Monthly Archives: November 2013

Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number?

Raidene Carter, Head of Creative Programmes at the Albany, on why teenagers and retirees hold a special place in the Albany’s artistic vision. Find out more about Meet Me At The Albany, our artist led day club for the over 60s, and UNCOVER, our creative programme for 13 – 19 year olds. 

Age ain’t nothing but a number… So sang 90s R&B songstress Aaliyah (R.I.P). As much as I’ve always loved Aaliyah, my recent experiences working at the Albany have given me another perspective.  Age is much more than a number, as we’re learning through our creative programmes for young people, who are using arts as a means of self discovery, and mature people who are channeling their life experience through their artistic engagement. So why don’t we more often celebrate age as a creative catalyst?

I was 14 when Aaliyah released that tune, the same age as many of the Albany’s current Uncover Youth Theatre members. It came around in my shuffle on Friday, by chance, on a walk after two meetings – one with Roisin Feeny, Co-Director of the youth theatre group which caters for 13-19 year olds, and the other about Meet Me at the Albany, our artist led day club for the over 60s. It prompted me to notice that I had deduced the same broad idea out of both meetings: that age (or, strictly speaking, life experience in years) is a defining characteristic of the work artists make, especially when a number of the same age collaborate to create. Our industry, has spent the last couple of decades promoting the importance of youth arts, and, more recently, been seriously investing in older people’s arts so that proves there’s more to age than acne and wrinkles.

Two things…

1. Youth Is Wasted On The Young.

No. No, it isn’t.  If you came to see Uncover Youth Theatre’s response to Yam Yam! Festival, The Big Food Fight, you’d agree. They wasted a fair bit of jelly and spaghetti, but not an ounce of their youth, and, for that messy 55minutes I wanted to be them: sliding around, being outrageous, clever, cheeky and FUN. I admit, I envied their recklessness but laughed so much forgot I was an adult at work. The attitude on show was the same that is prevalent in the best work with young people – shows like Ontroerend Goed’s Once and For All We’re Going to Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up and Listen and Junction 25’s I Hope My Heart Goes First – it was energetic, and it was exuberant, and crucially, it was YOUNG.

2. You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks.

Er. Yes. Yes, you can. If you pop into the Albany on a Tuesday you’ll struggle to get a table in the Café because 30 of our Meet Me at the Albany regulars will be (over a cup of tea and biscuits) trying out something for the first time. The week before last they had a session in the theatre with our Associate Artist Vicki Amedume of Upswing, who led a workshop on circus skills. Possibly one of the most unlikely skill sets to teach a group of the over 60s, but they enjoyed it enormously and  a few even ended up suspended above the floor in silks.They were fully aware of the physical challenges but went for it anyway, working with Vicki to adapt the experience to their own needs.

My point is: that young people are inherently wet behind the ears and older people have probably seen it all before and once we accept these sorts of stereotypes- and perhaps even allow ourselves to play with them- that’s when creativity can really begin.  Vicki’s silks session prompted a vivid debate about body image amongst attendees, which is now having a dynamic in the artistic planning for next season’s activities. The collective and unadulterated joy of Uncover Youth Theatre members has morphed into their trademark performance style – absurd, loud and uncomfortably honest.

We’re not the only organisation recognizing and playing on the strengths that come with the age of artists – 20 Stories High in Liverpool has thrived on the energy of young people, using its regular youth theatre as the beating heart for professional productions and artistic vision. Clod Ensemble’s The Amazings has been quietly radicalising arts in residential care homes to prove that in such places do you get an unparalleled abundance of life experience and professional know-how.

So, sorry to say it, but Aaliyah was wrong. I guess only a naïve 15 year-old, railing against public disapproval of her alleged marriage to an R&B warbler 12 years her senior, would announce such a silly thing, but then get away with it for being beautiful, laissez-faire and full of promise. Bet her nan had something to say about it, though.

Raidene Carter, Head of Creative Programmes, the Albany

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Ni Hao Deptford!

On Sunday 17 November, our sister venue, Deptford Lounge, was filled with the sounds and flavours of China, for Ni Hao Deptford!, a celebration of Chinese arts and culture produced in partnership with The Confucius Institute, based at our neighbours’ Goldsmiths College, just down the road in New Cross.

Ni Hao Deptford! was free to attend and for all the family, and over 600 people enjoyed the festival, many of them visiting the Lounge for the first time. The brilliant Marianne Chua took these beautiful photos for us on the day. Enjoy!

Image

Image

Image

Image

ImageImageImage

Image

We’re planning many more events like this in the coming months, so do connect with Deptford Lounge on Facebook and Twitter to be kept up to date. The next one will be If On A Winter’s Day on Saturday 7 December, an event created by the Deptford Society and taking place throughout Deptford High Street, Giffin Square, and at the Lounge.

