July 24, 2013 by katie
Directors and co-creators Katie Day and Jane Packman
Performers and co-creators Samantha Ann Fox, Katherine Maxwell Cook and Louise Platt
Lighting Designer Ben Pacey
Scenographers Alexandra Boussoulega and Rania Yfantidou
Jewellery designer makers Arms jewellery Louise Bryan www.marmaladedesign.com
Neck jewellery Mikaela Lyons email@example.com
Head jewellery John Moore www.johnmoorejewellery.com
Stage Manager Gareth Nicholls
July 14, 2013 by katie
**** (4 stars)
The Other Way Works have established a name for themselves with a series of productions whose format can only be described, somewhat unsatisfactorily, as “performances”. The company prides itself upon creating unconventional live events — part theatre, part installation, part exhibition — in unconventional spaces. Mayfly toured festivals with a light show cast upon the stretched canvas of a tent, and I Am Waiting For The Opportunity To Save Someone’s Life transformed an empty unit in Birmingham’s Mailbox development into a brace of suites modelled around variations on the subject of waiting. Their new production, Treasured, does not explore radically new ground, either within the company’s thematic territory or within the wider parameters of their artistic style — but in its own terms, the piece transcends its essentially simplistic nature to offer patrons a deeply personal and rather moving experience, without ever revealing how or why it has done so.
Treasured has been commissioned by mac as part of the Encounters season, and see patrons ascend at staggered intervals to the Foyle Gallery which has been fitted out in an amalgam of a Dickensian curiosity shop and an elderly relative’s sitting-room. Having been encouraged to look around the bric-a-brac and objets d’art, an attendant is on hand to serve tea in china cups, complete with lump sugar and viennese whirls. All aspects of design, from the discreet footlights to the soundtrack of operetta and saxophone jazz, create a genuinely relaxing, enveloping atmosphere, which is only disrupted by the noise of patrons chatting and bustling around the Box Office unfortunately situated below.
An envelope in a jewellery box prompts each patron to select their favourite from three mirrors, positioned amongst the antiques, after which a dresser leads them into a second antechamber where they become a participant in a ritual conceived around a piece of body jewellery matched to the décor and dressing of the chosen mirror. In a vestibule crammed with leaves, the patron is adorned with Louise Bryan’s ivy-tendrilled arm sculpture, before being suffused with light to create a silhouette which makes it appear that the plant is sprouting from within the patron themselves. Mikaela Lyons’ ruff made of maps folded into sharp concertinas initiates a circular odyssey on a makeshift sedan chair past suspended boxes of compact mirrors and decoupage sea-monsters. John Moore’s exquisite head-dress, decorated with iridescent beetle wings, forms the centrepiece of a wordless ceremony akin to an Egyptian coronation, with the patron as the revered Pharaoh.
Text is subordinated in favour of alternative sensory languages. Gentle hands guide participants around the chamber by touch, and sound in particular is used to give each ritual a suitably mythic dimension. It is in this aspect of the proceedings that the real purpose of the curiosity shop room suddenly reveals itself; it is necessary for a communicant to disengage themselves from everything outside, to prepare themselves for the self-contained, attention-focusing nature of the ritual process. If the participant were to come straight into the ritual chamber from the busy, noisy world beyond, they would simply not be responsive to the minute sensations that the experience creates and upon which its success depends — which was precisely the effect produced at earlier work-in-progress showings at Pilot.
In form and, especially, in content, Treasured has a simplicity which is somehow at odds with the human resources pumped into it; it is difficult in some ways to reconcile why two directors and six creative collaborators (three jewellery designers notwithstanding) were required to create a piece which is reliant on such straightforward, uncomplicated and deintellectualised principles. Certainly, the purpose and the meaning of the experience being undergone always remains just beyond the patron’s grasp, and yet, curiously, in this instance, that matters less than it might under more formal circumstances.
