‘Reassembled, Slightly Askew’ in London at Battersea Arts Centre

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(image by Richard Lavery/Tickle Here)

Reassembled… is off to an amazing start to its 3 week run at Battersea Arts Centre as part of their ‘A Nation’s Theatre Festival’, in which it is the only NI show to be invited to participate. It’s been in the very capable hands of NI actors, Stephen Beggs & Mary Lindsay:

Mary STephen out front

Coverage so far includes various London-based publications:

Time Out

listed as one of Time Out London’s ‘Hottest Theatre Openings’

The Arts Council NI’s website, a fantastic 4-star review from Lyn Gardner in The Guardian, a heartfelt blog post from Webcowgirl, and post-show feedback from audiences:

“If you see just one production in London this year, it should be this.”

“Profound evening…a real must-see!”

“Wow, what a thought-provoking 90 minutes, a slick and rounded arts experience.”

“Amazing… [I was] touched and impressed.”

“It is moving, beautiful, fragile and deeply important. Thank you.”

“Best binaural piece I’ve seen this year so far (you’re the 4th). “

“I felt more exposed than ever.”

“Such a deeply moving experience.”

 

With the show running until 28 May, there’s more feedback and reviews to come…

‘Reassembled…’ comes to London this May ’16

ANT RSA screenshotThanks to Reassembled…‘s director Anna Newell (2016 Ellen Stewart International Award Finalist for Artists and Theatre Companies Doing Socially Engaged Work with Youth), Reassembled… has been invited to be part of Battersea Arts Centre’s ‘A Nation’s Theatre Festival’ this Spring, 11-28 May.

A Nation’s Theatre Festival is a two-month celebration of theatre from around the UK from April – May 2016.  There are over 60 shows and events in the festival, across 17 London venues, performed by more than 350 artists from outside London. Reassembled… is the only production from Northern Ireland that is participating.

“It is A CELEBRATION of the UK theatre ecology, shining a light on the breadth of innovative theatre and ideas produced by companies, artists and theatres from around the nation. It’s an opportunity for London audiences and theatres to experience, recognise and champion work from around the UK. It is A PROVOCATION to encourage conversations and debate:

  • How can we reverse the flow of theatre from London out to the rest of the UK?
  • How do we encourage more arts provision outside of the capital?
  • What can theatre tell us about politics, devolution and identity?”

Tickets are available at www.bac.org.             BAC logo

Research, development and funding (2013-2015) was made possible by:

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‘Trouble’– Theatreofpluck bring stories of NI’s LGBT community during the Troubles to the stage

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After 5 years of development, wrangling with production concerns about funding and creative concerns about how to honour over 46 interviewees’ stories within theatrical limitations, I was thrilled that Trouble finally had its world premiere at The MAC as part of 2015’s OUTBURST Queer Arts Festival (the only 10-day multidisciplinary queer arts festival in all of Ireland, which I co-founded in 2007 with a team of many queer artists who’ve worked tirelessly to grow it to its success today, nearly 10 years on).

Jane Coyle’s 4 star review in the Irish Times of TheatreofplucK‘s production (directed by Niall Rea & Anna Newell) cited it as ‘a chilling and challenging piece [that] shows how far equality and gay rights have come in NI– and how far is left to go.’ Chris McCormack called it a ‘provocative performance installation’ in his review.

Audiences described it as:

“Compelling and moving.”

“Fantastic. Lots of reminders about how far we’ve come. Great that our stories have been captured and shared. “

“Everyone should be made to see this. School syllabus!”

“That was totally amazing theatre. I never say that.”

“Really interesting and informative content. Good range of performers/interviewees, men, women, different sections of the community and a good age range. “

WOW. Back in time and very very moving. You captured the times brilliantly.”

“Very emotive performances, I am a bit dumbstruck to be honest. Still very true in today’s world too. Thank you for that, feel very privileged to have seen it.”

