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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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She Stoops, She Conquers, She Scores - Women in Theatre

Hello Bazzers!

Early Edwardian Actress Lucy Weston who graced the stage - in fine fashions. 

Early Edwardian Actress Lucy Weston who graced the stage - in fine fashions. 

Oh how we’ve missed you- we’re back and brought some Spring with us! In fields of Daffs, hot cross buns (yes, fields of buns, think about it...it  would be so soft and tasty) and bunny wabbits - we thought we might spring forward like the BST clocks we are and take a wide look about how it’s going with women in theatre as a whole.

As you do.

So get your buns out the oven (steady) and let us review shall we? Current political climate notwithstanding, things are looking a tad brighter than they have been for a while - high profile events such as Tonic Theatre’s Lucy Kerbel bringing out an excellent book, All Change Please using hard fact and testimony to provide all the material you’d ever need to lay a convincing case of ‘be better to us’ to the jury and the arts industry as a whole. Tamsin Greig has won everyone over as Malvolia at the National in Twelth Night and it’s just been announced that Josette Simon will be playing Cleopatra in a hotly anticipated production of Anthony and Cleopatra at the RSC (great article here about the powerful woman/whore dichotomy in the Guardian this week) https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/mar/21/josette-simon-cleopatra-rsc-shakespeare) Also, the ever brilliant Baz patron and our favourite Ceasar ever, Harriet Walter talked about her new book, and taking on the male canon in her inimitable style and to great critic acclaim in Brutus and Other Heroines.

So far so good? Well yes, but something goes up, something else must come down. Emma Rice’s well-documented run as artistic director of the Globe continues to make headlines, and it’s hard not to note that now, with one less female artistic director at the helm, there’s still very few running buildings in the UK. We are all for inclusivity, diversity and women in theatre as a whole, but it seems as if this is only just about stretching to the actors. We need more producers, directors, stage managers, artistic directors and soon. Goodness knows that once indoctrinated with a lack of diversity, opportunity, or even misogyny and racism, it becomes a new norm.

So what can we do about it?

Well. We here at Baz have a gorgeous team of women running the show - our trinity of founders are an impressive array of producers, writers, actors and practitioners - our producers, set designers trainee directors, even our blogger all share an x chromosome and it’s obviously at the top of our list when we look over actors we love for our productions - that, and obviously diversity. It’s been in our manifesto since day one And we are not alone in this - many theatre companies such as Kneehigh, Punchdrunk impress a difference on the theatre landscape in their casting and the landscape shifts a little more in the right direction.

But as ever, not all opportunities, or indeed all doors are open to the just off the University roll call producer/designer/director -but never fear, Baz is here - with a list of things to check out n do:

  • Tonic Theatre events - Go.To.These. It’s a great place where the shiny happy people go and of COURSE where great female-facing projects and books are launched that you already love and want to read cos you wouldn’t be reading this if not. Wink.

  • Women@Rada - A fantastic free initiative at RADA for female playwrights only - lovely nights where the next generation of female playwrights get to show some work - a fantastic platform for writer and performer alike.

  • Directors Programme at Young Vic - A fantastic long running directors training programme at the Young Vic - a programme all of it’s own kind that has brought much talent to the foreground. A wonderful initiative! 
  • Sphinx Theatre Company - Apart from programming some excellent female led theatre, this company regularly runs festivals, opportunities and is generally a great resource of stuff to do with women in theatre. Thumbs up.
  • Bechdel Theatre - So relevant it has it’s own test named after it - another behemoth of theme and concept led theatre, their latest project required recorded conversation between women for their latest piece. Inclusive, strident and outspoken. We dig it.

 

Apart from that - see it all! Go to the first nights, meet the people ,take the opportunity and the lead ...you never know where it will get you. And ahem, one other suggestion, if we may…

  • Baz Productions - C’mooon. We had to. PLUS we are really cool and love theatrical ladies so stick that in your pipe.

In all seriousness though, it is all in our hands - and sure this industry is a tough pill to swallow at times, and a main reason Baz exists is that we felt the situation was so dire we decided to step up and make it ourselves, but triumph comes out of adversity. Be the missing piece that fits into that slot. Nothing is achieved unless you open the door to it. We need to stick with each other and stand on each other’s shoulders. Now more than ever.

We’re rather good at this. Maybe we should sideline in life coaching?

There’s a stat floating around that states ‘Women speak up 75% less when they’re surrounded by men.’

*beats path to Destiny’s Child soundtrack*

We believe in you. Now get out an hustle!

Big Lady Love,

Baz xx

 

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Location, Location, Location: Promenade's Place

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Car Park - Baz's dreamplay, 2016, Laura Moody being amazing on the Cello

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Car Park - Baz's dreamplay, 2016, Laura Moody being amazing on the Cello

Helloo again Bazzers, on this the eve of summer! Could it possibly be true that we are about to get...warm? The evenings are drawing out and it’s a lovely day to be outside - this is promenade weather - and for the uninitiated we ain’t talking about parasols and lace. No, we of course refer to theatre occurring in pub gardens, on roofs, underground train arches, as we found last summer at The Vaults - truly live, truly unpredictable, and truly vulnerable to plane noise, but hey you can’t have everything. We kid, we love those metal birds, who needs soundscapes? *rolls eyes but we love it* 

One of the main things that Baz’s manifesto set out to achieve from the start was accessible theatre, for all - we have massive respect for London’s rich theatre history and it’s theatres - the old and cherished and the new and bold. The only thing is that these beautiful, gold-embellished venues aren’t meant for throwing around paint in and climbing up curtains - the kind of crazy thing we are wont to do - exhibit A being a half-full bathtub being splashed around in every night at The Vaults, that kind of thing- therefore a lot of high profile theatre events tend to stay in the traditional realm, with lots of revivals. And that’s great- far from underestimating our rich theatre and playwriting history, we honour it, we hope, by moving the action to new and unexpected places.

