This speech is released on this blog at the same time as I'm making it - so there maybe some changes and if it is a little rough, please forgive me, this has been finished in a bit of a rush.
Hello Everyone, welcome to The BIG Project Launch – I’m just going to talk for a little bit to make sure the online connection is working... [AD LIB]
The name The BIG Project is a total misnomer – what I’m about to talk about is big, but it’s less a project as a way of life. It’s a lot of little things. But collectively they are BIG. It was only the other day that someone (who was in the know) pointed out it should have been called Project A.I.R.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the bar, of the online world, I am delighted to finally announce that I am the first ever Quay Theatre Artist in Residence.
I started residing here a few weeks ago, I just haven’t been able to tell anyone. This means that I’m going to be producing a seriously large amount of Art – theatrical, physical, mental. With the emphasis on the mental.
The residency is to last until the end of 2014, and though I’m going to be doing a fair amount in the fag end of this year, the real meat begins on January 1st 2014. A lot of what I’ll be doing for this residency will be a bit random – we’ll see what comes up as I go along. There will be live theatre, online audio work, street theatre, performance art, installations perhaps. The Quay has given me the space, let’s see how I fill it.
But I wouldn’t get you here for vagueness - there are also lots of solid plans. To guide you through what I’m going to produce, and what I’d like you to help me do, I’ve broken the residency into four themes - Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue.
The first project of the residency has already started and is a holistic, rolling project which will hopefully have a long life over the next five / ten years. It’s called BEFORE SHAKESPEARE
Twitter Feed: @B4Shakespeare
Before Shakespeare there were hundreds of years of dramatic evolution across the British Isles. Apart from a few noble exceptions these plays are often passed over, ignored or simply unknown. Much is simply lost. This Project is about what came before Shakespeare, about the plays, fragmentary and extant, that shaped the theatrical world that shaped our dramatic history – and it will explore this world through the words and the sounds of those words. Though these plays do get performed occasionally, they are often not recorded, they disappear from sight in a way that Shakespeare and many of his contemporaries do not. So, in a small way, I will begin creating recordings of speeches, scenes and (hopefully) full audio productions of plays rarely experienced away from the page.
Accompanying these recordings will be additional material, discussion and talks on the plays and anything else that comes to mind at the time. I’ll hopefully be joined by other actors, directors, academics to help create new recordings and feed your interest. I hope that others will join in, creating their own versions and share them.
I’ve already started recording some pieces – bits of The Summoning of Everyman, the play God’s Promises by Suffolk lad John Bale and hope to begin on the plays of John Heywood and The Chester Mystery Cycle over the next few months.
Not only will I be producing these online, there will be live versions – I’m reviving my production of The Summoning of Everyman (more on that later) and producing with the Guildhall in Lavenham a show called Fit For A King – presenting two Tudor Entertainments from the Court of Henry VIII - The Pardoner and the Friar & John, John and His Wife Tibb. That’s performing at The Lavenham Guildhall on Friday 24th January 2014 - ticket Information Coming Soon
But, to be honest, exciting though the Before Shakespeare project is, it is just the side show – the occasional thing. I’ll pootle away at that for years. Now for the meat. We’ve covered something old, now for something new
I have been playing it safe. For the last few years I’ve been letting all the crazy ideas stew inside my brain, now is the time to let them out! Starting on the 1st January and lasting for the whole of 2014 I’m going to write and perform the works that should never happen, in as many different ways as possible – online as audio/video/text as well as live on stage in diverse venues - from theatres, to function rooms, to your living room – if you invite me in.
Each of the Ten Projects are completely new, never seen or heard before works and will be accompanied by texts, audio recordings, books, downloads, videos and any other medium I can manage to record and disseminate beyond the four walls of a traditional theatre space. I want these projects to be available to people around the world. Today’s live streaming, still relatively low tech at present, is a declaration of intent. The live performances will be mostly be in very small spaces – ticketing will average only ten to twenty people a night – but many will be available to all thanks to the internet. Not only that, all live performances will be Pay-What-You-Want where possible, so you can judge how much my work is worth.
Project 10/52 all kicks off on January 1st with the first instalment of a weekly audio work broadcast online every Wednesday. Project One is The Trolls Trilogy.
