing, achievement and happiness in school and beyond.
When Butterflies opened at Half Moon theatre earlier this year it was reviewed by Flossie Waite at Children’s Theatre Reviews. She was extremely candid in her review and noted that her anxiety had been felt since childhood, continued today and the experience of watching Butterflies when younger could have been transformative:
“There’s so much to be anxious about as a young person now, from social media to the general instability that we’re all currently living through, but levels of anxiety seem to be rising alongside levels of awareness. As someone who has had anxiety for as long as I can remember – certainly from the age of the young audience sat around me, captivated by the show – seeing Butterflies 20 years ago would have been a truly transformative experience, though watching it now is powerful enough. Ultimately, however, this show is for everyone – from those who only occasionally feel a flutter in their tummy to people like me whose belly is basically a butterfly tent – speaking compassionately to those who suffer, and showing ways to be supportive for those who don’t.” (Flossie Waite https://childrenstheatrereviews.com/2018/09/23/butterflies/)
Although it was sad to read about Flossie’s battle with anxiety it affirmed the shows importance to start conversations in school, in friendship groups and in families. Our mindfulness programme will follow up that conversation with creative activities, discussions and mindfulness exercises.
If some of those children who are statistics of the Children’s Commissioner report or Action for Children Survey find themselves within the Mindfulness Programme in 2019 we hope we leave them with tools to help them in the future. We aim to expand the programme after the pilot year.
Nathan Curry (Co-Director) & Emily Eversden (Participation Director)
Butterflies tours until Nov 24th /productions/31-butterflies
The Mindfulness Programme runs in four Luton schools from Jan-May 2019 and was funded by Luton Council, Luton Culture, Arts Council England, University of Bedfordshire and Capital Regional 7
Tangled Feet have just returned from 9 days in Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria where we co-created a new piece of site-specific theatre with 5 local schools (150 young people) and the local community. It was a gruelling, fairly stressful and completely uplifting experience.
Since returning home I’ve been thinking about what it means to make work in and alongside a community and how powerful the effect can be when that community has less opportunity to access artistic experiences than others. I’ve also been thinking of where love fits into community theatre.
We set out to make a show that was created by the young performers (and one of their teachers) and whilst responding to and inspired by local realities, we hoped it would stretch everyone in terms of style and content.
The story was developed using the local Loki Stone (a carving of the Norse God of Chaos found nearby) as a starting point. The show started with the discovery of a large box, dug up from underneath the school playing field (local farmer Monty provided the large hole.) By opening the box the spirit of Loki was released and mayhem ensued. We imagined a world where Loki was messing with the elements; water, earth, wind and heat and turning the weather on its head (not hard to imagine recently). What followed was a site responsive, indoors and outdoors promenade performance with live music as we attempted to tame the weather and get Loki back under control.
Reflecting on the experience I wanted to share some thoughts:
1) “Heroes don’t always wear capes”
The arts are held up, celebrated and shared by key individuals in local communities and they are the ones that are sustaining creativity in young people. Tangled Feet were merely visitors to this community and the ambition, free labour and tenacity of Kate Lynch and Vicki Betram who run Kirkby Stephen Community Arts was the reason it happened. They were and are completely professional but did most of this gig unpaid – I wonder if funders, the local community and artists know their extraordinary value.
It seems completely simple to a devising ensemble and probably to many theatre makers reading this but the simple act of giving up creative power and putting the authorship of the art into the hands local young people leads to some astounding results. Yes the dramaturgy may be patchy, the work under rehearsed and design only filtered through a few days of creative thinking but the outcomes on this project were of a different value (that word again). The students and community feel creatively powerful. One student will now start their own drama club in a local school with no drama provision, the school ‘jam’ band is keen to revive, the local amateur dramatic group has new younger performers, the drama teacher had intense CPD, the school witnessed problematic Year 7 boys become men, students from 5 schools bonded through creative thinking. But most importantly the students saw themselves as the artists - they made the creative decisions- they made the art, they were not pawns in the art. Einstein said something like “If you teach a child merely knowledge they will create what they know. If you teach them creativity, they will create things no one has ever thought of.” I feel like this is something we all need reminding of.
3) Work rurally
I loved being in Cumbria. The community and landscape are things of beauty but the rural communities have huge challenges accessing cultural experiences. Tangled Feet have recently worked in the most rural parts of Somerset and Cumbria. I have been struck during those experiences of how isolated young people can be from the arts unless they have a parent ‘to take them’. There is very basic (if any) public transport, a handful of venues if you can get to them and a circuit of under resourced rural touring shows or theatre in education shows that schools can hardly afford. What are we all doing about this or are we just going to continue to have larger playhouses and events and expect people to pitch up to us? I have often suggested that all regular funded arts organisations should make one piece of free to access outdoor art every year, I’ll now add to that list they should all work rurally (at their own expense) or in areas with little public transport infrastructure.
4) Work site specifically/outdoors in schools
Whilst the weather it not always going to be as kind as it has been this summer, going outside (especially with young people) to make art changes the rules with incredible results. Everything becomes more democratic, limitless and the dynamic between collaborators is re-imagined. The walls of a building where art may be hung, the rows of chairs facing a stage and narratives set in rooms are all blown out of the water and replaced by a canvas that has no rules. It also changes how the audience move and talk with each other – the space becomes less formal and less intimidating.
5) The Silo
The experience also highlights the power of gatekeepers and the dangerous attitude of putting creative thinking into a silo of ‘the arty fartys’. We faced some suspicion about why we had come, some key people needed more convincing than others and because the event didn’t include winning anything the value we offered (confidence, team work, creative thinking, friendship, leadership, artistic skill, catering, marketing, lighting, health & safety, negotiation, development ideas.. I could go on…) wasn’t immediately obvious. There was lots of ‘we don’t do that’, ‘it’s not for me’ and I am sure there were some people who tried their best to ignore our presence. I have to ask myself why is that? Their fear? Our attitudes? Our work? Perhaps it’s all tied up in the poisonous thought that theatre is only for a few and you either can or can’t do it. Everyone can be creative and everyone is welcome but its up to both sides to break down barriers.
Love was very present in Kirkby Stephen and the surrounding communities. You could tell the young people really cared for each other and the way the families engaged with the project and their neighbours was a thing of beauty. When I was on one of my site visits in the snow (remember that?) back in March local people took in stranded motorists and gave them a bed and food. On this summer visit I noticed the Police Station is only open two afternoons a week. In this part of the world the community is the emergency service. Never have I worked on a project where every request was met with a cheery ‘I’ve know someone who can do that” and the next day they appeared ready to offer their services. They took responsibility for each other, for the success of the project and for their visitor’s happiness. How often do you take responsibility for your community (however you define it)?
We feel like we started a beautiful new relationship with Kirkby Stephen and the surrounding area and we can’t wait to go back. I’ll leave you with the thoughts of a parent below. Nathan
“What an amazing experience for the audience but more importantly for the students. Such immersive experiences are vital for a small rural school where geography and funds limit access to mainstream art and culture. It may sound unlikely that eight days can make such a difference to children’s lives but such a unique experience which takes them out of their comfort zone and plunges them into a different world alongside other students they may not have socialised with or thought they had anything in common with can be truly transformative.“
Photos by Ben Holmes
Hey there, my name is Melaina Pecorini and I am one of the new recruits to join the company of Tanged feet. I have currently just finished my three-year training at East 15, the course of my choice was BA Acting and Stage Combat.