In 2011, we performed Macbeth in a crypt in Holborn, in 2013 the entire Greek Myth canon in a single room in Shoreditch - for us, it’s about taking away as much as possible and seeing  what we can still work with. Great theatre companies like Punchdrunk take over full warehouses, and almost all of the then abandoned Battersea Arts Centre for their projects, marking, we feel, the first shift we felt in the industry away from seeing promenade, experimental theatre as gimmicky or worse, looked down upon. Our most recent production, a version of Strindberg’s dreamplay at the Vaults in London, moved our audience, from courtyard, to stairwell, theatre, to tunnell and beyond, on a scene by scene basis. The majority of our audiences didn’t bat an eyelid about being moved from space to space, sometimes able to sit, sometimes not - Bazzers unite - but those who were being introduced to us, seemed bemused, occasionally annoyed about the upheaval. For us, theatre is a group activity - it’s not sitting with your feet up and eating popcorn - in essence, we don’t want you to be too comfortable, all the time.
 

Er, take that last statement any way you want. We are experimental, after all and that is what we want you to do.

But what remains is the irksome idea that sitting down in a beautiful dark room that is adorned with cherubs is still the standard - Baz loves that stuff more than anyone else, but that’s partly why we made our manifesto in the first place. We of course don’t want to do a disservice to major theatres doing excellent and ground-breaking work, on and off west end - Lucy McCormick’s devilishly entertaining Triple Threat at the Soho is a definite pick - go forth and see it and then never forget it, really just try- but when a member of the Baz Team got to go to a piano recital just recently: where applause is restricted to between movements, coughing is a killing offense and the line between performer and audience has never been so clear: in status, in skill, in tone in such regimental fashion - makes us seem a bit moany over here in Theatreland. Sort it out, classical music concerts. But in all seriousness what do we, and other experimental theatre companies have to sacrifice in order to court the proscenium arch audiences and break through to the mainstream, you ask? Well thank you for asking, but we counter with maybe that it shouldn’t ever be mainstream-ised (is a word, shut up) and that we belong in the weird crowd - discovered by all you delightful weirdos (or Bazzers in this private circle *raises champagne glass*) as you perhaps tell your friends about this bonkers piece of theatre you saw, or you post it online….and maybe that’s the true future of experimental theatre: it’s not, by its nature, there to to earn a place in the prim and proper books of history - it’s meant to be a live, thrown against the wall, one time only event. Truly utopian in nature - anyone can do it! It can happen any place, any where - it’s groovy like that. Viva abandoned cark parks, real parks, fake parks with astroturf, roofs, underground stations, crypts and night clubs in the daytime, your front room - anywhere we can make theatre together... and let’s all arrange to meet back here to see the panto in December.

What do you know. Maybe there’s room for us all - even if you have to stand a little bit. Look at these people, they're loving it! Cheers!


Love,

Baz x

 

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Objectification, your Honour: A Handy Guide To Censorship

Lady Gaga imitating art on The X Factor, 2012. Traditional or titillating? 

Lady Gaga imitating art on The X Factor, 2012. Traditional or titillating? 

As we enter day six of Happy international Women’s Bonanza...wait, what? It's only a day? Oh...OK. Anyway, we thought we might honour the 24 hours set aside for the outpouring of gratitude and instagram posts and hashtags such an event inspires, by appreciating how far we’ve come and confronting what we still need to do. So put down your bunting and ‘I Heart Women Today’ posters and let’s crack on shall we? (sarcastic? Us? Noooo….) we’re here to discuss one of the last taboos in theatre – nudity. Hold on to your drawers. (Or don’t. It’s a free country and also it flies in the face of this post, but we are all about your choice)

OK yes, we are being sarcastic, but for comic effect you see – of course it’s great to have the country simultaneously  fall over each other to cry the virtues of Woman: mother, sister, partner, wife…but what if that was everyday? Ah. The truth is we still have a long way to go. The war is not over – and the battleground is our bodies. In the years since censorship in the theatre was lifted, we’ve been, um, treated to many an arresting visual image – Edward Bond’s Saved featuring a notably disturbing and brave ending sequence in the 60s- censorship was only unofficially placed in 1968 - violence, the rise of immersive theatre, course language, all that good stuff - but this has also featured the human body.

You can’t post a nipple on instagram. On a woman. On a man it’s perfectly fine – you get multiple posts of glossy black and white shoots you could pick up from the newsagent shelf of the male torso in all it’s lightly dusted glory. When Daniel Radcliffe played the title role in Equus in 2007 there was many a salacious column inch dedicated to eye witness accounts- treating us, forgive us - but kind of like children.

“And then what happened?’

“He got his…thing out!”

We all have a body. We all make use of a body. So why not put it on the stage?

Battleground. Remember that?

Back in 2012 Sherlock actress Louise Brealey played Helen of Troy in a production of the Trojan Women, appearing onstage nude. Again, more comment from the papers, but a little less salacious this time: a taste of that tangy flavour of…was it, disapproval? She defended herself on twitter and wrote in a paper herself of how freeing it was, how confidence making, how real. And fantastic, we applaud her – for doing her job. That’s what was required of the role, and the director’s vision – she agreed, and she did it. For art and for the role she was playing. The comment was for….?

What we’re getting at here- the female body is so sexualized that a social media company views the human nipple not as a means by which to feed babies, but something to be censored, deemed inappropriate and just when we start to make headway, sit around the table – politics bashes down the door and we had all better take a seat. When Emma Watson posed for Vanity Fair just this week wearing a revealing top, the internet and it’s top agent Piers Morgan came for her as an actress, a role model, a feminist and a woman. When the rules are changing for everyone every day, what did we need? A man to gently face us in the right direction and point, with a saccharine smile to a handwritten sign that says “Feminism. 500 miles this way.” Sigh. Wouldn’t it be easier if nobody got naked at all, Bazzers? We went back to the Victorian times, no sex please we’re British, what hippy nonsense? Well, no. Because to Baz, theatre is challenging, difficult, confrontational, and ultimately about life. We have no interest in titillating audiences, and it’s true, no project of ours since we launched has featured any nudity- some underwear perhaps, but not to seem edgy. It’s quite difficult to make plain Y-Fronts look controversial, believe us– but being the free-thinking and brave Baz Broads we are, we aren’t ruling it out – just not for novelty’s sake, and not for the clicks. We stand by every creative decision we’ve made: from switching gender roles, confronting and visualizing disturbing themes, even throwing our audiences into total darkness - If we feel it suits our production and our vision then we own it.

