Burn the Curtain

South West Interactive Promenade Theatre Company

Author: burnthecurtain

The Company of Wolves Blog by Alexander Warn – The Huntsman

The Long Distance Actor

Rewind 20 years. I’m 13, sat in a sparsely populated class because it’s sports day and I’m a ‘reserve’ for my team. There is a knock at the door. It’s another student.

“Excuse me sir can we talk to Alex please?” Permission granted.

“Alex we need you to run the 1,500m will you do it?”

In minutes I’m changed and on the starting line. Ready, set, go! Three and three-quarter laps of the less then smooth grass running track.

What was I running for? Team points.

What was I running from? Maths (I would have done anything to get out of maths.)

The last 100 metres – sprint hard. Legs burn, breathing is heavy, don’t neglect arms. I cross the finishing line… fifth. No team points. Just the knowledge that I had played my small part in sports day eventually. My dreams of being a professional sportsmen were already over by then. But a lesson called Drama seemed to fill that void…

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The Company of Wolves is another departure for us. We have split audiences up before but not in this fashion. Taking runners and walkers down different paths to different experiences alongside shared ones. All in the failing light of the day. We’re rather enjoying our new venture into the night “muhahahahaha.”

Promenade theatre always coughs up a unique challenge. You see I’ve had a few mad dashes to get to other scenes, all actors do. However I can safely say I hadn’t been required to run 2k to get to my next scene before. For that reason alone pre-rehearsal training was essential. The last time I ran this regularly was my school days. No audience wants to struggle to hear a wheezing actor! Also promenade, like running, can at times give you a strong sense of isolation. Which is rather handy when playing someone like The Huntsman.

Who is he? He is an amalgam of various forms of huntsmen that appear in Angela Carter’s stories. Part detective, part survivalist and thanks to a cool costume provided by Ruth Webb – part bird of prey. The Huntsman exists on the periphery, spending a lot of time off the path. Which is only advisable for the experienced hunter.

The Huntsman

The Huntsman

Now 20 years later let’s ask these two questions again;

What am I running for? The story.

What am I running from? I can’t possible say. I’ve already revealed far too much…

The Company of Wolves Blog by Becca Savory – Wolf Alice

Making this show, I’ve been thinking a lot about wolves.  I’ve researched them and I’ve tried to move like them, I’ve tried to think like them and see the world like them.  I’ve even found myself locking eyes with a wolf-like dog in the midst of our outdoor rehearsals and freezing, with ears pricked, as some confused half-recognition passes between us.

In her book Women who run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estés writes:

“If a story is seed, then we are its soil.  Just hearing the story allows us to experience it as though we ourselves were the heroine who either falters or wins out in the end.  If we hear a story about a wolf, then afterward we rove about and know like a wolf for a time… In a very real way, we  are imprinted with knowing just by listening to the tale”.

I stumbled on these lines mid-way through the making of Company of Wolves, and they came back to me with a bump the day after our opening night.  I’ve been playing the character Alice, a woman raised by wolves, ‘civilised’ a little by nuns, but who – throughout our telling of the story – never speaks, only whimpers and howls.  On the second day of our run in Exeter I bumped into someone who’d been in the audience on our opening night.  He was coming out of a doorway, I was going in, and we collided in the porch.  He did a double take as he realised how he knew me – then, without a moment’s thought, he did the only sensible thing.  In mid-afternoon in a public car park, he lifted up his chin and he howled.

Wolf Alice in the Wild Woods

Wolf Alice in the Wild Woods

As a performer I know from experience how stories that you immerse yourself in can ‘imprint’ themselves on you, running through your dreams and in the background of your subconscious, becoming more and more a part of you the more you bring them to life.  Each performance, each production, accumulates in your memory – your history – and becomes (as Estés would have it) a part of your ‘knowledge’.  And I can think of no greater response from an audience member than for them to reveal how a story you shared together, an experience you were both part of, has imprinted itself onto them in some way.  The howl said it all.

I think this is one of the most important things we try to do in our shows, this attempt to include our audience in the imaginative work of telling a story.  (Estés calls it ‘participation mystique,’ or “the ability of the mind to step away from its own ego for a time, and merge with another reality”).  It’s an attempt –  through story, through play, and a leap of imagination – to create a temporary community of participation.  We could never tell stories without an audience.  In fact we need you – we want you – to help us tell our stories (and to add something of your own to the mix), because there’s something so joyful in the combination.  We all feel the magic of creating something together.  You surprise us, you lift your voice and howl with us, and we love it.

The Company of Wolves Blog by Richard Feltham – The Duke

It is not difficult to draw parallels between running and theatre.  Both can be exciting, challenging, enriching.  Occasionally life changing.  Even when it’s difficult, it is, in the end, usually worth it.  Even if you’re just glad its over.With The Company of Wolves, running and theatre is much more than a metaphor.  Our performance literally challenges the audience to run with the narrative.    There is, for those who still want a unique theatre experience the less challenging two-mile walk – as opposed to the five mile run – but which ever path you take the show promises to be breath-taking.

