Sampled Festival: Live Blog

A Younger Theatre is going to be live-blogging the Sampled Festival at The Junction Theatre with a team of bloggers. Throughout the two-day festival of contemporary theatre work we will be exploring the themes of scratch performances, artists and their work, and the nature of festival itself. Join in the discussion by commenting below, or by following the hashtag #Sampled12.

19:20  - I’ve just had a really great discussion with Melanie Wilson about her work, especially around the use of sound and audio in theatre. Wilson’s work is very involved with the audience experiencing the work through sound in the space, and seeing this as a form of art itself. She spoke about how she likes to sculpt work, like an architect for sound. For me music/audio is so inherent in the theatre work that I see and admire. I’m so easily affected by it, and it pulls at my heart strings when an emotive piece of music is played against a description of something rather emotional. I caught myself this morning getting wrapped up in Hannah Nicklin’s piece for this very reason, and the same with Wilson’s Landscape Two this afternoon. Wilson is interested in exploring the relationship between sound and the audience, how she can disrupt this and and work outside the traditional forms of theatre-making. I quizzed her about why she chose theatre to explore her work when it seems to me that it would equally be suited to art galleries or installation work. Wilson noted that she loved “the live experience of theatre”, something that I think we can all attest to. Her first connection with music/audio manipulation was through a tape player, recording her family talking. Later she began playing in bands before finally moving into making theatre itself. Now she works mainly as a solo artist, and is produced by Fuel. As a person she is clearly rooted in her work, and her desires to explore sound/audio in spaces. She is getting more interested in her audience in darkness experiencing the sound, which she hopes will appear later in her work. After performing, directing, writing and making the sound for Autobiographer Wilson was keen to just get her creativity out, which is partly how Landscape Two came about. A simple but needed response to the desire of creating work as a soloist again.

18:40- Here is an AudioBoo from me seeing Melanie Wilson’s work in progress piece Landscape Two, and some also words on music/audio in theatre:

 

18:08- Currently everyone is in the main theatre space watching Brian Logan, but I was in desperate need of taking some time out. That’s the problem with festivals, you can so easily get swept up in running from piece to piece that you never actually factor in some quiet time. How can you be an active participant when your mind is overloading on theatre?

It’s something that I’ve spoken about quite a bit before. In order to be able to objectively see and analyse theatre, you have to take time out of it. I’ve often removed myself from theatre viewing for a week or more. Before I know it I am itching to be back in the darkened room of a theatre feasting upon the work. I return with fresh eyes and the time away experiencing other things is really helpful to informing me about theatre. If we only ever saw theatre in our free time, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate when theatre attempting to portray other things. Like music, dance, art and so forth. Perhaps you could argue that theatre shows these things to you, and yes, that’s true, but you have to experience them for yourself to truly understand them. (Unless we’re talking about someone murdering someone, or getting shot, or something dramatic. Now I’m just thinking of Method acting. Damn you Stanislavksi, with your complicated name and your full on acting techniques.)

18:00 -Some tweets from today:

http://twitter.com/_RosyD/status/199132860324659200

 

 

 

 

16:04- I do wonder how much of a bubble we are in here at Sampled. I just stepped outside to enjoy some fresh air and for a water break. There are a few people milling around the complex here in Cambridge but how much do they actually know what is happening here at The Junction? Would they be too afraid to step through the doors with Bryony Kimmings dressed as a Queen holding a microphone and getting people to eat cake. Would you be afraid?!

Perhaps. But isn’t contemporary theatre a bit of a bubble? We’ve got to find access points for new audiences. We have to nurture them.

15:54 – We’ve been quite quiet here but only because we’ve been watching lots of shows!

14:00

12:42 – Curious Directive has just led a work in progress piece called After the Rainfall. This is its new piece which is going to be at Edinburgh this year. In true Curious Directive style it has weaved several stories across a time span of a hundred odd years into a piece about how British Colonialism has stretched through time. It’s already a slick piece, with a strong emphasis on sound, movement and dialogue. It compares social media and ant colonies – a fascinating comparison. Apparently they are like a mirror in terms of how information is spread between them. It always makes me wonder how companies like Curious Directive manage to bring ideas together. They’re fractured but very well tied together. Watch out for the piece later in the year.

