Monthly Archives: September 2014

My First Time was with an Orange Dog

Mixing a variety of genres and artforms, 154 Collective‘s innovative Dancing with the Orange Dog stretches the boundaries of storytelling. Formed of an art exhibit, theatre performance and a music gig with The Housekeeping Society, Dancing with the Orange Dog is not your typical show; it asks you to absorb what you see and hear to reflect on the stories told in different artforms, and runs here on Friday 10 October. One of their collaborative artists, Benjamin Rabe, wanted to let us know about his experience performing in the show.

We all remember our first time, right? It’s usually not great, or smooth, or exciting, but always special. Well, mine was great, smooth, exciting and special! And that even though it was lasting just for 6 mins and 32 secs!

I am talking about my first live performance during Dancing with the Orange Dog.

Dancing with the Orange Dog: is it a play? No wait, is it a collaborative art exhibit? Hold on, it really is a big music-show, no?

You guessed right, it is all of the above. Initiated by the 154 Collective (lead by Fabric Lenny and Dan Mallaghan). I got involved early on by contributing artwork I created using different apps on my iPad. It was at this time that I took my first steps in collaborative live drawing and animation projection using an iPad based app called Tagtool. I was already happy having had the chance to contribute some artwork to the show, but when I was invited to perform live projections during the play, things got really interesting.

I remember coming into the venue in Manchester for the first time, entering the immersive space Dancing with the Orange Dog created. It was a world of its own, filled with artwork, part gallery, part living room where you could connect to elements of the play before you even knew it. That was one thing. But then what followed was a tour de force 2-person play, a thick layered stack of different stories that would magically connect in the end……

Only the end wasn’t the end, there was still my 6 mins 32 secs to come! Together with Fabric Lenny and Matthew Watkins, I got my first time as a live performer during the gig from The Housekeeping Society (part 3 of the show) – did I mention it was great, smooth, exciting and special? And it **was** great, smooth, exciting and special for one reason: only because Dancing with the Orange Dog was. A great mix, an exciting mix of different facets of the arts: poetry, play, exhibition, music and live visuals.

If you have the chance to see it: do it. It’s a first time you won’t forget.

 

Benjamin Rabe for 154 Collective 

Benjamin is an Artist and Web Developer based in Hamburg. 154 Collective are pleased to collaborate with him on a regular basis.

 

Dancing with the Orange Dog runs here one night only on Friday 10 October, 7.30pm. For more information, to watch the trailer and to book, click here.

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Ira Brand reveals A Cure for Ageing

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Our new BOLD Festival celebrating arts and older people is in full swing this week, opening up dialogues about older people and daring us to think differently about ageing. As a special feature to the festival, Ira Brand brings us her own A Cure for Ageing, a performance piece that delves into numbers and the hard facts about growing older and our inevitable future.  Ahead of its run this Thursday 25 to Saturday 27 September, Ira answers our questions around the show and her views on ageing:

What got you thinking about ageing?

My grandfather turned 90. He was dealing with a series of health problems, and then also moved into a care home. I hadn’t seen him for a couple of years, and the change in him was just so massive, physically and also mentally. He had stopped communicating very much. It sounds like a cliche, but it was a shock. I became fascinated by the impact that his deterioration was having on everybody around him – my grandmother most immediately, but also my mum, the way she was talking about her own ageing, the way we all spent a lot of time speculating about what he was or was not able to understand, what it was like for him to be alive. Around the same time a lot of my friends were turning thirty, and some of them were genuinely worried about age, like they should have better jobs, for example, or should be having kids. They were responding to a lot of societal pressures on them, but also coming up against their own hopes I suppose – the things they thought they would have achieved or done by that age, a feeling of leaving their youth, of running out of time. I didn’t really feel that in the same way, but I was curious, and I started to feel like ageing was still a real taboo, something we don’t talk about very often with each other.

Has there been anyone you have approached specifically to discuss ageing? A grandmother maybe?

I spoke to quite a lot of different people. Some were relatives of friends, others people who responded to a public call for participants. I met a few people through contacting local University of the Third Age groups, and also volunteered with an arts company in a care home. I also spoke with my grandmother, which was an amazing conversation. The fact that I was ‘interviewing’ her as research for the show meant that we could touch on stuff I don’t think we would have talked about otherwise. She was very forthcoming, where in other circumstances she’d shied away from talking much about herself – perhaps not wanting to be the centre of attention. There was a lot of stuff I learnt about her, not necessarily massive things, but more the small details of how she thinks about and sees the world, and I felt so honoured to have her share that stuff with me, and really pleased that the making of the show allowed that conversation to happen. Parts of that conversation are also in the show now – she’s definitely the star!