So in conclusion your honour – we, women didn’t do it. The crimes against female representation has made the body a no-go zone. It has been compromised by the male gaze, the fashion dollar, the celebrity culture and the glossy magazine. We stand accused of being a target market your honour, where we lose out, giving a pound of flesh with no recompense.If and when we decide to feature any nudity of any gender - it will be with our aims and manifesto in mind - no red tape, no shock value and no publicity. Wish us luck.

Sigh. Anyway. What’s on instagram?

We joke. There are plenty of women, both in the arts and otherwise that are waking up to these disparities and doing excellent work. As we mentioned before, the highly attended Women’s March earlier this year brought the equal support of men and women. And even the most tepid and infuriating of comments under a video with a sensational headline are at least evenly spread with some level-headedness. Who knows? Maybe the wind’s about to change, and the real censorship can be lifted.

Hashtag boobs. If you’re comfortable with it.

Love,

Baz xx

 

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Be of Good Voice - An Ode To Education Baz style

Freddy at a particularly busy General meeting (Queen at Wembley, '86)

Freddy at a particularly busy General meeting (Queen at Wembley, '86)

Well Hello to all the Bazzed (translation: our version of ‘the faithful’…we know, we’re really cute) Or Baz-ed, as the case may be! Yes that’s right – it’s a blog that’s an inadvertent pat on the back as well as a call to arms to get physical (not in an Olivia Newton John way, don’t worry) and how we’ve brought our performance and theatre skills to workshops up and down the country, from schools to offices, town halls to lecture halls. This is a blog about our methods of play, our mission statements and ideals, mixed in with our technique, will make your talk/class/exam feel like Wembley ’86./

/ not actual disclaimer

But in all seriousness, we’ve worked hard to make education one of the pillars that Baz is founded on – our mission statement we made many moons ago spoke of the things any theatre company would want for their success: viable and memorable productions, compelling and challenging theatre, equal representation – and education, to us, is the common denominator for all of it – when we rehearse, we include play, we study, we use and dissect verse and we perform. We think these are skills that no-one should be without.

Our work takes place through TeachFirst – an excellent group who are dedicated to adapting and updating modern teaching techniques in schools. We are not offering nor do we seek to provide a drama class to confuse GCSE Drama students – believe us, we’ve been there – but rather to fit in and sit alongside studies and exams. More than this, we specifically work to Key Stage 2,3,4,5 as well Edexcel and AQA specifications. You know, so there. We’re legit, as the kids would say (sorry)

But enough of the what, more of the how: our practitioners are not teachers, but professionals: actors, facilitators, directors, writers and performers. We train our speakers to hit specific learning objectives, but beyond that we bring the skill of the practitioner to proceedings, for example, our work with Shakespeare, and say, our production of Macbeth in St Andrew’s Crypt allowed us to use our skill and understanding of verse and pentameter. Our production of Prophesy, based on the classical Greek canon allowed us to perfect our way and method of devising, and our most recent production of Strindberg’s dreamplay used improvisation to connect with our audiences – often directly – and further cement our ‘house style’. These tools of play, study, devising and improvisation are all skills we bring to our bespoke workshops: to help you understand your school text, prepare your lesson plans, lead a lecture, or give your presentation.

We don’t only limit ourselves to study and learning, we like to get you active, and give you ‘life hacks’ to help with delivery and performance, and a favourite we like to reference often is Amy Cuddy’s excellent TED (above -and go Amy, 11 million plus views! She don't play around) talk on something as simple as posture, eyeline, and meditation all providing proven benefits and support. We’ve been to all corners of the UK, from Southend to Blackpool, using a pool of creatives we’ve worked with as well as some we haven’t – but all of whom we implicitly trust to deliver Baz’s message, on point, as the kids would say. But why is it so important to us – as a BazPerson, you’ll have spoken at talks at Universities, Schools, Centres for Learning and offices. Too often we feel, the arts are perceived as an ivory tower that is not worth trying to get into unless you go on X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent. Education, getting kids excited about the Three Witches, freeing it from the classroom, and hopefully, letting all the good stuff like confidence, inspiration and opportunity rush out with the flow. And the responses we’ve been lucky to get are enough  to melt even our stony hearts (be prepared to get cuddled tho)

 

We take the education side of what we do very seriously, not ‘as well as’ not ‘supporting’ our work, but there as an entity in it’s own right – when we welcomed a BSL interpreter to The Vaults we learned so much from her interpretations and techniques – when we invited young, aspiring directors to a workshop, again at the Vaults, we valued their feedback and responses as much as any review – our dedication to making more able, confident and skilled adults, ready for anything, whether a student, teacher, worker, or sufferer – we know our lives were changed for the better for theatre and performance and we hope yours can be too – new talent, new perspective, a new idea on why Medea is misunderstood, why The Apothacary is the unannounced villain of Romeo and Juliet, standing up in class/the pub/in the lecture hall and saying so – well to Baz, that’s all that matters. Stand up, speak out. Goodness knows we need that more than ever. Onwards!

Much love,

Baz x

Baz Education is dedicated to provide trained staff to offer bespoke and one on one sessions as well as our group Teach First workshops. Details to be found under the ‘Baz Education’ header of the website or email us for details.

 

 

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You wait for one, and then three come along at once.

