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Tag Archive | "Kaleider"

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Feature: Kaleider – an explosion of innovative theatrical experiences in Exeter

Posted on 21 October 2013 by Briony Rawle

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Kaleider is an Exeter-based theatre organisation that it would be reductive to call simply a production company; working in collaboration with a diverse range of groups from theatre companies to universities to the Met Office, it commissions and produces an explosion of innovative theatrical experiences. I spoke to Emily Williams, its Executive Producer, about the company, and to Alice Tatton-Brown, the writer of its next production, Ariel.

When I call Williams, she has just come out of meetings about the company’s projections for 2015, which speaks volumes about the company’s hyperopic view into the future. “I have to switch brains,” she says, “Which year are we in?” She explains that Kaleider (from the idea of different people ‘colliding’) aims to develop emerging artists and organisations, with a keen focus on the modern world: “We’re not trying to run a campaign, but it’s important to us to acknowledge we’re living in a world of change with an impending future ahead.”

I ask Williams about Kaleider’s commitment to developing artists and she tells me that although Exeter University’s drama department came top in The Times’ university rankings, most graduates migrate elsewhere because Exeter can’t offer them the opportunities to match their ambitions. Such graduates formed the companies Punchdrunk and Forced Entertainment, which flew the coop to London and to Sheffield after finishing. Kaleider wants to fill that gap; to make graduates, in Williams’s words, think, “I can stay?!”

Exeter forms an important part of Kaleider’s identity, and its work largely takes place outside the theatres, around the city itself. “We sat inside theatres and realised that the audience probably makes up a tiny percentage of people in Exeter, and there’s a massive percentage who will never walk through the doors. We thought, how can we get high quality performance into their everyday? There’s also so much space outside the theatres that hasn’t been used for performance yet, creating another theatre in Exeter wouldn’t make any sense.”

Williams is keen for the work not to be necessarily “boxed as theatre”, and indeed many of its projects are more about playful experiences than rehearsed narrative. Its project, Where to build the walls that protect us will be tours of Exeter led by various ‘experts’, culminating in a re-imagined interactive model of Exeter being built and unveiled in an empty shop. Running Out of Time will be a collation of videos by female parkour artists from around the world, which use video coding to synchronise their movements at various moments. And its exciting upcoming production, Ariel, is part audio-tour, part photography installation and part performance, at Exeter’s Central Library.

“It’s the first piece that I’ve ever been the project leader on,” says its writer, Alice Tatton-Brown. “It’s quite a big step, but I’m really enjoying it.” She tells me the fascinating story behind the piece: she came across a collection of 400 photos in the private collection of a junk shop owner. The albums contained photos of one woman (nicknamed Ariel in the captions) and spanned 40 years of her life, from 1902 to 1942. “I had an instinct that the photographer was her partner or her husband – they’re really intimate, there’s a sense of collaboration and of knowingness. I read it as a gift to her, or a homage.” The owner wanted to sell them individually, as each picture was very beautiful in itself, but Tatton-Brown thankfully succeeded in acquiring the whole collection. “There’s something extraordinary about it that’s beyond words. They bewitched me.”

She then embarked upon over three years’ research, using the places in the background of each photo and the captions on the back, to trace the mysterious couple. She scoured visitor books from places where they had been, heritage websites, number plate registries, passenger lists, even costumes that Ariel wears in the photos, cross-referenced with reviews from the date they were taken, but all to no avail. “Eventually I gave up, they wanted to keep their secret.”

However, on a visit to London, she took a chance on the name of a street that was mentioned in one of the captions. It turned out that there was only one Oakley Street in London, and upon visiting it, she identified the very window where the photo was taken. Using the 1926 census, she finally found her couple. “It was the strongest sense of arrival I’ve ever had in my life, when you actually find this thing you’ve been looking for for three and a half years.” In our digitised age, where information is cheap and mystery is rare, there seems to be real theatrical value in an unGoogleable quest like this.

