Thursday, 28 March 2013

Above is a set of instructions which are used as a guidance for any given situation - including making a show. If you manage to do all four things then you're home and dry.
 When you are working well you do these things anyway, you don't need reminding of them. But when you are under pressure, like when you're making a show, it is easy to not do them. So having them on the wall is a good reminder.

Just a little reminder that The Bear is always there...watching...waiting!

A vintage fur or a bear in disguise?

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Anger and Rage...

We asked the team working on The Bear, what makes them angry? 

Copyright: Unknown, Image from google

ANGELA CLERKIN (Lead Artist, Performer).
“Very little makes me angry.The new NHS bill. The war in Afghanistan. Homophobia. Patriarchy. 6 counties of Ireland still owned by the UK. Older women’s under-representation in the media. Racism. Catholicism. Religion in general. Paedophilia. Miscarriages of justice. Olly Murs.’”

LEE SIMPSON (Director)
“I get angry at injustice and then really angry at my inability to communicate clearly about that injustice. I'm pretty steaming about the Norman invasion as well.”

GUY DARTNELL (Performer)
“It’s very, very petty but I get angry at other people’s success. It’s probably just bitterness, around thinking that I should possibly be more important, more famous or more powerful than I am. So I get angry when I am hearing about other peoples success, like what the fuck have they got, why are they there, what thy did it for that? Is that what you have to do to get a prize? That makes me angry.”

RAE SMITH (Designer)
“Intolerant people make me angry. I always think it is hilarious to be intolerant of being intolerant because it doesn’t help does it. It doesn’t help world peace to be like that.”

NICK POWELL (Composer)
“Croneyism and lack of empathy make me angry (other people's, that is... my own makes me feel warm and fuzzy).”

Friday, 15 March 2013

More reflections from the first week:

A little bit from Lee: 

Day 1. Here we go. 
Start of the day and everyone gathered. What a lot of people. I mean it isn't a lot of people by proper show standards but for a wee show like this it feels like loads. Maybe that is because me and Angela have been working on it alone or just us two together and then when we have been meeting people its been one at a time. But when you put them all together - there they are - loads of really talented, enthusiastic, full of ideas people. I find it quite touching to be honest. All these people giving their time and talent for precious little dosh because of a notion for a show that somebody else has had and to which that they have already started to contribute their vision and skills. Very touching. I have become bit of a sentimental old bugger though.

Gathered here we have (from Improbable) Nick Sweeting, Sarah Jane Rawlings and Lorraine Wood (the producer) Leo Wood (no relation), (lighting) Beky Stoddart, (from the sound team) Mark Cunningham, (from the design team) Lucy Sierra and then there's Guy, Angela and me.
See what I mean? Brilliant.

We say hello and introduce those that don't know each other then Lucy talks us through the model. Which doesn't take long because it is a haiku of a design. Gorgeous, spare and open to interpretation. We have a choice of two kinds of "wall" and we  decide on the slightly less transparent stuff and Beky gives us a hint of something lovely that she might be able to do with some little lights shining inside it or something. I'm excited already. I think the actual plays often spoil otherwise perfectly lovely sets lit by perfectly lovely lights. There's a bit more production management-y chat and then as suddenly as they were here they are gone and it is just me, Guy and Angela. Damn. I usually manage to delay this moment for a bit longer. Luckily there's a lot of catching up to do because we haven't seen Guy for a while so we bring each other up to date with our lives.

This is important by the way. I remember Alan Davies used to do a routine, years and years ago about not starting his act as soon as he came onstage because when you work in an office you don't sit down at the desk and start working straight away. There are staplers to straighten and pencils to sharpen first (that's how long ago it was - they still had those things in offices). Well it is the same in our rehearsal room. You can't just start rehearsing. This is all going to get kind of intimate. We are here as fellow professionals but more importantly as friends. Gotta catch up with your friends before you can get on with work.

That gets us through to lunch.

In the afternoon we did do some rehearsing. I'll talk about that another day.

Reflections on the first week of rehearsals...

A little bit from Angela: 

We had a really grrreat Week 1 of rehearsals at the Ovalhouse. We followed our snouts and sniffed out the areas we most wanted to explore. We worked in an open space stylee and sessions included singing, short-story adapting, growling, process work exercises, abandoning ideas and having new ones, meetings, imagining our own deaths, wearing fur coats, lengthy (old codger) warm-ups and a friday lunchtime fry-up. 

And we had lots of lovely visitors including Team Improbable, Lucy Sierra, Mark Cunningham, Heather Uprichard and our producer Leo Wood. And on Wednesday Nicole Charles, who is helping us run an education project in conjunction with the making of The Bear, accompanied 19 students from George Monoux school. They came to watch us rehearse and then Lee ran 2 hour improvisation workshop. We ended the week in the Ovalhouse cafe talking with Matilda Leyser about wrestling bears (while watching Riddley cartoon-hitting Phelim!). 

I ran a workshop at London Bubble - they are based in the Swedish church near Canada Water - they are doing fab work there. Marie Vickers runs this amazing programme LB+ for young people 16+ who live in Southwark and are and are not in education, employment or training (NEET). I had a great time working with the lively, generous and funny group - a highlight for me was meeting the Prince of Lewisham!