I wrote a storyteller show a couple of years ago called The Natural History of Trolls – I’m going to write the rest of the Trilogy, starting with Lost Tribe of the Trolls, which will be broadcast January to June ish, followed by The Paper Moon Trolls until the end of the year. And for those who missed the first part of the trilogy – that will be available free online this Christmas. Over the year the online broadcasts will build, with omnibus editions once a month for easy catch-up, ending with a special performance of the whole trilogy here at the Quay Theatre in December 2014 – which will also act as the end of Project party! Follow me as I meet a Recording Angel, the lost Trolls of Luton and the adopted son of the Trolls, Peter Git. And for actors out there - casting for this project is now open.
The second project will perform here in February – it’s called You Have Been Watching.
It’s an exploration of surveillance culture and I’ll be looking to involve local performers in this, as the way we use cameras in day to day life has largely impacted the young. Not only that, I want the audience to use their mobile phones, ipads, cameras of any sort, to record the performance in progress – then share that material online to create a palimpsest version of the show. These will stay up individually, and hopefully be used to create an “official” version which I’ll share after the show. This is a show that maybe more installation / performance art than traditional theatre/drama – if it doesn’t head off that way, then I will record an audio version to go online as well.
Project 3 will appear in March and will be straight theatre – it’s a play called Hang for reasons that will become clear if you catch the show. It’s a collection of stories about what we consider normal – how our attitudes to normal can be incredibly fluid. Take the story of Brian. Brian wants to be a zebra. He’s passionate about his case, but he is obviously a freak. But then the world turns inside out - people are starting to turn into animals and no one knows why. How do the new people fit into this brave new world. This will be available online as an audio drama at least, a video version would be lovely, but let’s not run before we can walk. Casting for this play is now open.
Project 4 I have an exact date for its first performance – it’s Wednesday 23rd April 2014 – otherwise known as Shakespeare day! It’s his 450th Birthday next year and so I’m writing two plays which touch on his work. This first is The Juliet Inquiry and will be performed at the Lavenham Guildhall. It’s a complete re-imagining of the play where the two families are close friends until Romeo and Juliet get together – only then does the feud start. Set during and in the aftermath of the 2011 riots, this is a story of how love and desire can destroy as well as heal. Again, there will be an audio version, and casting is open now. In June there will be a what if play about Shakespeare himself, Historic Crimes, which won’t please the purists.
And while I’m on the subject of Shakespeare, online as part of my residency, I’m producing a year long series of recordings called Shakespeare the Poet.
Over Shakespeare’s birthday year I will be performing every single piece of non-dramatic poetry Shakespeare wrote, as well as a few choice pieces from the plays as well. Starting with the sonnets and mixing in other verse, there will be a different bit of verse to listen to online, available on audioboo. Mixed in with that will be the the Narrative Poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. Special pop-up performances of these works and The Sonnets and other short verse are also planned, hopefully in odd venues and with very little prior warning. Unless you’re a contributor, then you’ll get loads of notice, but that’s something I’ll talk of later on.
Back to Project 10/52
I’m not going to go into detail of all the productions planned by Project 10/52. There’s my homage to B-Movies Beware of Blob in May – for which I will need a lot of volunteers to blow up balloons. Historic Crimes, as mentioned, in June and in August my response to the anniversary to the declaration of war in 1914 – Metal Harvest – a piece that will explore how people are still being killed by that war.
But I will make a special mention of Project 7 which will be available for performance anytime and anywhere (within reason) from the latest July till 31st December 2014, I call this project Home Invasion of the Storyteller and it’s a way of spreading my work beyond Suffolk and the internet, without the cost and hassle of organising a tour. This is a touring show travelling to a venue near you – your house! Anyone can invite me to give a private performance, so long as you supply guests, reasonable refreshment and (if a long way away from Suffolk) and sofa to kip on. I’ll tell two stories – one from my ganderbag of past work and a brand new piece written specially for Project 10/52 –
Attack of the Christmas Squirrels is not a Christmas show. Don’t you just hate it when adverts for Christmas start – even in the middle of summer? Well, that’s what the show is about. The hero of the story – Reg – hates Christmas adverts and decides to save Christmas by training a crack squad of squirrels to remove all trace of Christmas and return it to something special. But can Reg stop himself from going too far, destroying Christmas completely?
I won’t charge a set fee for the show, just politely ask the guests to give what they can, as with the other shows on offer. If the performance is far away you will need to give up a sofa for a over-night stay. NB: This show is NOT for children’s parties - though children can be guests so long as adults vastly outnumber them.
So, that’s... almost everything... but before I mention the last few shows, I have to get to the vital part of this gathering. It’s all very well being the artist in residence – but I can’t do all this alone. I need help. And that brings me to the third theme...