Another exciting element to the story, which brought it right into the realm of the modern world and thus into the scope of Kaleider, had to do with a ground-breaking prediction made by the photographer that came true many years later. “The show is not just a nostalgic trip into past” says Tatton-Brown. “It has a lot to say about our modern relationship with photography, with technology, the internet, and democracy.” She judiciously stopped short, however, of revealing the prediction itself to me, and so this secret remains a tantalising draw for the production.

Ariel runs until 26 October at Exeter’s Central Library. Tickets are available via Kaleider’s website.

Briony Rawle

Briony Rawle

Briony studied English Literature at Warwick University, then an MA in acting at Drama Centre London. She is an actor currently living just outside London, and is a founding member of Threepenny Theatre.

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The Wicked Stage: Spotlight on Wide Awake Devon

Posted on 08 May 2012 by Sarah Green

Wide Awake Devon is the perfect title for this organisation which is addressing the arts situation in this sleepy south west county. Thanks to the work of Emily Williams (22), Monique Luckman (23) and peers, there are big changes getting under way in Exeter at the moment, and these changes are very exciting for practitioners and audiences alike. Lyn Gardner wrote an article earlier this year about the state of affairs in Exeter: “For too long, Exeter has been without the kind of development investment that has gone into other regions of the south west.” This culminated in Exeter Northcott losing it Arts Council England funding and going into administration in 2010. However last year, ACE ring-fenced £750,000 to be split amongst different companies within Exeter, including the Northcott theatre and Kaleider (an organisation where Luckman and Williams work as producers).

The aim of the company and its site theatredevon is to provide a network for artists, practitioners and venues both locally and nationally. It also provides a sounding board for artists to discuss their work, and find ways of improving and creating pride in the performance ability of the area. The founders explained to me how there are pockets of activity throughout Devon but these areas need some way of connecting up, which is the service Wide awake Devon provides: “There were things happening in Exeter under the surface, it felt quite fragile and wasn’t really getting above the surface at any point,” Luckman told me. “Then in Plymouth it’s quite vibrant and quite productive but then again there is quite a lot of frustration at a lack of a network.”  Frustration is the key term in what forged the determination of Williams and Luckman to apply for funding and set up the organisation, Williams explains: “In lots of other areas within the south west there are organisations throughout pulling people together and kind of raising the ambition in developing artists and developing the ecology. And we went to a few events and observed there wasn’t really anything in Devon.”

The work being done isn’t just internet-based, they are also getting out in the community around Devon to hold discussions with practitioners and venues to find these pockets of activity, as they are well aware that in Devon “one of the biggest challenges is the geography”. On 9 May there is an event called Divided Devon: How can we undivide Devon?, the aim is not to solve the problem but to start conversations with young people and older practitioners regarding the current situation, and find out what they think is needed to move forward and to give Exeter and its surrounding areas a bigger national identity. By holding it in a village in North Devon that is easily accessed by road and rail they are hoping “to make the county feel a bit smaller”.  This is an area of country that used to have such a rich theatrical history with the repertory theatre scene in Ilfracombe and as the home county of writers such as John Gay. Hopefully with the establishment of a network people can make connections and then go on to create amazing live performance.

Anyone who has ever holidayed or lived in Devon will know that it can be quite lengthy to get around compared to other places in the country, but we shouldn’t let that be a barrier in the development of regional arts in the area. By setting up these connections it opens up the area to companies from around the UK and makes it an exciting developing arts community. The network is just a stepping stone in uniting the different arts factions in Devon and it is exciting to see what can be developed by Wide Awake Devon and its counterparts in the next three years.

I will be covering Divided Devon for A Younger Theatre via my blog and twitter, but for anyone wanting to get involved in the discussions there are details for the event here, and for anyone who can’t make it feel free to get involved at #divideddevon on twitter where conversations are already starting.

Image: Monique Luckman (left) and Emily Williams (right)

Sarah Green

Sarah Green

Sarah is a musical theatre graduate now studying for her Masters in theatre practice with hopes of going onto a PHD. She has been writing for A Younger Theatre since September 2011 on all things musical theatre related.

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