As with previous pieces, the production finish is a little rough around the edges, with carpets lifting around the sides of the room, and copious amounts of gaffer tape drawing the eye and compromising the integrity of the design concepts — but in a space from which all external sights and sounds can be eradicated, and with a more rigorous eye for the fine detail of construction, Treasured truly could be the star centrepiece of The Other Way Works’ collection.
Philip Holyman Regular Theatre Critic for METRO WM
An untamed cabaret of fresh material from a host of new theatre artists
An untamed cabaret of fresh material from a host of new theatre artists
Custard Factory Theatre, Digbeth, Birmingham
Performances as part of Encounters Season 2006
mac Birmingham October 2006
October 6, 2006 by katie
Can you make it to the Custard Factory in Birmingham tonight?
If so, come to Pilot. We’re going to be there trying out two small elements of Treasured on some of the audience there. As ever we won’t be using the stage, but a small dressing room round the back of it. Also we won’t be using the jewellery (which will be wierd after 3 weeks of getting so used to it) as we don’t want to spoil your enjoyment of the final pieces. You might see the shadow of one of them though – as a teaser…
Here is the info:
The Theatre @ The Custard Factory
Doors open 7pm
more details: www.b-theatre.co.uk
October 3, 2006 by katie
I had a very lovely and relaxing weekend where I didn’t think about the project, or think or talk much in general. Returning on Monday I felt quite refreshed and with more brain space than at the end of last week.
However, my brain is obviously more overloaded than I realise. Last night I woke up standing on my bed in the pitch black, desperately trying to put the piece of head jewellery onto Katherine (who wasn’t there). In my sleep as I began to stand on the surface I remember thinking ‘this is a really unstable surface to do the dressing from’, and then ‘its really ridiculous to do this in the dark – I can’t see where her head is’. Upon exclaiming outloud ‘We need more light in here. This isn’t going to work’. I opened the curtain that hangs alongside my bed and woke up.
It strikes me that this has an interesting resonance with the pieces we’re making, and how you move from being outside a dream/fantasy world into being central to it yourself.
Shame my sleepwalks are never really useful in shedding light on the performance itself.
A week out of the space and away from rehearsing. Katie and I have tons of jobs, both related and unrelated to Treasured. This morning we had a bit of a break from the admin to meet with Gareth our stage manager who starts on the project next week. Katie talked through the performance to date – really good to go over it and discuss the practicalities of next week a bit. Good to see Gareth again too (who we worked with on ‘I am waiting’) and hear about his company (Little Earthquake)’s exploits.
In the afternoon we found time to feedback about each piece as it stood on Friday, and nab Joel for a cup of tea and chat about the performance. Some interesting stuff came up, particularly about the head piece which is proving difficult. It is such a powerful piece in itself that we seem to have been sucked into making a ritual out of it which offers more signifigance or power than we can actually deliver. It can only ever be disapointing following the current build up – having worn it you won’t rule a country or possess superhuman powers or win in a battle. We may have found a solution in focusing the experience more heavily around what happens when the piece is on the head. Perhaps moving away from loaded images of annointing, or cleansing and looking towards a narrative again.
I will think on!
October 2, 2006 by katie
On Friday Joel and Katie came in to watch the pieces we had been working on during Thursday and that morning.
I hadn’t been able to sleep much on Thursday night – falling asleep late and waking up at 6.30 too alert. Coming into the Foyle Gallery I was on an excited evening pace rather then morning speed, and buzzing with things to try out. Fortunately Katherine and Sam responded well, and didn’t send me to the mad house.
The result was a huge amount of headway on the arms, which had suffered from lack of attention/understanding. The piece of jewellery is really loaded, with a dark beauty that has begun to come through in shadowy images and song. The jewellery also suggests the power of nature and the inevitablitiy of life and death – a huge concept to try and distill into 5 minutes, but a good challenge! When Joel watched them in the afternoon this was his favourite, I guess it probably has the most complete shape now, and is therefore the most tranformative experience.
September 28, 2006 by katie
We’re beginning to make some real headway with the audiences journey within the jewellery rituals. This morning we looked at the head piece. Yesterday I was concerned it had no clear hook into it, however reading over the notes again before walking in I began to see some shapes of movement and things begin to shift into an order.
As we worked through the morning we found elements that worked, others that don’t and I can’t always find the way through. It’s funny, there is no panic, I know we’ll find them soon and it would be wrong if they appreared instantly. This part of the process is a gradual shaping and enhancing of all the best bits from the last 2 weeks. Along the way we’ll discover new moments too, whose presence will influence everything that’s already there. Its where you begin to realise just how much material you’ve generated.We are working with bright sounds and a narrow, long performance space to create a greater feeling of height and distance for this one.
In the afternoon Katie came in and saw the head piece and the neck piece from yesterday. She made notes and fed back to us. She commented that now she is further removed from the process she gets more nervous taking part in the performance – a bit more like a real audience member. This is extremely helpful as she helped to spot when things were confusing or too unsettling.
Mostly in the rehearsal room I am taking the role of audience member, swapping occasionally with the girls so they can experience the effect. Being so involved continuously in such a multi-sensory world I find I gradually begin to lose my sharpness and judgement. Today it was great to have Katie confirm lines of thought i’d also been going down myself as well as helping re-focus my mind by asking questions and making suggestions.
I’m looking forward to working a bit more on the head and arms tomorrow.
September 27, 2006 by katie
Yesterday we did an exercise where we all picked 3 things for each piece and also the outside space that we liked best. These are kind of key moments or themes to work from, and are really helpful in highlighting which images, sounds, movements and interactions are most potent. In the afternoon Katie and I did a lot of walking around the park thinking and talking – kind of rambling whilst rambling.
As directors we’re trying a new thing, attempting to play to our individual strengths, with Katie leading the first part (generating material) and me the second part (editing and fine-tuning). During this week we are transitioning into me leading rehearsals – freeing Katie to talk to our designers and think about the broader picture.
Today was my first day. We looked at the arm piece in the morning and the neck piece in the afternoon using some of our key moments list as a guide.
The morning was hard work partly because I had left the ‘set’ up from the previous days impro, which although very helpful yesterday was quite contraining today. In the afternoon I totally cleared the space, so we could look at our use of space with fresh eyes. We enjoyed ourselves, found some interesting things and I felt quite emotional after taking part in the dressing.
Poor Katie ended up doing boring financial stuff to keep the company running. Hopefully tomorrow she’ll get to communicate with Rania, Alexandra and Ben.
Now my head is buzzing with images and words and shapes and possibilities. I’m going to do a bit more work in preparation for tomorrow and then watch and engrossing film. I find it really exciting when it gets to this stage in the process, my head seems to kick in again, like it does in the very early conceptual stages, or the first week in devising. The only problem is stopping it when you need to get some rest!
September 24, 2006 by katie
Thursday evening saw Sam and I collecting long strands of ivy from my overgrown garden to hang up in in the outside space. We also enjoyed some tea in my kitchen to find the most appropriate taste (Lemon Verberna). On Friday morning we created a den, which included a hint of each piece of jewellery in it. We had everyone sitting on the floor on cushions, choosing between smells, textures, body parts and numbers. The conclusion was that there were too many influences within the space (childhood, ethnic, celtic, japanese tea ceremony), but the ivy made amazing shadows and the tea was ace.
Lou Platt (who we’ve worked with most recently on I Am Waiting) came along on Friday to help us out. She did two days devising on Treasured in May, but being a drama therapist ment she could only give us a few days at this stage. It was so good to have her expertise on ritual (used in drama therapy) as well as her fresh eye on the material and enthusiasm.
Particularly enjoyed by Lou, and the rest of us, was the poetical brilliance of Katherine Maxwell-Cook, who wrote a delicious poem for the neck piece – looks like this one’s here to stay.