My journey with Tangled Feet started in February, when Kat (one of the Tangled feet directors) attended our showcase, picked us out from the crowed and invited us to audition for ‘That Parking Show’. it was lovely to see the company making a conscious choice of seeking BAME actors for this project.
To continue reading click 'Read the whole story' next to the date at the top.
So far, we have had two weeks of Research and Development. Which included getting to know each other, playing games and creating improves to discover the outline of the overall show. Already it has been such a great process and I don’t think I have ever laughed so much.
That Parking Show will be something you will not want your eyes to miss. It’s a mixture of light-hearted comedy, acrobatic and slapstick elements to exploring the theme of road rage, that I’m sure many drivers have felt before and will be able to relate to and how the little sparks of anger can drastically escalate into a fire of pure rage.
I have loved working so closely with everyone involved and I can’t wait to get this show on the road.
By Kat Joyce
We are very honoured to have been recognised with a prize for Best Family-Friendly Workplace Initiative' by the Fantastic for Families campaign.
Over the years the number of people in the ensemble with kids has grown to the point that there are now more children than adults in the TF tribe. So really, we had to adapt our working lives or we would just not have been able to carry on making work. The upshot of that is that, motivated by our long-standing commitments to working together, we've found loads of creative ways to accommodate people's parenting status.
The theatre industry can be horribly unfriendly towards parents and parents-to-be. I know of women who work at major buildings who privately report a culture where taking time out for motherhood marks you clearly as someone with no desire to succeed. I know actors who have been dropped by their agents during maternity leave because 'it doesn't seem like you want to return to work after your baby'. Others who've had to desperately scrabble around for childcare when production schedules are changed at the last minute. In an industry where there are always more creatives than there are jobs, and people often feel very precarious and disposable, many try to behave as if they don't have children, hiding their families out of sight. This is a real shame, as it means that talent and experience haemorrhage out of our industry as people (mainly women) find family lives incompatible with continuing to work.
To read the full blog click 'Read the whole story' next to the date at the top.
But as TF have found, if you are invested in people and committed to making a relationship work then it is often remarkably easy to make some accommodations so that they can continue being a valued part of the team. We've done flexible working, part time, having meetings via skype, bringing small babies in to work and strapping toddlers on in slings and cracking on with the tech. Ensemble working lends itself job shares and shared responsibilities. It's no hardship to plan a production schedule so everyone has a good few weeks notice. It's very often possible to accommodate someone arriving late or leaving early to pick up a child from nursery. What works for one parent might not work for another, so we've been very proactive about sorting out a solution for each person. 'How can we make this work for you?' is a phenomenally easy question to ask but takes a lot of people by surprise.
And the benefits are manifold. Parents, of course, bring a wealth of skills to the table: patience, ability to juggle, conflict resolution, silliness, and the ability to see the world from a different perspective. When people are freed of the stress of trying to juggle competing demands, they can use that energy creatively. Children in the room often generate play (admittedly, sometimes they are a huge distraction, but swings and roundabouts). But really importantly, people with children understand the pressures of having children, and how to alleviate them. If we want our theatres to be family-friendly places, open and accessible, then we need our theatres and companies to be family-friendly workplaces. One begets the other.
We’ve been out on the road over the last few weeks with our show for 2-7’s Need A Little Help. The show follows the life of a young carer who has to take on the caring responsibilities for her father. The theme of care, families and juggling life’s challenges is central to the performance as well as the creation and touring period (the cast and creative team features 4 parents). To us, it feels like the work has an extra layer of authenticity and love as it focuses on the challenges of being a parent and having a child, as well as being a child and having a parent and was made by parents with children in the room!
What’s been hugely satisfying is the type of tour we’ve been on – its part of a Strategic Touring Scheme named Hopper and takes early years theatre to meet early years audiences in rural settings. Most of the young audience in Watchet, Middlezoy, Taunton and Tidworth had not spent much time in theatres nor had this sort of theatre visited their place of care/education. We had so many comments that the children rarely got the chance to see plays and that it was so important that it connected with their family life and their family relationships. We were so pleased to share the work in this way and continue our commitment to families – both in the company and in the audiences we meet.
What’s been hugely satisfying is the type of tour we’ve been on – its part of a Strategic Touring Scheme named Hopper and takes early years theatre to meet early years audiences in rural settings. Most of the young audience in Watchet, Middlezoy, Taunton and Tidworth had not spent much time in theatres nor had this sort of theatre visited their place of care/education. We had so many comments that the children rarely got the chance to see plays and that it was so important that it connected with their family life and their family relationships. We were so pleased to share the work in this way and continue our commitment to families – both in the company and in the audiences we meet.
Special thanks to all our children and long suffering partners and wider families for their love and creative inspiration.
Whilst rehearsing the show ‘Butterflies’, I discovered that Butterflies can symbolically mean ‘New beginnings’ which I thought was a lovely affirmation of our title. It was another layer, as butterflies initially came to us in a brainstorm about describing how anxiety feels. I also learnt so much more about Anxiety through our research and discussions that surpassed my personal experiences with it and treating it with therapy and yoga practise.
The show sees three characters going on a big adventurous journey filled with danger and excitement in new scenarios and how they overcome their anxieties in these moments. Every scene is a new beginning, a new thing to overcome, which each character successfully does. Especially at the end standing atop a mountain looking into the horizon , looking ahead to the future.
This moment had a real personal connection for me. The first time we did it in rehearsals I cried!
Earlier this year I learnt to ski in the French Alps and had really moving moments looking out at 1850 metres above sea level over these beautiful landscapes. It gave me an enormous feeling of hope and new beginnings after a painful few years in my personal life and the fact at 34 I had learnt a new skill I never thought I would do. Skiing is SCARY and when I started to learn I was so anxious and by the end of 2 weeks practise I was loving it! So I really felt a personal connection to the show ending in this way.
As I mentioned I have suffered with anxiety notably since a road accident 6 years ago so I had some knowledge before we started making the show. I have had Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to help deal with it. It helps you to simplify the sensation of anxiety and explore the anatomy of it to some extent as well. It asks you to question why you feel this way, are you actually in danger, reprogramming the way you behave or react to things both through your thoughts and behaviour. In doing that, you calm down as you rationalise the sensation and learn techniques to cope with them. When we were devising we looked at similar ideas and also found that offering new opportunities and overcoming them might be a good way to let our audience know that having anxiety is OK, and there are ways to overcome it. We looked at the anatomy as well, to deepen our understanding of the physical sensations of anxiety and used this in our devising process. The process deepened my own understanding of anxiety, even having already had therapy for it!
Discussing anxiety out loud with my fellow collaborators made me realise that everyone has anxieties, some heavier than others, but actually that it is OK. It’s a part of life. During a scene in the play where the characters encounter a huge cavernous hole and they all get butterlfies, one of the characters says:
‘You have it too’
to which my character nods and responds with
‘It means we won’t jump in’
Anxiety actually protects us from doing things that might harm us. So it is essential to keep us safe. Even though I think I knew this (we all know the feeling of flight fright or freeze in stressful situations) I think now when I suffer with my ‘flutter’ in everyday life I will know its just my body telling me to look after myself, keep myself safe and sound and it will pass. That’s comforting and a new method to incorporate into coping with my own anxieties day to day.
This was a very therapeutic experience for me to explore an issue I actually deal with and also in finding a way to explain and understand it to convey a story to our audience deepened my understanding of it. I have learnt so much from sharing this process with such a great team. Thanks so much to the Butterflies cast & crew.
