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Stillpoint Theatre
Stillpoint Theatre
  • May3rd

    Last night was one of the edgiest times I’ve ever had in a theatre. I am still processing it but feel the need to write about it even as I am as yet unsure how to approach it with words.

    It was the final London performance of a play I’m in called The Bombing of the Grand Hotel. It is the story of the relationship that developed between Pat Magee and Jo Berry. Pat is the IRA operative who planted the bomb and Jo is the daughter of a Tory MP who was killed in the blast. It is set against a back ground of Thatcherism, the Irish/British conflict and traverses the late 70’s through to the present day. ultimately it is about two people finding a path towards reconciliation against incredible odds. Both protagonists are still living and the events are current enough to stir up very fresh feelings in the audience.

    It is a play that elicits strong emotions – it is triggery material – and I think does an admirable job of digging into the moral complexity and nuance of the subject – the human cost and causes of politically motivated violence and the path towards healing – with out lapsing into sentiment, polemic, easy answers or didacticism. It has been written by Josie Melia and Julie Everton and knocked into shape by the tireless Paul Hodson and Emma Roberts and the dedicated cast. Pat is exquisitely rendered by Ruairi Conaghan and the rest of the cast are utterly – just utterly – incredible. Aoife McMahon, Paul Mundell, Glenn Speers and Beth Fitzgerald. There is a lot of care in the room and a LOT of commitment to the intentions of the piece.

    I play Jo.

    Jo Berry and I after one of the London shows in spectrum matching jumpers.

    Jo Berry and I after one of the London shows in spectrum matching jumpers.

    Last night there was someone in the audience for whom my character very tangibly represented the enemy. I felt it immediately, as soon as I walked onstage, before anything was said or i saw who it was or how many there were. i just felt it as a hostile force to my right. And whilst the animal in me felt threatened, the watching part began rifling through possible worst case scenarios and exit strategies. The hostility was so tangible I wondered if he might try getting up to hit me. Even if he might have a gun or some other kind of weapon. I had no way of gauging if these were over reactions because i couldn’t look at him. The threat was clear and present.

    He was pissed up, looking for a fight, goaded on by the women he was with, stupid, violent and pointing it all towards me – or what I appeared to represent to him. I felt extremely vulnerable and initially was very thrown by it.

    There is a certain amount of entrapment as an actor. For the next hour and a half I am tied to this particularly awful railway track – A Tory daughter utterly dismembered by grief, being verbally abused by someone who hates me – And there is no getting out of it. I am trapped by the fucking forth wall, the story arc and the character trajectory – I am held to ransom by my own character.

    He said some truly horrible things. In a sequence about Jo’s pregnancies he was muttering – ‘breeding like a horse’. ‘Tory whore’ and other things. It was hard core. When Pat Magee is shown a body of a decapitated woman and turns his eyes away, he shouted ‘good man Pat’ and again when the word ‘conflict’ was mentioned, punching the air and shouting ‘yeah’ when the bomb went off. It was fucking intense. I felt extremely unsafe.

    I might normally have been better at protecting myself – in my thoughts – but I’d had a tough week. I’d been rehearsing another show each day and performing this one every night. Putting in 12 – 14 hour days and not getting time to eat properly or sleep enough. By the time the 2 shows on Saturday hit I was a bit shaky anyway and broken by exhaustion. So my defences were low. I hate aggression. I hate it. the emotional kind, the physical kind, all kinds. to me or to someone else. It hurts me. It hurts my heart. It is like an allergy. It hurts me to see it done to another, hurts me to experience myself exacting it on someone. We are all capable of it somewhere. It literally hurts. if it happens to another, especially if i am emotionally close to them, it rips through my body as if it was happening to me. I am so weirdly physically empathic it has caused me all sorts of problems in life. I can feel how people are wired on the inside sometimes. It isn’t voluntary. it just happens to me. It is a physical experience. Thankfully science has caught up with it now and there are all sorts of synesthesias that can help describe it. I am no longer simply ‘over sensitive’ I have a thing i can point at with charts and everything. It helps. Great for acting. Shit for having a quiet life. I have to go and have time alone just to tune out of all the kinaesthetic emotional racket!!!

    Needless to say, we, the cast, were all taken off guard and in the interval we had a discussion with the stage manager about whether we should boot him out or not. we decided that no, he should be allowed to stay because if he decided to come back for the second half at all, the point of the play – some of the more hard hitting material around empathy and listening – might begin to kick in for him (or not as it turned out!) But either way, it might be an opportunity to test the metal of the content. we all agreed that the fact that this guy had found his way into a theatre at all was kind of miraculous and that we weren’t just speaking to the Guardian readership liberal theatre middle classes. (my god, how often are we preaching to the converted?!!!) The fact that he had come at all was testament to the impact of the material. And we attacked the second half with a stronger sense of commitment and support of each other in the face of this aggressive edge. I felt tremendous rallying and encouragement and LOVE from the creative team & suddenly a way through felt possible again.

