Stillpoint Theatre
  • BLOG
  • October18th

    Here is a letter i wrote to my family in Australia this morning that i thought might be fun to share.

    Dear family, a little newsy update from the crick in my neck of the woods! A kind of blow by blow diary if you will. Hope it is of interest.

    Today I caught the horrid, populous commuter train to London. October gloom ameliorated by glints of unseasonal sun shine sharding through windows and warding off the dying of the light. A huge day ahead. Training all the way out to Gunnersbury with massive blue suitcase.
    ‘…Where?’ I hear you ask.
    And well you might!
    Gunnersbury is to London what Paramatta is to Sydney.
    There to collect the physical where-with-all to enable my shows to happen. Performing 2 of my shows tomorrow at Merge Festival Bankside:

    So collecting those bits, then toting them across town in bin bags and wheelie airport bags to Bankside / Tate Modern with the kind assistance of my lovely new flat mate, the hirsute and frequently be-jeaned and be-headphon-ed Dave W.

    Dave W has an exceptional line in hip hop and free style MCing* (please see the glossary addendum for an explanation) and is an expert collector of vinyl discs of yesteryear. He is also, unexpectedly a financial journalist and man on a mission.

    Then the day will be spent rigging and focussing The Art of Catastrophe & The Growing Room. Bit of rehearsal. Then back to Gunnersbury for rehearsals with Geoff, my equally hirsute, though-beleaguered-by-hip-issues-and-may-soon-be-the-youngest-man-in-British-history-to-have-to-undergo-hip-replacement-surgery, * project manager. Geoff is exceptionally talented lighting designer with the bonus of having an MA in sound design for film, which nicely off sets the inconvenience of his sometimes over committed and under-resourced lifestyle.

    After rehearsals Geoff travels back to the Firestation at Windsor, where he is technical manager, to rig a design for Hull Truck theatre company over night for a show that opens tomorrow.* Crikey.

    If he added up the hours he puts in he probably earns about .05p an hour.

    Then i go to sleep.

    Tomorrow I meet the strapping, languid yet vibrant and unquestionably gorgeous cousin Victoria Z * for a relaxed brunch, then a borough market walk.

    Victoria, as you know has recently landed with her splendid Cal to be greeted by the grimmest of months and the bite and gripe of recession. Actually perhaps it isn’t the grimmest of all, as February surely tops it: with all the winter celebrations done, the bright snow melted into relentless drizzle and mush soup grey and the return of the light still not felt.

    I shall be warming Victoria up with family love, good coffee (which England has learnt to administer more decently of late) and probably jokes. The jokes are likely to be of reasonable quality as the mixture of stress and exhaustion generally fosters a lovely giddiness and free wheeling idiocy.

    Then I leg it to Bankside again to perform the 2 shows back to back with Geoff wheeling in with just one hour to spare having never seen the rig, with no time to rehearse and likely 2 hours sleep. In industry terms this is known as a ‘busk’ or ‘busking it’. Me and Geoff will be busking it like there’s no tomorrow, adrenalised by coffee and hope.

    Do that. Then travel home at midnight on the train with all my shows strapped down in several ill appointed oddly shaped bags like some mad woman: standard lamp, swivel chair, glitter ball (yes, TGR now has a glitter ball) blackboards, a whole swag of costumes.

    So just an ordinary few days in london then.

    Meanwhile, I moved house last week, between gigs in Newcastle, Liverpool, Horsham and London. At the new pad, things are slowly coming together. It feels at a glacial pace, though when i turn around, i am surprised to find that yet more has been accomplished. I have been working so hard and so frequently away from Brighton, that is has been hard to get down to it.

    Still sleeping on an air mattress with clothes hanging on the windows for curtains, no drawers and no desk to work at. It is like i am 21 again in all the worst of ways! BT is unable to install wifi until the 10th of December; they say this is because of the recession and the Olympics (…!) but at least we have got the heating working now and it is clean and warm and dry.

    And ours.