By Nathan Curry
The rehearsals have rushed by like a runaway train charging towards the station of ‘Performances ‘and it feels like I was hurtling along with it and now have emerged blinking outside the station going ‘Oh! This is where I am!?’
Reflecting back a week after we presented the show it feels slightly like we have unfinished business. The making process of devised theatre means that the narrative of the show is often completed in the imaginations of the audience. You learn so much about how the show is structured and its dynamics by watching an audience experience it – particularly an audience of children. This is why in other styles of theatre you have previews to test the work in front of a live audience. We shared the show four times last weekend and developed it each time but by the final performance it felt like things were really starting to emerge (for me and the actors) that were showing up the real potential and the gaps in the story. I wanted to get straight back at it the following Monday morning.
For the full blog click 'read the whole story' by the title.
We had probably found the structure of the show (through improvising, research and playing) by the end of the first week – 3 friends on an adventure, each with 2 major moments of anxiety and a sense of how the show started and ended. This is like DRAFT 1. At this stage of the ‘play’ you may share it with your colleagues and friends and receive feedback on its structure and character arcs. This journey of dramaturgy on a new play happens in offices, cafes and over months, sometimes years. In our process it happens live, in the room and over week 2 – this is the editing and testing period. This becomes DRAFT 2 by the end of the second week. At this stage the traditional new play may start their rehearsal period where ours seems just to be ending (!)…. So into Week 3 and we make it all work in the theatre- adding lighting, the right sound, the final props. And suddenly we have reached the station – the performances.
There is a joy of this by-the-seat-of-our-pants making process. You genuinely offer something up that feels fresh, newly baked and get an instant feedback. The work is so close (in terms of time) to the moment it was created that the actors are still discovering new things right in front of the audiences eyes. It also allows the audience to have an authorial role – they can insert their imaginations into the gaps and for young audiences these imaginations are rich and ready. I love listening and talking to the audience about what their imaginations conjured, what images meant to them and where the story wobbled.
So onto the next period… Reflection, re-rehearsal and touring in 2018.
By Mario Christofides
So first show today of Butterflies and it's an exciting time. Reflecting back over the devising process and R&D, it's been so interesting to learn about anxiety in children (and in general), and about how anxiety lives in all of us. Though our coping mechanisms all differ, I think the main realisation about it for me is the notions of what 'control' is to us all, about the feelings you get when you are not in 'control' and how your experience becomes something you focus on as a safety tool.
We explored in devising about feelings like 'missing-a-step', 'falling' and 'floating'; in each one of these feelings the surety of the physical world is missing (i.e. the actual sensation of your hands grabbing something or your foot landing on the ground).
I confess I have times when my anxiety gets the better of me, but whenever I've felt like that one of my coping mechanisms is that I know it's only temporary, the 'grounding element' is that the feeling has happened before and I'm still here - I've experienced it already - what's the worst that can happen, right?
But what if you are not built that way? What if you feel like you will never get that grounding? You can't control yourself - your descent or ascent, how then can you be sure that you are not going to feel that way forever.
Very scary, and the really sad thing is that some people no matter how hard they try cannot find that surety of 'I'll get past this'.
It's really tough place. A place that needs greater awareness I think and makes me glad that we've created a children's show about it.
By Abigail Dawson
With less than a week until the first performance of ‘Butterflies’ it’s a good time to reflect on the past couple of weeks and how the show has developed.
The whole team came together for the first few days and discussed the idea of anxiety – what our own anxieties are, what can cause anxiety and how to deal with them. It soon became clear that most of us are in fact very anxious people, and we tend to hide it. However, over the course of the two weeks of rehearsals I realised that it is okay to have anxieties, and just like our three characters in the show with the support of each other around us we can combat them together.
Below is a picture of Tunji, one of our actors, showing everyone that we’re nearly ready to spread our wings at Half Moon Theatre and welcome you to ‘Butterflies’!
By Tunji Falana
Before I was told we were making this show about anxiety/worrying in children, I wasn't fully aware of how it affected people’s day to day or activities. I knew people got anxious or worried as did I from time to time, but never that it stopped people from doing what they should or wanted to do. Growing up in Nigeria, it wasn't really spoken about or echoed not in adults let alone children. The general knowledge was you are worried about it, get over it and do it.
For the full blog click 'read the whole story' by the title.
Now, with research and learning during rehearsals, I have a better knowledge on the subject. The cerebral process, the physical and mental reactions etc. Most of all I feel a little equipped on how to help someone who is anxious or perhaps having a panic attack. I am no professional don't get me wrong, but one of the things I’ve learnt over the course of the time is to acknowledge the feeling, as it allows the person to realize that it’s normal to feel this way. Everyone has either a healthy level of anxiety or that one thing you most worry about and just can’t shake the feeling.
Oh yes! the feeling is a thing and sometimes we can’t explain it, sometimes it takes over our lives. We all experience it at some point. Right now I’m a little nervous that all I have said won’t make sense. However, I am going to focus on the task rather than the outcome.
So come join us, come take a little journey with us as explore this sometimes inexplicable, sometimes hindering, sometimes helpful feeling that we can’t just shake.
By Sara Templeman
Two rather different shows.
One outdoors, One indoors.
One in Luton, One in Croydon
One common factor: Young People
I've done my fair share of one off drama workshops across Schools Colleges Universities and drama groups with Tangled Feet (TF). We always treat any of our workshop participants as if they were part of the company and we form an ensemble within each group that works uniquely together. That's the basis of all our work. Creating work from the group of people in the room. No script and no idea what will happen. It's an exciting way to work.
For the full blog click 'read the whole story' by the title.
Workshops are often one or two days worth in length, sometimes just an afternoon and although you make a lot of headway and often create small pieces of theatre and magic, there's always scope to develop creative ideas further. It was exciting to embark on two long term projects earlier this Summer with two seperate groups of young people from opposite sides of London (just outside London) Luton & Croydon to be precise.
'Mirror Sky' up in Luton was a large scale outdoor devised show with a cast of over 100 local young people from a bunch of schools and the wonderful Next Generation Youth Theatre (NGYT). The TF crew consisted of further actors/directors/workshop facilitators. It was to be the finale show at the first year of 'Imagine Luton.'
It was an epic task organising this many young people working in smaller groups with seperate directors and actors over many weeks, learning choreography TF actors had previously devised. The age range was broad with our youngest performer being just 7 years old! The show explored societies obsession with devices (phones) and the fact we all walk around eyes down, not interacting with each other or taking in the surroundings we might be travelling through. Living inside our own digital worlds. The message we were hoping to try to get across was to look up. Look out at the world. Be here now. Interact. Reconnect. We had four groups of young people rehearsing on different afternoons in schools and church halls across Luton learning their own individual movement pieces that would pop up around Luton town centre on the performance day. We had one day when all groups met and rehearsed the mass ensemble finale with over 100 young people dancing and moving together in St. George's Square in Luton. It was no mean feat when it all came together on the day. Amazing team work and focus and energy from all involved meant it was a big success and a really special community project to partake in for us all! Young and Old (ish) alike.