Describe your approach to researching your projects. And what was involved for A Cure for Ageing?

Initially I do a lot of reading around the subject I’m interested in. I spent quite a bit of time at the Wellcome Trust Library, for example, looking at scientific books and articles. Then, I talk to people. I conducted a series of interviews, some with people with an expertise around ageing because of their work, others with an expertise because of experience – basically, people who were older than me. I would have some specific questions but largely it was about talking about whatever those people wanted to talk about. There is often this assumption that everyone’s experience of ageing is the same, and a sort of clumping together of ‘old people’ as a group, which for me is a big part of the problem with how we view ageing and old age in our society. Ageing is such an individual experience, so I really wanted to know what was important to them about it, what they wanted to say.

What terrifies you about ageing?

That’s a hard question, because a big part of me making this show was about wanting to question this fear I felt I had about ageing, wanting to look at why – when I pictured myself in my late old age – I imagined something inevitably negative. Why didn’t I imagine myself happy and active and social? But there is of course a reality to the fact that the way we interact with and perceive (and are perceived by) the world changes as we get older, and some of those things can be negative. And I wanted to be really honest about this, rather that sugar-coat or ignore it. I think, honestly, I’m scared of what some of the physical limitations to me might be as I get older, and how I will deal with those. The idea that I might get frustrated with or feel out of touch with my own body. Also, I think I’m scared of the kind of situation my grandfather finds himself in, where he doesn’t really speak anymore, and we don’t really know what his experience of living is.

What is the real cure for ageing?

It’s a cure for how we think about ageing that I think is important, and that’s where the title of the show comes from. And that’s about talking about what it means and feels like to get older – not focusing only on the negative but also not avoiding the hard or maybe even embarrassing stuff. I also think it’s important to kind of ‘take responsibility’ for your own getting older. To learn about it, to understand that it is in your future, and that (up to a point) you can make choices about what you want that future to be like. But none of that means spending lots of time worrying about it! In terms of my own getting older, the best thing I’ve learnt from the people I met in making the show is that challenge is important – to have a life where you are constantly being challenged and problem solving and learning how to live in the world.

What age in your life have you most enjoyed so far?

I would say my late twenties to now (I’m 31). That’s a lot to do with that fact that I have found something I love doing, and am (more or less) getting to spend my time doing it. I also feel like I’m part of a really great community – friends, family, work colleagues – and that helps me feel happier and more confident than ten years ago. A lot of the people I spoke to talked about feeling more comfortable in themselves as they got older, maybe more accepting of who they were. I’ve definitely felt that in the last few years, and I think more of that is a brilliant thing to look forward to.

What do you hope to be doing at the age of 80?

Dancing in my kitchen, like my grandmother.

Ira Brand performs in A Cure for Ageing on Thursday 25 & Friday 26 September at 7.45pm and Saturday 27 September at 5pm. For information and to book, click here.

BOLD Festival runs until this Saturday 27 September with a provocative programme of performances, exhibitions and film with older people at its heart. For the full line-up of events, click here.

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Belarus Free Theatre returns to its Deptford roots

BFTpriceofmoney_billBelarus Free Theatre is at the Albany this week for the World Premiere of Price of Money – it’s only London dates.  This brand new production explores the power of money in our everyday lives and the price we are often asked to pay for it. Ahead of its run Tuesday 16 – Saturday 20 September, Allison Gold offers an insight into the background to Belarus Free Theatre, and why the company’s relationship with the Albany is so special.

For those not yet familiar with Belarus Free Theatre, it’s useful to understand a little more about where they come from: Belarus, Europe’s last dictatorship. Since 1994 the country has been under the leadership of president Aleksandr Lukashenko and is notorious for its oppressive regime and numerous human rights violations. Today it remains the only country in Europe that uses the death penalty with an estimated 321 executions ordered between 1990 and 2009. Furthermore, media is state-controlled and censored while freedom of speech is silenced by heavily discouraging activism.