Help! I’m looking for actors, collaborators, helpers, balloon blower uppers, witnesses and the kindness of strangers. As I work I’ll use social media to call out for random objects, props, and sometimes just someone else to be in the room. Making yourself up to be a zebra is weird if you do it by yourself, it isn’t when there are friends.
So, don’t be a stranger, you think all this is interesting – send me a Tweet, or email or whatever – if I can get you involved, then I will. If I can’t – then, what harm has it done? You said “HELLO”. I like hello.
And then there’s the question of budget. I need help there too. There will be a financial return for me from these shows, but it probably won’t be much. So I’ve started a two pronged approach to fundraising – there are to be some live events this year and also there’s an online campaign, which I urge you all to please give sometime to. I’ve started a crowd source fundraiser with wefund and I’m asking for £2000 – which for a year’s work is nothing. If everyone in this room and everyone online gave £10 / 20 then it’s done. And if you give, there is a return – ten pounds gets you a thank you and priority booking and updates on pop-up shows but twenty pounds or more gets you a copy of one of the scripts/making of books that accompany Project 10/52 as well as other content no one else gets.
And then there’s all sort of other grovelling thank yous I can devise. I want anyone who gives to feel part of the project – so if you’ve given then you’re part of the conversation, you are a stake holder. I want to make sure I have an audience before I begin, to have people who want to engage with the work I’m producing, as well as helping me to transmit the work further online to the rest of the world. Your support now means I have a budget, an audience and support before I go to the dread market.
The live fundraisers are in London and Suffolk. Firstly there are (currently) two performances of The Summoning of Everyman – one at the London Theatre on Saturday 26th October and here at the Quay on November 11th. Obviously, as fundraisers, I’d hope you give generously.
The other live fundraiser is here, in this very room – a one-to-one Storytelling show – on Saturday lunchtimes called The Storyteller Will See You Now. You book your slot and get a personal, one-to-one story told in my little story tent. Sign up sheets are available here, online people there will be an email address to contact for your slot. I’ve got two dates for that at present - the 12th & 19th October, from 12.20 at 20 minute intervals until 2.40pm - but if there’s more demand, more slots will appear. Again, it’s Pay-Want-You-Want as you leave. Cross my palm with silver.
And now to the last theme – we’ve had something old, something new, something borrowed...
Milk Bottle Productions has now adopted an official rating system.
Red Top – Skimmed Milk – fine for all. This is for shows like Attack of the Christmas Squirrels and Beware of the Blob. Harmless and silly.
Green Top – Semi-skimmed – some language but not excessive.
Blue Top – full fat. I.e. Potentially obscene. I have decided that it is time to stop censoring myself, and so there are two projects which may – they may not – not be your cup of tea. If so, don’t come.
They are - Project 9 – projected for September – which is called The Single Source of All Filth. According to the Rev. Jeremy Collier (deceased) the single source of all filth was the theatre – so time to prove him right. It’s going to be a Cabaret of Censorship and, well, filth. Open minded auditionees welcome.
And less light hearted is Project 10 – projected for October – called Shiny Medusa.This is a serious look at the male mind, in light of modern feminist campaigns about the depiction of women. It’s a nightmare of fantasy made manifest, of dreams taking revenge, of turning yourself into something plastic and shiny... the Shiny Medusa. Again, open minded casting is open.
To conclude – there’s a lot going on. A lot of it is me pootling, a lot involves others. For those worried that my recent health issues might get in the way – let me assure you this has been taken into account. It is because I’ve been ill for the better part of two years that I am grabbing this good health by the scruff of the neck – and I’ve got understudies if I fall ill.
For the professional actors on the tinernet, I’m looking for people now. I can’t give full break downs as much of this is unwritten, what I’m looking for are people I can work with, who I click with artistically. The work is sporadic, so, though fee paying, is not going to get anyone rich, but that means it should fit round other work commitments. If you’re interested send me an email and a CV and we’ll meet up and go from there.
Local people, don’t have to make such an effort – I’m here, I’ll tell you when I’m in the building – just collar me.
So, lastly, there is information to take away – on my blog or here physically – and there are things to sign up for – performances (there are reservation sheets) and pledges to give online. I’ve got till November to find the money, otherwise it’s prostitution. So, sign up, sign in, get involved. Follow me on Twitter @RobertCrighton or my blog, email me, get in touch.
Thank you all so much for your patience. This is Robert Crighton, Artist in Residence, signing out.