One of my favourite things about this project is people sending me pictures of bears. On monday I had just finished re-writing a scene involving a soldier when I received this from Rob Thirtle :

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Angela Clerkin on life as an actor and a solicitors clerk:

Copyright: Rae Smith 2012

"I became a solicitor’s clerk after replying to an advert on a notice board in my local library "Crime Does Pay". It fitted in well with being an actor because it was freelance and you could pick it up and put it down as you were paid by the day. Obviously if you were on a 6 week trial the solicitors didn't like you to bail out to do an acting job but they also accepted it was possible. Because on my part I could plan to have work for 6 weeks and on day 2 the defendant could change their plea, the trial is over and you'd only get 2 days pay."

"I was at the Royal Courts Of Justice on a grim family case involving child custody when I had a call from my agent. As soon as I had a break I rang her back and she told me I'd been offered a role in a new comedy series for the BBC, something clawed The Office. I said yes it's worth a punt and then I went back to take notes on the parents drug history."

"It was my birthday; I was at Gatwick Airport on a deportation case when I was offered the part of Slyv in East at Leicester Haymarket. The woman was put back on the plane, immediate deportation."

"Over 12 years on and off I worked on cases involving people charged with murder, GBH, drug trafficking, voting fraud, terrorism, credit card fraud, child abuse, rape. I also worked on family cases and attended deportation and immigration hearings."

What's it all about then?

Improbable are co-producers of The Bear, which is the third Improbable Associate Artist project (after The Pirate Project and No Idea). Improbable enjoy to nurture and develop talent and these Associate Artist projects enable the company to support those artists who are central to the Improbable creative process. These Associate Artist projects are always separate and distinct Associate Artist-led projects but they stem organically from a genuine creative and administrative partnership with Improbable.

The Bear is a devised show where Angela Clerkin and Guy Dartnell tell the story of an everyday murder and a mythic bear. A funny, challenging and beautiful show about a woman going in search of her bear and the transformative power of anger.

In addition to being an Artist and Writer, Angela is also a solicitor's clerk. She works with the defence team during criminal trials. It's a job that brings her face to face with the fall out from anger, rage and desperation.

The Bear is a story of murder.

In the cells under the Old Bailey, Angela meets her client. He claims to be innocent. “The Bear did it:” He's obviously lying. Or mad. This is London after all. Without quite knowing why, Angela finds herself hunting the bear. Until she discovers the bear is hunting her.

The Bear is a 'whoddunit' with a strong narrative, using personal histories to tell global tales, images when words aren't enough and improvisation to unleash the untold and unlikely.

The 1940’s Film Noir aesthetic will help to create a rich theatrical world and will feature strongly throughout the piece. With a transformative and imaginative set design from Rae Smith, partial images and shadows will create a dangerous and alluring atmosphere. Composer Nick Powell will create a score to help support the narration and crank up the tension to screaming level.

The Noir action will be inter-dispersed with bear facts, advice on what to do when confronted by a bear, a murder ballad, a revenge attack folk song and a Morecombe & Wise style breakfast scene dance.

Common misconceptions about Bears:

Myth: Shooting or relocating a 'nuisance' bear will solve the problem

Fact: Removing the bear and not the attractant will only create an opportunity for another bear to move in, creating a vicious cycle of conflict and killing...

Ideas and stimulus for making the show:

Crescent Moon Bear image from google
The Crescent Moon Bear is a beautiful old Japanese folk tale about a woman who is desperate to regain the connection with her husband after he returns home a changed man, broken from war. She seeks advice from a Shaman, who tells her that a potion could be made to cure her husband, but she would need to obtain a single hair from the throat of the crescent moon bear, who lived high up in the mountains. Taking on this courageous task the woman seeks out the bear, she struggles her way up the treacherous mountain with trepidation and after many long and days, she slowly gains the trust of the bear and coaxes him out of his cave. Once she has the hair in her possession she runs back to the healer with it. The healer then proceeded to throw the hair into the fire, claiming that the hair was no longer needed to make the potion and that she had everything she needed to re-connect with her husband.

We used this old tale as a stimulus for looking at the idea of transformation and how it's possible that when we think something is unreachable or unfeasible, we already have the very skill/emotion/ideas within us to make things happen. In our story the bear represents the power of anger and rage and how this strong and forceful emotion manifests itself.
During our first R&D phrase we looked at different images of bears and tried to understand the many myths that have surrounded bears for hundreds of years.
We worked with designer Rae Smith who sketched some bears -

Copyright: Rae Smith 2012 

City of Shadows - Sydney Police photographs 1912 -1948
These photographs were taken of both male and female prisoners, they were allowed to  decide for themselves what to wear in the photos. We quite liked that the women decided to wear fur.

Pomo Bear Doctors: 
The Pomo people, are an indigenous people of California, they had very strong ideas and believes centred around the mythology of creation and world order. They believed that certain people who held magical powers could transform themselves into Grizzly bears. Such Shamans were known as 'Bear Doctors'.