Artistic Directors Natalia Kaliada and her husband Nicolai Khalezin formed Belarus Free Theatre in 2005, joined shortly after by director Vladimir Scherban. It is the only independent theatre in Belarus, and as such has come under attack from the state. Threatened by the Belarusian government for the company’s work, some of their collaborating friends were imprisoned, forcing Natalia and Nicolai to flee the country with their daughter. The couple was granted political asylum here in the UK, and made Deptford their home when they first arrived in 2011. Here in London they established a new part of the company while the rest of the company continues to work underground in Minsk.

Belarus Free Theatre has overcome huge challenges to bring freedom of speech and expression to the people of Belarus. The underground branch of the company is forced to perform in secret with the actors putting themselves at considerable risk to reach the Belarusian public. Globally, the company have performed in 42 countries bringing awareness of human rights and the oppression happening in Belarus.

Belarus Free Theatre returns to where its artistic directors first called home in the UK, our very own Deptford. The world premiere of Price of Money marks the start of an ongoing relationship between Belarus Free Theatre and the Albany. It is a collaboration that will see the company working closely with Deptford’s local communities, particularly focussing on young people.

‘When BFT first came to London, they were drawn to Deptford, where they felt a close association with the streets, markets and people of the area. In Belarus, the company had been focussing on the big political issues for the country; it was only more recently that they reflected how important they were to the local communities where they lived as well as the wider artistic community and their political struggles. They were drawn to the Albany because of the very radical, deep engagement that the arts centre has with the communities that surround it: they saw an opportunity to engage at a more grassroots level with local people than might be available to them elsewhere, particularly in central London venues where the ‘local community’ is perhaps less clearly defined.’ – Gavin Barlow, CEO, The Albany

Allison Gold, Marketing Assistant, The Albany

See Belarus Free Theatre’s Price of Money this week from Tuesday 16 – Saturday 20 September. For more information and to book, please click here.

Don’t miss our free Solidarity Party with Belarus Free Theatre after the final performance on Saturday 20 September from 9.30pm til late – book your tickets here.

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Your Theatre Matters!

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Tomorrow, theatres across the country will all start courting you as they strive to be named as the UK’s Most Welcoming Theatre. There will be flyers, stickers, and quite possibly, balloons.

I may be a little biased, but when I think of welcoming theatres, it’s always the Albany who springs to mind, right at the top of the list.

It’s not surprising. When the Albany was rebuilt back in the early eighties, it was with the express idea of creating an accessible space – one which would serve as the cultural hub of the Deptford community, welcoming locals in with cups of tea and an endless list of events. It wasn’t just going to be a theatre, it was going to be an arts centre.

Over thirty years later and it is still as important to us now as it was then, though the way we do it may have changed. The café is still open to the public, but now audience members can get behind the scenes glimpses of the inner workings of a theatre and arts centre with tweets, and Facebook, and even here, right on this very blog. While out on Deptford Market, our pink pavilion is a familiar sight, as we set it up to tell people about everything that’s happening in our beautiful home (and usually end up chatting about almost everything else, and making friends with the local dog population… or, perhaps that’s just me).

However, nothing beats popping in to the Albany itself to see what is going on. And there is always something.

This summer we were taken over by Lewisham’s teenage population with our Summer Arts programme, which filled the theatre with art and music for three weeks, sharing their newly honed skills up on the main stage at the end of every week.

While on Tuesdays (which soon became my favourite day of the week after joining the comms team at the Albs) we throw open our doors to Meet Me at the Albany, a club for people over 60, who want to try out new activities and make new friends.

The Albany is more than a just theatre, or even an arts centre. It’s a place to meet friends and natter over lunch, a spot where you can retreat from the bustle of Deptford Market and relax amongst the flowers in our garden, and a second home, where you can set up your laptop and crack out your latest novel (or just catch up on your emails).

So come over to the Albany, grab a coffee from the café, and a novel from the book corner, and put your feet up. Stay for a show, or just enjoy the last of the summer sun out in our garden.

You are most welcome.

Voting for the My Theatre Matters!’s UK’s Most Welcoming Theatre opens bright and early at 9am on Tuesday  9 September. If you, like me, think the Albany is the most welcoming theatre in the country, you can cast your vote for us here. The polls close at 11.59pm on Monday 29 September.

Maxine Smiles, Junior Communications Assistant, The Albany

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