“Excellent performance. Innovative mixed theatre piece. Dynamic and inspired way to tell such an important and often invisible story. Needs to go out round the north and wider afield. Tender, shocking, funny, uplifting, beautiful, brave – very clever and creative again from Shannon Yee.”

In December 2015, TROUBLE transferred to Belfast City Hall as a video archive installation, celebrating ten years since the UK’s first civil partnership ceremony there. Despite this initial progress towards equality, today Northern Ireland remains the last place in the UK and Ireland to enact the same-sex marriage legislation.

photo 2Trouble is dedicated to PA McLaughlin, Sean Morrin, Peter Quigley, and all other NI LGBT activists the community has lost over the years; as well as the 46 contributors who kindly entrusted me with their stories. Research, development and production was made possible by support from the Arts Council NI and Belfast City Council.

A secret story in a tiny tent for Belfast-based babies in the world’s first BABY DAY

 

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Tiny Tents for the Sea of Stories (Photos by Simon Hutchinson & Grant Jones)
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Tiny Tents for the Sea of Stories (Photos by Simon Hutchinson & Grant Jones)

BABY DAY is the brainchild of Anna Newell, director of Reassembled, Slightly Askew, in her role as Artistic Director of Replay Theatre Company. You can see a video of the day’s events (the first in the world!), here, courtesy of video artist Conan McIvor.
I was delighted to be one of many writers for the ‘Sea of Stories‘ event who wrote special stories to be read by parents/guardians to their babies in little tents littered throughout Belfast City Hall and Ulster Museum last September. The title we were given to write from was ‘On the Night You Were Born’. Revisiting what I explored in Wiggle Giggle and my training in early childhood pedagogy, I focused on repetition and the sounds of words to animate the story between the reader and baby to write my story:

‘On the Night You Were Born’ by Shannon Yee

(Instructions: To read this story to your baby, there are things that you say and things that you do. It’s up to you if you want to say and do them at the same time or not.)

Do:             Sit down with your knees up and feet flat on the floor. Lay your baby on your thighs, facing you.

Say:             On the night you were born…

My world rocked, rocked, rocked

Do:            (Rock your legs together [and hence, your baby] side to side)

Say:            And …

Do:             (Keep your legs still)

Say:             Ruummmmmmmmbllllllllledddddddd

Do:             (quickly bounce your legs [and hence, your baby] one at a time)

Say:             And…Roll—roll-rolllllllled

Do:             (slowly lift one leg at a time)

Say:             And…

Do:             (separate your knees slightly so your baby drops a little)           

Say:             POPPED!

Do:             (pull your baby up quickly to land on your knees again)

(Go back to the beginning and repeat all again two or three more times from “My world rocked, rocked, rocked… “)

Say:             (hold your baby close and whisper) On the night you were born, my world changed forever.

Final ‘Reassembled…’ focus group feedback

Reassembled… has gone through a lengthy development process; from April– December 2014, over 75 people from the medical, arts and community/voluntary sectors heard sections and and provided their feedback in small focus groups, mostly at the MAC (Belfast).

Some of the most recent participants work for Stroke Association (NI), Royal Victoria Hospital, South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, Accidental Theatre, and the MAC. I also had the unique experience of testing a section at the British Association of Neurological Nurses Conference in Manchester (Oct 2014), with Colin Williamson, Head Injury Nurse at the Belfast Trust, who is one of the biomedical advisors on the project, and was present throughout my time as an in-patient in Ward 4F.

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Testing ‘Reassembled, Slightly Askew’ at the British Association of Neurological Nurses Conference with chairs, not beds

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One participant opted for the carpeted floor

“Time flies in.”

“Helps you to empathise with the patient experience.”

“The staff [in the hospital] were extremely attentive and caring in meeting Shannon’s needs. it was insight to be part of Shannon’s journey.”

“I want to bring the whole team in and say, ‘You think you know what it’s like but your don’t.”