11:43 – Just came out of Hannah Nicklin’s piece. For first thing in the morning this was a rather touching piece. I’m not sure I could actually sum up what I’m feeling right now from it. It brought a tear to my eye, but I don’t mean this dramatically. It’s a simple story, one about the relationship between Nicklin and her father. It’s a piece that questions her role as a protester, and her father’s role on the other side of the enforced line as a policeman. It’s informative; Nicklin describes how a kettle works, what happens inside and her own experiences. It’s also about Nicklin as a performer, and her questioning whether if it is better to be a politician striving to change small policies or if it is better to be an artist telling stories to people. For a work-in-progress piece this is really developed, it’s a piece that tugs away at you. Nicklin’s honesty shines through the piece, which is perhaps why I enjoyed it so much.

10:45 – First up I’ll be seeing Hannah Nicklin’s A Conversation With My Father, which is, as the title suggests a conversation with Nicklin’s father about the nature of protesting. She a protester, her father a policeman.

10:42 – The second day of Sampled Festival has begun!

DAY 2

21:40 – I’ve left Sampled for today, it’s been a really inspiring day, if a bit lengthy – with me repeating it all tomorrow. Sampled Festival is all about showcasing some of the best contemporary theatre we have in the UK at the moment, with artists who are certainly on the touring circuit. These artists form a collective whose work is challenging, inspiring and always thought provoking.

The thing that struck me through Day 1 of Sampled was how little I disliked in terms of the shows. I’m not saying that I was expecting to see lots of bad work, but I was more surprised by how much I could revel in. Perhaps it’s the nature of a festival, something that Michael Pinchbeck picked up on earlier: work at a festival is seen in the context of the festival. The audience is always half in one performance and half in another. The stage is barely cold before the next performer takes to it. So perhaps under a festival banner the work sits more as a unit together, something I am sure has been taken into consideration by Kate Madden, the festival’s Producer.

Some trends from today: simplicity seems paramount. This and talking into microphones and storytelling. It’s not always about lavish sets (there isn’t room or budget for them) but instead about a focus upon the art of telling theatre through storytelling alone. It’s not an easy thing to manage but one the artists I saw today did well. I guess one of the hearts of theatre is its ability to tell a story, so this makes sense.

I was surprised, too, at the number of audience members present throughout the day. It’s heartening to see a full auditorium or foyer, everyone bursting with excitement about the work to come. The festival demands a supportive environment, and you can easily feel this. Now to bring on day two of Sampled Festival.

21:00 – Andy Field’s Zilla (Part 1) was quite a treat. There was something rather poetic about the piece, and this surprised me. Field writes a lengthy monologue spilt between two actors who read into microphones (a common theme for the festival it appears!). Before the audience are lines of Lego people, each of them have cards with their descriptions on, such as “boy staring in the sky” or “an engineer holding a glass of water in his hand”. They’re simple but reflective of the characters. As Chris Bailey and Ira Brand read Field’s monologue they take it in turns to draw a map on the floor. After lists of high streets shops, and descriptions of this world we see mapped out before us set to a stunning soundtrack we, the audience, are invited to place our Lego characters on the map. Then all of Field’s excellent writing of disaster looming is materialised as Brand, blinded, wearing furry ‘Zilla’ slippers stomps across the map. We see our Lego characters suffer a hideous death, a disaster swept across the town, like a film brought to life. Next the casualties are announced, each one is named and given their cause of death. It’s a strikingly simple but wonderful piece. Poetic as it is at painting a dystopian world, but the funny thing is – it’s the world we inhabit. It might be New York with the trade towers or it might be a forgotten part of London, we inhabit the suffering that Field so readily describes. A poignant piece. Tomorrow we see Part 2.

19:42 – I’ve just come out of Chris Thorpe’s There Has Possibly Been An Incident, which is currently a work-in-progress piece. Chris was seated with a microphone and read from his script, currently it is just voices of a man and a woman, but a third voice will be added at some stage. Even through its simplicity (chair, words, microphone etc), there is such depth from the piece already. Thorpe is a fantastic writer; his ability to weave descriptions and conjure up images is his real skill. As the piece progresses these descriptions and words begin to make sense, and the very thing that Thorpe’s piece has been describing comes shining with force to the forefront of our minds. We can see the image he is talking about with such vividness, it’s an iconic image, we all know it. We might not known the reasoning behind it but that doesn’t matter, what sits firmly in our mind state is the fact that we KNOW this image. It would be fair to say that I found myself completely absorbed and enthralled by Thorpe’s writing. Even in these early stages the piece is so rich, I can’t wait to hear/see more.

18:26 - Here is a photo from the piece of art that Alice has made today responding to some of the words given from the various comments we have been making:

18:23- Here is a photo from Andy Field’s Zilla!