    In the second half he was just as, if not more, obnoxious and he’d had more beer. but aspects of the play leapt to life inside us – as if it’s purpose or intent had been ignited in some bespoke way. Swathes of it felt like it was pointing directly at him. For him. His presence was this acute amplification device…

    Jo: I didn’t want to be a casualty of my anger. If I was still angry, the only person I would be hurting would be myself you know and I would be stuck. I would be closed down. My heart would be shut. I could feel that. And I would have lost out.
    For me it became a clear choice – do I blame an enemy? And live with that. And the consequences of that. Which would have meant that/

    Pat: yes that. exactly that.

    Jo: / my heart would have closed down and I would have suffered more…
    Or do look at letting go of blame, looking at the causes with in myself, my group, my tribe, where I come from and try to, try to heal that?

    ……

    At the same time there was someone in the audience, a different person, who was very emotionally and vocally responsive to Jo’s pain, clearly a victim of violence of some kind. so there was this whole other bespoke amplification going on.

    Jo: We need to provide a safe environment for pain like that to be heard. It doesn’t get any easier, but it is essential that we keep trying.

    The play chimed in a whole new way.

    Afterwards there were many intense hugs between the cast members for having gotten through it. It felt like we’d survived something dangerous. In the bar I drank a glass of wine in a way which was definitely medicating – a practice I normally have a strict rule with myself about- and I had to find a way to have proper conversations with people even though my identity was leaking out of the hole in the back of my head and my skin was in a crumpled heap on the floor.

    Early rehearsals. Ruairi Conaghan looking knackered, Aoife McMahon looking on and me doing some kind of pointing acting.

    Early rehearsals. Ruairi Conaghan looking knackered, Aoife McMahon looking on and me imagining something between my thumb and forefinger, obviously.

    And everyone was talking about how electric it had been. People wanted to come up and share their stories. A few asked if that guy had been a plant. I still didn’t have any skin on.

    He was still there in the foyer. With his back to me, but with all his etheric attention piercing through his back towards me. Eventually he singled me out to speak to me. I didn’t feel resistant or scared by him at this point and was surprised to find I had energy for it. Like Jo does with Pat in the play, i wanted to meet the human being behind the ideologue. There was also a kind of anthropological fascination with how he arrived at this person he was being and a wonder at what had shifted in him. Because his energy had definitely shifted. Perhaps by the play. Perhaps by the other audience member’s response. I don’t know, but I could feel his violence had ebbed away. He seemed smaller. A bit confused. I found I could be present with him. I felt there was something in this encounter of a kind of living experience of the subject matter. He was trying to be sensitive.

    Aoife McMahon came up – feisty, protective, clear hearted and brave and said to him
    ‘do you realise that you hurt this woman?
    Him: No I didn’t. She’s alright, aren’t you?
    Me: I found it very hard actually. Some of the things you said did hurt, yes
    Him: I didn’t… I didn’t really though…did I?

    (more confusion and unfinished sentences).
    he kept stumbling on. he wanted me to know he’d been in the IRA – (98% bollocks) that i had no idea what he had been through (98% likely). He was looking for leverage. I could see him calibrating in some remote part of himself that I am Australian. That i was being kind and listening. That 4 of the cast are Irish, three of them from the North. That they all have history. That we all, each of us have history. Each of us have some semblance of blood on our hands. every single one of us. NOW, how do we get on with the business of loving?

    Some part of me didn’t have the energy to leave. If i’d more skin on, i would have done.

    A sandwich short of a picnic maybe, but I feel sure he took something tangible away from the experience of last night. some seed sprouted deep with in his walls of belligerent resistance.
    He definitely took something away…
    I’m just trying to work out if part of what he took away was some invisible bit of me.

    Eventually Aoife pulled me away to be with the others. I felt grateful.

    Anyway.
    Theatre eh?
    Phew.

    The over riding thing i came away with is to do with listening and love and how listening with openness and making space in yourself for another’s story can change the anatomy of things. Also how being too open at the wrong moment can make you very vulnerable to the poisoned darts of wounded idiots.
    And kindness.
    Kindness.
    Can there ever be enough of it?
    Kindness and tenderness.
    Oh man.
    Gentleness and kindness.
    Kindness in the heart.
    Courage to find kindness in the heart
    And if you can’t be kind, be tolerant.
    And if you can’t be tolerant, just walk away.
    And if you are under attack..? then what?
    I don’t know but just not violence.
    Not violence.
    Please not that.