I started running 12 years ago in my early 30’s and I usually run a couple of half marathons a year.  But for this show I’ve had to step my running up a gear, knowing that I’ll be running at least 10 miles for the first two performances on 29th and 30th August and far more than this during the intensive rehearsals leading up to the first night.

Ramping up the running has provided some unforgettable experiences.  My first Hash run in Chillington in Devon with the Devon Hash Harriers was a 7 mile jaunt through spectacular scenery. Hashes are a heady mix of trail hunting, running and drinking.  What’s not to like?.

On a corporate theatre job in Miami in June I packed my running shoes for a run along Miami beach as the sun rose.

A second Hash in Dawlish saw Becka initiated with her hash name.  If you ask her nicely I’m sure she’ll tell you what it is…

At a development weekend in May the cast and crew ran a crafty trail laid by Joe the Director.  There’s something uniquely bonding about running about on a crisp Sunday morning when perhaps most other people are just rising from their beds.

Becky and I donned our skillfully crafted costumes for a Sports and Well Being Fun Day on Exeter Quay in July.  Ruth Webb’s costumes hit the mark whilst also being amazingly light and, as we learned as we ran about that day, brilliantly enable us to run as characters without impeding our running.

As I write this I’m camping on Dartmoor and running the 10k round trip to Bovey Tracey most days for a morning Cappuccino.   My kind of training!

It is on this base level of fitness that my character, The Duke, resides.  The costume suggests high status but also entropy and decay.  And, could it be, perhaps a deep loneliness.  What is going on behind those dark eyes of his?  We want to trust him.  He seems to guide the way.  Can he be trusted?  Yes?  Of course…after all; we have to.  What other choice do we have?

Running with the moonMy running shoesSunset on a hash                                                        
 
 

 

The Company of Wolves: Ruth Webb Designer & Maker

My name is Ruth Webb, I’m making and designing the costumes and props for Burn the Curtain’s new show, The Company of Wolves.

Ruth at Work

I really love these stories, by Angela Carter. They take me right back to the gruesome moralistic fairy stories my parents used to read to me, as I drew pictures, all sprawled out on the floor.

And then they take you further….. deeper into the adult world that these characters would have inhabited in the time these tales would have been told.

So its exciting for me to create, from a place of childhood memories and imaginings, those dark shady characters that lurked behind the trees in the forest, spinning cunning yarns and dangling shiny promises to lure the  young and innocent  in.

But what has this all got to do with this ….

Costume in the making

You’ll have to wait and see!

The Company of Wolves: Shiona Morton Blog

Shiona Morton, a well known playwright, is working with Burn The Curtain to adapt stories from The Company of Wolves by Angela Carter.  

Shiona’s Blog:  Adaptation. There’s the film, which I love, which explores the perils of adapting a book into a movie script. It’s a great study in the process of writing and the tricks a writer must play on him/herself to get those words down on paper.  However adaptation brings with it, all sorts of other concerns. The original, whatever it is, belongs to someone else, and might well be venerated by many more people than the author. The responsibility of shifting the form, yet retaining the essence, looms large. This year, for the first time, I have been working on adapting someone else’s work into a piece of performance, and not just any work, but the wonderful wolf stories of Angela Carter. In addition, it is not just any performance, but an outdoor event which requires the audience members to either run or walk a route. Along the way they must locate a satisfying story, and share what they have discovered.

Red Riding Hood in the dark forest!

Red Riding Hood in the dark forest!

The first part of the process has been about immersing myself in the world of four stories, absorbing Carter’s rich language, her precise definitions, her ability to conjure a landscape. The stories chill and surprise, up-ending our view of fairy tales yet placing us firmly within their boundaries. When I was a child I learned bible verses for Sunday school, and they remain in my brain to this day, in the beautiful seventeenth century language of the Authorised Version. Similarly, the Carter phrases linger, once they are studied, and filter out into the performance text, sometimes little altered.

The next stage has been to explore the logistics of the performance, realising that the stories must interweave, that characters must pop up in each others’ tales, that wherever the audience members start and end their journeys, they must have experiences that uncover a narrative, and one which honours Carter’s magical world. The shifting outdoor space and the movement of the audience have determined the structure. Information has been planned to leak through in all sorts of ways, not only through the conventions of text and dialogue. It has been a challenge, full of discussion and exchange and the drawing of many diagrams.

I’ve really enjoyed the collaborative nature of this project with Burn the Curtain Theatre Company, especially the workshop development days in a Devon cider barn. There couldn’t have been a more atmospheric location to unpick these magical tales. I’m looking forward to the walk in the woods (not sure I’ll manage the run), and the story-hunt to come.

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