On that note, 'Tracing the Past' down in Croydon was a community project involving Young and Old from Croydon Youth Theatre Project (CYTO) and the residents of an old people's care home called Whitgift House, as well as other more senior members of The Shoestring Theatre where CYTO are based. The show explored entertainment in Croydon over the last 50 years through accounts from old and young participants. We visited an old people's care home in Croydon with our young people and had the most insightful, jolly and nostalgic afternoon. Old and Young interacted and recalled their experiences of Croydon and what they had all got up to in their spare time in conversation with each other. We recorded the chats to use in the show. The piece was a subtle indoor documentary style piece which was performed in a verbatim style - actors performed with headphones, listening live to the stories we had recorded and spoke them out loud for the audience to hear. Our young people spoke the words of the old and vice versa.
It was a very simple but effective device for showing the similarities and differences these people had of Croydon. It also transformed 14 year old performers into an 80 year old person in an instant. It was remarkable sometimes. There was a proper respect and regard from both sides in this project. Old were happy to learn that young people still got up to the same old things they had, it wasn't all mobile phones and computer games.
The oldies (I'm sure they won't mind me calling them that) when they were younger were entertained and excited by new technologies like cinema and music on the radio, then television. We still enjoy that now and technology has rapidly advanced which we enjoy, but we had shared interests that were commonly enjoyed from all participants like dancing and singing, attending cinema, music concerts and enjoying the theatre with friends and loved ones. Also the fact they were part of youth organisations was a very common similarity. It was great to be part of learning this myself as my age sits somewhere between the oldies and the youngies and perhaps you can feel a divide or a distance between social groups like millennial’s, younger people, older generations etc. The fact is we are all still people and enjoy the same things and personal connections and we have more in common than perhaps we might think.
A strong connection throughout both projects was a real sense of community. All ages coming together with a common interest in theatre and wanting to make work and share stories. What also stands out for me across the board was a dedication and commitment to the respective projects and the human connection experienced by all. We collaborated well with each other and some people didn't know anyone at all when we first started and had been brave to come and get involved. They all volunteered their spare time, brought their own fresh ideas to sessions, did research in their own time and behaved professionally. A massive compliment to the youth organisations and schools where our young people volunteered from.
Thanks to all who were involved across both projects, I loved working with you all!!
Mirror Sky was a thrilling experience which allowed me to engage with the audience (Luton) in a physical way. I enjoyed this because I was able to convey this message of ‘reconnecting’ something I do believe our society struggles with as we have become hypnotised by our mobile phones rather than the world God has created for us. I wouldn’t have done anything different as I felt involved and a part of a community when we performed on the street and in school (practise sessions). The best thing about it was meeting new people from all walks of life, there were: dancers, musicians, actors and other schools involved. I would love to take part in a project like this in the future again, just sign me up!
Michelle - Year 10
When they asked me to do Mirror Sky it made me happy because it can help me do better at drama. Rehearsals for Mirror were fun and exciting because we did dancing and it got me out of my comfort zone it also helped me make new friends and makes you achieve something out of it.
On the day it made me feel so happy because I know that all the hard work would pay off and for people to enjoy it like I did. After the production was finished it was sad because it was fun and enjoyable. I hope it will be on again soon because it made good memories.
Scott - Year 10
Tangled Feet are thrilled and immensely proud to have been invited to become one of the Arts Council’s National Portfolio Organisations
Thirteen years ago, as a group of creatives we made a long-term commitment to each other, and we've been on an incredible journey together since then, through thick and thin. It has often been the bond of friendship that has kept the company going when we didn't know when the next bit of funding was going to come from. It's also been this trust in each other - and the trust we've built with partners and venues - which has allowed us to take bold artistic risks, knowing we will all catch each other.
Being an NPO will finally give the ensemble the financial security to create even more ambitious plans. We'll be able to put much more of our time, energy and creativity into making work and building relationships. It will allow us to dream even bigger and we can't wait to get started.
At a time like this it’s even more important to be making brave, bold stories that investigate and challenge the tensions in the world around us. This investment will allow us to be more ambitious in sharing our performances with the widest possible audience, inside and outside of theatre buildings. It will allow us to grow our participation programme bringing even more young people into our artistic process and strengthen the support we give to the next generation of theatre makers through our mentoring programmes.
Arts Council England have been hugely supportive partners, over a number of years, through their Grants for the Arts Programme. Inclusion in the Portfolio represents a continuing belief and investment in the work we make, the participants we work with and audiences we meet. We recognise this significant investment of public money and we look forward to sharing our work and passion with our public investors. We are hugely excited to be continuing our close relationship with venues, participants and audiences in the South East of England.
We want to say thank you to some of the many people who have helped us get to this place - in particular, our Chair Annabel Turpin and the team at ARC Stockton, our Board of Trustees, Watford Palace Theatre, Bradley Hemmings and all at GDIF, Tanya Peters and all at Brighton Festival, our friends at Half Moon, ISAN, EEA and 101 Creation Space.
We owe a massive and ongoing thank you to our artists, our audience, the young people and participants who have given us their ideas and energy. That energy and investment is the thing which has always fuelled us, and is the support that means the most to us.
by Abbi Dawson
As we come to the end of the Kicking & Screaming tour it’s a good time to look back and see how much the show has grown since we first took it out in April last year when it was just a little wee baby trying to find it’s feet.
As my role as Stage Manager at the end of every show I clean up the set and all the mess of the toys, yoghurt and Shreddies that have been thrown around, and I cannot help but think of myself as a mother picking up after a long day with her kids. I’ve seen K&S develop from one tour to the next, and the characters thrive. It has certainly been a fun filled journey, with plenty of laughs along the way.
A show day from start to finish can take me through a whole range of emotions; such as joy, rage, love, sadness, optimism, fear and surprise. A roller-coaster ride that I believe could mirror a day in the life of a parent, and I am sure our two directors would agree with this.
The final scene of K&S perfectly describes how I feel about the show (spoiler alert for who has not watched it yet). Watching each washing line come out of the washing machine, starting from baby clothes that grow in size up until young adults, and knowing it’s time for them to leave the nest and fly. The 8thNovember in Reading is our final show, I will feel like a very sad parent who has seen my baby grow up and leave. However, in the hopes that they would come back and visit, I also hope this will not be the last time we get to re-visit K&S and I’m extremely excited and hopeful for it’s future.
We’ve had lots of fun and adventures along the way, below is a picture from our 27mile bike ride to Stonehenge with some of the Tangled Feet family on K&S!
By Al Orange
Kicking and Screaming is quite a big show to get into a space in one day. We have lighting, live sound, a set with lots of bits that need putting together and projection, and as technical manager, I often don’t get to see that much of the places we are visiting as my days are filled with wiring and programming and sound checking, and I sometimes spend far more of my time with my equipment than I do with the other members of the cast.
But there is one moment that I enjoy more than any other on this tour, something that helps to wash away all the tiredness and stress of managing the show, and that is the simple pleasure of cuddling babies, and talking to parents. We have been doing a series of baby-friendly shows in most of our venues, and it is an extraordinary moment in time. Quite apart from providing a much needed opportunity for new parents to be included in the arts, they provide such a wonderful atmosphere and shared social space.
Parents take a lot longer to leave an auditorium than other theatre goers. Babies need changing, they need feeding, they need the chance to crawl around on the play mats after having sat still for over an hour. And this is where I have my special moment. I have had so many wonderful conversations with parents, who have really shown their appreciation for how we have created a space of them and their children. It is extremely heartening to know that we are doing something that is so precious to people, that we are addressing an access need that has been ignored for too long in so many areas of society.