Shiny happy people calmly protecting women's rights in the Trafalgar Square sun

Shiny happy people calmly protecting women's rights in the Trafalgar Square sun

Hearty Hello, Bazians! How are you? We are feeling mighty fine with all this people power whizzing around like kinetic energy (something that may have been in our coffees this morning...sorry, we’re just excited) but It’s here and it’s really happening - people willing to stand up for what they believe in. And that makes us very happy at Baz HQ. So happy that we’re going to do some of our famed Baz Book Reccs to celebrate!

As we’ve talked about in previous blog posts - culture and art reflects society - at it’s basic level, that’s what it’s for - but it also challenges, highlights and even twists it: even our Dear Shakey of Stratford Upon Avon (we think it should be called that actually, more fitting) fabricated a few truths about King Richard much to the dead king’s annoyance (his winter of discontent lasted for centuries, poor bloke) but for the most part - theatre is a set and a stage we recognise, showing uncomfortable truths or reminding us of gross injustice.

The most interesting thing we’ve seen in the arts quarter is theatre companies and arts hubs calling for scripts or short pieces that defy Trump, the NHS, any given issue threatening to unsettle the globe’s equilibrium - with proceeds going directly to charities or to organisations threatened by governments. This past week we’ve seen three major global protests, with the Women’s March, the peaceful sit-ins at US Airports and Anti-Muslim ban rallies. These movements were announced sometimes within hours of the event and the numbers were ridiculous and astounding. And so hopeful. When we here at Baz have a tea break, we like to casually log on to the main page of the petition to ban Trump’s state visit to see just how many thousands it’s risen by - and if you want to add your name to the rising number, by all means, click here: http://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/171928

It’s impossible and quite crass to assume protestors are any particular type of person: we’ve seen families, children sitting on Dad’s shoulders at the Women’s March in Trafalgar Square, grandmothers pushed in wheelchairs pushed by their granddaughters in DC - all races, types, sizes, genders and it got Baz thinking that these should be the audiences that make up a theatre of tolerance, or freedom of speech and of fair representation. It hardly needs saying that the great classics of the theatre are not exclusively or even a little bit made by us: we import the arts as much as we do anything else and we should be proud of it. Support Muslim voices, talent artists, hell, support all cultures and all voices – show these men with suits and power that we are more eloquent, moving and effective then they could ever be.

Here then are some prime texts we here at Baz HQ recommend that stand the test of time and are fine reads in protest:

 The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui, Bertolt Brecht – The godfather of politically themed, important theatre, this play, coming pretty recently off the interwar period and hot off the heels of WW2 satirises the rise of Hitler in Germany whilst making the darkly comic point of how and when he should have been stopped. Real, scruff ofthe neck theatre.

East Is East, Ayub Khan-Din - Though it lives on as a fantastic British Film, East is East was first a play, and a successful one too at that, showing the normalcy, the truth of what home is to this family settling in East London, and what makes up a British family today. Warm, funny and engaging, a standard of characters and plot that has ensured it lasts.

Taking Sides, Ronald Harwood- The true story of German conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler, who aligned himself with Hitler during the war, and the struggle between principles, safety, and art. Starkly honest – a great example of how exposing a truth in art doesn’t need to shame, it can simply explain and reverberate around an audience in understanding.

There’s so much, too many examples to mention: Women’s festivals, the Bechdel Test, plays in response to FGM, theatre companies like Tamasha, Talawa, theatre nights in theatres, studiosm and spaces that seek responses to these current events are growing in size and popularity – who knew? It’s cool to be informed, even cooler to speak up.

Last month, Paisley and pastel colours were in. This month, it’s protest - and my does it suit every single one of you.

See you at the next one, we’ll be the ones with placards, a baby bjorn and a hot thermos of tea. Let’s keep the party going.

Much love.

Baz x

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Rolling Up Your Sleeves and Acting On It

Susan Sarandon takes the mic at a protest.

Susan Sarandon takes the mic at a protest.

First post of Baz 2017 (our year) and bang - an exploratory essay! Okay, it’s not three layered chocolate cake, pass the parcel and party favours, but hold hard a moment. Now’s the time. So, a theory for you: art is the natural predator of fascism. Discuss? Okay. When Donald O’Connor sang Make ‘Em Laugh in the seminal Singin’ in the Rain - he kind of had it dead on. Satire, from Punch to the Private Eye, standup from Bill Hicks to Hannibal Buress grabs hateful types by the scruffs of their necks, holds a mirror up to their laughable beliefs  and says, ‘Look: I don’t even need to do my job’ - as we go to the theatre and see The Producers and Springtime For Hitler, as we put in a DVD of Chaplin’s The Dictator, and  as we click on entertainment sites to see clips of Alec Baldwin as Trump on Saturday Night Live, art proves it has teeth, a lipstick smile and diamonds to match.

All art, really is a response to the time it’s written in. Even if it’s written in a future, a past, in science fiction - ours is to imagine, but the best futures, the best stories come from real stories. The best drama is real drama. Brechtian theatre is the best example of currently using current affairs, of literally taking the action dictators made and dramatising it, speaking clearly to audiences and encouraging them to be educated, to act. There’s a great imagination in writing - but sometimes the truth is the most dramatic, most real and most scary. Parables have been the foundations of our society, how we behave - whether it’s holy books, myths, legends - values, ideals, aspirations have been subtly drip fed into our imaginations from a young age. That’s mainly why despots usually don’t have a wide vocabulary. All this could have been avoided if they just paid better attention in class.

Later this month A Very Uncool thing is going to happen in the United States. But we here at Baz take faith - in art, and weirdly, artists. Historically, British theatre talent has been no stranger to picket lines: Vanessa Redgrave, Glenda Jackson, and more recently, the likes of Michael Sheen and Samuel West have stood in the cold in solidarity using that duality of populism, the fact you recognise them to get you to realise they care about a better deal for you and your family, and a better society for your kids to grow up in. As you do. In the USA, for decades, as acting dynasties came and went, it seemed it was only Jane Fonda stubbornly upholding this value - enter Meryl Streep, stage right at the Golden Globes, 2017. In an age where awards shows are about self-congratulation, under-representation, what dress you are wearing, and infamously, Oscar goody bags containing amongst other things, a Vagina Rejuvinator (really) you get played off right in the middle of thanking your agent. Usually. Instead, Meryl said what we were all thinking in a shocking moment of un-glitzy lucidity. We attach it here for posterity.