Amber Massie-Blomfield

Head of Communications

The Albany

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Highlights of the Yam Yam! Festival

Antonia Bici, Albany Front of House Team Member and Volunteer, shares some of the highlights of the Yam Yam! Festival

Yam Yam! festival is ending with a bang! After immersing our senses in the sumptuous tastes of pop up restaurants and workshops it was time to get our hands and our clothes thoroughly dirty last Saturday as Albany Uncover Youth theatre caused chaos with a massive food fight.

Yam Yam! is an event that has featured prominently at the Albany throughout October and November, and reaches its Mogadisco finale on Sat 17 November. Yam Yam! is a food festival that celebrates the interactions that happen when people come together to cook and eat, and is inspired by cultures that are local to Deptford.

As Yam Yam! is drawing to a close we felt that it would be a good time to share our reflections and photos of the highlights of the festival, and  now we’re looking forward to dancing the night away at the final Yam Yam! event, Mogadisco LIVE! this Saturday 17 November. So far Yam Yam! has involved plenty of eating, some audience collaboration and that satisfying feeling when your belly is so full you can barely move. That’s why we thought it would be a good time to start moving again, to the sounds of Mogadisco, South London’s finest night of African music. Disco hi-life legend Orlando Julius is making a rare UK appearance and will feature in a line-up of music ranging from Afro-beat to Congo Jazz and Ethiopian Funk.

Tickets are still available and can be booked on our website

Antonia Bici, Albany Front of House Team Member and Volunteer

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Douglas Rintoul on the Relevance of Shakespeare’s ’As You Like It’ Today

Image Douglas Rintoul is the Director of Transport Theatre’s ’As You Like It’, at the Albany, Deptford, from Tue 19 – Fri 22 Nov, 7.30pm  (Thu mat 1.30pm). In this interview he talks about his inspiration for the show, the process of adaptation, and what the Bard would have thought about it.

Find out more about the show and book tickets here

Can you tell us about your vision for this version of As You Like It?

A few years back I joined the No Borders Camp in Calais, France. Its aim was to highlight the grim daily reality for migrants there and to protest against their increased repression. Meeting migrants (many of whom had traveled for over five or six months, fleeing their homelands and facing extraordinary dangers) I was struck by their joy, optimism and thirst for life, plus their sense of community and family. A few months later I re-read As You Like It and in the forest of Arden the characters’ desires and needs chimed with those I had encountered in Calais.

Elsewhere I had read about female refugees who disguised themselves as men when they fled their homelands because it was safer for them to travel as men. I also read about a migrant who learnt English by reading Shakespeare. These coincidences/connections meant that Shakespeare’s comedy became the perfect magnifying glass by which we could highlight certain contemporary experiences.

How do you want audiences to feel after the show?

As with all our work we want audiences to be moved, transported (and more profoundly) changed in some small way. We always ask ourselves: ‘How do we want our audiences to be different by the time they leave the theatre?’ We want audiences to feel as if the have got as close to Shakespeare’s play as possible and I would also like to think that having seen the show the next time an audience member sees a negative headline in the newspaper about migrants or refugees they may think slightly differently. We’re really abusing Shakespeare’s play to achieve this. It’s a sort of slight of hand.

 What new perspectives on Shakespeare and society do you hope to offer with this production?

I’m interested in enabling audiences to experience Shakespeare’s work as something living, something that relates to our own experience of the world. I’m interested in them experiencing the play as universal, not exclusively English – belonging to many. Our company for this production is international and ethnically diverse: it is English, British, British Asian, British Turkish, Polish, Georgian, Icelandic, Luxembourgish and Danish. I want our stage to reflect the world we live in. It also allows the text to open up and be many things to many people.

As You Like It is a comedy, how do you envisage this working with the more serious themes you take on – how bring these different elements together? 

As You Like It is a comedy but much of the first half of the play happens within the context of a dictatorship. People are literally struggling to survive. Once they have achieved this (having fled) and arrived in a new world, these tensions vomit out in the most extraordinary ways – in poetry, love play, sexuality and philosophy. The light can only seem bright having been in the dark – this is inherent in the play, this is what the play is about. It is a peculiar play but if we look at it as a piece of music, somehow it works – in the way complex music can work. It shifts from deep lows to chaotic highs, and this journey is exhilarating. 

Of the entire Shakespeare canon, why did you choose As You Like It?

Its exploration of exile, shifting notions of identity and sense of self chimes with enquiries we have engaged in throughout our recent productions Elegy, Invisible, Europe and 1001 Nights. It presented itself as a new way of exploring these themes whilst at the same time enabling us to present them as timeless and having always been. We had come across too many aspects of As You Like It in rehearsals for our other pieces for us to ignore it

In what ways have you adapted and updated the text, did you find this a challenging process?