And then there’s the cuddles. I have met some very special tiny people, and remembering them brings a smile to my face. There was the little girl who was fascinated by my pink hair, and stopped crying every time she saw me. There was a beautiful little boy who just had the softest head in the world. There were two lovely little twin boys who just kept wanting to hug each other. And all of them seem to love the music and the lighting just as much as their parents are enjoying the play. I’m extremely proud of the special shared experience we have managed to create, and Kicking and Screaming is one of those shows that will always have a place in my heart.
For the purposes of illustration here is me cuddling Tangled Feet stunt baby, Claude.
by Hannah Gittos
I'm about to get ready and head to the Hackney Showroom for our 2 day run in London. Very exited and nervous to be doing the show to a home crowd!
Having previously toured this show last year I thought I had an idea of the experience I was about to embark on. Yet, like most things in life, nothing ever turns out the way you imagine!
I've found this a difficult show to be involved with at times. I'm a single 36 year old woman with no children. Delving into the complexities of parenthood and the intricacies of the relationships that surround it has been fascinating, difficult and sometimes heart wrenching.
I wonder if I'll ever experience being a mother?
As I stand as Ronnie and watch the children's clothes come out in the final scene of the show the reality of never having children sometimes flashes before my eyes. I can't quite articulate at the moment how I feel about that.
When the five of us are behind stage in the pre-show waiting to begin there is a very distinctive energy amongst us all. I can best describe it as like being suspended at the top of a roller coaster before it plunges into the unknown. Sara and Ciaran need to talk, Royce and I can't speak and Laura floats somewhere in-between.
The audiences have been so diverse from captivated babies, teenagers, uni students, parents, grandparents, carers, friends who all seem to have been touched in some way by the story lines. It's really wonderful be part of something that can do that. It reminds me of why we do what we do.
After our first night at Hackney, I travel home with one of my best mates who came to see the show. She's an extraordinary women. She made the brave and selfless decision to foster her nephew when she was 6 months pregnant with her daughter. To say that she's experienced the raw reality of what parenting can be really is an understatement.
As we walk from the train she says to me;
"This is why I love the theatre. I felt a bit shit before I came out. I had a headache and really wasn't in the mood. Seeing that show has jolted me into a completely different head space. It's so important".
As the tour comes to an end, I'm realising how important and wonderful this tour has been for so many reasons. It has completed a personal and professional journey for me that started 3 years ago with the R and D for our previous show PUSH. I'm so very proud of everyone involved and thank Tangled Feet from the bottom of my heart for the opportunity.
By Emily Eversden
As you climb up the scaffold ladder and haul yourself and your luggage to the top of our structure for the third time in a six hour show, you don't know what response you'll get from this set of onlookers. They look up at you, another new arrival, and watch you for your next move. Spat out of the multicoloured, beautiful design by Alex Rinsler and Mike De Buts, sometimes we don't know what our next move is. I look around trying to make eye contact with someone, many avoid this but one lady holds my gaze and gives me a little half wave. "That's nice" I think.
Spat out of the multicoloured, beautiful design by Alex Rinsler and Mike De Buts, sometimes we don't know what our next move is. I look around trying to make eye contact with someone, many avoid this but one lady holds my gaze and gives me a little half wave. "That's nice" I think.
Once I've made the descent down the knotted rope (doesn't get any less scarier even after 50+ descents by the way) and had a little explore, I find that lady again and set up camp in front of her. Whatever I do in those next 5 minutes has an effect on her because she's started to cry. This happened to me on the second day of our Brighton shows with a man, a Dad watching the show with his daughters. I knew from a little, sad shake of his head that he had created a story for my character and he understood some of what we were trying to show and suggest.
6am: alarm wakes me from second night in a row of recent-events-inspired nightmares about trying desperately to go back on a calamitous and irreversible decision. I bounce out of bed and immediately crick my neck, which does not bode well for all the physical activity I'll be subjecting my body to this afternoon.
7:20am: train from Lewes to Victoria. Having spent the past two days studiously avoiding social media for fear of being drawn down a black hole of despair, I trawl social media. And am drawn down a black hole of despair.
8:30am: tube across London. I play backgammon against a dumb AI. And lose.
8:55am: train from Euston to Watford. First caffeine of the day.
9:15am: day is considerably brightened by the sight of my director Nathan on the platform of Watford Junction in shorts and a T-shirt - willing the weather to stay fine for our outdoor performances, and shining with the splendour of spring.
10am: warm-ups in our ample changing room at Watford library. A thick cloud of political upheaval hangs over an otherwise happy reunion: we have not seen each other since we performed the show at Brighton Festival a few weeks back. And it's all all right really: we're going to put things one tiny percentage point right by giving the world some pertinent street theatre to mull upon.
10:30am: we remind ourselves of the 'Watford version' - we'd always known we'd be two people down today, and had hid a plan up our sleeve. We refind it, and each other - complicity rekindled.
11:15am: to the Structure, for rope climbing practice. I am the first one allowed down the rope, and take this picture of Watford High Street from the top. It's five metres down. Which is a long way when there's no net, no grass, no spotters, no harness, no belief in a benevolent omnipotent supernatural deity. I do sometimes get dizzy at height, but I have always felt totally at ease with the Structure. (By the way, we do have our own name for the Structure, but I won't share it here, for fear of attracting the wrong sort of googletraffic)
11:30am: stumble-throughs of the three scenes: Washing Line, Lifejackets, and Quoops.
Midday: to the library, to get into costume and splatter multicoloured cornflower on our faces (now that I see it written, I'm not actually sure it actually is actually cornflower but no matter)
12:30: show 1 begins. I am again the first to appear at the top of the Structure - an honour believe me. As I emerge, a commotion is ensuing below: there is an almighty flurry of deckchairs, as the seating for the performance is distributed and rearranged. You may think this would have happened before the performance began, but we do things a little differently at Tangled Feet.
12:35: I begin my descent down the rope. I'm not quite being as ooh-risky-risky-might-fall-y as I was in Brighton, mainly because of my neck. At the bottom, I tentatively approach the bedeckchaired spectators and show them my X-ray collection. Three others as cornflowered as me emerge and descend. We do not know each other.
1:10pm: scene 1, Washing Line. It doesn't quite go as planned: the washing line itself is new, and the coat hanger doesn't glide quite as smoothly along it as it did on the last one. I'm playing the Father for the first time, and remember most of my new cues.
1:30pm short break while the other tag team do their descents into Lifejackets. I eat my Caesar salad, which I've just remembered I never gave Leon the money for.
2:15pm: my second descent and roam. I count coins and brush my teeth. Or my character does. I've just realised he doesn't have a name.
2:30pm: scene 3: Quoops. Goes pretty well, I think.
2:45pm: we dance our Finale, for the first of two times today. This is my absolute favourite part of the show, and there are moments in here that rank among my fave choreographies from all twelve-ish Tangled Feet shows I've been part of.
3:03pm: everyone gets a little break, and my team gets a longer break while the others begin show 2 with Washing Line. Conversation drifts inevitably towards the calamities in the headlines. I make a point of staying relatively tight-lipped, though I feel the wrath, and of chilling the fork out.
3:45pm: my fourth emergence, straight into Lifejackets. This is the least abstruse of the three scenes - the imagery and implications are crystal clear. I'd wager that, what with the upheavals occurring closer to home, many people have shelved their concerns for the suffering of those dying daily on life rafts in the Mediterranean. We serve up a needed and unsentimentalised reminder.
5:25pm: I pimp my services to the other tag team, who are down a body for Quoops.