Well. That’s kind of the end of the discussion, right? To borrow from her speech, Bravery inspires Bravery. There’s talk of top events producers in the US launching their own Freedom Concert on the day of the Inauguration- live music, comedy from your favourite A-List artists signed up on a ridiculous lineup on a rival channel - and they are encouraging you to watch that live channel all day to make Trump’s inauguration the least-viewed swearing in, ever. This is what we mean by art as a predator to the right wing. Meryl knows as much as the star of your local community theatre starring at your local church hall that art can only come from a place of unity - the crew, your fellow cast, your writer, director - no one role can be carried out alone. In a way, it’s the most Utopian workplace that can be imagined. Meryl knows the importance of an audience, of working together, and encouraging each other. With more artists breaking character and speaking out more than ever, taking roles as characters, and platforms as actors  that directly contradict a terrifying new status quo there may just  be a way out of this. That, for us, is what art is based on - having put on productions, ran workshops in rehearsal rooms, class rooms and meeting rooms, meeting new people for different walks of life, with different views, different stories, learning about  he specific threats to the futures they face, the skills of performance and creating art can’t not help but bring people together, eradicate that fear, and fight back. Our manifesto has always stated that we want to make challenging theatre, and tackle the bad habits we have fallen into. So, our conclusion: we’ve done it before: with satire, humour, performance, music, dance - and we can do it again. That’s a great message to start 2017 on.

 

Roll up your sleeves everyone. We have work to do.

 

 

Love,

 

Baz xx

 

 

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Baz Productions here, signing off on 2016 –

Us too, kitty. Us too.

Us too, kitty. Us too.

As you may have heard, (or rather seen – you can’t hear an email…yet, remember that thought, 2016) we explained just what Baz had achieved this year in our most recent newsletter: from rehearsals to shows, workshops to Teach First sessions, 2016 felt like a really bumper year for the Baz Team. But really, we couldn’t have done it without you – our loyal Bazzers so glasses of sherry/cava/whiskey/Schloer up to you all, and let’s all toast with shortbread and compare flavours (if you don’t like the ones with strawberry in, we can’t talk)

So as a final post for the year, we’ll end as we mean to go on, with a spotlight – remember those? – posts we’ve gladly given over to the memory and inspiration brought about from our personal favourites – from Amy Winehouse to Ziggy Stardust, we tried to give an insight into our internal mood board: what wide range of disciplines inspired us, from dance, to photography,to music and to outstanding individuals. So what better way to wrap up the year, than for the company that brought you dreamplay, described by some as: ‘beautiful and bonkers, ‘free’ and ‘forcefully proficient’ (incidently, a pretty on the nose description of us after a few glasses of red) we thought we’d treat you to an Alternative Baz Christmas, full of tips, tricks and reccomendations worthy of the closing of a year that has us immersing ourselves in our own subconscious, Strindberg’s , Freud’s – the cast’s and those of the characters we made up. Pray for us.

Soundtrack:

The holiday season brings with it many things – the chance to catch up with family, get cosy by the fire with a loved one, all with good food and wine to keep you in that dozy, well-fed stupor of happiness….riiiight up to the point Noddy Holder shouts “IT’S CHRISTMAAAAAASS” directly into your lughole ruining your cosy eqilibrium/carving the turkey/or a meeting under the mistletoe. We’re sorry to demonise him like this, but honestly, we’d give anything to keep that roar from our door, so here’s a selection of alternative Christmas tracks:

Bobby Darin; basically anything by him. Even if it’s not Christmassy – hell if anyone canmake murder sound merry it’s him in ‘Mack The Knife’ – let his warm and full bodied voice accompany your post Christmas lunch sit down.

Nina Simone: Her entire discography is a feast of good music, passion, and sheer force of her will – a brilliant and important musician – and her debut album ‘Little Girl Blue’ is an absolute must. Though there is no mention of Christmas or the holiday season at all – this collection that includes the classic ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’ ,the title track ending on an unexpected riff on a holiday Carol and it’s autumnal cover of a wrapped up Simone sitting on a park bench in frosty Central Park, another treat for your ears.

Funny Songs: Ben Folds is a serious musician guys….he really is – and it is proved by his foray into the festive Christmas spirit and his very NSFW offering of‘Bizarre Christmas Incident’ (we did warn you…it pops up on BBC 6 music a LOT, surprisingly) as well as this gem from one of our favourite comedies, Community where Childish Gambino himself raps about a Jehovah’s witness Christmas. 

Plaintive Christmas: If there’s no breaking your sour mood as we transition from the, frankly pile of poo 2016 was into the suspiciously-smelling-of-manure 2017, wallow with style as Chilly Gonzales (another of our faves and musical genius) provides ‘A Minor Christmas Medley’ where the simple act of transposing a key down to minor makes a startling difference to your favourite sing a long classics, making them oddly beautiful and haunting.  And finally, if you just want calm and serenity after aching muscles carrying shopping down he assault course of the high street, let George Winston’s instrumental album ‘December’ ease your shoulders back down from your ears.

Suitably relaxed, you’ll now want some entertainment and Baz has some thoughts there too…

Doctor Who: I know, I know, disappointingly mainstream but also a massive figure-puller, with regular numbers hitting the high millions, it’s become something of a national tradition. And hey, it’s not every mainstream show that has offered robot santas, time travel and deadly wi-fi is it? Cut us some slack.

Chicken Run: Controversial, we know, to choose the hen coop over Wensleydale and evil penguins, but there’s jut something about it coming on that heralds Christmas. We, however, never get misty eyed when the chickens manage to escape the farm. No, never.

A Fish Called Wanda: An odd choice of Christmas film, we admit, with no mention of Christmas, or of winter even, but if you’re year isn’t instantly saved by Kevin Kline narrowing his eyes and drawling “Oh, you English think you’re soooo superior, don’t you?” Well, we just don’t know you.

The Reith Lectures: The radio gets much maligned at Chistmastime, (especially as here is where Noddy is to be found…) but there’s a wealth of exellent programming, and music from BBC Radio 6 music, arts on BBC Radio three, the list is endless...not to mention the annual Reith lectures, managing every year to get some piece of interesting information past our whiskey and eggnog addled brains. Especially if it's like this, the year when they moved the lecture to the telly: 

Food:

What we’re all here for really isn’t it? The three Cs truly come out to play, Carbs, Chocolate and Carrots – or at least it does when you have a vegetarian Christmas. Oh yes. It can be done. You could cheat and get Quorn equivalents or you could do wintry vegetable salads, lasagna, melanzane parmigiana, flaky pastry olive and mushroom pie, rostie potatoes – the possibilities are endless and at this time of year, a change to give back a little without losing the quality or quantity is a tempting thought. More temptig than another slice of gateau though? We're just not sure. 

Whatever you decide to do over the holidays, be safe, be merry, be free and bonkers like us, and you won’t go far wrong. Happy Holidays you lovely Bazzers – wishing you health and happiness *heart eyes* and here's to 2017 - we've got a good feeling about this. 

 

yep.  

yep.

 

Love,

Baz xx

 

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2016 Was Amazing (Theatrically Speaking)

How you all doing? We don’t know a lot, other than it’s cold, there’s sugary seasonal drinks on offer, it’s getting darker earlier, and the lights are getting fancier. It must be coming up to that famous end of year festival. So we’d like to take this opportunity to take a break from internet deals and figuring out which socket will take the fairy lights to concentrate on the end of year part and take a trip down memory lane to some of our most favourite theatre trends/moments of 2016 (excluding our dreamplay at the Vaults, obvs. We think about that a lot.)

So, it may not have been a great year for anything (read: everything else) in the world but theatre had a pretty good year off it. There was good news for women, diversity and theatre finding an accessible, no-holds barred voice in the face of threats to the arts and culture itself. When threatened, the creature that is theatre spreads more seeds of genius further and wider. Hell, even hateful not-too-distant-future Republican Vice Presidents knew Hamilton was ‘a thing’ – and once again the theatre community showed its worth by coming together and presenting him with a fair address – all while dressed as founding fathers. Proof if ever needed The Arts is that group of cool people at the bar that you really want to be friends with.

But it’s been a great year for Shakespeare, a bumper 400th birthday – a Lear around every corner, a Macbeth here, a trilogy there – but most importantly, Britain seems to have conspired to serve Shakespeare with a twist of lemon – Forced Entertainment’s Tabletop Shakespeare adding lemon, ketchup, gin, bleach: basically anything that’s to hand for their impressive and somehow endearing Shakespeare retellings. With Emma Rice’s landmark appointment to artistic director of the Globe, we enjoyed beautiful, lush imaginings of his worlds, right through to Ray Fearon’s Macbeth, and the regular inclusion of amazing actors with disabilities in her casts, it’s been a real rejuvenation of that space, and we can’t wait to see what she’ll be up to next.

Josie Rourke at the Donmar, presented along with Baz Patron Harriet Walter an absolute belter of a trilogy this year –sure you’ve seen Harry Hotspur and Kate quarrel about his disloyalty to the king, but have you seen it set in a English Women’s prison?  - be prepared for that particular context to make the most sense ever. A stunning production. Of course, currently Glenda Jackson is shaking the windows at the Old Vic as Queen Lear – and RSC productions, including Cymbeline at the Barbican displaying more diversity and talent than ever.

It’s also been a good year for nostalgia with an interesting slant – sure you’ve seen Groundhog Day millions of times, but have you seen it set to music and a tap shuffle? Read all the Harry Potter books? Well here it is, live as you live and breathe with apparently amazing stage effects. Think you read all of Samuel Beckett’s work? Wait, we found another one. In an age where all art, be it paint, sculpture, tv, film, or music is having to work harder and harder to keep our waning attention spans, this year’s theatre has shown there’s life in the old girl yet. She may well outlive us all.

Really, there was just too much to mention here: some amazing standout performances by folk you knew but didn’t know could do that, to folk you didn’t know but now know of because they are so good at that – whew, that was a coffee fuelled thought- 2016 could have easily pulled us all under (and had more than enough real drama in it to fill eight volumes of a tragic opus) but a mix of nostalgia, fun, inclusivity and risk-taking made it, in our opinion, a bumper year for culture and the arts. Of course, there is always more work to be done, more outreach and representation, but with the way things are going, that faint glow of optimism, all but put out by the crap the year has put us through is starting to spark. From remembering Bowie in Lazarus to Amadeus at the National, the theatre is still appointment viewing. In the words of London mayor, London is Open: and our stages and audiences reflected it.

Obviously for us, it was a fantastic year for our run of dreamplay at the Vaults, our education programme, outreach, and flying the flag for site-specific theatre. We can always go further though, and Baz is ready for the new year! C’mon then 2017, if you think you’re hard enough.

*delicately sips eggnog* dammit, Christmas, surprise attack.

Big love and high fives,

Baz xx

 

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The Lost Blog (The One Where All The Blogs Come Home)

Ahoy Bazlings! 

Hope all is well on good ship Baz, we've certainly had a good week - full of Shakespeare of all kinds: RSC and All Female - and it did not disappoint on any level, forsooth. It got us all fired up for the future though and many an idea has been thrown around while drinking wine (and sometimes those verbs got mixed up, but hey, that's PASSION. And we got a lot of it.)

But as London is literally lit up like a Christmas tree and the air is filled with cinnamon and whatever makes Subway smell so damn delicious, it got us thinking about our bumper year, and like our American cousins, what we are thankful for.