There is a framing device that contains the entire play. Our production starts with a young migrant in Calais learning English by reading Shakespeare. The play is experienced through his eyes. The songs are lip-synched. We have cut into the text and re-ordered it. The play ends differently. At first it was difficult to empower ourselves to take these liberties. Our company is comprised of nine actors – this alone limits how much of the play we can perform but then these kind of limitations are liberating; it means we have to change things. I think we are often uncomfortable about changing Shakespeare but that is a very British phenomenon – other nationalities wouldn’t think twice about a bit of adaptation. Once you have taken that step there is a lot of play to be had.

Does Transport’s physical, filmic style complement the text, how?

A lot of our work has been devised. I have always felt that the devising process relates well to working with Shakespeare, as the texts are so open. They can move in so many ways – there are so many choices. Contemporary performance styles feel close to the original making of those texts, as they are innately theatrical. I think we are always striving to find and celebrate the theatrical.

What’s the significance of transformation in this play? Is that something you see as a key theme in Transport’s work?

Much of our work has looked at what happens to our sense of self when we are taken out of our ‘home’ context. How do we define ourselves in an ever-shifting/changing world? Something that seems primarily a 21st Century dilemma is captured beautifully in this play. It is surprising. We are therefore connected to the present via the past and this is a rich experience.

You’ve described this adaptation as anarchic; do you think that is what Shakespeare originally intended?

I think there is an inherent anarchy and danger in Shakespeare’s plays, solely because of the spaces and audience/actor relationships that these plays were born out of. I always think Shakespeare wouldn’t mind. I think he might smile.

Transport Theatre’s ’As You Like It’ directed by Douglas Rintoul is at the Albany, Deptford, from Tue 19 – Fri 22 Nov, 7.30pm  (Thu mat 1.30pm) Find out more here

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Our Man in Guanajuato: insights on arts networks inspired by Mexico

Image

I recently spent a few days in Mexico, as a guest of the Mexican equivalent of the Arts Council, the National Council for Culture and Arts. I was there with 90 delegates from around the world (but oddly only 2 of us from the UK) to see a showcase of the country’s leading music, theatre and dance productions.

The shows were a mixed bunch, but the one that really came alive for me was set in a wrestling ring in a town square called La Impro Lucha  (see pic below). It was basically improv comedy and I’ve no idea if the jokes were that good (my Spanish is very limited), but being part of a large crowd, who were enthusiastically – and very vocally – responding to the performance, made the experience. They weren’t just passive audience members; they were actively involved in creating the experience and it was clear that the show couldn’t happen in the same way without them. The difference from sitting in an auditorium with a group of (jaded?) promoters and producers, as we had been for the majority of the trip, was marked.

Image

The difference reminded me of the disappointment I’ve often felt, seeing a play in the slightly sterile atmosphere of say a West End theatre. It often feels as if the action on stage is happening regardless of our presence; that one audience is as good as any other.

One of the most exciting things for me about the Albany is how often the audience  seems engaged in a much more active – sometimes vocal – way, making the experience feel richer and , well, communal. You feel you’re actually participating in something rather than observing it from afar. There are numerous reasons why this is, of course: due credit must be given to the artists we work with. But I’ve always felt that our audiences have a particularly strong sense of ownership of the Albany: that this venue, and the work within its walls, belongs to them. And they’d better let us know exactly what they think about it.

This all forms part of a larger conversation about community forming in the arts: who our communities are, and how they truly feel they have a stake in the work we undertake, not only at a local level but nationally and internationally. Talking to artists and producers from across Mexico helped me see the realities of working on the ground, and get a sense of the connections we could make, and what that might mean to artists and audiences in London.

The conversation often turned to comparing how artists and companies work together in each country, and what that can achieve.  I talked about a new partnership for arts centres across the UK which the Albany has been involved with forming. We have also been reflecting on how we can support networks at a local level in Lewisham.

Deptford reputedly has more artists per square metre than anywhere else in London. Across Lewisham there are so many people and organisations working in the arts, making a huge contribution to the life of the borough and beyond.

It’s crucial that we work together to sustain and build on the fantastic creative culture locally. To this end, we are launching What Next? Lewisham, a local chapter of What Next?  a movement bringing together arts and cultural organisations from across the UK, to articulate and strengthen the role of culture in our society. You can learn more about it here.

The first meeting will take place on 26th November, 9am, and we’d be delighted to see anyone who is interested in the future of the arts in Lewisham – whether that be professionally, as a student or audience member, there.

For more details please contact amber@thealbany.org.uk

Gavin Barlow. CEO, The Albany

Image

Photos:

  1. Street performers in Guanajuato
  2. ‘La Impro Lucha’ – theatre, music and wrestling in the town square
  3. Guanajuato, Mexico

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized