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SuperSonic: A Morning at the Goldilocks Mixer

The Sam Wanamaker: a smorgasbord for acoustics.

The Sam Wanamaker: a smorgasbord for acoustics.

Hi there friends, Baz HQ here - apologies for the lack of Bloggage but we’ve been mighty busy with plans afoot that should come into place very soon. Watch this space, it’s all very exciting. *rubs hands together*. As ever, we at Baz are always in the pursuit of knowledge, and always keen to learn and experience where possible where accessible theatre could take us in the 21st Century: what it could look, feel and sound like.

That’s why we were thrilled to be invited to Felix Peckitt’s exciting, relevant and groundbreaking workshop. He titled it, very succinctly, the ‘Goldilocks Mixer’ - thankfully not a weird booze/fairytale mashup - but a mixer of the equalizer kind, like you’d have in a soundbooth. But let’s go back to the beginnings of this project, back in 2017 when the Globe hosted a ‘Remix the Globe’ event, as explained in a fab write-up on the Tourettes Hero Blog, a wonderful read we recommend you read post-haste.

The day was primarily aimed at young people with Tourettes and was a slice of what true Sonic Inclusivity could look and sound like with frank discussions on language around tics and  Tourettes, a sonic map of the Globe, a succinct report on the sounds its unique shape promotes and muffles and a chat with the team at the Globe on how to be more inclusive. By all reports, a complete success.  

Fast forward to August 2019, and Felix’s tour with his sonic workshop of sounds has been touring spaces and theatres alike, at the ‘I’m Here, Where Are You?’ disability festival and many more unique venues with a pledge to inclusivity. The Goldilock Mixer finally made its way back, after its maiden voyage to the scene of it’s beginnings and to the Sam Wanamaker. We were kindly invited to the workshop- something truly appreciated as the workshop is not for our needs - as adults without Tourettes ourselves it was very generous of Felix and the crew to allow us to be part of the conversation and take part. 

What becomes apparent immediately, is that everyone, regardless of the industry in which they work should have a go on Felix’s see-saw, addictive exercise in the two and fro, the give and take of curating shared sound - not only between ourselves, but everyone else in the space: what made us all wince, what we took no notice of. It posed great questions regarding how used one can be to the culture of silence in an artistic space: the fact a gallery is a silent appraisal of silent works, the fact that the seconds before curtain up - whether it’s the Palladium, or the Royal Opera House, the audience, every time, fall eerily quiet. It seems that in our Westernised Culture silence = respect. For Felix, and the other participants that is clearly not their truth - and they are far from being disrespectful. The census to our shared sense of disappointment and anger from the discussions at the workshop was that many adults with Tourettes in the group refrained from visiting the theatre, worried of consequences. 

That is an abhorrent truth, and worth getting impotently angry about on behalf of the Tourretes community - but Felix and the team that supported him to create this Mixer are intent instead on educating everyone on the experience of a true sonic map that is distinct to every venue. With this data Felix and his team can site evidence that backs up the fact it is the common opinion that needs to change, not the cultural habits of those with Tourettes, and offering to help in the solution. Through tech and samples of sounds, two people seek to find equilibrium in sonic harmony. First, on synched tablets, you both choose one location - these can range from a beach to a cafe - and then you are presented with a selection of sounds you can turn up or down with a swipe of your finger. Some of these sounds are background, like indistinct chatter, the sound of a coffee machine whirring into life, or the soft swell of the sea. Others are foreground, such as a baby crying, someone telling a story around a campfire, the train pulling into a station. It is up to your twosome to find a balance, something that is not too overbearing, and yet remains an honest depiction of how noisy life can be. The baby, Felix pointed out, often gets muted, but as a group, across the board, nobody chose to drown out the sound of someone’s tics. 

Onstage at the Sam Wanamaker, with the sonic patterns bouncing off the columns and the shapes these curated soundtracks ensured the space felt more alive, more relevant and more real. The frank discussion held afterwards with the participants was at times humbling and sad, on behalf of such ostracism of the Tourettes community and at other times inspiring. There is something, always, about hearing the truths told by affected parties, and it's something everyone must hear. 

What Felix manages with his talent for tech and his excellent hosting skills is something that is, on the surface, presented as a fun task - it soon became desirous to be one of the two ‘mixing’ -  and the easy familiarity of tablets and swiping contribute to make it feel quite game-like - but you never lose the drift of the thing; and that is sound is its own animal - it will crash and whisper, attack and caress - and it is unstoppable. The sounds of tics should be accepted and normalised in our theatre spaces. The fact that we uphold silence in the pursuit of art is a practice that actively hurts accessibility and inclusion. It certainly gave us here at Baz a lot to think about in terms of inclusivity and what kind of atmosphere we’d like to promote in the spaces we put on work. The sway of attitudes today would dictate that theatre goers in particular may be ‘put off’ or even annoyed by the tics of a person with Tourettes. Well for every one of those people - attend the Goldilocks Mixer - you might find yourself across from a Tourettes Hero as you work together to make something not so quiet, not so staid, but something real, a true reflection of the sonic intricacies we are taught to block out, to reject even. Together, you’ll equalize until you find something just right.

Check out Felix’s Goldilocks Mixer website on what they do and how they do it here: https://weareunlimited.org.uk/commission/felix-peckitt-the-goldilocks-mixer/

Many thanks to 

Felix Pickett

Tourettes Hero

Wil Renet

David Bellwood

Best,

Baz x

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Tear Down This Wall - The Subtle Art Of Carrying On

Psst. We are not sorry about your wall.

Psst. We are not sorry about your wall.

Bazlings! You must forgive us for this long absence. We did think of you often, looking out to sea like a heroine from a romance novel, but never fear for we are back, and once more with open arms. And apparently straight out of the 18th century. Um, we missed you ok? That’s the jist.

Shuffles awkwardly, scuffs shoe.

Ahem. So. Anyway, we hope this sunny(?) June is treating you well, we ourselves are still drying out from Henry V at the Globe, just one of the trilogy our own AD Sarah has directed, and it was so. Worth. It. And the rain. It can’t put a dampener on such a brilliant production so we implore you, go to all the Henrys posthaste.

But now, onto business. We have some very exciting things in the wings, as ever, but recently they have been ramping up excitingly. More news on that later. But for now, we want to reach out to you, dear and loyal creative, boss, lynchpin, key worker that you are. Regardless of what you do, our summer of content should be for you. And we’re talking Wellbeing. In an industry such as ours, there can be many traps, false floors and secret fire escapes that are actually not part of the set ready to make this already fairly unwieldy path a little more difficult. Sometimes you are your own obstruction, without meaning to be. With this series of blogs over the summer we hope to tackle this head on with tips and tricks, methods, good reading, and good listening. That’ll make sense in a moment, we promise.

This time, we’re on about the Wall of No. Anyone who does anything mildly freelance will know to what we refer in good time and will, hopefully gain something from this, but in particular we mean the creative industries where you have to stand alone: actress, director, producer, artist, dancer, writer...the list goes on. If you’re not represented, it can be a tough and lonely path as The Wall of No raises ever higher. So the Wall. We should explain. For an unrepresented ‘emerging’ writer for theatre for example, this is, say, a deadline for a national prize for writing. They go to LondonPlaywrights.Com and use the deadline planner, prepare work, and like flowers in summer, lay seedlings all over the place, working through their list of deadlines with aplomb, and growing confidence. For the artist it's submissions for a particular theme for a magazine or competition completed, for actors and dancers it's being called to audition. It is a wonderful feeling, come on, admit it is, where you get that call/meet that deadline/ ace that submission and you are happy. Successful, confident, sated.

And that’s what the deadlines are for. The temptation to rest back on your heels, to stop, to think you’ve aced it, no more to do is strong but the best thing you can do is forget about it once it's done. Literally do something else, preferably still in that natural endorphin afterglow of completing a project or task, and move on to the next one. Always be working, striving, healthy. Already the Wall is made up of significantly less bricks. There’s nothing to be done to avoid the Wait, but it's important to avoid adding bricks to the Wall by using deadlines for your own purpose - as a bookend to the play/project you’ve been putting work into, not a message in a bottle that you spend three months squinting out into the horizon looking for. It’s a stepping stone for your own process, not all your hopes and aspirations tied up in a solitary bow.

Remember that your work could and can be for anyone, so use the deadline for your organisation purposes, and to get the thing done. When it is, let it go like a greyhound on the track, and to anyone you can think of that would welcome it. Get a calendar, preferably a big one with Monet’s water lilies on it, and mark the deadlines/competitions and castings you have got coming up, cross them off, mean it, and look at it often to remind yourself you’ve done it and congratulate yourself. Be kind to yourself, and treat yourself as if you are your own best friend, one you really rally for. Most importantly, don’t be a perfectionist and let yourself be stopped before you’ve even begun and end up down there in that dark hole of endless YouTube ‘best of’ videos. There, you get dragged into the three Ps as diagnosed and recognised by therapy techniques:

Perfectionism

Leads to

Procrastination

Leads to

Paralysis.

And guess what. These three buggers, aided and abetted by social media stalking of others in your industry, the internet in general, or letting yourself be defeated by the blank page are the grouting for a certain structure. But they needn’t be, if you spot it, and pull the weeds. Most walls, true, you can’t go through, but you can go up, over and around. It can be easy to fall into the grip of the Wait, agonising and punishing as it can be. It's still only a temptation and one that needs to be avoided at all costs, or failure, and of your own making is imminent.  

If a No comes around, let it wash over you only the once, recognise it briefly and then move it to your mental Trash bin. In reality, make a folder, preferably online to keep, but ultimately file away. Disappointment is no use to creative process, move onto the next. This all may sound very straightforward, basic even, but it’s easy to forget when the creative industry is so inexorably tied to ourselves; our emotions, our wants, our points of view, our worlds. It's an emotional world too, as at its core, the creative wishes to move you, and will employ as much of themselves as possible into it to make the most impact. Needless to say, audiences miraculously quiet as one when the house lights go down, people wander with a hushed respect in a gallery, passers by will stop and give money for an impressive public performance on the street. Whatever it is you do, it comes from your soul, but that doesn’t mean your success comes at the cost of it. When not creating, it’s business, not wishful thinking.

Man are we passionate about this. But it’s true, here at Baz we are made up of creatives; our ADs have other roles than the theatre company; as an actor, director, and exec respectively. Even Jess, our resident pen is a playwright so believe us, we have lived these things, survived to tell the tale, and created Baz for the very purpose of making the art we want to make, and seeing the people onstage we want to see create it live. We come from the Wall of No, if you like, we’ve been made by the same strong sturdy stuff, and we hear you. And believe us when we say, we really want you to succeed, whatever it is you do. To that end then:

Positivity: Key. Healthy mind > good creative business for the creative. Download the Calm App, read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, employ mindfulness techniques and listen to hilarious podcasts such as Craig Parkinson’s Two Shot Pod, David Tennant Meets…, The Guilty Feminist and Simon Stephens’ Playwright’s Podcast.

Organisation: Use a calendar or diary that is decidedly not intertwined and very separate to your personal life and use twitter, artsjobs and notifications to build a deadline calendar and steadily tick them off. Be aware of when you are supposed to ‘hear’ but most importantly, separate that information from your head so it doesn’t lay roots. It belongs in the book or on the wall, and you are smashing those deadlines and castings, dude.

Immersion: Remember to be on top of your game - go and see productions if you can: first nights and previews are usually cheaper, and apps like TodayTix do Rush offers on tickets. For Londoners, The Royal Court do £12 Monday tickets, and the NT does £15 tickets for under 26s. At Theatre Royal Plymouth  and the Drum, where the beat of new writing’s drum is often played, tickets are often £10 and at the Royal Exchange you can see every shiny thing there for a mere £7 if you are a student, or under 26. If you want to write, read. If you want to paint, or snap, visit. Know what shape it's all taking so you are ready to take your spot with all that knowledge behind you.

Find Your People: And actually meet them. Everyone knows their lives are nowhere near as glam as social media would have you believe, so go and make contact. Sure, make contacts too, but link up with other writers or artists, find a common ground, perhaps someone to read or look at your work for feedback. Join a book club, go to the theatre or gallery as a group. This idea of the solitary artist has been much aggrandised but it’s horsepoo, you’ll be invigorated by the talent around you, and you’ll rub off on them, too. Not everything is a competition. Plus, it's always fun to whinge into a glass of wine with someone else who gets it.

That wall don’t stand a chance, mate.

See you on the other side.

Much love, and luck!

Baz x

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Extant Pathways: A Showcase of A Showcase

Full house at RADA. Our favourite kind of house.

Full house at RADA. Our favourite kind of house.

Well phew, fancy seeing you here! Yes, its us again, your friendly experimental theatre company, Baz, back with another blog. Or review. Or blog review type thing. Although there’s no criticism in it - so just explaining a really blummin’ good afternoon. ⅓ of us here at Baz were invited to a showcase held and run by Extant theatre company, whose brilliant work and ethic you should check out here: http://extant.org.uk In truth, an event such as this could be firmly filed under the heading of ‘Accessability’ or ‘disabled theatre company networking event’ but it was so much more than that. Or rather adjacently, just a damn good showcase that attacked the form of so many beige showings and came out, rather embarrassingly quickly, on top.

So if you don’t mind, we’ll talk about the theology not the biology of the Pathways event held by Extant at the old drill hall at RADA. As you’ll be aware, many actors that are in stage schools, drama schools, and drama courses up and down the UK have a showing of work: it’s as regular as bread and butter: filling but not that full of nutrients. Lord knows everyone at BAZ HQ recalls a school play, or a speech at assembly, an end-of-course showing or rather memorably in one case, playing Snoopy onstage. (Yeah, that one. No, we won’t tell you who) Usually, they are quite pedestrian, if useful: the closest thing a performance can come to admin, that serves a noble purpose but has no lifeblood in it.

Well, enter Extant. The Pathways event took the idea of a showing and put it on its head. This was not only appreciated by an audience of professionals from the National Theatre, Theatre 503, the RSC and the Globe, but it was also clever: now a few days on, we here at BAZ remember vividly what we saw - an impossible feat for a form that is so used and relegated to being performed in some way to serve a purpose. That kind of thing will stick in someone’s head, and that someone may remember you come casting time. But that’s not only why they did it. It was also clearly because they wanted to perform, and well. The way a showcase (and we’ve seen many between us) usually works is much of a muchness, but here, in this afternoon, we took a closer, far more interested  note of the varied content and wide, confident ability of the actors and their choices - Sebastian from Twelth Night and a speech from Capaldi’s Doctor of Doctor Who in one set list? Yes please. We will take that.

The diversity and strength of the monologue choices and the display of talent was already high, so how to raise it? Well by being warm, and hilarious. You know how you could be at the bank and someone asking about your day makes the air shift and the conversation instantly warm up a few degrees? This cast expertly showed their personalities, wit and prowess with introducing each other, explaining astutely, humorously and yet also in detail for any visually impaired, partially or completely blind audience members - the description of an actor’s wide frame being put as also: ‘but his mother prefers to call him barrel-chested’ was a particular highlight. The monologues had transitions, the cast had props, the set was interrupted with welcome little sketches or dry observations that changed the air of the usual transactional nature of a showing to a warm hallway of portraits the actors stopped us in front of in an original, charming monologue.

There was also prestige present as the actors listed off an impressive list of thank yous that showed the real signal (and sorry, we’ll only mention it once we swear) of accessible theatre’s progress on punching down walls in the space of only a few years - the classes, opportunities and tools this cast were armed with should be available to all that are usually kept away from it, and it was another warming sign of good things to come to modern British theatre. These actors were bold, confident and able - and hilarious as the final skit saw the cast huddled in the front of the stage narrating in Attenborough voices:

Alex: Remember, the actor can’t see who this is.

Anthony: The director approaches and greets the actor, forgetting to say their name.

Dougie: The director can see the table so put the plate of sandwiches down,

Danielle: And extends their hand for a hand shake - the VI actor doesn’t notice.

Anthony: The director feels slightly awkward and pulls her hand back.

Chloe: And it’s only now that the actor notices the hand. They too now feel awkward but try and shake it off.

A chef’s kiss of perfection. Mwah.

They captured the awkwardness and the humour of the situation well, and gently explained to us the best way to approach: always say your name and what you do, and if you meet again, repeat your name. The kind of thing you could do with and for anyone, but it took the so often used option of being embarrassed and reserved as an excuse not to connect off the table without being the least bit accusatory in the process.

The whole thing was effortless, impressive, warm, and wholesome. Why can’t all showcases be like this? We’re so incredibly glad to be invited by Extant, and wish wholeheartedly that funding and resources for these projects can be poured extravagantly into projects like this and its like. At the end of the day, this was actors, acting. Well. As one actor Anthony said, “I am an actor. I just happen to be visually imparied.” For the actors, the team at Extant: Hannah. Maria and Jo and Julie - you should all be incredibly proud, of not only breaking new ground with a project like Pathways, and making truly accessible theatre the norm: but also for a bloody good showcase - one too good to be ignored by the theatre gatekeepers for sure. Bravo!

See you soon!

Love,

Baz x


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Diversity, As Far As The Eye Can See

Beautiful huh? And a wonderful representation of the diversity of the human mind courtesy of our very own co-AD Catherine Bailey who kindly let us share her work.

Beautiful huh? And a wonderful representation of the diversity of the human mind courtesy of our very own co-AD Catherine Bailey who kindly let us share her work.

Dearest Bazuli! (that’s was a weird one but we’ll let it stand) how are you all? We do hope your 2019 is off to a stellar start, full of fresh starts, new opportunities and most importantly, health! We also hope you’re not too full after the info we dropped from our excellent sit down interview with AD Sarah Bedi and Dramatherapist Annemarie Gaillard - if not, acquaint yourself with the blog above and thank us later - we do have more fab interviews in the pipeline for our ‘Wellbeing’ series, so look out for that. But for now though - we here at Baz make it a priority, in every stage of the production process to be fully up to date with the best methods, materials and language so that our work stays truly inclusive and informed.

As in the previous blog post we have made significant changes to how our rehearsal room works: our AD Sarah likes to lead with discussion, as well as an accent on mindfulness - meditation, exercise and games to help make making theatre no longer a stressful, purely achievement > goal experience. With the addition of dramatherapy to her rehearsal rooms,the results have been wholesome, upbeat and generally easier for all involved. We also understand that the language, and form and variables of life and what it has to offer shifts constantly, and we are always glad to see new communities creating either more visibility or opportunity for themselves. We’ve seen it done, or in the process of doing good work in raising this awareness with such communities as, the LGBTQ Community, the D/deaf and disabled community and the BAME community too. We’ve been so proud and glad to see their talents and much needed voices come shining through and fully represent the beauty and level of talent we all share equally.

One community that we may not have heard of until fairly recently is the Neurodivergent community. It’s useful to point out that we came across it as one of our own - our resident blogger, would see herself as part of this community and felt very pleased to see its emergence into the public lexicon. Our Co-Ad Catherine, was introduced to the term as part of the cast for The Globe’s Relaxed performance for last year’s Othello as part of their performance schedule and mission statement for accessible theatre, something that in recent years has been more of a familiar sight in theatre. For those who don’t know, the neurodivergent community is merely the name of the group, not of the malady. It stems from the term ‘Neurodiversity’ coined back in 1998 by an autistic Australian sociologist Judy Singer when the active push the for Autistic Rights Movement really gained traction. To break the term down, it really means that much like human diversity, there can be diversity of the brain too, and that the differences some experience make them no less ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’. In the case of the arts, the term covers a wide range of neurodivergent differences from dyslexia, OCD, bipolar disorder, those who identify as being on the autistic spectrum - any mental difference that stems from a neurological standpoint. As we’ve said on this blog very often, mental health still has a stigma attached to it - though it truly affects us all - could this be the last taboo of the arts? With the Baz team we see many an arts job application, and whilst we’ve seen impressive and important changes such as a call out or special emphasis for BAME, LGBTQ applicants: a fantastic moment of leeway in out much-needed push for diversity and acceptance, and even questions on class status, we’ve yet to see in-depth questions on mental health or Neurodiversity.

It’s worth pointing out that we discovered this term from a call-out for a neurodivergent director to direct a cast of actors who may be autistic or identify with any other neurodiverse condition for a cast and creative team that would literally be on the same page. It made us so happy to see this kind of project advertised on an arts jobs website and got us searching for the meaning and the basis of the movement. The testimonies and stories of those who are now relieved to identify with a group that share the same difficulties that the ‘neuronormatives’ do not face within any industry, let alone the arts, shows that like previous years, 2019 is not slowing down the quest to be truly all inclusive, accepting and aware. We’ve still a long way to go though from one job advert on an arts jobs website - is it the next flag to be raised in this quest to make the arts truly representative of all people and all differences, be they physical or mental? We surely hope so - and we are always willing to support and always, as ever, to learn.

With much love Bazzers, take care of yourselves

Talk soon,

Baz x

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Interview with Artistic Director Sarah Bedi and Dramatherapist Annemarie Gaillard

IMG_9593.jpg

So this is Blogmas, and LOOK what we've done!

Hi Bazlings! We’re back and transmitting for Baz HQ. You’ll see, if you’ve been following our social media that we have some exciting new changes to our output/outreaching/general hanging out with a very Baz lead-up to Christmas, longer blogs and our (hashtag) LunchBites!

Oi oi, you lucky people!

Ahem, sorry, we’ve just always wanted to do that.

Anyway! We’d like to start as we mean to go on with some serious bloggage and have we got a doozy for you. As you know, Baz’s missive is about being alive, limitless, and dedicated to the connection we seek between our performers and our audiences. In our previous works of Macbeth, Prophesy, Strindberg’s dreamplay, and the The Process based on Kafka’s The Trial coming in 2019. We have explored different sides of humanity, behaviors – from the broad to the unique – the biggest questions of who are we and why are we here, to the consequences of a single action by the individual.

We’re not afraid of treading into bold territory – but as a theatre company, we certainly do not want to achieve that to the cost of our actors. Our casts are usually made up of a brilliant but small number, and so it is imperative that those that are in the rehearsal room are focused, happy and safe. Enter Annemarie, a drama therapist that one third of Baz Artistic Director and director of our productions Sarah will be working with on Baz productions upcoming ‘The Process’. Sarah and Annemarie have collaborated on drama school graduation shows and R&Ds outside of Baz’s output. Encouraged and excited by her not limited effect on not only the rehearsal room but in the cast – we thought resident pen, Jessica to sit down to an interview with them both. We think you’ll find the result just as fascinating as we do, so without any more preamble, here here it is! Enjoy!

(J denotes Jessica, S Sarah and AM is Annemarie.)

J: So this is exciting! An actual call like they do on the telly. Ahem. So. If we could start with you Annemarie, could you tell us a little bit about what you do?

AM: Of course, I’d be happy to. So I’m a dramatherapist, and dramatherapy is a form of psychological therapy that utilises drama and theatre practice within the therapeutic process, as resources that promote growth, insight and healing. It is an established form of therapy widely used with many different client groups. My practice is rooted in the Sesame methodology – a non-confrontational approach based on the theories of Carl Jung's psychology, Rudolph Laban's Art of Movement, Peter Slade's work in children's play and Marian Lindkvist's non-verbal language of Movement-with-touch-and-sound. Non-confrontational means that the client can express their internal world through the art forms of drama and movement, and at their own pace, without having to address any difficulties directly. It’s through working in this way that allows the client to acknowledge that the feelings are there, and these feelings can then be understood, worked through and reflected upon, without becoming overwhelming. Through the art form of drama and theatre, the client can get a different perspective on themselves. For the last few years, I have also been working with actors, both professional and in training. This is a newer and more emerging field, and Sarah and myself have been working together for over a year now, applying this therapeutic practice in various ways to the rehearsal process.  Being ‘on hand’ in a rehearsal room, school drama studio, anywhere actors could be triggered by past traumas through character study, the text, or any negative stimuli means I can offer therapeutic support in the moment.

J: I see. So what drew you to it?

AM: Well, I trained at drama school, graduating in 2005, and I then worked as an actor for 10 years. Acting is a tough career, right from the training! There are many in the industry who suffer for many reasons, and psychological support is needed both in drama schools and professional companies. During this time, I also worked for a charity for Beats Learning (formerly Squeaky Gate) as a drama tutor, teaching drama and theatre practice to adults, some of which were affected by mental illnesses or difficulties. I wanted to explore drama as therapy so I retrained on the Drama and Movement Therapy MA course at the Central School of Speech and Drama to become a dramatherapist. I believe dramatherapy is ideally suited to provide support to actors; the language of the art form is already shared and familiar, and can be easily accessed by both actor and therapist. The therapy sessions then naturally make use of the actor’s craft – play, theatre games, improvisation, expressive movement – but nurtured and contained in a safe space, which in turn, facilitates the actor to take that journey of intuitive personal and artistic growth.

J: Brilliant. So in your opinion, Annemarie, is dramatherapy as implemented as it could be?

AM: Well, I do know that more students are being hired from the course I graduated from. Dramatherapy has been practiced widely in the UK for a long time, within schools, institutes and the NHS - but of course it would be great to see it even more widely offered for sure! My MA dissertation argued for incorporating dramatherapy into actor training as a means of supporting young artists at a particularly vulnerable time. Ultimately though, I believe dramatherapy should be more prevalent in drama schools and in professional rehearsals - this is why the work Sarah and I are doing, bringing dramatherapy into this environment - is still somewhat new and unique.

Rehearsal going well? Well before Dramatherapy’s place in the rehearsal room, actors from ‘Bonita Granville’ in the 1950s.

Rehearsal going well? Well before Dramatherapy’s place in the rehearsal room, actors from ‘Bonita Granville’ in the 1950s.

J: So we have some catching up to do! Sarah, if I could bring you in here: Sarah, you’re notably an artistic director/director who puts great stock in the wellbeing of your actors and creatives – but many would see the rehearsal room as autonomous. Why have you decided to share it?

S: Well yes, in my rehearsal rooms I do try all I can to create a calm, open and supportive area. I love collaboration. Of any kind – the team is only as good as the sum of its parts. I had an understanding of dramatherapy but over the course of a year I’ve come to understand how Annemarie’s work can intrinsically fit into my way of working. What then followed was a realisation that dramatherapy can parallel other roles that I make part of my work such as movement directors. That role, for exampIe, feels like it has two dimensions to it – enhance the creative artistry of the actor and prevent the actor from hurting themselves. Ultimately, it’s about the actor’s wellbeing, both in and out of the rehearsal room: Annemarie is there for wellbeing and in turn to enable expression and eliminate blocks. In my experience, the industry, until quite recently considered these blocks to be an individual responsibility. That’s why it’s so important Annemarie is there.

J: Indeed! Annemarie, in your experience, what has been the biggest single factor that threatens the wellbeing of creative people?

In a group of people, there’s always one…keeping track and noticing the signs of someone suffering from something you can’t see is never easy to spot.

In a group of people, there’s always one…keeping track and noticing the signs of someone suffering from something you can’t see is never easy to spot.

AM: Well it is hard to pinpoint as there are many things can can impact our mental wellbeing within this industry; severe self criticism, isolation, loneliness, rejection, lack of routine or stability - to name but a few! Within a rehearsal room context, there are also many factors that affect the wellbeing of the actor, from long working hours to intense schedules and the pressure to ‘succeed’, or please and impress both peers and critics. Actors can be triggered by the content of the play itself. This may be known trauma, or may be something unearthed by the process. To delve into the depths of one’s psyche when exploring a role risks pulling on the thread of greater issues, which can often be left uncontained or explored.  Night after night the actor may have to reconnect with this, and this can have an impact. Having a dramatherapist in the rehearsal room or having dramatherapy alongside the rehearsal process, can provide a safe space to explore and in meeting Sarah it was clear we were on the same page and we quickly recognised that we should collaborate to explore the potential of combining our practices.  I think, we live in a culture in which it’s not okay to not be okay. I see this none more so than in the acting industry. However, in my opinion this does seem to be changing, and there are now many in this field that promote the importance in wellbeing.

J: So, in both of your professional opinions, Sarah and Annemarie, is drama therapy as welcome as it should be?

AM: In recent years there have been steps taken within the performing arts industry towards addressing the wellbeing of artists; there are more conferences and workshops on the subject, and increased support for students in schools. But think about it another way: you get a sore knee, you sit out of rehearsal; only the issues you can see are the ones that are accepted. There’s are still taboos and fear around mental wellbeing and being able to ask for help or support. In drama schools, students have voiced concerns about coming forward as they feel they may look weak and unable to cope, and that this will affect their casting. There’s too much stock put into being employable. A top down shift is crucial – the inflated hierarchical structures throughout the industry needs to be challenged. Codes of practice and appropriate training need to be implemented urgently, to support not only actors, but also tutors and directors. I believe there is much that the industry can learn from dramatherapy, not just in terms of practice, tools and techniques, but particularly with regards to boundaries in all forms.

S: I agree. For me, it’s a paradox. Everyone pays lip service to the cause of good mental health in the industry – but if you bring it down to the influential individual, it might be a different story. It’s understood conceptually, not in practice. Not in money either; there’s nothing in the budget for it. I agree with Annemarie, we have to change from the ground up. It’s an odd mix of a society that is overworked and overstressed that finds itself only concerned with the superficial and as a result, ends up just box ticking. There’s a lot of energy that solely goes into if the show with go out on time. It’s scary how much responsibility is dodged.

J: Very true. To you both: what actual steps can be taken to make drama therapy a standard? Would it need to be, say, enshrined in Equity rules?

AM: There is still a stigma on therapy. My MA dissertation argued for incorporating dramatherapy into actor training as a means of supporting young artists at a particularly vulnerable time. In an ideal world, dramatherapy sessions would be integrated into the timetable of vocational actor training or within professional rehearsal schedules, with equal importance given to these sessions as would be voice sessions, stage combat, dramaturgy – in the heart of it. But applying dramatherapy in these environments are tricky waters to navigate. There’s a lot to consider: such as finding space within already intense schedules, ever decreasing budgets and funding-cuts within the arts, taboos around the word ‘therapy’ and box-ticking culture where institutes want to be seen to be tackling the rise in individuals presenting with mental health difficulties, yet they fear shaking the status quo.

S: Take dramaturgy. It’s taken twenty or so years for it to be, for want of a better word ‘accepted’ in the UK, somewhat behind its European counterparts. We still have a way to go. Meanwhile, it can still be obvious: I saw a production recently where you could tell the actress was going through something, and was distressed – and the concern that elicited totally overtook the performance for me. It’s slightly unbelievable someone thought it was ok for her to go onstage. Like Annemarie said, this is partly due to these after drama school pub outings where students compete for wild stories of suffering or negative experiences to be the most tortured artist. And personal suffering is rewarded by the society that counts most: Hollywood. Posthumous Oscars, golden figurines for surviving rough terrain and eating raw meat. How have we got here?

J: Sarah – knowing your process as I do, I know you like routine. How has it been fitting Annemarie into your directorial process?

S: Very easy! I do like to schedule and be organised, and I think because Annemarie and I get on so well, and our personalities mesh – we have found a good rhythm. I will sync my schedule to Annemarie’s and vice versa, so she can be present in the room, but I also organise personal sessions between Annemarie and the group that I know nothing about – I just set the time, and ask nothing. That’s a chance for Annemarie to assess and give guidance without me, the authority figure, present. There, they can be vulnerable, and Annemarie can help them work through blocks that prevents them from their best work. They come back into the room, relieved and in better control, and the pressure in the room, that I used to spend time trying to relieve on my own, is released. I can concentrate more on creating and guiding the show to fruition. Annemarie and I have a creative shorthand, so I can hand over to her when I need to. The benefits to both actor and director, are invaluable.

J: And for you, Annemarie, can you see the effect of the work you put in?

AM: As Sarah mentioned, our collaborations have taken various forms so far; from dramatherapy sessions alongside the rehearsals to having me present within them, holding warm-up and grounding sessions at the start and end of the day. An overarching therapeutic aim for applying dramatherapy to actors is to offer the opportunity to connect with creativity and play without the pressure to perform and be judged or critiqued. This very much parallels the way in which Sarah works artistically as a director and our two practices compliment each other. When we’re together in the rehearsal room there was a natural ‘flow’ between us. What Sarah and myself also noted was that during our pilot project the sessions were voluntary - the students didn’t have to attend.  But they kept coming back. This was interesting and encouraging. In a therapeutic relationship you share a particular currency that is emotional and unique. There is something new to be learned with every individual and group, as everyone is different and unique. It is interesting to watch the actor use their craft therapeutically and it is hugely exciting to see how our collaboration can evolve and grow!

S: Yes, I wonder what would happen if we swapped partners! It seems to be about a personal mojo – something Annemarie and I share even at this point of working together a handful of times. Oddly, it’s more about us then them – if we can provide a united front, we can provide united support.

J: Great stuff guys. So, I guess to finish, the government has announced more funding for mental health on the NHS – an encouraging sign that mental health is being taken more seriously. If and when drama therapy is a beneficiary of this funding what could be an ideal future for its growth and implementation?

S: We’re all squeezed, from all areas, and in the arts especially. There’s hardly any money to go around and drama therapy as part of a rehearsal process,  is not seen as a priority. With government funding it may take a while but at least in individual organisations, they are starting to see the benefit, what the results are when we put drama therapy to work. Enhance creativity and good works happen. As for the future of drama, with the country and the globe, generally, anything can happen. We have to keep going with inclusivity, responsibility, opportunity, making great work that hasn’t come at a cost to the actors and prosper, I guess!

AM: Like I mentioned before, it is encouraging to see steps being taken within this industry, and within many industries, to help and support our overall wellbeing. I see it is something more talked about, therapy in general, and slowly the stigma is being removed from it so people can really access the support they require. We still have a way to go. I agree with Sarah, the world being as it is means we need art now more than ever: as an outlet to feel, think or escape. That’s why I believe urgent support for all who work within the performing arts industry is vital. Then, there can be less on ‘getting by’ on tiny budgets.

J: Finally, a bit of a silly question perhaps for you both: what is the last thing you say to your cast before they leave the rehearsal room after a tough day of confronting issues and hard work – letting them leave it there and not taking it home?

AM: That depends on the needs of the group. I begin and end with a ritual – a collective taking of breath, three usually, at the same time to encourage a feeling of community and calm. We’re breathing together. We’ve been seen and heard. A wonderful dramatherapist tutor of mine once encouraged me to ‘breath from the place where you know you have strength’ - so I sometimes pass this on to my clients. After they leave, I like to clear the room and reflect quietly on the session.

S: Well done. Thank you. Take care of yourselves.

Not much to add to that is there?

Talk soon, much love,

Baz x


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Gore to the Fore: When is Too Much Too Much?

A production of Sarah Kane’s incendiary ‘Blasted’ that changed the landscape of British theatre in the early 90s.

A production of Sarah Kane’s incendiary ‘Blasted’ that changed the landscape of British theatre in the early 90s.

Hello Bazites! How’s it going? Or rather, Arroooo’s it going?! (yes it is nearly Halloween, yes this clever wordplay will keep happening) We have some fresh blood/blog for you (twice in one month, you are lucky!) as the planets aligned, the dates fit, the theme is ready and Monster Mash is cued up on the stereo - we’re going to talk about gore onstage and the division it causes in certain situations. So sit down, get comfy (keep your ankles out the way of grabby ghouls under the chair, muahaha, etc) and let’s get started.

In all seriousness, though - why not? The censorship of theatre maintained until the 1960s which is why we are able to have such classics as Edward Bond’s Saved just after - a play that features a very nasty, disturbing and controversial scene, yet remains the standard of great writership (is that a word? Well we’ve coined it now, soz) and a key text in mid-century drama. The point being that art was restrained for many decades due only to its political content - there wasn’t much Will Shakespeare could get past Queen Bess if he didn’t want his head on a spike - it was clear in that era they had no problem with gore; public execution, anyone? For the Tudor society, which lest we forget still had one foot in the Middle Ages violence, actual violence was fun. As the years have advanced and society has changed, are we now more prudish then ever?

There’s a difference between controversial and sensationalist - violence for violence sake has little artistic value - but our accepted thought on extreme violence had to grow up with the decades. For example, take Oedipus, that hilarious, fun for all the family Ancient Greek romp where poor Oedipus self-mutilates because of actions he could never have avoided committing. Did Sophocles indend to show us this onstage? Unfortunately, we’ll never know, as no copy of the text exists. Indeed, productions since usually have the event occurring offstage but one can safely assume those blood-hungry Greek audience weren’t afforded such babying. The era itself was bloodsoaked in constant war, capital punishment and extreme family, er. ‘quarrel ‘that could get out of hand very quickly. I mean, matricide, regicide, um, brothercide? Is that one? Either way, the dramas of Ancient times pulled all the punches. And the entrails.

As we’ve discussed - Will Shakespeare liked a murder or two, in fact, here’s all the victims of his oeuvre in a helpful list:

King Duncan: Done in by Macbeths

Macbeth: Stabbed by Macduff

Julius Ceasar: Set upon by his ‘mates’

Desdemona: Smothered by Othello

Othello: Killed himself

Emilia: Killed by Iago

Rodrigo: Killed by Iago

Romeo and Juliet: Killed by teenage angst and bad timing

Timon of Athens: All kinds of stuff goes on there, woah

And the list goes on and on - and it wasn’t just Will who liked a splash - John Ford, Ben Johnson, etc liked a mutilation quite literally in the audience faces so we can safely say that this era hadn’t yet grown an intolerance for the red stuff. The Regency period (the one with all the Georges) was fairly eventful too - a lot of reprisals from the Renaissance in your more typical Proscenium Arch theatre - but the violence was silly, almost comic in this form. From then until the dawn of the 20th Century there was little new writing that called for gory set pieces, despite the wars, the fact that capital punishment was still lawful and exercised regularly. Amamzingly, laws on censorship first implemented in the 1500s were lifted in the 1960s, and…nothing really happened. Oh yes, you could say what you liked about the Queen, use inflammatory language, really push the envelope, but we all suddenly seemed squeamish about showing blood and guts.

We here at Baz are playing devils advocate (t’is the season) with this viewpoint - we are neither encouraging or discouraging disturbing or uncomfortable scenes of violence, ‘live’ -for want of a better word - but we have noticed a lack of it, and delving into why - in our mission statements we seek to bring something truly live and boundless to our audiences to connect with them - and as such, not much for us is off the table, as long as it supports and is warranted within the story we wish to tell. The same can’t be said, in our opinion for horror movies - that, if the graph of horror and gore for the arts went down for theatre, skyrocketed for cinema; all of Hitchcock’s cinematic output pretty much smelled and dry blood and fear, and American Werewolf in Paris, Hammer films started to come along, bringing with it gallons of red-dyed syrup. Instead, the theatre turned to psychology, not psychos to un-nerve- Pinter for example is the master of thinly-veiled threat, and tension, causing pulses to jump faster and a pit in the stomach for over fifty years.

That is not to say, however, that Pinter didn’t publicly rejoice at the 90s theatre movement of In Yer Face Theatre - and more specifically, Sarah Kane’s Blasted - the playwright was vastly effected by the then current Bosnian war and the atrocities it brought with it - things usually kept as many miles away from audiences as the real events. Pinter applauded her talent and boldness for bringing that conflict into a modern hotel room, and showing us acts of extreme violence, both physical and sexual to make a valid point about human nature, and war. It was met of course, with cries of ‘filth’ and ‘depravity’ to critics - our last remaining bastion of a form of censorship in the wrong hands - and Blasted is still considered, like its title, a massive explosion of a new kind of theatre, a new kind of point.

Here at Baz we always seek to see new theatre, whether it be with student casts, new writing, or West End favourites - we like a variety in our theatre diet, us. We saw a version of Phillip Ridley’s Mercury Fur performed brilliantly and adeptly (seriously, we were left shaking) by Guildhall Students - a fairly recent play of 2005, which even now garnered screaming headlines not unlike Kane’s of ten years earlier - outraged at the harrowing, very-much-onstage violent content (we can confirm, it was grisly) it was reported to have ten walk-outs a night, fainting audience members, throwing up, even Ridley’s publishers, Faber & Faber refused to print it, the works. When watching it, we instead saw a challenge; to look beyond what was happening to see the point - showing us the worst of humanity to fully understand it, set in this near dystopian future Ridley had made sure that we recognise. To ask to be longsighted in such harrowing circumstances is a massive risk - but in the theatre community at least Mercury Fur has inspired some of our more fearless modern writers like Polly Stenham and Neil LaBute. In a nice circular return to the start of this blog, Ridley said of critics yelling their disgust and their personal attacks on Ridley’s own ‘diseased mind’; “Why is it fine for the classic plays to discuss - even show these things - but outraged when contemporary playwrights do it?…/because it is set on an East London housing estate it is seen as too dangerous to talk about.”

For us here at Baz, theatre shouldn’t emulate its cousin of the cinema for cheap thrills and scares - the craft of theatre; that of plot, character, location, decade must lend themselves to the extreme on the stage, whatever form it may take. In our work, we seek connection, immersion - our version of dreamplay for example had our audiences briefly shouted at in the pitch dark, our talented cast weaving and whispering their way through the crowd - anything to break the mould of what we have become used to. Perhaps our views on things that are uncomfortable and extreme could do with being pushed further. We are too grown up now for simple bumps in the night and werewolves - sometimes we are the monsters, and sometimes we need to be reminded of that.