Well, you lot, of course, the lifeblood of the thing, who we write, direct and perform for, and who have loyally stayed by our side up to an including this year with our dream play project, the scale of which we'd never tried. Our casts, old and new that have dug our ideas and manifesto, and with fearlessness always gave it some welly - without their talent, support and continued loyalty we'd be nowhere fast. Our excellent Trio of Cath, Sarah and Emma who gave this thing life, gave it 100% commitment and shared their incredible array of talents and practices so uniquely them to make Baz not something able to be ignored.

And of course, our crew: Stage Manager Libby who you met in our previous blog, our fab producing duo George and Liz and of course our Stage and Set designers Josh and Naoimi who between them on a limited time, budget and just the obstacle of dressing and lighting a concrete tube, a pros arch theatre and a former office, three jobs in one, delivered more than we could possibly ask for: with dedication to the themes and ideas, amazing detail and most importantly a smile and a joke. It was an unmitigated pleasure to work with them, so how better to celebrate Bazgiving with the last of our Look Back Blogs, here's Josh and Naomi JUST as dream play's run ended.

Joshua Gadsby on the visual world of dreamplay.

dreamplay, was a departure for us. A co-design between Naomi Kuyck-Cohen (who specialises in set and costume design) and me, Joshua Gadsby (who specialises in lighting design). We both have a professional background in devised theatre works, movement works and performance art. We were keen to see the impact of removing boundaries in the design process, could the visual language become more visceral and playful?

Naomi and I were really drawn to BAZ's mission to bring theatre that holds a playful core. Theatre that coerces the audience to have a direct relationship with the action unfolding. It’s a delightful provocation for design.

Our work on dreamplay begun around 4 months ago, the journey from page to stage was somewhat unique, a classic text used as a framework for a contemporary response which formed a script, which was then used as a basis for play and exploration in the rehearsal room. We are both very process driven designers that thrive on interrogation and response to the source material (the play, the movement, the image) and this production offered a fantastic opportunity to go on a journey of interrogation with director Sarah Bedi. Strindberg’s A dream pay is a mammoth of a text, almost endless in it’s vivid and changing imagery. Sarah’s interpretation was no different, spanning the vast width and breadth of human suffering. We set about interrogating every image of human suffering within the play, picking apart and looking for common and universal images that could provide a visual language. Being sure not to give too much, as this is not a production seeking to give answers.

After many a site visit it was clear that the the Vaults architecture would become a very looming presence within the play. Trains rumble above, as each new room is architecturally more obscure than the last. Drowning the space in design was the last thing we wanted, we needed a language of simplicity and directness that allowed the audiences to connect with performers, not just watch them. Ultimately, the cavernous, characterful and sometimes absurd Vaults became the springboard for what our dreamscape looked like. We embraced it, it became the floored context that often inhabits our dreams. A bedroom appears in what is almost certainly not a domestic space, a plastic greasy spoon table and chair set sit in on a bare theatre stage and a mystical cellist appears high up in a frame, It’s the unexplainable stuff of dreams. Spacial forms are broken, remade and broken again. dreamplay really does inhabit the vaults.

There is nothing quite as terrifying as entering the first day of rehearsals with only a a white card model box (usually the design is completed and locked down at this point) and a notion of what some of the spacial dynamics will be, but this led to a flexibility and playfulness that meant that we could keep focus on the energy and boldness of the company. Often fleeting and exciting creative discoveries in the rehearsal room are also enabled as a result, a vast and decaying mirror... possibly the most absurd and unexpected image that has come of dreamplay came late in the process, something magical was captured in the rehearsal room and so it became part of our world in the Vaults.

No good ever comes of committing too early. Trust in the process, trust in the playfulness and stay open.

** 17.09.16

Impressive aren't they? And they did so everyday - a new issue, a new obstacle, managing a budget, still managing to be creative and ingenious - we really lucked out, and we see big things on the horizon. Thanks Josh and Naomi! Happy Bazgiving :)

And alas, there endeth the Baz blogs for the dream play era - but never fear, like an overactive child on too much hot chocolate we could rattle on about not much for days, so expect a new blog post soon.

Have a good monday, y'all (we've come over all American) and drink wine and be merry.

….We know it's 1pm, your point? Loads of places do mulled wine, c'mon now...

Big Love,

Baz

xxxx

 

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Voices In Likely Places (You Can't Ignore Them Forever)

 

The above image taken at our Young Director's workshop - the brilliant Liz set the task of asking them to write their thoughts on post its and stick them to pages posing different questions about the production. We got a very colourful theatre floor going on. You just can't see it cos it's in black and white. 

Good morning Bazerinas, we hope this blog finds you well – we certainly are, still wondering if dream play was some wonderful dream that still gives us butterflies. Ah. Don’t expect us to not be mushy for a while yet! But at the same time, the gooey centre that is Baz needs it’s raison d'etre (this talk of chocolate and raisins getting you guys hungry too?)  anyway – it’s proving quite hard to stay positive given current news and politics news – but it’s uncertain, worrying and austere times that art has proven its mettle and proved its here to stay.

It’s so hard to believe that austerity has been around for six years – kids, there was such a thing as money put aside from the arts, and people not meddling in culture ! That’s why we need young voices and talent more than ever and Baz is dedicated to nurturing and providing tools in order to contribute to the health of the arts for the future – Baz Education is just there above on the right and we’ll wait right here for you to check it out and then come back.

Okay?

Good, isn’t it? Okay, it’s brilliant and it’s fine if you haven’t gone, you can do it later but in essence, Baz’s aims and manifesto in our theatre and programming have helped shape our teaching programmes – using the tools we use in rehearsal and performance – from verse and approaching scenes to devising. For key stages 2,3 and 4 these kinds of skills are so useful for not only studies but also vocabulary, wider knowledge but most importantly, personal confidence.  We also tailor our workshops to suit different institutions and levels of study. Cos we’re passionate like that.