    Today Briar H and I are sending off for curtains, which will be made up and should arrive by the end of the week. In England, it is a now a fire hazard for land lords to leave curtains in unfurnished properties, so one inherits these places as pure skeletons. We require permission even to screw in curtain rails and yet even a screw will be deducted from our deposit. Being a tenant in this country reduces your rights exponentially: no wonder everyone is desperately clawing their way towards the property ladder.

    On Saturday my new desk arrives.

    It’s all happening.

    Love you all.

    Your pilgrim in the north,


    * MCing in the Urban Dictionary is described as ‘Self expression in hip-hop’. There you go, that clears it up, doesn’t it Grandma?

    * Geoff has found out he actually has Ankylosing Spondylitis. Bummer.

    * Geoff got it done today, so doesn’t have to go back. Now we are listening to The Civil Wars, talking about our new project and getting ready for kippage. Maybe even 6 hours of the stuff.

    * Victoria Z is a very talented photographer. Check her here:

    Merge Festival Bankside
    18th October 2012
    London SE19DE
    The Art of Catastrophe: 7.45pm
    The Growing Room: 9.45pm

    This event is sold out, but free, so might be worth the risk of elbowing your way in!

  • August2nd

    Check out our lovely Edinburgh poster!
    Soon to appear on a wall near (or not so near) you!
    You can click on it to see it in its full glory.

    We will be at Zoo Southside (Studio) from the 16th – 28th August, 4pm. Woop! Woop!

    There have been preview interviews here and there too. This from Edinburgh Fringe Previews is a good one.

    So it fast approacheth, like a truck steaming full tilt down a gun barrel highway… and even though we are only there for 2 wee weeks, it still seems to be generating an avalanche of work to do.

    Gun barrel highways are things that we Australians perhaps know better than most English folk. We have a need for traversing long distances, you see, across vast swathes of relatively undifferentiated landscape. Long straight roads that fire off horizon-wards, seemingly forever until eventually losing definition in a mirage of dust and rising heat. These roads projectile out for hundreds of miles across harsh baking landscapes with not a curve, bump or shrub-bigger-than-a-salt-bush to break the monotony.

    It makes me think passingly of a conversation i had with a friend recently about the trajectory of the Y chromosome through life, Nick Cave and his Death of Bunny Monroe… but that is best left for another blog.

    As a child, we would make great family pilgrimages in little cars across the vast Nullarbor Plain to visit Mum’s family in Perth. Crammed into mobile hot metal tins like sardines. Travelling shoulder to sweaty shoulder in the family Renault / Peugot / Tarago for upwards of 8+ hours a day.
    Adelaide – Perth: A 4 day drive with 5 of us in the car.
    Brisbane – Perth: A 6 day drive with 8 of us in the car.

    I marvel at the tenacity and pioneering spirit of my mother travelling first with my father and three of her own children, then again as that marriage was falling apart with the same brood, then a third and final time (or was there also a forth?) with my first step father, Don, his three kids, plus hers. Three times with feuding boisterous children, once with 6 (!) of us in the back seat and each time in unhappy marriages.

    Sometimes you don’t know how unhappy you have been until much later. You have been too busy surviving to properly see yourself. I think it is often the same with happiness (sadly). Anyway, it must have been hell for her.

    I was 7, 9 and 12. I assume these trips were made out of budgetary necessity, rather than a spirit of adventure, as there were so many of us and air travel was expensive.

    I remember arriving at a ‘camp site’ – effectively a patch of hard dry sand with a 360 degree horizon – just as the sun was escaping from view, or sometimes, if we’d timed it wrong, in the pitch black. The tent pegs driving into dry earth making the sound of a blacksmiths’ iron on stone.

    I remember watching the fuel gauge scraping ’empty’ and feeling my parent’s anxiety about how we’d manage the next few kilometres to a service station. Sometimes there were hundreds of kilometres between petrol stops. Break down out there and you are in serious trouble.

    I remember in the days before air conditioned cars, hanging wet towels over the open window, to soften the ferocious heat (45 – 50 degrees celsius) and after only half an hour, the towel baking snap dry like a biscuit.