Phew, that all got a bit serious didn’t it? Boo, raaagh, etc. Halloweeeen. There. That should do it, right?

No but seriously, play safe and have a good night- it might be your last, woooooghh!

etc.

Big loveland talk soon you spooky lot,

Baz x

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Piano in the Gallery - A Spotlight on Dame Myra Hess

Myra’s Handywork…costing 2d. Aww.

Myra’s Handywork…costing 2d. Aww.

Hello there Bazlings! It’s been a fair old while but be assured Baz is never far from our hearts or minds, and we are never not walking with Baz in our step. So, we thought we’d return with an old favourite; the Spotlights! We love discovering and sharing our most important influences, movements, performers and schools of thought with you, and this time we have a Spotlight-ee that we think, ought to be remembered both with emotion, appreciation and respect.

Myra Hess, British pianist and, it would be fair to say, music philanthropist is the embodiment of what we feel about music, what we put in our mission statements, our work. Diehard fans (shoutout, fam. Is…that what the kids say?) will remember our intensive and rewarding process with Cello and music queen Laura Moody in both iterations of 2016’s dreamplay, where her haunting, beautiful melodies inspired by the piece sang out quite literally over the waves at Aldeburgh at High Tide, and bounced off the concave, yet seemingly never ending epic corridor of the Vaults. Music is a language all of its own, and language can be performed. Without opening her mouth or using her voice, Hess comforted and gave hope to thousands of Londoners in her unique and long-lasting way - and through it, fully explored the idea of a communion with an audience.

British pianist Myra Hess was born at the very end of the 19th century, and lived through two World Wars. She trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and became a very well-resepected Pianist on the classical performer circuit. Impressive enough to achieve all this as a woman of merit and skill in the early 20th century - respected both here and across the pond in the Big Apple, but it was what she did next that would solidify her status as a philanthropist and historically important figure in music and outreach.

At the age of 55, Myra Hess, more used to playing the fine halls of Royal Albert Hall or the Royal Festival variety, launched a series of free concerts in the next best venue - the National Gallery. Throughout the War, the blitz, the Battle of Britain, for six and a half years, without fail, she gave a free concert in the galleries of the biggest art insitutions in London. They ran every Monday to Friday, and when the bombing was especially close, they moved the concerts to the bowels of the building, but they were never missed. Hess herself performed 150 of these concerts herself, and as a talented arranger, providing many transcriptions of Bach and Beethoven in her lifetime Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring was by far her most popular.

Through these concerts,she provided a safe haven in art and expression, a kind of meditation that took away from the anxiety and fear that must have permeated London in a very trying time. Much like Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again, Gracie Fields meeting the troops, or in later years, the adoption of You’ll Never Walk Alone as a unifying moment for the country, or just the group of people you are with, music and performance, as a communion, can heal. For us at Baz, the nameless, ancient-yet-present feeling of trust, even comfort between audience and performer is what we strive for, in it’s purest and most undiluted form.

Myra received a damehood by King George VI for ‘maintaining morale’ in Wartime, and her legendary concerts eventually evolved became the City Music Society, an important musical organisation that still runs today. Myra did do a lot for morale and spirits, it’s true - but she also single-handedly elevated the form of performance, gave back, and gave a way in to classical music, for so long held on a higher pedestal by the elite - and made it available to all. She presented nearly 2,000 concerts for over 8,000 people - a true visionary and inspiration.

She of course went on to tour the world and be appreciated in her time, providing more arrangements and transcriptions from Mozart to Scarlatti and became even more regarded in her field, invited by composer and conductor Arturo Toscanini to perform with the NBC Orchestra in 1946. After suffering a stroke in her later years, she taught a handful of students before her peaceful passing in 1965. She is still remembered as a true patron of the arts as well as a distinguished performer herself, with her fingering credited to her on many piano sheet music learned today.

This North London Jewish girl gave some respite and relief to many during an impossibly fractious and difficult time, and she did it with her talent and her love for music. It was fantastic of the National Gallery to agree to hold these concerts, as an unusual venue, but we bet, sitting in one of the refined galleries, where there’s meant to be only contemplative, individual silence, the most vibrant, powerful joining of community was occurring, as the angels and cherubs looked on.

Cheers, Myra. You’re a top bird in Baz’s Book.

Talk soon,

Much love,

Baz x

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Summer Summer Summertime...

Someone captured Peak London. All we need now is a bulldog and bowler hat. That is an amazing name for a pub. We call dibs.

Someone captured Peak London. All we need now is a bulldog and bowler hat. That is an amazing name for a pub. We call dibs.

Time to sit back and unwind…. hello, Bazlingtons! We hope this stinking summer had put you in good spirit(s) (it is, undoubtedly cocktail/mocktail season) as well as a time for being in the elements! It really has been too nice to be cooped up at computer, and we here at Chez Baz have been making the absolute best of this beautiful weather and this record-breaking summer - but how best to do this and marry our natural disposition to being in lightless black boxes for 10 hours straight with our love of theatre and culture? Well, the UK has thought of that, and borrowed from our Ancient Greek cousins to bring us theatre, art, dance and most importantly fun, in the outside! Check the below for our best picks of what we've enjoyed in the sun before the leaves start falling:

Globe Theatre

Well, yes, duh. But it really comes into its own in the summer months, with its prime location making it a superb blazing afternoon/chill dusk afternoon activity for the whole family. They have Groundling tickets at £5 all summer long, so there's really no excuse is there, guys. Plus, our own Sarah Bedi highly recommends Emilia currently playing at the Globe until the 1st Sept, AND our own Cath Bailey is crushing it as a Dogeian Bianca in Othello alongside Andre Holland and Mark Rylance which will be gracing the stage until October! Forsooth and lackaday!

Ohh and also: dreamplay player, cello boss and now composer Laura Moody has arranged all the music for Love’s Labours Lost at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse which is super exciting and a must see - a direct recc from us at Chez Baz. (yes we know it's inside, it might rain, have you seen the UK, cut us a break!)

 

 

Regents Open Air Theatre

Running now for over eighty years (wow, right?) Regents Park Open Air Theatre has been a bastion of open air theatre, with a cacophony of shows varying from new writing, children's theatre and musical theatre, too. In a park, surrounded by birdsong and lapping water,  and a season that is as varied and colourful as ever, you can't really go wrong can you? With a run that lasts only eighteen weeks, you gotta be quick though!

 

The Scoop at Tower Bridge

Nestles right by the LCC building on the south side of the river, a stage has quietly been laid for some top theatre to just casually be played by the waterside. Part of a new, innovative 'Summer by the River' scheme, site specific and open air theatre is being given a red carpet in this prime destination, with a varied programme of children's theatre, musicals and dance. Plus free immersive workshops and talks on theatre making from industry professionals. Niice.

 

Riverside Stage at the National Theatre

Ah, a favourite, this one - be-deckchaired, bars on hand and freshly made wood fired pizza available nearby, this spectacle for your spectacles brings you entertainment of any conceivable genre from every conceivable corner of the globe - from cabaret to puppeteering, from dance to drama, it's all there. Turn to your left and you might catch a beautiful sunset too. Just lovely.

 

Vegan Nights London

Yes, not technically theatre, but creativity, and then some: Vegan Nights has been running for just about a year now, and since day one, this gathering, now the in its fifth iteration has been the place to be for the faithful, the curious, the naysayers and fans of the Way of the Leaf. DJs (vegan ones obviously) accompany you stuffing your face full of some of the best Vegan fare the UK has to offer, all in one place, where everything looks bad for you but isn't. What's not to love?

 

Markets Aplenty: Borough, Spitalfields, Portobello...

London is a market town, t'is true - and literally every borough has one - so it's what you're in the mood for: food, antiques, flowers, clothes - London has it all, where the colourful, varied creativity of Londoners near and far is on display. Always a good thing to support, and the bargains are endless.

 

Notting Hill Carnival - 250 Years of Smithfield Market

Yes, these ones may have just passed but my god they were fun. You'll never see so much glitter and feather in your life in Notting Hill over this auspicious August weekend, and we hear there will be a roller disco in the actual marketplace of Smithfield. So. Nuff said really, isn't it?

 

There has been so much to do in the capital, and elsewhere, Opera in Holland Park for example, Shakespeare In the Abbey featuring an illustrious cast frolicking in Westminster Abbey, directed by our own Sarah Bedi, no less - and who can forget, when the Trump Baby came to visit and we had a party in Parliament Square - sure enough, it's been a summer of fun in the City's Squares, parks and riverside paths. But also - bring on the lattes and the layers - we have a feeling it's going to be an epic autumn too.

In conclusion - what we love about outside anything is the camaraderie it inspires - unlike travelling  into a black box for two hours, there's always that magic feeling of a crowd together in the elements enjoying the same moments, in the same elements, that gives you an ownership of it all somehow. It's epic.

Whatever you do, do it together.

But also, bring a jumper.

Be back soon!

Much Love,

Baz x

 

 

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Whether t'is Nobler In The Mind To Suffer, Part 1

Hey there Bazlingtons! Are we well? And good, and healthy? These aren't just pleasantries (though it is pleasant and we care about you all lots) it's a deeper question. So, riddle us this: as an actor, you must disappear into a role, behave, act in a way that is not yourself, right? (we promise it won’t be the simplistic all the way through) but in this split personality, and the divide between actor and role, issues, trauma even, can fester and grow - and a need for support and awareness of this issue, is only just coming to light. It’s often tamped down, the run is only six weeks or whatever, no I don’t need to talk about it, I’ll lose my focus, etc, but as we all know repression is dangerous, and the repeated action, say of playing a reprehensible or disturbing role, in a eight show week can make the tear wider. Something of a hushed-up side effect of the acting industry had stayed hidden somewhat in all this recent, modern ownership of mental health in the population generally, so why has this effect on the acting profession been so ignored?

 

Fantastic imperatives such as National Mental Health Awareness week are great, but they are soon over, and the issue isn’t  - 1 in 6 people will have experienced a mental health issue this week alone. A nationwide, worldwide issue, there's so much to be said about stigma, seeking help, and helping each other - and we want to focus on a particular issue that's come to light. We here at Baz have talked about mental health and the arts - what defines an  'artist’ in our blogs before, and the view that’s normally held water is that there is an element of 'madness' to the creative mind, and so it is upheld, solidified as a stereotype and we all move on, yes? Well, no. In this era of social media and blogging, many actors, artists and musicians have been honest and frank about their struggles - and how issues, far from the necessary evil that makes one a genuii, can hold you back. The romanticism surrounding the chaotic and often harsh realities of mental health has, not surprisingly, not done the stigma any favours. However, in this blog we want to look past the set, costume, stage, lighting- and to the time away from the spotlight - and to the strain of the profession - as art can sometimes imitate life.

So. We want to talk about actors. Here at Baz we are a close-knit yet open and frank community - we love the actors we work with-  and it is an imperative that we always provide a safe, open, equal and secure environment for our actors to do their best most honest work, and not at the cost of their equilibrium. Our most recent work at Wilton's Music Hall, where we R&D our version of The Trial with hearing and D/deaf actors was, like most of our work, planned before we entered the rehearsal room - but we found it necessary, more than, to hold regular talks, debates and invite members of the D/deaf community into our rehearsal room and process, learning a great deal about the struggles that community faces in order for our story to do them justice, at the cost of an audience feeling uncomfortable, but ultimately, informed. As a company, we're looking at works and classics that show the truths of life: the struggles, the faults - in our production of dreamplay we had actors stretch themselves to the limits of their limitless abilities, in a safe and encouraging environment in order to bring raw, true theatre to our audiences.

Drama, or to refer it by Aristotle's definition of 'tragedy' is, 'the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself . . . with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis of such emotions.' Well. That sounds jolly. And boy did they get serious in their catharses: Ancient Greeks pushed the boundaries of plot and storyline to still shocking lengths and this has not abated throughout the centuries. Great actors of the ages have emulated the madness of  King George VI, King Lear, Ophelia, Oedipus, Medea, Hedda Gaebler, Lady Macbeth and Yerma - all roles that and transported us with their talents and skill - but to do so every night? It's a given, it's what the actor must do - but have we ignored the wear and tear of the repeated action? With the classics, there is a distance that can be afforded - after all, who nowadays can relate to a king or queen? (open statement: we'll leave it at that, ahem) but what about roles that are not so desirable, or so distant and 'safe' in their academia?

After the turn of the century we were treated to many an undesirable - from Dickens' wronguns, to Pinter's despicables, theatre and writing in general is littered with baddies. Whilst this is the prerogative of the writer, and in most cases, a necessary stock character, these bad apples are, at least in the modern pantheon, meant to get us thinking, meant to show us the worst of the world to educate us. The boundaries of these 'lessons' we'll talk about another time, our focus is on the actors - imitating murderers, both real and imagined, peodophiles, abusers - every night on stage and the effect it has on the psyche - for too long now, perhaps the idea of the  actor as many things, has omitted the one of vulnerable to toxicity and damaged mental health.

So - what can be done? Apart from a constant and encouraging  year-round movements, charities and Mental Health Week, as we mentioned earlier, which boasts a fantastic hashtag full of positivity, bravery and ownership of issues. This is all fantastic, but Baz were delighted to learn of Equity, the Actor's Union, launching Arts Minds, a fantastic new prerogative that listened and provided a space to share issues within a community of artists and peers. It's a fantastic step forward, and with it, no few column inches to the strain of mental health for actors, such as Lyn Gardner’s inciting article on the strain of mental health on actors for The Stage. Indeed, last year's Fringe Festival brimmed with plays that tackled depression, PTSD and a host of often maligned issues - and this year looks to be no exception - it seems we are finally ready to open up debate, share, and heal.