5:45pm: the final Finale. It goes very well, except that I collide with a fellow actor twice - the same actor, and entirely my fault both times. At the end, we get that kind of round of applause that's just a little bit louder and sincerer than you were expecting, and it gives you the warm glow of having made something of an impact on people's day.
6pm: the show is over. Wet wipes are daubed on multicoloured foreheads and cheeks. Sweaty costumes are dumped in a bag for the wonderful stage management team to worry about. Bruises are compared. (I mention my neck but if it ain't a bruise you ain't got nothin' to show.)
7pm: we go for dinner. I have a somewhat underwhelming burger, and the talk is 90% EU. It is too early to ask how Tangled Feet will react.
8:35pm: I leave Imagine Watford festival behind for another year as my train departs the Junction to take me - via the Victoria line - back to Lewes and home.
11:13pm: the welcomed embrace of a loving - and three months pregnant - wife. What world for our children - born and unborn? The outlook may have darkened of late, but I'm perversely cheered by the knowledge that states always have been - and always will be - rotten to the core. We can but hope that the freedom of expression we enjoyed today - to make progressive, socially-conscious, government-subsidised art that is completely free for its audience to consume - survives for our children to create and enjoy.
By Tunji Falana
When creating an outdoor show of any kind be it conventional theatre or physical theatre or a show on a loop for 8hrs that involves climbing down a 7m high structure, you always plan for a wet weather version. That is a version that should in case its drizzling, we do x y and z take it easy etc. Well the version for when its really bucketing it is just no show. This is what we were greeted with for our first show of Emerge/ncy at Brighton on the 28th May 2016, a bank holiday weekend. I know its silly but often I equate bank holiday to sunny day, but the weather/nature doesn't care what I think. So the show was delayed for 3hrs on the first day.
We began the show, it’s great, the audience is with us but with caution as the grass is wet from heavy rain and no one really wants to stand let alone sit in puddles. As performers we braved our condition through slips and slides, I myself had a big fall/slide, but used it in the action as I was struggling to stay on a boat.
After my slip and fall, I couldn't help but wonder if that was a real boat. Then I started to think about those who have/had risked it all for a better life, perhaps did fall off a boat at some point and struggled to climb back on board. Some I presume made it back on and others didn't. I no longer felt sorry for myself but rather glad that we are able to give a minuscule representation or idea of what it would be like to flee ones home and go through such horrid condition in order to have a chance and a safer life.
All in all we ended on a high, with the wind doing its part to make its presence know via props and costumes. All the performers did extra ordinarily well, our Directors needless to say are always brilliant. I’d like to give a big shout out to our crew especially Luke Gledsdale, Abbi Dawson and Jenny Kassner, for taking care of us, setting resetting, figuring and execution solutions to problems. From rehearsals to performance, without an amazing crew like them, we would be unable to tell our story right.
We aren’t done yet; next stop Woolwich 2nd July. Come one come all.
Emerge/ncy premiered at Brighton Festival late last month. The first of three performances across the South East this Summer. It was a brilliant location for our first ‘outing.’ I LOVE BRIGHTON!!
After rehearsing on the structure indoors it felt so different suddenly having the structure outside, laid bare for the public in the middle of a popular park with the elements at force. It seemed smaller to look at, but still felt enormous to climb up it, nerve wracking to stand on the narrow platform at the top of it and then bracing yourself for the epic climb off it down that rope! Even more than in rehearsal now being faced with wind blowing making the whole structure move and the materials flap around as you climbed up and stood high upon it taking in the 360 degree surroundings!
Sadly the rain won on the morning of our first performance day so we didn’t get to start the performance until the early afternoon. We were then extremely lucky with sunshine for the whole of the rest of the weekend.
Anyway enough of the weather forecast!
We had a lot to contend with in our performances – seagulls and children were particularly present and we had to be careful, aware and open with our interactions once we were off the structure. This is something you can’t rehearse or experience until the live day as you have no idea how people will react or if they will interact at all!
There were a few instances of gaining a gaggle of children following us around the park asking silly questions – an honest response but it was a common feeling amongst the group that we wanted to try and fit into the surroundings and not stand out and as this really highlighted our presence it made me personally feel a but vulnerable.
So I had to ignore the children! It felt a bit mean and feels a bit mean to type that but I think it was necessary to try and find more interesting moments with other audience members.
A few interactions stand out for me. I had a moment with a large map and a lovely Spanish man and his daughter came over and tried to help me navigate my way around the map. He totally went along with the game (The map was actually of Snowdonia not Brighton) and he showed me a spot to get to on the map and spoke Spanish the whole time! It didn’t matter I didn’t understand him as we found a way to communicate regardless of the language barrier. It was a really interesting moment for me. I love that our shows can be understood purely on physical interaction and no script/dialogue.
I actually got a cuddle from an audience member during ‘The Happening’ which works as a finale moment of the show. We are physically asking the audience if we are accepted and in getting an actual hug, it really moved me and made me feel just that - Accepted!
The final moment for me that really resonated was during the finale again. We offer a series of movements asking for acceptance and during that we gained nods and smiles and a real sense of togetherness with the audience and it moved me to tears. It was a remarkable reaction as a performer as I feel like for the first time I truly connected with the message of the piece and had a unique response within myself! It was a surprise that I would be so connected as we hadn’t had much chance to play around with audience or indeed character. We didn’t even have character names and I hadn’t really finalised any specific traits or personality for my character as I made the decision to ‘demonstarte’ rather then ‘act’ as such. Then being live on the day, feeding from the audience made it all very clear and simple and gave me a unique feeling as a performer that I haven’t really felt before in any show I’ve ever done.
By Gemma Creasey
I first became involved with Emergency in the initial creation when it was known as Funnel. As suggested by the working title, this was to be a piece that would have a powerful visual impact in the space it occupied. Along with it’s visual presence, are the emotional journeys of the people arriving to the environment during the piece. Who are these invaders? Where have they come from? and why are they here?
The word 'refugee' is thrown around in the media and often brings up images of poverty and desperation. This means that all are put under the same label allowing us to ignore the fact that these are individuals with personal stories and journeys. During this project I realise how lucky I am because these situations do not discriminate. Anyone can be put in a state of emergency and be forced to leave their home and everything they know. Once you are safe how do you seek refuge in a foreign land and integrate within a new community? It could happen to any of us.
By Sara Templeman
As we near the end of rehearsals for Emerge/ncy I have come to realise that this show for me is massively about personal challenge and pushing myself out of my comfort zone.
It's been incredibly daunting hoiking myself over the edge of a very high structure with the only way off it supporting my whole body weight down a rope.
As a non aerial performer and a bit of a wobbly person at height this has been a massive challenge.
With the encouragement support and patience of an amazing cast and crew we are all finding our own way and at our own pace.
First off it was all about learning rope technique taught to us by the wonderful Gemma and Jess who make climbing and descending down a rope look easy. It is not! These seriously strong women make it look effortless but it is all about mega effort. It's based in a foot lock from silks technique which enables you to feel secure to climb up and down a rope.
After a few days coming down the rope in a harness and getting used to the height and technique today (Thursday) was a massive moment as I free climbed down the rope (albeit with knots in tied in to help but I still did it!!)
It was a proper buzz, my hands were shaking a lot afterwards but felt an enormous sense of achievement. Also watching the other performers in the team all manage it as well was so lovely to watch. There was a real sense of achievement and unity.