    I also remember strange solitary creatures: Men, mostly, on various forms of improbably fragile looking transport: bicycles, a monocycle. We once saw a man on roller blades. I kid you not!! Hundreds of miles from the nearest service station and hundreds more from the nearest town. I recall him wearing crazy clothing; something high tech presumably; reflective to avoid the sun, aerodynamic, yet encumbered with devices and contraptions.

    He looked like he was from another galaxy.
    Maybe he was.
    Or perhaps I have imagined him.
    I’m not sure now…

    The Great Sandy Desert
    The Great Australian Bight
    The Great Dividing Range

    There is a pragmatism to many Australian place names, a dead-pan prosaic-ness; a determined lack of poetry and metaphor. I imagine some long suffering and inappropriately attired 19th century white explorer, delirious with heat, thirst and exhaustion, struggling to cartograph an exotic and extensive coral outcrop and thinking, ‘Fuck it! Its a great big reef and it acts like a barrier. THE GREAT BARRIER REEF???!! That’ll do. HAVE YOU GOT ANY BEER??!’

    I only noticed this once i moved away.

    Gertrude Stein maintained that only in exile one could truly represent one’s country and although i don’t hold it up as Truth, the idea does certainly hold something for me. Australia unfurls for me with distance. Its colours shine brighter and its shadows darken.

    I wondered if there was a tendency in British place names towards the opposite: A desire to make things sound more poetic, dramatic or intriguing than they actually are? (A bit like how just one night of snowfall in the South of England can provoke national rail closures and apocalyptic news headlines). I looked for evidence to support this theory and found it largely nonexistant. Damn! There is Devil’s Dyke, in East Sussex, which holds none of its suggested danger: Just a rolling hill, with a pleasant view overlooking the gently rolling Sussex Downs that taper down towards the gently lapping sea. But one example does not a case make.

    I guess the great delight with UK place names are the ones once innocently named, now cuckolded by history: Giggleswick, Shittington, Crackpot, Little Piddlington, Hen Poo and of course the creme of the crop: Cocklick End, Dildo, Buttock Point and Cockup Bottom… But now I’m straying onto Ken Campbell’s hallowed turf.

    And by christ i have massively digressed. I was intending to speak of Edinburgh and its rapidity of approachment! Anything to distract me from administration!!

    Erm, so briefly, some info:

    Steal Compass, Drive North, Disappear
    runs from the 16th – 28th of August at Zoo Southside
    Which incidently, if you are in the market for excellent physical theatre, is the home for you this fringe.
    Show runs from 4pm – 5pm
    Tickets are £9 full price, £7 conc
    You can book here or call the fringe box office: +44 (0)131 226 0000

    If you’d like to help us on our way, we have set up a crowd funding site through the brilliant WeFund platform. If you feel inspired, in exchange for donations, we’re giving away things like free tickets, merchandise, program mentions and lovely A2 posters.

    Tell your friends!
    Which reminds me; if you are looking for Edinburgh recommendations amidst the totally overwhelming field of possibilities, here is a hand picked list of few other Brighton based artist we’d highly recommend you check out while you’re up there:

    Inconvenient Spoof with their funny, raw anarchic and brilliant Naive Dance Masterclass.
    August 14th – 29th 6.50pm
    C-venues CEA

    Flying Eye with their intimate, beautiful and intriguing Cutting the Cord.
    4th – 27th August 6.45pm
    Big Belly, Underbelly.

    The Two Wrongies. Don’t miss these ladies. Nothing will prepare you for this show, suffice to say it is very rude indeed and you will be wronged, wronged and wronged all over again.
    3rd – 29th August 10.30pm
    Assembly George Square

    Il Pixel Rosso have a trip of a show on offer. And The Birds Fell From the Sky. Immersive video goggle/sound and sense experience with mad clowns.
    14th – 29th August
    many different time slots
    C venues C-eca

    Enough writing for one night!
    I guess the thing of all this is the seduction and delight of falling into memory and reflection when your face is pressed hard up against a deadline. Recalling all of this tonight when i really should be getting work done has almost felt like holiday.
    Well… sorta

    Certainly, the relative calm before the quite exciting storm!

    x Rachel B

  • June12th

    The Brighton Festival tapers off behind us in a tail of smoke.
    And Edinburgh looms.
    Also the possibility of a visit to the Aarhus Festival in Denmark early September.

    The Brighton experiment was exciting, exhausting and ultimately satisfying. Had a brilliant team in the Fire Cracker Lucy Moore, the inspired Geoff Hense and the two luminous Emmas. Also the pleasure of my mother and brother all the way from Australia for just one hectic week! Midwife Emma Kilbey totally pulled it out of the bag for a last minute bit of directorial brilliance and support on The Growing Room, even when her own play Shift was opening the very next night! She rushed off afterwards to hang telephone receivers from the theatre ceiling.
    As you do.
    She is a good woman that one.

    Sadly the Brighton Festival free sheet didn’t end up in the hands of the audience for The Growing Room, so there was no published evidence of our thanks. There will be a long list (following this sprawl) of all the ones who should have seen their names there.

    All three pieces went down very well. There’s a lovely review of The Art of Catastrophe here. Bringing it back to life was a total treat. I’d forgotten how beautiful a thing is is to be in the rehearsal room with the deep instincts of the whip smart Emma Roberts; how much humour there is in the tarriest of tar black places. There is a glorious review of The Growing Room by Nione Meakin who totally got it and loved it. here.

    It is always such a relief to know a piece basically works and translates. Tricky thing, this solo lark; the most important ingredient, the audience, being the mixing desk or antennae through which this all translates or doesn’t. Sinks or swims. And that being the point of it all after all.

    Alison Thompson from The Sunday Times listed the Triptych as her pick of the entire Festival and Fringe which was a lovely surprise.

    So all good and after a little more development on the third and final piece, we will be ready to put all of them on the road together.
    At least that is the plan.

    I was concerned about the stamina required (mine and the audiences) to program all three pieces in a single day as we had first imagined. The physical and emotional train wreck of The Art of Catastrophe being potentially as exhausting to perform as it is to experience! Audience feedback has suggested people want time to reflect and digest as the pieces are quite intense and complex.

    To unpack it all, I went with David to the Hay on Wye festival in Wales where he was doing a talk on Utopias at the How The Light Gets In philosophy festival. This is a small festival that runs beside its more famous literary bohemoth big brother. The literary festival, now run by The Telegraph and Sky news, has been sold off to corporate iconography, trade fair aesthetic and giantism. Pretty vile actually and a rude shock to those of us who had been lazing around in a tent in a field by a sparkling river, right next door only moments before.

    An unexpected treat was seeing the great poet and literary meanderer Iain Sinclair talk on the psychogeography of London and the UK. Really kicked off for me a desire to play with resonances of landscape. The symbology of landforms.

    England has always felt to me to be a liminal landscape of soft focus, damp, unclear vistas and soupy encounters. There is a yearning for heat, rock, deep water and open space. Also thinking about the shadow lands of Australia somehow residing in the bleached, harsh and un-arable desert. The hinterland at the edges of every white Australian’s consciousness; black history stretching far beyond white collective city unconscious. Our inherited European dreaming of cities and maps, paved pathways and pantheons. The ghosts at all our edges.

    Also about how we need our opposite (or an other) to flourish. To come up against. Spar with or simply behold. As an individual, tribe, species etc.

    It is strange then, that i don’t feel more at home here.

    Ran into the lovely, rangy and laconic Howe Gelb back stage at the Dome one afternoon, both of us in pre-gig preparations and snuck him into one of the showings of Steal Compass, Drive North, Disappear prior to his own show later that night. I would have returned the favour, but was busy washing chalk from theatre walls in preparation for Caroline Horton, who was next up with her pure and beautiful play You’re not Like The Other Girls, Chrissy.

    Howe declared himself a fan and pushed us Aarhus’s way. Lets hope it works. It turns out he is a bit of a magic man.