18:15- We’re interviewing Andy Field at the moment. His talking about what has inspired his work: American ‘doom and gloom’ films and American disaster films. He has a single piece on throughout the festival but it is being split into three parts.

17:59 - We’ve just interviewed Michael Pinchbeck about his work. His tips for starting out in theatre: “See as much as you can, and talk to artists. When you attend a festival, make sure you talk to people”. Michael started his work in amateur dramatics, and he said that this was a great place to begin to develop his skills as a performer. Our conversation (which was filmed, so expect a clip on YouTube), covered lots of ground to do with being an outsider and how you look at work. As he makes work he remembers all the pieces that have come before it, and all the pieces that he has seen. They all influence his work, the weave and work their fibers into what he is creating now. The Beginning is the start of a piece (kind of given in the name, but it seems like it needs to be mentioned again), it starts at the beginning of a performance, and looks at the rules and invisible contracts that the performer/audience share. Pinchbeck addresses these invisible contracts and pushes them into the main space. It’s really easy to see this now that I’ve spoken to him about it. In the piece itself, it leaves you questioning, laughing with questions and being bemused with questions. Nothing wrong with that, it’s a good healthy feeling. A feeling that we shouldn’t just sit and be an audience, we can be so much more.

17:26- The shows have been continuing, and we’re struggling to keep this live blog updated enough when there is so much going on. I’ve just come out of Michael Pinchbeck’s The Beginning which has left me questioning. Lots of questions, about the relationship between performer/audience, about the work of theatre itself.

15:56- Great atmosphere here at Sampled Festival, something about contemporary theatre brings out the excitement in people. Or maybe it’s just me?

15:41 - I’ve just come out of Inspector Sands’s A Life in 22 Minutes which was a fantastic one-woman show. The thing that struck me was how basic it is, but how this didn’t affect the work. A series of lists dictated what the performer was doing, and through this the performer responded. It was within the subtlety of the movement – the changing from walking up a set of stairs to walking down a set of stairs, it may have been a basic change of direction but when you apply this to just the eyes moving, to perhaps a basic arm movement up and down, there was real joy in simplicity. Theatre doesn’t have to be a complex experience. It can be really basic, as small as a gesture or word.

14:51 – The Junction is starting to get busy as people come to enjoy Sampled Festival. The music if playing, the drinks are flowing and you can begin to feel how a festival is evolved out of the work. A festival in the sense that every nook and cranny of The Junction has been turned over to Sampled. From the cafe to the foyer and in the different performance spaces across the Junction complex as a whole. I’ve even seen advertised a show taking place on a bus outside.

A festival attempts to create a lively atmosphere around a given space, attempts to make the audience connect the dots and enjoy the work on display. A festival is about bringing a common theme or group together to explore the work. Here at Sampled the work spills out in every direction. Yet contained within the actual space of The Junction it does make me wonder if people outside, beyond the walls, know that a festival is taking place, and the electric excitement that is contained within the building. How do you get those people in? How do you ensure that they can step through the doors and join in the fun?

I think it’s a problem that most festivals suffer from, especially enclosed within a building. How do you always think open, think creatively but with an open mindset. It’s not easy, but the atmosphere around The Junction at the moment is really exciting. I’d like to think that anyone could join us right now.

14:49 – You can read Antonio’s response to some of the pieces he has been seeing on his rolling response blog here.

13:22 – Here is a response from Antonio about seeing some of the scratch performance: “A mix of excitement and trepidation as you sit awaiting new and ground-breaking pieces of work.”

12:54 – The AYT team is discussing the best way to respond to scratch pieces. How do you articulate yourself so that you do not favour one particular piece? How do you find what it is within the work that may not have worked for you? How do you tease out to an online audience what you have seen in those initial steps? What does a scratch for its audience?

12:43 -The AYT team is busy in The Junction’s board room responding to the scratch performances that we saw earlier. We’ve got Antonio & Chloe responding with words, Marianna is off around the building filming what she sees. Then we have Alice who is creating origami art (!) responses to the work. Here is a photo of her first piece:

11:52am – Here is an AudioBoo about what we’re up over the weekend at Sampled Festival:

11:30am -The main team are in watching JAM, so AYT Editor Jake is setting up our equipment for today:

11:02am – First up is a JAM session with Chris Bailey, Beady Eye, Ira Brand & RashDash who will be exploring new work in front of an audience.

11:00am -Sampled Festival 2012 has begun!