“A great teaching tool for families.”

“I found the experience to be extremely insightful…the sounds were amazing, very realistic. I did feel that I was inside Shannon’s head, trying to make sense of the world going on around me. Great piece of work–thank you.”

“Will make me think about the environment and noises, how I speak and communicate with patients.”

“A real eye-opener.”

“We do it day in and day out, but do we explain enough?…would alter what you tell someone…”

“You can never know what it’s like…you feel like you’ve got a tiny bit of understanding…”

“Found the continuous noises bombarding–very different from what you experience as a staff member”

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The artistic team meets (L to R): Paul Stapleton (sonic artist), Stevie Prickett (choreographer), Hanna Slattne (dramaturg), Matilde Meireles (sonic project support), Anna Newell (director)

With production of the immersive sonic artwork nearly finished, the focus is now on securing Reassembled… into galleries/theatre spaces for the general public and training settings for biomedical professionals to experience the finished piece throughout 2015.

 

This development has been made possible by a Wellcome Trust Small Arts Award and an Arts & Disability Award Ireland.

Early years, cognitive schema and poetry slams

When I was in college, I loved poetry slams and their poets. The diversity of the performers and the topics they voiced contrasted what I has studied in the traditional English curriculum from my mainly white, suburban Boston high school. The way the poets, such as Sarah Jones, Stayceyann Chin, Saul WilliamsJessica Care MooreBeau Si, and Taylor Mali made the language come alive and vibrant as they summon a ferocity greater than themselves.

Years later, I’m in Northern Ireland, writing a poetry slam show for 3-5 year olds. WIGGLEGIGGLE is the vision of Anna Newell of Replay Productions, co-produced by Nottingham Playhouse, with original music by David Goodall and choreography by Stevie Prickett. A ‘Dr Seuss meets hip-hop’ creation, WIGGLEGIGGLE aims to excite its audiences with its silly sounds, bouncing rhythms, fun free-styling, word-smithery, and tricky tongues. It’s been in development since Feb 2014, with periods of creative consultation with 3-5 year olds in the Belfast area.

(L to R) Cathy Walsh, Stephen Clarke, Doireann McKenna warm up with Dr. Seuss

(L to R) Cathy Walsh, Stephen Clarke, Doireann McKenna warm up with a Dr. Seuss freestyle

(L to R) Cathy Walsh, Stephen Clarke, Doireann McKenna warm up with Dr. Seussphoto 3The process of creating WIGGLEGIGGLE has been incredibly intricate, where the artistic team has constructed a show based on patterns–the building blocks of  communication, movement, and language development.  Without being conscious of it, we are moving all the time to internal patterns and rhythms, such as our heartbeat. These cadences of the brain and nervous system appear to play an important role in everything from walking to thinking, as Jon Hamilton covers in the June 2014 NPR article, Your Brain’s Got Rhythm, And Syncs When You Think.

We’ve also integrated the cognitive processes of learning–termed as ‘schema’ by the well-known child developmental theorist, Jean Piaget– and how our brains build relationships between information we know and new information. These underpin the linguistic progression of the show, how the text moves from aspirated ‘Pppfff’ sounds to whole phrases and poems.

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Stevie Prickett (choreographer) and Anna Newell (director) work out movement with the actors

In creating WIGGLEGIGGLE, we also integrated traditional poetic conventions, such as alliteration (a fantastic example of which is Daniel Radcliffe, yes Harry Potter, on Jimmy Fallon doing Blackalicious’ ‘Alphabet Aerobics’:

And onomatopoeia–an excellent example is The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak:

WIGGLEGIGGLE is currently on tour in Nottingham, courtesy of Nottingham Playhouse, and will return for a run in Belfast as part of the Children’s Festival in Spring 2015. Already we’re hearing feedback that during the performances the children are engrossed, mesmerized, mimicking movement, and having a fantastic time!