    A few recommendations from my post-festival treats: Spymonkey and their Love In. Most deliciously funny was their live rendition of this which still makes me laugh out loud sitting here at my desk and Petra Massey’s inspired gymnast. Liz Aggiss’s splendid Survival Tactics for the Anarchic Dancer and Seth Kriebel’s The Unbuilt Room (further excursions into psychogeography, but this time traversing the very ground beneath our feet). Also really enjoyed Matt and Silvia’s knowingly rough and mischeivous Naive Dance Masterclass presented under their moniker Inconvenient Spoof. What i am left with is this: What is the point of any art if there is not some kind of joy behind it? Even sitting quietly and secretly behind the scenes. Life is really too short for the other.

    Amidst other post festival come-down treats, had the the total pleasure of seeing Howe play last week in London at the Union Chapel with A Band of Gypsies and special guest appearances by John Parish and the belated discovery of the delicious Sarah Blasko. Also Australian and Brighton resident and possessor of quite fine and rare vocal bliss. Its quite a thing to watch these guys play together. Their joy is so apparent and the obvious delight in each other and those rare times great skill marries with animal instinct and grace. All held together by Howe’s gruff warm self effacing banter and natural magic. Inspiring stuff. Howe and I managed to annex a sliver of time to meet over several dangerously good single malts and then the horror of the late night / early morning train back home.

    So that’s May and the month that was.

    Accepting some kind of peace: that this ferocious, burning and incessant questioning might be counterpointed with a bit more acceptance of the unknowable and the unresolvable. Having come to the end of one long meditation on the struggle to love, these new shapes and questions have begun to arrive about land, family and belonging. So lets see where that investigation leads us.

    A long one this one.
    Next time won’t be such a gap.

  • May2nd

    A Busy Week
    Found some days to work with the mercurial and magical Wendy Houstoun last week thanks to the Nightingale’s excellent mentoring program. Started haltingly. An inertia bourn on my part out of a shyness and admiration for Wendy’s body of work and pedigree as well as an uncertainty about quite which language we might share.

    A night of terror followed fearing that it might all be broken beyond repair.

    Then a waking to realise it was indeed broken and what a relief, because it meant there was now space to re-imagine, re-configure and put it back together again very differently. break free of the structure that was chaining it down.

    So we began on the second day (with Wendy) breathing air and light into the re-configured material and it all began to feel alive again. Blessed relief!

    I’ve learnt a lot about how I don’t want to work this time around.

    A bit about the Tyranny of Story
    Normally, I tackle story last: I find some nuggets to develop whilst turning a deliberately blind eye to how it will all fit together eventually (but trusting that eventually it will). I choose this because I want to work unconsciously for as long as possible. Wrangling these nuggets into some kind of linearity towards the end of my process is always a bit full on and terrifying but if I pull it off, it gives a pleasing depth and texture and creates a fluency between the abstract and the literal passages, it also allows and creates space for the audience which i like very much.

    This time, however, following some well meaning advice and an idea that i might be able to save myself the stress of the full on / terrifying end bit, I thought i’d attempt to work anti-intuitively and tackle story first.

    What I’ve learnt is that it is much harder (for me) to incorporate accident and play in this way. The story arch can become a rod for your back. a kind of monster who’s linearity sucks all your creative impulses into it. You have to feed and feed, or risk losing the plot, figuratively and literally. Whilst this discipline is alright for some, I’ve learnt that it ain’t right for me. And it has been a relief to reclaim that. Wendy’s pulling apart has been a necessary dismemberment and for that I am very grateful!

    We also tech-ed The Growing Room in the Pavilion space 1 month before the impending first performance. Hair-raising to say the least and the first time i’ve needed to make lighting decisions so far in advance of a finalised piece! Over the two allocated days Geoff Hense and I probably had about 4 hours sleep between us. Got there in the end. Let it be known that Geoff Hense is a bloody star.

    Then last night had the pleasure of getting some photos done with the talented and singular Toby Amies

    We’re in Oxford this week with Steal Compass, Drive North, Disappear at Grove House!
    Will be interesting to see how black wool reads on white washed walls!

    Wednesday & Thursday 4th & 5th of May.
    You can buy tickets here.
    Do come if you are in the vicinity!