We are still to decide whether to have a straight rope which I'm yet to free climb down (I need a harness currently for this) or use the knotted rope. Either way I'm feeling happy that in either instance I can actually do it. It's Such a relief!
I'm definitely in a good and positive place about this aspect of the show now having put aside my fear and anxiety and trusting myself that I can do it. It means I now have more head space and focus to look forward to the other aspects of the piece so finding details of character and cementing the movement we do off the structure over the last few days of rehearsal.
Can't wait for the finished piece to be ready for our premiere at Brighton Festival weekend after next :)
We are in a slightly strange position going into the first(and last!) full week of rehearsals for Emerge/ncy as we on day one we had the complete set built in the rehearsal room, we did a full costume fitting with all costumes ready made and we used most of the music that will feature in the final show. Where is the devising I hear you cry!?
It’s been quite a long journey to get to rehearsals. The aim for Emerge/ncy was to do something a bit different. This has resulted in having to decide certain things much earlier in the process than we may be used to.
Firstly we are mixing theatre with visual art. We wanted to create a sculptural addition to the landscape that could sit somewhere for a number of days. Reflecting themes of climate change, global inequality and the refugee crisis has resulted in us wanting to create something that was longer than 20 minutes, that was landscape changing and that could not be neatly packed away. This has given us a large piece of set design that bursts through the festival landscape and stands 7m tall. Something at that scale needs a lot of planning to make sure it stays up!
Secondly we are working with a large cast and a durational style of performance which means we have had to limit our rehearsal time. In many ways you would think that performing for 7 hours straight and with a cast of 9 you would need many weeks rehearsal space (we wish) however getting everyone in a large enough rehearsal space for set and creative team is expensive. Added to this is the fact that if you want to make 9 original costumes to rehearse in (important for physical work) you need to make them before all the performers are in the final rehearsal.
So decisions start early. In some ways it is massively daunting to have everything pre-planned and slightly unwieldy. The first time we saw everything together (Set, costumes, music, performance) a lot of decisions had already been made and were set. However it some ways its also really reassuring and exciting to have so many tools at our disposal and ready to put into action – not just imagine!
Nathan Curry - Co-Artistic Director of Emerge/ncy
Touring Need A Little Help has been a wonderfully fun journey- both literally and figuratively. We’ve wizzed (or crawled in traffic) up and down the country in our not-so-subtle bright orange van filled with cast, crew and set that has to be so tightly packed I reckon we could win the Tetris world championships.
The reception in all the cities has been great, and during the playtime at the end of the show I’ve been privileged enough to overhear some lovely comments from both children and parents. The kids were comfortable and playful in the space, so much so that it became a problem getting them to leave before we had to reset for the next performance!
ASM on Need A Little Help Tour 2016
What do you get when you have an orange van - driven by an Orange, a bag of pink feathers, some aching muscles and some sweaty costumes? Need a Little Help on tour of course.
Although the glamour of touring life soon wears off there are many a high points - like the charming stuck-in-the-80's b&b in Darlington, the van banter (not Sophie though, she is a cheater and even though she is in the back I can see her and her wikipedia searching phone), tea club pre bed - invite only - and all the lovely staff and tech teams at each venue... and of course the show! Well it's a joy - we may be tired and travel worn and forgetting if we've already done this bit or not today but the audiences - well the kids mainly - have been incredible. Every show is different, the children engaged and excited to help and each show there are new exclamations, revelations and inspiring comments from the little people. It's a privilege to be invited into their world for a while and their, and the adults feedback, has been so touching and makes me see even more the importance of this piece.
Tangled Feet were approached to bring an enchanted forest to life at the iGB Awards at Electric Brixton organised by iGaming.
The brief was to totally immerse guests into another world based on their chosen theme of Enchanted Forest. We created pop up moments of wonder with recognisable but dishevelled fairy tale characters appearing all over the venue disorientated and lost in the woods, being chased by blood thirsty wolves all amongst the crowd.
Our performers appeared out a Narnia wardrobe which we built into the structure of the building and found themselves in the weird and wonderful forest land. There, guests mingled with stilts walkers disguised as foliage, dancers with glitter balloons popping above their heads, they witnessed silks artists as flying nymphs, a moving forest of bodies and other worldy characters like our snake charmer, Missy Fatale.
Need A Little Help is about looking after other people. It’s about a father and daughter who are a great team and spend a lot of time together. One day the father becomes incapacitated (in the show he gets his arm stuck inside a long metallic tube) and the daughter has to start to help him out, do more work around the house and care for him. The tube can represent many things but in some way there is a change in their relationship and things can’t be the same again.
The piece is inspired by the experience of young carers. These stories are often hidden behind doors and walls and happen inside people’s homes but have a huge impact on young people’s lives. We wanted to shine a light on the world of young carers. Over the last two years we have been working with a group of young carers in South London, facilitating drama workshops with them. The show is inspired by their stories.
Having spent some time with young carers we were taken with how adult they had to behave yet they were still in children’s bodies. They showed huge capacity for care and nurture. We wanted to try and find a way to share this theatrically but with a uplifting, fun and touching story, We also knew we were making a show for under 8’s so therefore it had to be appropriate and accessible for them. We initially did some research and development on what the style of the piece would be and then built from there.
The audience gets involved in the show. We wanted to offer them the chance to understand and feel what its like to be a carer and to physically care for someone else. The show is completed by the involvement of the audience. It’s about taking care of each other.
Need A Little Help tours from March 3rd - May 14th see here for details.
This November, Kat and Nathan were invited by ISAN's new Director, Angus McKechnie, to contribute to the Independent Street Arts Network conference. In a session about why artists make the the work they make, Kat and Nathan spoke about “Putting the Politics Back In To Outdoor Work”. There was a very vibrant and full Q and A after our presentation, and we felt like there's a big appetite for explicitly talking about and addressing politics in outdoor work.
The full text is below.
"We have been asked us to speak about our work and why it often starts from a political point of view, how we negotiate this when creating work and how we work with our partners when the subject matter is ‘more risky’.
We want to start with telling you what the company stands for.
•that art has the power to transform lives
•in shared decision making, in equal creative stake, in fair and equal pay
•that sharing stories and narratives in public spaces builds our empathetic connection with each other and brings us closer together
•in young people’s potential to change the world and their right to be seen as a significant part of it
These are the fundamental principles, which have been put together by a group of people. They were discussed as a team and developed over time. We hope that both how the work is made and how it meets its audience and partners affirms these principles.
We’re an ensemble theatre company and believe in collaborative creation. Every artist has an input into the production (and often participants too). The work comes from a range of voices – we want space too for the audience’s thoughts and voices in our work.
We attempt to be democratic in the process of making the work and we believe our performances are not finished until the audience’s presence and minds complete them.
We have been working together for over 10 years and now number somewhere between 15-20 artists. The long term working relationships of our ensemble enable us to be bold, take risks, and to learn together as well as take on subjects of increasing complexity and scale.
We make work about the stories, tensions and concerns that we feel in the world around us and which feel too urgent not to be told. Sometimes these are national or global concerns, like the intertwined pressures of global inequality and climate change, or the huge problem of youth unemployment. And sometimes they are about how human lives intersect with large economic forces at work: How do we value the work of carers? What’s the human story of urban regeneration? Does anyone actually understand the global financial crisis? Our projects inform each other and due to the nature of ensemble we have a shared history of making this work together.
Each performance is different but contains some distinctive choices that reveal our belief system and how it exists within our productions, and that's what we're going to talk about.