    And theatre. That it can still be so LIVE – ALIVE – ESSENTIAL like this. And Meryl Streep being interviewed about her part in August Osage County and saying she has grown very weary of being asked to dip into the well of pain again and again. And how as actors we are these antenna – kind of portals – amplifiers of the human experience, human pain. Acrobats of the heart. And how that requires a certain access and vulnerability that most people take for granted. Even those that are hiring them, or loving them. That kind of access becomes a currency. That the idea of being a window pane and getting self out of the way is a wonderful practice, and how sometimes you also need a very defined self on board or it is dangerous.

    And yet I wonder what the point of doing it at all is if we are not stirring something essential and urgent in us up. If there isn’t some element of species recognition that happens as a result of the live transference, if not, then what are we doing really? If there isn’t some movement. Real movement. Internal movement. Then what’s the point? In this sense in a very real way, last night was indeed electric. but I do wonder at the cost. For me there were some uncomfortable lines crossed and i guess I’ll just get better at dealing with that in the future. It will be a muscle i develop more strength in through use. Still, kindness.

    So more questions than answers.
    And i might be too tired to be making much sense.

    Before i have too much time to think
    Tomorrow. Back at it.
    Now. Bed.

    For more on Jo Berry and Pat Magee’s extraordinary work on peace and reconciliation, go to Building Bridges for Peace

    To see the play – there are 3 shows left in Brighton next week. The 6th, the 7th & the 9th of May at the Warren. Tickets nearly gone apparently.

    PEACE

  • April18th

    Getting organised with public workshops this year and very excited about some new collaborations. Starting in May and running through to the Summer solstice, we a running a brand new series of evening workshops with amazing technology artist Kate Genevieve. Called FEELING SENSING PERCEIVING: Technology and Sensing The Body And Environment, it will be an investigation into our capacity for sensory perception. It features a final session out doors in the Sussex Woodlands.

    The next 10 week evening course of APPLYING THE SKILLS OF THE ACTOR begins on the 11th September in Brighton on Thursday evenings. This is open to anyone and requires no prerequisite skill base. is not about learning to be an actor, but applying the skills of the actor to life to enhance presence, playfulness and creative flow.

    We will also be running our professional development workshop PURE CREATION for writer/performers in Exeter this Summer. Look out for late Summer dates of this workshop in London coming soon.

    And, it is a while away yet, but the piece Stillpoint were commissioned to create for Fuel Theatre‘s Phenomenal People goes on tour again in Autumn. Watch this space for UK dates.

    Mean time, here is a new bit of blog for your reading pleasure.

    Enjoy the sunshine!
    xx

  • October17th

    So we have had some lovely new photos done by Geraint Lewis For Moon Project while we were at Oxford Playhouse last week. They show off Pearl Bates set beautifully.

    Here are a few to tease you. Click on ’em to make them bigger.


    Jules Munns – Shahab in the star field


    Rachel Blackman – Leila in flight

    There’s also a promo video we’ve just released with some behind the scenes footage, show teasers and interviews by Joe Murray.

    Check our listings page for upcoming tour dates and details of our London run with Ovalhouse.

    More soon…xx

  • September16th

    So we are about to begin our third week in the rehearsal room making Moon Project. Here is a blog about the process so far, with some lovely pictures by Greg Allum.

    Enjoy.

    x

  • May16th

    Well, it has been quiet on the surface recently here at Stillpoint HQ, but the truth is, we have been busy busy preparing ourselves for a zesty summer and a feverishly hectic Autumn.

    The Art of Catastrophe is on at the Ignite Festival in Exeter on the 8th of June. Come down and see us!

    Then we get on with making our brand new piece Moon Project. This will be our first two hander and a more ambitious work than we have attempted to date. We have assembled a team that we are dead excited about. They include our regular team, plus some new folk. Jules Munns and Rachel Blackman will be performing with direction from Paul Hodson and Emma Roberts and design by Geoff Hense and Pearl Bates. We’ll be creating the piece together with concept and script by Rachel Blackman. To find out more about everyone’s roles, go here.

    We are also excited about our new partners. We’ll be teaming up with Theatre in the Mill in Bradford and South Street Reading to build the piece, then we are delighted to announce that Ovalhouse, London, will also be supporting and co-producing a season in November.

    The image above is the promo image for the new piece. It was photographed at the Science Museum in London where our friend Colin managed to find us a space to shoot as well as source a reproduction of an original Apollo mission space helmet! Jules was so excited he nearly collapsed. The fragments were shot by Briar Ellen Photography, design is by Stillpoint and zero gravity effect is by your brain…

    We also have summer workshops coming up. The one is on the 20th of July in Brighton.