Cheers to them, and here's hoping the directive spreads - whilst we still have some way to go, these little starts, little patches of stigma, judgement, repression and ignorance on mental health and creatives will start to grow more green, overgrown and bear more fruit.

Talk soon, exciting news to come!

Best,

Baz x

 

 

 

 

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Baz Vibes - Five O'The Best

What's the betting that deckchair on the right is going to order that deckchair on the left go get the ice creams and 'stop being a whiny cow' - Bank holidays, huh

What's the betting that deckchair on the right is going to order that deckchair on the left go get the ice creams and 'stop being a whiny cow' - Bank holidays, huh

Hey Bazzers! Us here again, fresh-faced and sun kissed (ok, slightly sunburned) from that scorcher of a Bank Hol Weekend - and as the longer days encourage shorter sleeves, brightly coloured drinks and the fact that your mum says you can play out later, we thought with all the nonsense happening in the world currently, why not keep it positive with some of our Favourite Things we here at Team Baz have appreciated recently. So without further ado -five of our most favourite things we are digging this month. Lift up the red curtain! (well, not really, there isn't one, but work with us here) 

- Our Mates, Doing the Thing: Out BazPals always keep our dance card very full and brimming with excellence- and with fantastic works of music and theatre such as Laura Moody and the Phaedra Ensemble in their piece 'Medium' (link) there is always an embarrassment of riches from Baz collaborators and pals. And from our ADs too - as Sarah Bedi directed a celebration of the Bard with Globe Theatre players in 'Shakespeare Within the Abbey'. That is to say, Westminster. You know, just casually.

Rooftops, Courtyards and Banks: After a weekend such as this - a shock to the average theatre type, used as we are to working in a black box all day and not stepping outside until sundown. (Hang on...are we all vampires? Fully researched, intense blog to follow) This shock to the system has side affects that include- a sudden, uncalled-for abundance of pale skin, day drinking, lounging and generally 60% less theatre than usual. But with courtyards like Somerset House, housing the Courtauld Institute and Gallery and sculpture court (WITH FOUNTAINS), the small deckchair village that multiplies in front of the National Theatre, or various themed bars on painfully cool Hackney roofs, what choice do we have, really? Yeah, yeah no: we're just taking this to work outside.

Vegan Food: Yes, this can be a bit polarising, forgive us: but unusually, we have, in the Baz triumvirate a Vegan Majority (good name for a band) and majority rules, so. The good weather usually brings out good food stalls - but all year round Hackney Vegan Festival, LDN Vegan Nights and lunchtime vegan street stalls are becoming a common sight. Chuffed. But if you get bored of lettuce, word to the wise: Temple of Seitan do devilishly good Vegan Fast Food. Thank us later.

The Prominently Female Jury at Cannes This Year: Women and film have had a turbulent relationship since time immemorial - but really rocky recent times has not made it a friend to women. This year's jury at Cannes - where, a few years earlier, women weren't allowed into screenings wearing flat shoes -is made up of Cate Blanchett, Ava DuVernay, Lea Seydeux, Khadja Nin and Kristen Stewart. Oh, and a few token men. And it's not even for a female-only category! Progress, thy name is Cannes. Keep it up and maybe film can redeem itself. 

Childish Gambino's Track and Video 'This Is America: Put simply, when art does the thing. Part modern art and music video, this could potentially be installed in the Tate Modern, and featured in your dissertation. Art at its most provoking. 

Special mentions to the upcoming all-female Ocean's Eight film, avant-garde punk choreographer Michael Clark's latest stunning, Bowie-infused offering 'To a Simple Rock n Roll...song' is on iPlayer, starlet Zendaya turning up to the Met Gala and embracing the theme of Catholic imagination dressed as the most fashionable Joan of Arc we've ever seen, but most importantly -  Graeae Theatre Company's Sensibilty Festival in Birmingham coming up later this month, 18-20th May featuring work from D/deaf, blind and disabled artists - more info on their twitter @graeae

More as we get it, but sorry we have to go - a deckchair was just vacated. You get the ice creams, yeah?

Big love and Best,

Baz x

 

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Greeks Bring Gifts: Time For A Rebirth of Critical Theatre?

Peter Capaldi playing Malcolm Tucker outside Downing St - both intimidating you to read this blog and starring in the meta-ultra critical and satirical  Thick of It.  TV has a handle on this satire stuff...does theatre need to catch up and snatch back the crown?

Peter Capaldi playing Malcolm Tucker outside Downing St - both intimidating you to read this blog and starring in the meta-ultra critical and satirical Thick of It. TV has a handle on this satire stuff...does theatre need to catch up and snatch back the crown?

Bazlings! We are supremely sorry for what we’re calling, for the want of a better word, our hibernation (Clocks went back yesterday…get it?) But we have all, separately and together, been doing our things: from directing, acting, and bringing up kids…check out our Twitter: @baz_productions and our Instagram of the same name for proof, y’all: we got it all, recommendations, updates, all sorts! But this here is out blog and we are back, charged up and better than ever! What’s more, we’re about to drop some history on ya…so watch out!

London, or Londinium, when it was, shall we call it, ‘hostile takeover’-ed in somewhere 100AD by the Romans actually led to a lot we still call home – pasta, religion and those lovely ladies of the arts, the Muses. Also, aqueducts. For all this influence though, it seems as if the modern theatre came from Greece and the great Amphitheatres of the age. Here, 5th century tragic playwrights such as Euripides and Sophocles didn’t only stage the heavyweights of Electra and Oedipus, they also wrote about current invasions, wars and political decisions, often staging their work in the theatres placed right next to the buildings of government. Imagine it- you’re a lawmaker, going about your daily business, deciding who lives and who dies, where to invade next, etc – and you hear the commotion of you being played by an actor in a silly voice, mimicking your voice and actions – and people laughing at it, at this, an age of literal marketplace backstabbing. Now that takes some cajones.

Of course, the act of satire is not new to us: Beyond the Fringe had Dudley, Peter, Alan and Jonathan take aim at Harold MacMillan, who was sitting in the audience, Tom Lehrer was writing funny songs about who’s got the bomb in the nervous 60s, Spitting Image saw the Royal Family at a typical dinner, and most recently, Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin – have, you could argue, won against Sarah Palin and President Trump respectively. In the cloudy, faraway mists of the past, however, it seems these playwrights were the first People’s Champions – playing a game of Russian Roulette for their art. Some recent academic thinking sees a strong link between Athenian Tragedy and Democracy, and treat the original plays as historical documents that tell us in more detail, and more astutely then any other kind of record.

These old texts asked moral questions of an audience that had suffered or lived through the actions it staged – sometimes even mocking authority - and was flocked to by all manner of fare – from the farmer to the lawmaker. It’s not surprising, then that fine actors of the age blurred the line between performer and politician – namely a bloke called Aeschines, a popular actor of the age, hired by would be king Philip, father of Alexander the Great to plead his case for taking over said actor’s township. It’s both extraordinary and not, as you hear hyperbole in recent elections of how politicians look, sound, and exude their charisma – not so much politic as chic. Still, plays and their writers had more than a view on the social climate, the affected it – it seems unfathomable now that theatre could affect policy – in this current state the arts find themselves in of self-sufficiency and theatre making for change and representation thankfully still going, but off site – these plays went to the masses. We could learn something from these much lauded, seemingly limitlessly brave writers and orators.

A lot has happened since Ancient Greek theatre – and its not as if these traditional methods didn’t come back, often with a vengeance – after all Reagan, an actor, achieved terms as a serving American President, and Arnie is currently running California, so the charm of the film star has been known to reach out of the screen – and here in England, we have a tradition of actor-activists, from Jessica Hynes' powerful BAFTA speech, Hugh Grant’s work with Hacked Off, Stephen Fry’s campaign for mental health and recently Michael Sheen’s semi retirement from acting to launch his fair loan scheme, inspired by the struggles he witnessed with unregulated lenders in his native Wales.

A fundamental right is that of freedom of speech – but if we return to the age of the snap reaction plays – say, a play set behind the scenes at Whitehall on the night of the Brexit vote– would we get in trouble? Can we only make critical theatre when the subject is dead and gone- what are the laws on this? Censorship on theatre was only lifted in the late 20th Century, are we still at an impasse – and is theatre too polite? As we always say, we here at Baz want to engage you, push you and interact with you – but will our time be long gone before that’s the norm?

We here at Baz don’t know – but if there’s anything we want to do, it’s to tell truths and represent real people and stories. We have done this in the past through Ancient Text – our 2013 Prophesy was our take on the Greek Myth – but it seems the old Athenians had more to offer than previously thought, as new texts are being discovered all the time, and all that is old is new again. Perhaps.

 

Boom. And that is how you drop some history!

Oh and this blog is proudly pro-Cynthia Nixon for NY Governor by the way. Come on guys, really

Big love, til next time!

 

Baz

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December is Not December of December

Got a lot farther by working a lot harder,

By being a lot smarter,

By being a self-starter’ -  ‘Hamilton’ from Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Hey Bazzers! Yes, we did start both title and blog by repeating the same word in the same sentence, but in our defence, ‘December’ and ‘Hamilton’ are good ones. If you don’t know the above, then shame on you because it’s from the excellent musical Hamilton, a ticket and show so hot, swathes of people who haven’t even seen it are massive fans. (Pst, us included) but we intend to remedy this quicksmart with its arrival at the West End. Anyway, the reason a quote from this Nobel Prize winning musical is sitting pretty up there at the top of the blog is because Lin-Manuel Miranda, composer, rapper, and the first star of the show didn’t come from a pedigree, an ivy league or from, lets be honest, whiteness. Thanks to Obama’s term of office, he got his break of all places, at the White house. For such a thing to occur here in the British Isles is about as regular as...a very irregular thing. A class, gender, race and ability ceiling is fresco-ed and preserved by the National Trust. But all is not lost! We are indeed, the masters of our own destiny, and as Baz states in our mission statement - we quite literally made the theatre we want to see - and that hasn’t been working out so bad thus far! In our opinion, you need: a planner, some business cards, skill and passion, and you’re on your way - and what better time to be pushing the message of get up and go then that notoriously quiet period where everyone is sit-down-and-stay as one year slides onto another. Read on, friends, we got some tips for ya. So don’t say we don’t ever give you anything for the holidays.

(okay that sounded less arrogant in our heads - basically, we’re going to share our experience and offer some advice, okay? cool.)

So please trust us that we’re not trying to bring you down this Yule-lookin’ month - quite the opposite - there’s so much to do! There gets to be a mindset of December being the wind-down month, to take the foot of the pedal and onto the pouf, an entire box of Quality Street on our laps (no? Just us, ok.) and be swept up in cold mornings and shorter days - basically, in hibernation. But December need not be the December of December, friends, oh no. (By the way did we just invent that? S’cool - *runs off to patent it*) Hibernate, sure, but like our furry friends do, do like the squirrels do and leave yourself some nuts in the...erm….area to enjoy January 3rd. (don’t judge us, we’re big fans of Attenborough) Approach the new year as working off both rosties and ennui and be a Responsible Freelancer. And here’s Baz’s top three tips for how to beat the procrastination blues:

  •   Join societies or groups:

As a freelancer, a writer, director, producer or practitioner, you work for a good majority of time alone. Which is great but a bad habit - in the capital, the wealth of book groups and special interest societies (some very special ones out there FURSURE) or to get you back in fighting shape: there’s meetup.com’s London Writers Cafe (link) who set a date and place to set up to write together in blissful peaceful quiet and unity, as well as regular talks set up by the organisers for a wide range of styles of writing, for example, with properly excellent industry insider talks. Meetups.com incidentally has a meetup event for any and every kind of activity (steady now, not that) that range from a group run to the highest point of Primrose Hill, to weekend ice cream tasting a new spot every weekend. Hey, you’re talking/creating/producing facts  and stories about life, might as well experience it all, huh? There’s also always a ton of special workshops that new directors hub Young Vic offers, and talks to attend to brush up on your skills - BBC Writersroom is a good place to check out as well as London Playwrights Blog, BAFTA, the BFI...and any arts centre - the ICA for example have held some great Q&As with writers and directors.  we could wax several buses lyrical on the wealth of talk to tune into - get out there and unearth it.

And not to get all social justice on you all but a good idea to get your union card, whether it be the National Union of Journalists for the writers, Equity or the Writer’s Guild - in times such as these support, be it opportunity based, funding or legal advice, belonging to a body that is designed to support the arts is totally not a bad idea. 

  •    Culture Vulture

Okay now this one is obvious for sure, but of course, there can be so many reasons not to do something, especially on these colder, darker afternoons, but getting out to see everything is a must. Big theatres like the National to off-west End shows have previews and first nights - at cheaper rates than normal tickets, so many promotions too - from the National’s £15 tickets for under 26s, to Young + Free at the Donmar. New writing theatres are open to submissions and turning out work at the end of year too - never been a better time to join Theatre 503’s newsletter to hear of their latest Rapid Write Response - a chance to see a show for a reduced price, meet the creatives and write something that could be presented onstage. From West End to East End theatres are a lot more interactive these days. Books you mean to read (Peter Hall’s ‘The Empty Space’ is COMING WITH US this holiday break) great telly, etc - the season puts you in the best mood for absorbing the best the year has to offer, so get to it, and bring a notebook.

  •    Lists are your friends

Ah, the end of year countdowns, the stuff of sleepy post-christmas lunch comedowns on the telly (we say this but we will be watching them with the aforementioned Quality Street come a week’s time) but use it to your advantage - get a diary or wall planner now to prepare for the new year - shows you want to see, deadlines you want to meet, anything arts related - and keep it separate from your personal movements - a career in the arts is just a legitimate as any other job, and keeping a work diary will keep it separate and therefore, not ‘causal’ - the key is emphasis, not pressure. Here at Baz we know all too well, there’s a propensity to compare to others, to take your eye off your own path and put pressure on yourself that doesn’t need to be there. These lists aren’t there to dictate to you, rather to provide guidance when you get stuck. Keeping goals doesn’t need to be punishing - it can provide a much needed workout, and clearout of a cluttered mindset and as we know, happy minds, make for better work. And just to add, meditation is a great help to keep unhelpful habits at bay and create better neural pathways, learned behaviours that make for the most productive but crucially, most centered working life. The headspace app is perfect for that, as is yoga or pilates, anything that focuses on breathing, so that you can return to your book, script, notes with fresh eyes and knock that stuff, quite literally, out the park. We believe in you!

There see, not just a pretty face. And that friends, is how to add some lemon zest to your December.

Happiest of holidays to you lovely Brazzers, thanks you so much for yet another year of support, whether it's been in generous donation, coming to see a showing, or a like or follow, it all adds up and gives us that warm fuzzy feeling that melts snow faster than you can say ‘Bazzers are the best’ - cos you are. Here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2018! Enjoy!

With much love and thanks, we leave you with Lin-Manuel shootin’ his shot: anything is possible.

 

 

Love,

Baz xx

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The Bold and the Beautiful - Baz on Speaking Out

Hello, friends. We hope the changing season has treated you well, and we’re still very much excited about our week R&D-in’ with our fab crew and company a few weeks back - going through all the pics and notes has brought back some wonderful memories. It would be a lie however, to state we’ve been able to avoid upsetting and yet unsurprising headlines about our industry of late - something that mars all industry, in fact - and that with the changing seasons, winds of change are finally starting to lift up embedded lint - and though the results are upsetting and uncomfortable, we are so inspired by the bravery of these women and men speaking out.

Allegations and accusations were recently dredged up from the peat bog which is show business; some after decades, showing the long lasting effect and the collusion of cover up that’s dogged the arts and more particularly Hollyweird sleaze elite. And with it, a lot of raw unfettered emotion: anger and sadness at the variety and widespread nature of these actions, a sense of relief that it can at last be revealed and a nervousness about national response. It’s no secret that Britain has the worst news and print industry in the world, something exacerbated by a certain Australian mogul deciding to make himself an empire based on personal slander, misogyny and gross invasions of privacy. The thought to not believe a woman or a man’s accusation has been planted in our mind for decades, or at least to see her as an objectified image, or the more dangerous thought of ‘I can’t say anything’ intimidated by the famousness or power of the abuser to make others keep quiet or turn a blind eye.To no one’s surprise the tools that are meant to bring us together, that of “social media” have instead made us turn against each other and give a mouth-piece to people and views you could have otherwise happily lived your life never hearing. These voices are given free rein while Rose McGowan’s treatment, that of personal abuse, suspended twitter activity and now a conveniently timed accusation of drug use colludes in a ‘keep quiet’ culture that led us to this point in the first place.

To us, art and the arts are based on a trust - as a writer, performer and director, you share so much of yourself - your time, your effort, your skill, your self - and when this works, you fly. This is certainly what Baz has found, through both our methods and our practice of casting and enlisting talent and points of view of any race, culture or otherwise. When one of our would be actors comes in to audition, we want to let them know and assume this is a safe space where safety and freedom of expression is encouraged. These men have made that task difficult. It’s so insulting to us that a Westernised culture that objectifies women has infected the earnest work of producing good stories, entertaining and educating the world and inspiring people to act, write, sing, direct - that these perpetrators took that genuine craft and turned it into a quest for personal satisfaction is disgusting.

Baz obviously condemns the objectification, the misogyny of the arts, a depressingly common theme not only in 20th century theatre, but in these decades too - be it subtle or otherwise. Too often the female role is a nagging girlfriend or mother, a damsel in distress looking for a male saviour - or a prop to the male main character to be used now and then. That women still have to fight for better roles, we knew, but it’s only coming out now, how many other things they have to fight first. Baz is an all female run company and for sure in the Baz workplace you can ask anyone of a harrowing or uncomfortable experience they’ve been subjected to in the industry,  but of course it’s not confined to the arts, and is prevalent everywhere. It’s still early days, and though we’re, in situations such as these, encouraged to share and work through the experience, having it screamed from the headlines without care for those who could be triggered, highlights to us here at Baz just how multi-layered this issue is for us all -  Baz is relieved to see and hear more stories being told, and we are amazed at the strength of conviction and spirit of these men and women to break their silences, we are just as sorry however, that in order to do that, they must relive it. We’d like to thank them for that, wholeheartedly. All survivors, male or female, are finally getting a chance to be heard, and the world, that was darkened by these perpetrators, their accomplices and the industry covering it up is lightened slightly with every brave statement these survivors make.

We truly hope there is some salvation to be found for this industry we love, and we here at Baz, rest assured are here to support them, all women in the arts, and all men too- in all fields of work, everywhere: whatever role they play, and our dedication remains to tell human stories with equality, truth and care.

Thank you. Much love.

Baz xx

 

 

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The World is Kafka Now - Our Week of R&D on The Trial

"Your call is very important to us." Is it? Is it really?

"Your call is very important to us." Is it? Is it really?

*Waves* Hello you loverly Baz people, how are you? Were not sure about you but we feel as if we’ve been underground and emerged, blinking into the light in a sort of weird reverse hibernation...sorry we’ve just realised that brown bear analogy is a bit weird, but stick with us -we are still powered up Pac Man style (analogies coming thick and fast, duck out of the way!) after a fantastic week interrogating the ultimate tale of interrogation in our version of Franz Kafka’s ever relevant novel, The Trial.

How did it all come about, you ask? (oh yes, the audience participation is real) well, a year ago we staged an interpreted performance of our dreamplay at The Vaults - yes, that was a year ago! - and utilising a fantastic set of skills Katie, our interpreter, displayed, got cogs in our minds working. Sarah, our director and co-AD was electrified by the presence of the language, Katie’s interaction with our actors and the audience and how it seemed to be a play in itself. Our triad of ADs, Sarah, Catherine and Emma meet up regularly at one of our fave Baz places, Persephone Books in Lambs Conduit Street, The Southbank Centre or the little Cafe above Heals (top tip, Secret London fans!) and discussed our next project. It just so happened Catherine was reading The Trial - and that was it -  through a meeting of Sarah’s desire to work with BSL and Kafka’s seminal classic, Baz’s official fourth project was founded.

There followed a year long process of funding, venue, auditions and discussion - which eventually led to a week’s worth of R&D in the beautiful Wilton’s Music Hall, thanks to AD Holly Kendrick’s generosity. Here, with our fantastic actors Will, Cat, Mark, Jean and Catherine, the fab Sophie Wooley sitting in as consultant and a stream of fantastic interpreters all ready and willing to take chances, risks and faith in each other from the get go Between them, as writer and script editor respectively Sarah and Emma produced an avant-garde, typically Baz-like script - and then we promptly told our actors to sort of ignore it. Well not really, but from day one, almost the first morning we were improvising loosely from the script, hitting the ground running - something that was hard not to do with such a trusting and bold company in the room.

 

But first: coffee and opinions. Two of our favourite things. Also: eclairs and world peace but that’s by-the-by - as part of our preparations for the future production it seemed like a great time to offer a focus group, inviting D/deaf theatre goers, practitioners and actors to join us at Wiltons to share their experiences. Everybody came so willing to share what had worked and what didn’t, how theatre and culture generally has a long way to go to fully integrate  D/deaf culture, what had worked and what didn’t, the specific requirements needed across the board- and helped us loads moving forward to produce a truly bilingual piece of important, and entertaining theatre. We were so grateful they were so open, specific and frank about needs and ways of presenting theatre to everyone regardless - and it set us up to think up a battle plan for the rest of the week - right up to the showing at the end of it.

The rehearsal process began in earnest, and we were immediately sure that this is the production we’ve been missing - in terms of our personal theatregoing experiences, and as a company making truly expressive and experimental theatre. It was a learning curve, and we were lucky enough to be educated along the way - for example,one of our fabulous actresses Jean was brilliantly informative on the intricacies of the language of BSL and the iterations thereof, and both she and Will, another actor in our company shared very important personal stories of growing up, the workplace, and clashing with bureaucracy. Of course, we all had a story of miscommunication, or injustices, as a company and creative team, going about our daily lives. Throughout the week it became increasingly clear Kafka has Nostradamus-like abilities to predict a future of dealing with employers, schools, hospitals and councils - all trapped in the barbed mire of Corporate Speak - where Jean cited an actual incident  a medical registrar was reticent to even write the word ‘deaf’ to describe the visiting patient.  However, we found our feet in our traditional ideas of status, identity and portraying truths more stark than ever before - often asking our actors to put themselves in difficult, sometimes uncomfortable situations to better show the current and certainly historical ineptitude society and authority has treated what it deems a ‘problem’.

A big topic at the group was the use of interpreters and/or captions - both equally helpful as they were problematic. We decided, in the spirit of experiment, to integrate our fab interpreters Katie and Jo in some scenes, taking them out of others, even asking our hearing members of the audience to close their eyes briefly so the D/deaf audience knew that the scene would be played with all actors ‘voices off’ - so there was no sound whatsoever. On top of this, our epic producer extraordinaire Liz utilised her words per minute to transcribe the action on her laptop, to be read over her shoulder - so we made full use and tried out different techniques for providing information. Afterwards, we held an impromptu feedback session - and we are so grateful to those who came to stay and explain that their laughter was not only by being entertained but also in recognition, what was clear, what wasn’t - once again showing how versatile and fantastic our audience was in coming with us on our risks and entering into our experiment with an open mind.

Ahhh. We’re feeling all loved out now - and so keen to show you all what we’ve been up to!

Until next time friends, with videos and pics galore, we like to keep the Bazlings informed!

 

With Love,

Baz x

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Good Visibility, Clear Spells

Ah hello Bazzers. We’ve missed you these past few weeks - we hope you are keeping well and busy - because we are too! (yes yes we’ve just done that annoying dinner party question where you ask someone something that’s a lead into a humblebrag...don’t judge us) And because we’re not quite ready give up on summer yet (the branches of the nearest tree are tapping at Baz HQ windows incessantly today but we’re still wearing sunglasses inside) we thought our sunny attitude would suit our latest favourite trend in the arts - that of representation and conscious inclusivity (yes we did coin that, you’re welcome, we’re not just a pretty face)

As the hazy summer of the Edinburgh Festival starts to clear, and again, the range of talent, imagination and excellence of what (interesting and smart) happenings at the Edinburgh Festival, hopefully doesn’t stay there - news has returned of fabulously funny jokes, new talents, exciting dance performances and new ways of presenting work. And we’ve been thrilled to note all done by a new wave of acting, dancing and comedic talent from ridiculously able disabled performers, and D/deaf actors - unrepresented artists signalling the latest change in the arts - making the invisible, visible.

Of course, the  likes of Graeae, a theatre company running for years doing great work both onstage and off to promote a new generation of performers, constantly pushing the envelope and making great strides for decades. However, it seems Edinburgh Festival was all about representation this year: and not just for visability’s sake - also to approach old text in new ways - take for example a relaxed performance of Samuel Beckett’s seminal ‘Not I’ - a 20 minute, speed of thought monologue first performed by Billie Whitelaw in 1973, as she was suspended in absolute darkness above the stage, with only her fastly moving mouth visible. In a nod to inclusivity - this new performance still features an excellent actress in the role, but this time also with a sign language interpreter and performer including the audience and making the piece a different animal altogether - receiving rave reviews and earning a spot in the Battersea Arts Centre listings later this year.

Fantastic dreamplay producer Liz Counsell also recently produced and worked on the latest Deaf Men Dancing show - a brilliant showcase of dancing, talent, representation and LGBT awareness - again to great reviews. And the brilliant Reasons To Be Cheerful - a musical poised to strike later this year, inspired by Ian Dury’s story has won great audiences and acclaim. And interesting fact: Baz trainee director Stephen Lloyd is attached to this brilliant project, double win. More theatre companies, grants and opportunities for d/Deaf and disabled performers are becoming available every year - with Graeae launching writing opportunities too - marking a real commitment for inclusivity in every element of the arts. DaDa Festival grants, the Accessible Edinburgh Awards this year polled visitors to shows and awarded venues, artists and theatre companies alike for their commitment to reaching new audiences with a fresh wave of talent in everything from comedy, music, dance and theatre. And with the ever popular Brighton Fringe Fest making brilliant promises for their accessibility and programme too, these are truly exciting times to be making art.

To that end, we ourselves had the pleasure to meet D/deaf and disabled artists for a casting call for our next big project and left it more excited than ever to not only present our work, but also to introduce a new year of performers we’ll be so proud to call Bazzers and join the team - with the arts under threat it’s now more important than ever that we push forward new agendas, send the money where it needs to go, and appeal to new audiences and the next performers of tomorrow. Come and join the party, the weather’s clearing up, sunny skies ahead. We can’t wait to get started!

Here just to show that anything can be possible, deaf model, winner of America’s Next Top Model and advocate Nyle DiMarco, mastering the cha cha on America’s answer to Strictly Come Dancing - all done with hard work, rehearsal, and counting despite not being able to hear a beat. Amazing. Oh and fair warning, the shirt comes undone around the 0.13 mark. We say warning….you're welcome.

Love, Baz

xx

 

 

 

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Spacial Elite and Stained White Trainers

‘This Brave, O'erhanging Firmament' - Hamlet, being rather Meta and talking about the Globe Theatre’s pretty paint job in 1602.

The Vienna Austria theatres are fancy - and we would spray the famous Verdi aria calling for Roman Citizens (plebs) to rise up: 'Plebe! Parts! Popolo!' but we won't for two reasons - 1. - come on. So beautiful. 2. The elite would probably love it, remove the seat and sell it for a million lira. Sigh.  

The Vienna Austria theatres are fancy - and we would spray the famous Verdi aria calling for Roman Citizens (plebs) to rise up: 'Plebe! Parts! Popolo!' but we won't for two reasons - 1. - come on. So beautiful. 2. The elite would probably love it, remove the seat and sell it for a million lira. Sigh.  

Hi there Bazzers! All here is abuzz at Baz (such a satisfying sentence, ahh) with meetings, sending out our facilitators to Leeds to educate over 1,000 teachers (boo-may we say-yah)  and our friends and colleagues continuing to be completely brilliant in all respects. This has put us in such a good mood we’re all excited to look at beautiful places in the world to perform theatre and daydream about our world domination…in a nice way, obviously. A kind, hostile global takeover where all theatre is free, we’re equal, respectful of all and fluent in Shakespeare. For like, a start.

If you lovelies have been following our Baz Insta posts (which you should, we’ll wait here while you follow, then come on back- we’ll wait…) you’ll see we love a hashtag BazPlace(s) - where we visit somewhere epic either in a meeting, to see a show, or to explore the city and it’s possible locations, and share a photo of it - and it got us thinking. London is an epic theatre city, boasting new and old, often alongside each other. As theatre makers and theatre lovers, anywhere that houses performance, whether it’s one big ornate room, or a gentleman’s club, we are here for it, as our earlier blogpost on our most fave unusual theatre projects will attest.

A recent visit to the National Theatre got us on this thoughtpath (we made that up, we like it, it’s staying, feel free to use it) and the idea of theatre as status - a barometer of its location; how the arts, through the decades has been stigmatised as an upper class pursuit. We love the National, and it has an interesting background - Sir Laurence Olivier founded it in the late 50s, finding a site on the then fairly abandoned South Bank and sought, very nobly, as a nobleman does, to create a new kind of theatre decidedly overbearing the Thames bank, and unlike any theatre seen before -with its brutalist and consciously unflouncy shape and sharp corners shocked the likes of Shaftsbury Avenue. Along with the new look, the fairly traditional and old-fashioned progenitor wanted to induce a new kind of theatre too, for all - a good example of using private wealth for public use. Of course, despite its best efforts, it has fallen into the trap of achieving it’s mainstream goal, whilst unavoidably becoming a symbol of status and the old guard. And as it should: a hub of great theatre events, and a sure fire ticket in ol’ London town. But it begs the questions: how does an institution avoid elitism? Is it possible?

As long time affiliates of experimental theatre, we are used to seeing and producing work in the most unlikely of places: our past two works have taken place in a lighthouse/lookout on Aldeburgh Beach and The Vaults under Waterloo Bridge with our production of dreamplay. Our question is that if a performance, a crew of actors, technicians and creatives adopt a space, does it automatically gentrify it? Is theatre still seen as, one of our favourite films of 2015 ‘Birdman’ states something to get through until the interval, where, filing out quietly ‘they can all get a cup of coffee and a slice of cake’? What can we do to change it? And should we - theatre is not just for the young, but it needs to keep moving, keep rejuvenated. Of course, places like Venice, Norway, Sweden have their share of theatres - beautiful Restoration, delicate, hand-painted masterpieces- that are more museums than places to see live theatre - where opera is still performed de regur and you most certainly will not be let in wearing trainers. This idea is changing however, and a sub -culture of experimental, site specific and promenade theatre has found its place - the successful runs of our mates’ shows like Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man, any and everything by Forced Entertainment and Get In The Back Of The Van theatre collectives- (delightfully mobile, fluid, hedonistic and literally in-yer-face theatre, never mind the 90s theatre moniker) but it’s all considered ‘specialist’ and whilst there is (and always should be) a time for revivals and musicals- not to the detriment of others.

So what is the answer? Take over the delicate music-box theatres in Amsterdam and spray graffiti all over it? By it’s nature change has to use willpower and have a movement, a shape - but this can easily be misconstrued as aggression and destruction - think of the Sex Pistols in 1979 calling a household name interviewer a ‘rotten wanker’ - and that is not what’s happening here. But much like getting a seat on the tube, you might have to make good use of your elbow. And yet, there’s cause for celebration - so many new writing theatres dedicating to new talent their time, expertise, rehearsal rooms and performance spaces, this scene is expanding - and with £15 under 26 tickets at the National, £10 Mondays at the Royal Court, a rise in ‘Pay What You Can’ offers, apps like TodayTix that find and search out the best ticket deals on the West End and elsewhere. It’s all looking pretty bright from over here - as long as we don’t give up and continue to make cool, all-inclusive stuff and take the focus slightly away from the traditional theatre of the West End, or else put something in the water in Drury Lane*- cos nothing changes if we don’t. Deal? Deal.

*to be clear, we here at Baz aren’t advocating putting something unpleasant in the water in a busy TheatreLand and London, street. Nope, no. Be assured.

Ah, so with that in mind, in a very Henry V way, we hope you feel inspire. All the best to you today whether you’re picking up a pen to write a scene, a prop dagger from the store, your script for your readthrough or all of the above + a strong latte - more power to you. And...create!

All the Baz love,

Baz x

 

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Got The Whole World In her Hand - Doctor Who, for All

Baz is a-buzz - and much more than usual, given the vats of coffee we manage to drink here at Baz HQ - but our caffeinated buzz has been way overtaken by the news of the weekend. Doctor Who number 13 is a woman - and Jodie Whittaker to be precise. We are chuffed to something not mentionable before the watershed about such an important and well-loved character graduating, especially for the yoof, playing in the garden with their figurines as per usual, the only difference being the narration of “and then she runs back into the TARDIS…” and it’s surely for that image alone that we must embark on a spotlight for Jodie, the Doctor, and her Doctor. Warp thrusters are a go, people…

Yes, we here at Baz have *those* among us, those that consume tales of space and time travel like catnip, as well as the natural high that comes with any announcement of a woman cast in such a high-status role, huge swathes of us bazzers are pleased by unifying and unique reasons. At a basic level it signals a great new direction for TV casting in general - precious few are led by one woman alone, let alone in such a powerful role with the exception of the fantastic Sarah Lancashire in Happy Valley and Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag - long live the 50/50 Era movement James Nesbitt championed at this past year’s BAFTA awards before presenting one to Sarah Lancashire- but in a much larger scope, this casting, it’s kind of genius. As Doctor Who fans we should be delighted with the new opportunities, new conversations this will bring to a show that’s been running for 50 years.

Firstly, let’s get this straight - Jodie is not cast in this role because she’s a woman - Chris Chibnall cast her in the role because she encapsulated his vision the best  - and that’s it. That just happens to be a fact alongside the long-held view the sky is blue. It has no impact on her ability to act, take on a role, or lead a show, so ‘Woman Doctor’- no thank you very much. New Actor Takes On Iconic Role, we’ll take that. Of course the media showed us its mucky, putrid underbelly with the usual suspects being implausible and yet predictably vile in its rags/chip paper -  safe and snug in their 15th century attitudes, with males taking to their keyboards to wail about “ruined childhoods” that ended, presumably officially, 30 years ago. But hey. Imagination. Sometimes it evades sci-fi fans. For the rest of us, very exciting days ahead (and way back, to the side, in a different galaxy) await.

Secondly, we’ll have to dip into the archives (oh no, really, etc - ok then) to see it’s not that surprising - despite the 12 male actors that have claimed the main role down the years, they have been outnumbered by far more women over its 50 years playing important and groundbreaking roles - you’re just as likely to see women in a blonde wig and union jack shirt, as Billie Piper’s Rose as a long coat and tie at Dr Who conventions. From the forward thinking, no nonsense, feminist companions of the 70s in Lis Sladen and Katy Manning, to the 80s counterpart, Sophie Aldred’s Tomboyish punk, Ace, to the modern women who’ve joined the often flawed alien on his travels, Billie Piper, Freema Agyeman, Catherine Tate and most recently, Pearl Mackie - all teaching the Doctor a little something themselves about modern lives and progressive attitudes. Of course, alongside the portrayal of strong willed and minded women aboard the TARDIS (for those not in the know, the Doctor’s spaceship of sorts) there’s been some excellent casting along the way with representation happening across the board - so a change like this was certainly in the offing.

So what about the 13th Doctor herself? What do we know about Jodie Whittaker, and what are the plans for her takeover? Well, we can’t predict the second part - and it’s fantastic to, for once, be excited to tune in on Saturdays, and see something you have certainly not seen before (oop, but our Dr Who Nerdy senses are tingling and getting us to add that Joanna Lumley once briefly played a memorable version of the Doctor in a Stephen Moffat-penned sketch of ‘99 for Comic Relief) but we do know Jodie is an incredible talent - and we notice looking back on her previous work: from her first role, a film straight out of Guildhall School Of Music and Drama, with Vanessa Redgrave and Peter O’Toole, through to various stage roles: a memorable Antigone at the National, an innocent bystander and fighter in monster film with a difference Attack The Block and most recently in Broadchurch as the grieving mother in Chris Chibnall, new Who showrunner’s hit. We notice that she has an incredible ability to get you on her side, a kind of everywoman you side for and instantly like, on top of some standout, gutful performances. And alongside a lot of our favourite actresses, comes from the school of powerful, top-notch actresses of the North: from the likes  Sarah Lancashire and Vicky McClure. And what else could you ask of your new hero, we ask you now - a likeable, talented, passionate human being. What else indeed. Oh and she’s a fan of house music and mashups - after listening to her recent Front Row interview she recommended the album co-produced by The Heritage Orchestra and Pete Tong, compete with live string plucking to the dance classic Insomnia, and we literally. Cannot. Stop. Dancing at our desk. So you know, that’s another big tick.

But lastly - we ask you, out there who are not sure, some even afraid of the change and what this means for the franchise - give it a chance, a whole chance and nothing but a chance- this truly was a long time coming, perhaps written in the stars. As 8th doctor Colin Baker tweeted “Change, my dears. And not a moment too soon.” Has this appointment been marred by negativity and name calling? Yes. Would that have happened if another WASP had been cast in the role - for once, possibly - as there was the strange phenomenon of public pressure on the Beeb to get its arse out of the 50s and, wielding their wand, fairy godmother that business and give us a Doctor for the 21st century we deserve.

Congratulations Jodie, history made.

With much love and support,

Baz x

P.S As per Jodie’s request, we attach the instant party starter- the hugely popular Ibiza Prom back in 2015. Rave on. x

 

 

 

 

 

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A Lady At The Piano - Baz Spotlight, Nina Simone

nina-simone-circa-1950.jpg

Ah, Nina. If anyone deserves a Baz Spotlight it’s Juilliard-level classical pianist Eunice Waymon, turned Nina Simone, High Priestess of Soul. On a recent trip to one of our fave BazPlaces, the Young Vic, we saw posters for a new original production of ‘Nina: A Story About Me and Nina Simone’ by Josette Bushell-Mingo, and we can not think better material for a one woman show. As that, in effect was what she was: a one-woman powerhouse. All of this and more inspired us to dust off our Spotlight Skills to give one of our fave female heroines the Baz treatment. In our Baz manifesto, we’re keen for any performance of ours to directly relate to our audiences: to make them think, and feel. Nina would achieve this through her art, her playing, her voice, every pore in her body, given over to the live experience: and that’s what makes her one of our favourite artists.

We love Nina not only for her amazing, nearly miraculous skill and talent, but also the mantel she inherited to be a leading voice in the civil rights and feminist movement. The daughter of a preacher, Nina, then Eunice, learnt about commanding and guiding a crowd, watching her mother give services, drawing out the shared experience - and played the church organ at six or seven to a flabbergasted crowd. She was hailed as having god-given talent. She graduated to giving recitals and even auditioned for the prestigious Curtis Institute - but whilst being told she possessed great skill, was denied entry. Considering that this was America in the early fifties, it’s not hard to guess why this happened to Nina.

She still took lessons from a classical pianist, but the woman we know of now was a woman of Jazz and Blues. Her performances were hailed as legendary, and stories of certain gigs go down in music lore. Though often filled with joy, a love of music and the sacred shared experience from her young church days, there were times she would be difficult, and confrontational with management and even audiences. There may have been a reason for this however, as Nina suffered from a bipolar disorder and struggled with depression and addiction throughout her life. She also suffered domestic abuse at the hands of her manager and husband - a connection thankfully that ended but left her damaged. The tragedy of her personal life adds to her legend, however, as she is heralded as a survivor of abuse and mental health with her natural cool, talent and passion - truly paving the way both as a sufferer, a creative, a survivor and an inspiration.

Though she was the High Priestess of Soul, Nina takes a lot of inspiration from the stage - we here at Baz HQ think she would have made an excellent actress. Many of her most known tracks are taken from musicals: ‘Ain’t got no/I Got Life’ is from Hair, ‘I Loves You Porgy’ from Porgy and Bess - she loved the theatre tradition, and there was a definite performance element to her shows that made it not the usual torrid 12-track, pale rundown of the latest album. To this end, ‘Pirate Jenny’ from Brecht’s ‘The Threepenny Opera’ was a decidedly and deliberately malevolent affair, full of deliberate pauses, staring down the audience and Nina singing with aggressive violence. Top 40 performance this was not, and you hear a pin drop in the live recording. Ever the activist, using the original lyrics, Nina makes a salient point in ‘Pirate Jenny’, the theme of which would dictate her body of work:

But I’m counting your heads

As I’m making the beds

Cos nobody’s sleeping here tonight

Ain’t nobody sleeping here

It’s a performance Brecht would be proud of: odd, whispered lyrics, discordant stabbing rhythms with the context quite clear. It was more than the recital of a song: it was a character, a monologue intended to get a reaction from the audience, earning her reputation as a true performer. Sickened by the injustice of racism, the segregation, and the murder of the time in which she lived, it’s no surprise Nina wrote her first civil rights themed song as as a showtune, introducing it in Carnegie Hall in 1964:

“The name of this song is Mississippi Goddamn. And I mean every word of it. It’s a showtune but the show hasn’t been written for it yet.”

Famous Interviews where she spoke out, criticising desegregation and the ‘Go Slow’ peaceful movement  and even Dr. King himself followed, and she grew frustrated by not being able to be out on the streets, in the conflict. Songs, and albums like ‘Baltimore’ - became civil rights anthems and this continued as a rich vein through her career. Her frustration with not being at the forefront of the movement, her repeated calls to arms, showed a kind of lack in belief of her own ability or with a perceived lack of impact are shown by history to be quite incorrect: she provided the soundtrack of the civil rights movement, and was intrinsic in keeping it relevant and alive: chanted at marches, performed at political gatherings, printed on placards. It’s both a testament to her bravery but a sad reflection on modern society that her tunes are still relevant today.

She also celebrated her womanhood, and particularly her pride at being a black woman, with songs like ‘To Be Young, Gifted and Black’ to also boldly singing about a woman’s sensuality, something that in that era was not decent or the done thing: how it’s okay to be sensual and express desire: ‘I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl’ is a great example, and you can hear her having great flirty fun with audiences performing it live. She also however, highlighted the plight of being a black woman, perfectly in her tune ‘Four Women’ where she describes no matter the background, the personality, the flavour, even the hairstyle, black women are fetishised and disrespected, not only by their race, but also their gender. Her entire back catalogue of work is a legacy of influential proportions: no other artist tackled and wrestled into submission so many themes, issues and conflict whilst retaining her own unique style and instantly recognisable rich, impassioned voice. She is instantly relatable, true to her word and an emotional performer, something you can really get a sense of even from old archives and videos. Especially seen here by a formerly upbeat Jazz standard 'Tomorrow Is My Turn' here performed almost as a dirge, a reflection of Nina's emotion at the time, coming out through her music:

However, as well as this, we love her passion, and her wit - her playfulness, often playing without a net, starting a song on an off beat, not signalling her band, stopping performances to shout or compliment the audience: to us she understood art, and it’s ability to empower, to point fingers, make change, expose, heal and generally do what great art is supposed to: make you feel. We’re supremely jealous of anyone who got to see her live, and can imagine sitting in your seat, engrossed and yet nervous: unsure if you’re about to be stared down, shouted at, called up onstage, or earn yourself a wink. Delightfully talented and unpredictable, going from the angry, bitter ‘Backlash Blues’ to the quiet, loving ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’ your hackles are raised, and then lowered, soothed. It’s no surprise Eunice has stuck around,as  you get the distinct feeling she has more to say. All-round performer, a goddess at the piano, we cheers Nina Simone, paving the way for female artists in all forms.

Here’s Nina in one of her first performances on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1960 - her classical training comes out in the bridge as she improvises on a Bach-like theme, showing the depth of her skill, and the cool, often playful way she would charm audiences with it, watch as she Puts a Spell On You:

With Peace and  Love,

Baz x

 

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Drama in a Time of Election

Hey Bazzers - so as there’s nothing possibly happening in the world, the terrifying motions of which starting in the USA of November last year, peaking this January, continuing on like some hellish monster sliming over the hill, causing a deep shadow with its toupee wherever it goes - nothing’s really going on. Oh yeah, there’s a little something that happened allots night and this morning (steady now, not that) which may mean more of the same or a chance to make things better, brighter and more fair - but you know. We’re actually at a loss on something to write on this week, soo, you know….

We can’t hold it in anymore.

Come onn That was a stunning turnout. Young people, hold still. We're about to hug you all, we don't care how long it takes - us at Baz HQ are very proud. Also with a bloke that was on the scene. Rhymes with Fereby Jorbine. Did a Fantastic Job. What a leading man! 

But in the meantime the fight goes on -and  the key word is normalisation. We’re used to things being rubbish - we could, we know it’s insane,  get used to not having an NHS, higher taxes, it’s possible - as long as it becomes normal. Here at Baz we are certainly not in favour of these punishments dressed up as ‘measures’ and ‘policies’ - we are in favour of fair play and decency, a moral duty to be fair and to help all. We also want to make theatre that challenges audiences and reflects society. We aren’t the first to do this, and we won’t be the last as the arts community has always impressively shown out on the side of good time after time, and in a unique way: by seemingly indulging in the dark : George Orwell’s seminal Nineteen Eighty Four for example has entered our lexicon of language, and has, we suspect scared many a stateswoman or man away from making too much of a draconian policy stick. Though of course some have had a good go. For our ‘protection’ - ahh we see now! It all makes sense.

You really can write this stuff. It’s so predictable.

As we’ve mentioned before, the arts is a great tool of fighting back and protesting, In the 1850s Verdi sparked national revolution in Italy with his opera La Battaglia di Legnano, that famous close up painting of Honecker and Brezhnev French kissing on the Berlin wall, and the late Rik Mayall almost single handedly popping the balloon of privilege and power the Thatcherites claimed in the late eightes. Billy Bragg continues to write songs that lambast right wing media and racist indoctrinated opinions with his witty and often moving songs. All art holds society to account in different ways. As we try to do in our performances, as stated in our manifesto, we want to challenge and educate audiences. Sometimes you need to force a terrible, not so far future on audiences, readers and gallery visitors to make an impact. And along with our sunglasses, gum, notebook and pen and our dog-eared copy of Kafka we’ve told people we’ve *totally read* here are some Baz Picks to get educated without being lectured to: with clever devices, fully fleshed out characters and intricate plots; with theatre.

  • Nineteen Eighty Four: A fantastic Novel by George Orwell that basically invented the sci-fi political horror and has remained influential: currently actors, voices of interest and celebrities are reading it non-stop at UCL library for its anniversary, watch it again here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrSkAvzjhkI&feature=youtu.be

  • The Handmaid’s Tale: By Margaret Atwood, in 1985 -  the era of Reagan, it was tough being a woman, with reproductive rights systematically stripped away and many basic human rights being denied women. A classic of the genre, it’s currently being revived as a TV series on Channel 4: with a mainly all female writing and acting cast led by the brilliant Elisabeth Moss

  • The Hothouse: By Harold Pinter, this not so often performed classic is brutal in its vagueness of how the world has changed, trapped inside a prison system where you’re not sure who’s prisoner and keeper. Deeply psychological and fairly disturbing this had a recent revival at Trafalgar Studios with John Simm - worth catching onstage as the text is so open to interpretation.

  • Party Time: again by Harold Pinter, this almost forgotten TV playscript was a late Play for Today in Pinter’s repertoire - and again showcases the playwright’s talent for drip feeding information, and hinting at a brutal world outside the finery or the room where the dystopian elite clink glasses while a faceless army which once protected them advances slowly. A tour de force of slow burn dystopian horror.

  • Far Away by Caryl Churchill: unlike Pinter, we have an all-too real description of the world outside - where everyone and everything has turned on each other: Salt fights Pepper, land fights sea. Another one not to be missed and regularly enjoys great revivals.

  • Cleansed, by Sarah Kane follows in the steps of only four plays we have of hers: brutally and disturbingly. Cleansed is no different - where the hospital and the University become settings for torture and awful experimentation with shocking results. There’s no dystopia here, only the end destination if we carry on down the road of thinking in a particularly damaging way of others - a small minded and abhorrent point of view we are all unfortunately familiar with now.

  • Chimerica, a modern play by Lucy Kirkwood tackled a modern paradigm and how countries become companies, how besting others is the only recourse, no matter the human cost - as well as the price incredible human sacrifice. A modern classic.
  • The Observer, by Matt Charman, a deeply principled play which asks are we in the west really the best arbiters of all things ‘good’ - democracy, human rights, equality - set against the backdrop of a small election in an African country in danger of a rigged and unfair election. An excellent piece of political theatre that defies the label and instead goes to the root of the problem: us, and the opinions and beliefs we hold dear, but hide.

Read these plays and Corbyn’s manifesto. Take part.

It's quite a good bedside read, actually.

Pretty Please!

With love and hope, here's Billy Bragg with some salient advice, though five years old, very relevant to an Australian Octogenarian who thought he and his media empire had it in the bag. It's mad catchy too. 

 

Love,

Baz x

 

 

 

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Friends In Arty Places

Oh just a typical pic of us BazTeam having a meeting. No paparazzi please!

Oh just a typical pic of us BazTeam having a meeting. No paparazzi please!

Hello! Merry Spring to you all (let us ignore the fact it’s freezing) Baz is back again, and this time with blog to reflect on all the cool things we and our multi-talented friends are getting up to. Despite the MAYhem and Carnage wraught by nearly a decade of Tories who wouldn’t know art if it kicked them in the bum, the friends and family of Baz and otherwise in the industry have kept it running – and we want to honour these cool dudes for doing, actually, pretty brilliant work in the face of cuts, under-representation and diminished opportunity. Our front line if you will. Much like our previous post about what the landscape for women we’re gonna provide you with only the best Baz goings on, so get ready, pull up a stool, grab your green tea avocado juice and let’s compare padfolios! (Actually lets do none of that, that sounds awful. Move on, move on quickly)

So the Epic Trinity that makes up Baz: that of Catherine, Sarah and Emma are kept very busy in their BazWork (™) as well as Baz Education, their own passion projects, and just life, really. Catherine (@CathBailey and https://www.catherinebaileyactor.com) has dressed up to the very royal nines and just wrapped up filming series 2 of The Crown, and is generally everyone’s dream best friend as Vryling Buffam in Terence Davies latest biopic on Emily Dickinson, A Quiet Passion in cinemas internationally. Sarah (@bediberet) continues to work her directorial magic with work with Central, and Rose Bruford theatre schools in theatres across London as well as another season down at the Aldebrugh Music Festival working with our dear dreamplay mate Laura Moody and her experimental cello, in a new exciting musical project Parralellist, down in the beautiful and atmospheric Snape Maltings. You won’t wanna miss that.  Emma (@luffers - love that) is super scripty fixer at the BBC and invariably behind your new fave series at the Beeb, she has just finished work on the rightfully lauded Three Girls which if you haven’t seen, get on iPlayer now- for reals - as well as Baz’s comings and goings at all times!

AND we got time to get sucked into Line of Duty. We got it all, man.

We’re also always thinking of Baz be it creatively, financially, educationally, landscapely, businessly (is that one?) or otherwise-ly and it is never far from our minds. To that end we like to surround ourselves with a company of creatives whose work we support and are inspired by – Sarah’s continued connection to Laura Moody for example, currently being amazing in Snapes, to going to support our dear friend Mark Weinman’s play on at the Old Red Lion – if you’re in our gang (and it’s free membership) than we are m8s. End of, Fight us if it isn’t true!

Ha, sorry. Got carried away. We just get fiercely supportive of our faves, of shows we feel deliver important messages both in content and casting, and those that we know are epic in our own work, we are chuffed to see out there in the world! Even our resident blogger Jess (@JessBails) has rolled up her sleeves and has work coming up on a London stage…what can we say? We have fine taste!

So as we officially enter the very beginnings of our next genre-defying, balcony climbing adaptation, ready for the thrills and spills of putting on our fourth production in six years, we wanted to give pause and spotlight in the tradition of Baz old, our much prized collection of fellow creatives, talents and stars we are chuffed are getting the plaudits they deserve! So, for them diaries:

Mark Weinman (longtime friend to Baz and actor extraordinaire) has written a play ‘Dyl’ is on at the Old Red Lion Theatre  until 3rd June, GO: http://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/dyl.html

Liz Counsell (fab producer on dreamplay) and her theatre company Nabokov are all over the place: Brighton Fringe, the Roundhouse, and a new piece with deaf ballroom dancers. Sign us up for it all: and read all about it on her twitter: @lizzicou and http://www.nabokov-online.com

Georgina Bednar (epic producer of dreamplay) also produces for a fab theatre company you don’t want to miss the work of, No Ordinary Experience. Keep an eye on them here: http://noordinaryexperience.com and @NoOrdExp

Lyz Bacon (1/3 of our uber talented trainee director programme) is artistic director of her own brill theatre company, fresh out of again conquering the Vaults space with our fave, dreamplay actor Jack Wilkinson. Follow @lyzbacon at Anything Other: http://anythingother.com

Steven Lloyd (the second third of our talented trainee director programme) at @stereosteve86 also has his own theatre company @AmplifiedTheatr that just enjoyed a great run at The Bunker with their music-themed play, Six. Keep updated here http://amplifiedtheatre.co.uk

And our design Dream Team, the ever busy, ever excellent Naomi Kuyuck-Cohen (@NaomiKuyckCohen) and Joshua Gadsby (@Joshua_Gadsby)

Jess Bailey (our own blogger and last third of trainee directordom at dreamplay) has work on at Theatre N16 produced and written by an all female creative team in Balham next week: check the details here http://theatren16.co.uk/vote-revolt

And of course our Top Three, Sarah, Cath and Emma who are always up to great things education, directing and acting (with bonus fan work…can’t forget that. It really is an art, guys)

Whoo. Looking back on that list, it makes us proud to be part of an industry that is so inclusive and forward thinking (most of the practitioners on our list are female) and working in new mediums in new ways to new audiences. Vive that arty revolution. Vive all the way to the polling booths on June 8th – and Vive like the French do.

(Yes we got political there, but we had to –and we’re coming for you if you haven’t yet registered: get your skates on!!)

Basically we’d love it if you:

1.     continued to be Bazzites and make our hearts beat with inspiration, support and gratitude (a.k.a biz as usual)

 

2.     Follow/support our fab friends and their excellent projects – we really do know how to pick em – thank us later

 

3.     Register, goddamit.

 

4.     Vote. And we’re not telling you who to vote for or anything….but let’s just say it rhymes with ‘Lorbyn’ /

/subtle.

Coming up: a little bit of background of Kafka….just cos..no agenda or anything like that. *Winks* *Gets something in eye*

Hope you all had a sunkissed weekend! Cheers *clinks avocado, grass and wasabi shot*

Enjoy, theatre lovers! Talk soon.

Love,

Baz xx

 

 

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