Each performance we’ve made has been a learning experience.
We make decisions about the relationship with the audience, the framing of the themes and the performance style as we develop the show.
The form of the work is often driven by the theme but there are some characteristics we think we return to.
The whole process is a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle in the dark- trying to find the shape of the production.
We aim to tackle political themes without lecturing – imaginatively, finding new insights – we need to be taking ourselves on a journey where we don’t know the answers to the questions we are asking, otherwise we’ll bore the audience.
Probably because we are a devising company and start with our own experiences, we are less interested in fantasy and tend to focus on recognisable characters and stories, which we then find ways of elevating above the level of the pedestrian. We enjoy the audience recognising themselves or people that they know in the work.
Often, like with All That Is Solid Melts into Air (a show about urban regeneration) we’ve made our shows while embedded within a community or participatory process. In this case we worked alongside Thomas Tallis School, on the edge of the Ferrier Estate in South East London, where both the school and the estate were being regenerated. Many of people on the estate (and who were connected to the school) were trying to grip onto the present whilst being asked to imagine an uncertain future. By embedding the process of making the work alongside real life events, the work becomes more relevant, purposeful and is inspired by reality.
We want to entertain too and by adding spectacle to our politics we aim to create work where the everyday becomes larger than life and the ordinary becomes extraordinary. By using aerial techniques where the body is at risk we encourage the audience to feel the tension and stakes of the situation. Watching a couple dangle themselves upside down whist trying to get a crying baby to sleep tells the story of an uncertain future in a very extra-ordinary way.
We attempt to ask big questions with our work but make them palatable and accessible to an audience.
Inflation was an attempt for us to understand what happened when the government bailed out the banks and protected the structures and frameworks in banking with a resultant policy of austerity. It’s a huge and complicated issue to unpick – particularly in a mostly physical piece of theatre, on a bouncy castle.
By starting from the point of our own ignorance and failure to comprehend, and by using clowning, visual humour and buffon we negotiated quite bamboozling and complicated information by presenting naïve characters.
It is a technique often employed by playwrights to impart complicated information to audiences - they add a naïve character who has the ability to ask 'stupid' questions.
With Inflation it also allowed us expose the ridiculous situation the country found itself in and the tragic and comedic nature of made up money. It also made it fun which was really important when creating work about banks that didn’t scare away its audience.
But political work also needs to have large ambition and not just be a side-show. When Bradley Hemmings asked us to make a finale sized performance a few years ago we knew it was a chance to be political at scale.
We had noted previously that there was a prevalence of work at scale that had fantastical narratives – stories of myth, of fable or work based around magical themes. We had found a lot of this work joyous and crowds loved it but, for us, those narratives were not able to articulate what we wanted to say.
We knew we needed a piece of work to entertain a crowd of thousands – it needed to be spectacular and uplifting but also include the recognisable stories and characters, ask big questions and create empathetic feeling in our audience that are, as we have suggested, are hallmarks of our work.
Having worked with a large number of young people over many years we knew the pressures and stress they were under within a world of austerity – we knew their opportunities of work were going to be different to our opportunities and we felt like how we supported them was everyone’s responsibility. Therefore One Million became the story of the growing number of young people who are unemployed.
It was important to put our money where our mouths were and build a performance that was inspired by and included young people’s stories. We worked with a number of partner organisations to creatively work with 140 young people and bring their input to our theme.
We held these workshops throughout the making process so what happened in the rehearsal room could inspire the work with young people and the work with young people could inspire the show. We were cooking all elements of the show at the same time. This was logistically challenging but gave the piece an authenticity, which was vital. 90 of these young people performed in the show, and it felt like they were the engine which was powering the whole performance.
We also worked hard to create ten paid internships for unemployed young people throughout the creative and technical teams. We made it a priority to create opportunities and to offer genuine development and career progression to young people. Several of those initial internships have evolved into fully paid roles with the company since.
One Million was partly about making the invisible visible – bringing the struggle of young people to centre stage.
With Push, we did the same with new mothers, exploring just how challenging parenting a baby in public can be when you are inevitably failing to live up to expectations.
Five women with buggies emerge from the audience to take the stage, and over 20 minutes celebrate triumphs and disasters. Despite being covered in projectile vomit by the end of the show, our characters find a solidarity in a collective and public admission of failure, and discover a joy that comes from acute vulnerability.
This creative interest in the act of caring, and the role of carers in our society led to us developing a season of three indoor shows this year around how we value care.
With 'Care', which was the final part of this season, we took some of the techniques we've developed outdoors back inside, completely reconfiguring Watford Palace Theatre auditorium.
We felt an urgent need to respond to the changes we were seeing in the NHS with the introduction of the Health and Social Care Act of 2012. Like ‘Inflation’, this was a hugely complicated stimulus. Most people, even those working within the NHS, are not able to understand the changes happening to it.
It's possibly even harder to understand when you are dangling upside-down from the ceiling, but we set ourselves the challenge of trying to interrogate and dramatise the impact of this legislation in a way that makes it possible to comprehend on a human level.
The piece attempted to depict an NHS that is becoming fragmented and tearing at the seams. Like the sick body of our central character, as it becomes weaker it becomes more susceptible to the private sector's attempts to subcontract services. We used some of the skills we had been using in our outdoor work - aerial performance, visual story telling and immersive atmosphere, casting the audience as patients in a system which is being broken apart.
As the characters were stretched to breaking point, suspended in the air and being pulled in various different directions, the audience were surrounded by the action.
The audience being within the space made it possible for them to feel the threat and not necessarily be told about it.
We want to make performances with space for questions not full of answers – Care didn’t offer any solutions or alternatives but allowed questions to be raised and gave us an opportunity to plant some big questions in audience minds about where the NHS may be headed and what that may feel like.
It’s not always easy creating political work when it’s devised. No one knows the outcome – not us, not the funder, not the presenting partner. People get nervous they can’t read a script or can’t see exactly of how it may look.
There was some nervousness about Inflation – particularly in areas where there was a Conservative run council. Some of the commissioners were worried about how the scene of David Cameron wielding a pair of scissors on the bouncy castle would impact on their council relationships.
When we made One Million, we had to reassure the Royal Borough of Greenwich that we weren't going to re-ignite the riots which had badly affected Woolwich town centre.
Care, also elicited some concern from the theatre about imagery of vultures surrounding the healthcare services. In a way these tensions help us know what the work is challenging and what buttons it is pressing.
Getting our work made relies on a small number of trusting relationships with people willing to make a leap with us. It's not easy to create an economy of scale with lots of booking fees to balance the making costs of the shows.
The work may stay politically relevant for a shorter time than work on more universal themes. Given the long making period that our work sometimes requires, this makes it challenging financially. I think we are all finding it harder to find secure investment in these straightened times.
Despite this we've set ourselves on a road of creatively exploring some of our global problems. Through 2016 and 17 we've got two projects bubbling away which address the intertwined concerns of climate change and global inequality. The first, Emergency, looks at the resultant mass migration and how we as communities respond to it. And the second, a collaboration with artist Alex Chinneck, will use giant twisted pylons to explore how we overcome our destructive and dependent relationship with energy.
Funding is under pressure, artists are under pressure, society is under pressure.
While it's getting harder, it's surely also never been more important
- to be bringing people together in public spaces,
- to be creatively investigating the enormous challenges of our times.
- to feel part of a group, to move and be moved together,
and to collectively renew hope and imagination in dark and difficult days.