    Enjoy the sunshine. xx

  • November19th

    So here’s to fragile new beginnings. 2013 sees the emergence of a brand new piece that has been quietly seeding in the back ground since the beginning of 2012 where it began life as a Fuel Theatre residency at Dartington Hall. Called The Moon Project: home, we are scratching 10 minutes of new material at The Nightingale Theatre on the 8th of December, if you fancy a sneak peak.

    Two people suffer nostalgia for impossible futures:
    One yearns for home but can never return.
    The other yearns for escape but can never leave.
    You are invited – with us – to exhume the anatomy and cosmology of their colliding trajectories.
    The Moon Project: home is about a car crash. It is about life (and love) after death.
    .

    Stillpoint have also been invited with artist Emma Kilbey to make a piece of spontaneous work for City Running in Bristol on the weekend of the 30th of November. This involves scouring the city for inspiration then presenting the piece later that very night. Exciting, challenging and sleep depriving indeed.

    City Running is the brain child of Rowena Easton and is about exploring and documenting an urban environment. For more information on how it works go here.
    If you are interested to participate the applications are still open so maybe see you there! City Running is being produced in Bristol by MAYK.

  • October18th

    Got a few shows on tomorrow at Merge, Bankside.
    We’re doing The Art of Catastrophe and The Growing Room.
    Here’s a little blog to celebrate.
    All the info you need is there, plus a lot more that you probably don’t, but might enjoy.
    Scroll down to the bottom if you just want the low down.

  • May14th

    Mr.Clarke, by Mr.Chrisp

    Well, our most intmate show ever, The Department of Unreliable Memoirs is well underway and our first reviews are tinkling in. There is still time to make an appointment with our office and pretend to be someone else for 10 minutes, facilitated by our sensational hostesses!

    Here is a snap of our lovely clerk, Mr.Clarke in Department attire ready to invite you into our unfeesable and playfully off kilter world.

    Here are our dates for the remaining shows at The Old Market at the Brighton Fringe 2012.

    Next up Ms.Kilbey and I will be at The Pulse Festival, Ipswich as part of The Campsite on the 1st and 2nd of June.

    For those of you who have already visited, we have been capturing your memories in photographs and you will be able to view them via a special portal on this website soon. Oh boy!

    Happy fringe everyone.

    More soon. xx RB

  • February3rd

    We’ve hit the ground running in 2012.

    In February Stillpoint begins work on a fourth full length piece of work with musician Nick Norton-Smith in beautiful Dartington. The weeks residency has been sponsored by Fuel. It is early days, but we are thinking we’d like to build a two hander around the idea of space travel, home and distance. How far can you travel before the connection gets too thin and return becomes impossible?

    We’ve also been commissioned by Fuel to contribute some work to the Phenomenal People project in the WoW Festival at the Southbank Centre in March (9th – 11th). Stillpoint, along with 17 other artists will be making 10 minute pieces in response to women who inspire us. Contributing artists include Katie Mitchell, Nic Green, Lois Weaver and the incredible Peggy Shaw, Hannah Ringham, Victoria Mosely and many more. We feel very excited, a little bit scared and deeply grateful to have been invited to participate in this.

    You can buy day passes to the festival here

    Also coming up, the much anticipated return of The Growing Room in its first outing since The Brighton Festival 2011 and the Premiere of Triptych: Three Attempts at Love in London

    THE GROWING ROOM
    4th April: South Street, Reading.
    Preview £5.
    11th, 12th & 13th April: Nightingale Theatre, Brighton.
    Premiere £8.50 / £6.50 tickets

    TRIPTYCH: THREE ATTEMPTS AT LOVE
    18th – 21st April: Camden People’s Theatre
    Premiere £10 / £8 (check back here soon for tickets)

  • October31st

    A new micro project emerged from its chrysalis this Sunday the 29th as part of Brighton’s wonderful White Night celebrations. A co-production between Stillpoint, Emma Kilbey and the Nightingale Theatre, the Department of Unreliable Memoirs is an intimate encounter for one audience member. It invites you into a little world of shifting memory, secret lives and mischief.

    In celebration of the lifting of the Ban on Dubious Facts, The Dept of Unreliable Memoirs has recently reopened its Brighton bureau! Make an appointment with our helpful hostesses to retrieve a half forgotten moment, from a past you may well have had.

    We had a wonderful night, chock full of appointments, with many rediscoveries and much hysterical laughter as the clock ticked towards 2am.

    If you missed us this time, do keep an eye out, because we will be back with a whole host of fresh memories to revive for you and next time maybe even a momento for you to take home!