During our dream play run at the Vaults, we reached out to young directors, offering them a ticket inclusive with a Q&A with two kind members of the cast, and our director/writer extraordinaire, Sarah – it was led epicly by one of our trainee directors Liz and was such an eye opener to how young people think about theatre: as well as their furtile imaginations and keenness to talk and interact with the production itself through directing exercises, brainstorms and Q&A sessions. That alone was enough to convince us that there is interest, passion and more importantly talent out there we need to nurture more than ever. We also recently visited and talked at the BRIT School for further confirmation that faith in young talent is founded - they have the skills and we need to provide the goods.

We’ve also worked closely with those top top people at Teach First – an organisation that truly puts education at the foremost of its ideals – for all ages, all parts of the country, all nationalities – everyone. The tireless work they put in to this inspires Baz, and also provides us with a framework to adapt our workshops to visit all schools, universities and work spaces we can get to- allowing us to tap into our fantastic actor’s network to lead the workshops we have formed in order to get the message out there by professionals with hands on knowledge of the industry they are talking about. We’ve seen for ourselves that drama techniques and training can give students and teachers alike that extra boost of confidence and skill that makes all the difference, especially through our Teacher INSET education packages. To learn more, take a trip to the top of the page under the lovely banner of Baz Education.

And it’s not just us – various theatre companies, even big buildings like the Old Vic are running programmes that use performance spaces and theatre in the day to help you give that presentation, to help your confidence, to help you imagine and understand that monologue you have to analyse. And we here at Baz dig that, and am so pleased to be part of the movement. So ultimately, are we about to break into Witney Houston song, teach them well and let them lead the way? Well yes, actually, that’s a silly question, but aside from that the arts, our cultural output and identity is being cut year on year, less voices are being given the opportunity to be heard and society can’t advance without arts. That’s why we need to nurture young voices and talent – of which there is no shortage in this country – and support the arts! We smell revolution. You with us??

With a friendly roar, we're off to eat some chocolate raisins.

Love, Baz

 

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More Blog Than You Can Shake A Stick At (But That Would Be Weird)

Whoo! Hi Bazzers! Us again, we're back! We hope this blog finds you well, as one can be after a weekend - we're here to keep you all in the loop once more with all things Baz. Cos we're loopy like that. Ah and this is from the vaults (both metaphorical and Waterloo) to bring you some thoughts from our epic Stage manager Libby: Always there with a light/a joke/a cuddle/ a towel from when you get out the bath she ran before every show, pyjama provider, engagement ring arranger and lighting manager. You get a lot in the deal that is Libby the Rock. Much more badass than Dwyane Johnson (though don't tell him we said that)

So anyway, here it is: some brilliant thoughts from our all rounder -at the point just before we got into the space - here Libby reflects on her growing responsibility and inclusion - far from being intimidated, she took on every challenge, and learned there was literally nothing she couldn't do. We literally couldn't have done it without you, Libby. Take it away!

Libby Blog

I trained in Theatre practice at Drama School and have worked in Theatre and live events for over 11 years. I have spent time in a lot of rehearsal rooms and each show is unique, offering a different set of rules to bring about different outcomes. I have worked a lot in music production, events, festivals and circus so coming back to theatre is a really good feeling. Being a part of a creative process again, exploring and finding with a group of people is very exciting. In Baz’s case, the daily structure of the week is outlined by the director, I share that daily with the entire company along with general and specific notes from that day’s rehearsals. Each scene is worked on with high-focus, there are improvisation games, text work, movement sessions. I help record and action this.

When it comes to Theatre for me the most exciting way to work is collaboratively; sitting in the corner of a room all day can take its toll so being made to feel like part of the company, having interesting discussions not just about the play, script or character but life experiences, daily experiences, things that have happened to friends, are all discussions that I am encouraged to be part of. And that is very exciting and liberating. That, to me is my definition of experimental theatre.

I also love what we are working toward, what the performances will be. The structure of the play is being found in rehearsals and a lot of the content that will build the play will be found in performance every night. There are no solid cues, no book (in fact a lot of the time no script), no big changes of set. The play is alive; my task is to help keep it so. I need to be as in tune with the scene, content, theme, understanding, cast and research as anyone else ‘on stage’. And rehearsals are not a time for me to do paperwork but for me to be engaging in the process.  

I’m in my 3rd week with BAZ and I am really enjoying each day. I really enjoy how organised Sarah is, the rehearsal day is clear, structured and really enjoyable. I’m really learning not to be self-conscious, my opinion / thoughts / feelings are often asked for during this process and that’s quite unusual for me to speak up! I really enjoy being involved in a collaborative process and working with BAZ has given me more confidence to (when asked) be actively involved, reading in lines, standing in as an audience member, joining in the warm up and speaking in research / analysing sessions.

Its important not to have any pre conceived thoughts before arriving into a process like this. Before I arrived I read the play and drew up the usual paperwork pre rehearsals, props list, character and scene breakdowns etc. But once rehearsal began I soon realised I will need to be open to the process and not confined with paperwork or tradition methods of working. This is something I teach often when I work back at my old drama school so it is really good practice for me to be doing it live! The structured paperwork I originally made I have shed in favour of more free flowing templates that I can fill in. I am very much looking forward to the outcome of this play, I have no idea yet, even at this stage of rehearsals, what the entire outcome will be, there is a real feel of adventure and play. I’m definitely on my toes.

Isn't that exciting? Makes us feel we want to get right back into the process of putting on a show again! What Libby didn't know was that the resulting production would keep her on her toes and her toenails, but she never got down or stressed, and did whatever was right for the cast or production, whatever the task. That's dedication, professionalism and class. It always went like a dream.

Ha. Punny.

We love you Libby! What no, shut up there's something in YOUR eye...

ext week we'll have more thoughts from our company, this time mid-late production from our epic dynamic design duo, Naomi and Josh! You don't want to miss it!

Love,

Baz xx

 

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