Monthly Archives: October 2014

Cabaret Playroom: where things may go tits up… if you’re lucky

Tricity Vogue on Cabaret Playroom, the Albany’s monthly night for new work by cabaret performers. The next Cabaret Playroom takes place on Monday 3 November.

Tapdancer Josephine Shaker told me after her spot at last month’s Cabaret Playroom that it had felt like jumping off a cliff. What had? Talking on stage, she answered. Josephine Shaker is a tap dancer, burlesque artist, physical comedian and clown of spectacular skill and aplomb, but when it came to opening her mouth in the spotlight, she was way outside her comfort zone. But she said afterwards it was one of the most rewarding gigs she’d done in ages.

Going outside your comfort zone is a necessary part of any artist’s development, and even cabaret artists, who seem to spend their lives outside most people’s comfort zones, have their own particular safe areas they tend to stick to. A burlesque dancer might be quite happy spinning naked flames around her head, but terrified of singing in public. A cabaret singer might be perfectly happy to reveal any secret about themselves on stage, but baulk at attempting to play a musical instrument in front of anyone else. And seasoned performers are just as prone to sticking to what they know how to do, perhaps even more so, because those of us who’ve been doing cabaret for a while have expectations to meet, or at least feel as if we do, from people in the audience who’ve seen us before, or heard of us. You’re only as good as your last gig, and if thirty people go home and tell their mates, “I saw Tricity Vogue but she was a bit all over the place,” that’ll be another sixty or so people that won’t bother going to see you next time you’re on somewhere.

That’s the fear. That’s a pretty good case for NOT risking new material in public, in fact. What on earth was I thinking? Well, I’ll tell you a story. Once, about seven years ago, I got an email from a mate who was starting a new cabaret night, and was inviting all his cabaret contacts to come and try out their work-in-progress, so I sent him a message saying I’d be up for it. I got up on stage and I played an instrument I’d learned to play exactly two weeks before, and I smashed it. It was the first time I ever performed solo on the ukulele, and it was the first night of the rest of my life. That mate was Dusty Limits, the night was Kabarett, and the venue was the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. If I hadn’t been offered that platform to try out new work I might still be crooning lounge jazz by night and working for a soul-sucking television company by day. Instead of which my ukulele and I have been all over Europe together performing everywhere from celebrity dining rooms to converted toilets, and it’s been one non-stop adventure ever since.

That’s what can happen when you let a performer try something new. And sitting in the audience for a show where EVERYTHING is new, and NOBODY knows what’s going to happen next – now THAT’s cabaret at it’s finest, even when it goes tits up… especially when it goes tits up.

Tricity Vogue, Cabaret Performer and Co-Curator of Cabaret Playroom (with Lisa Lee of UnderConstruction)

 

The next Cabaret Playroom is on Monday 3 November at The Albany, Deptford. Doors at 7.45pm, showtime 8-10pm. Tickets are Pay-What-You-Can, starting from £1

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All the World’s a Stage for Teatro Vivo

 

Sophie Austin (right) with Teatro Vivo Artistic Associate Mark Stevenson in rehearsals.

Sophie Austin (right) with Teatro Vivo Artistic Associate Mark Stevenson in rehearsals on Deptford High Street.

Albany Associate Company, Teatro Vivo, transforms everyday spaces such as a supermarket or tattoo parlour into unconventional theatre spaces, working with communities to tell classic tales. Their latest work The Hunters Grimm is a promenade performance that will take audiences through Deptford, using cafés, shops and even the streets as theatrical playgrounds for the beloved tales of the Brothers Grimm. Grandmother-eating wolves and pompous Princes will be on the loose when The Hunters Grimm begins, starting tomorrow until 8 November. Teatro Vivo’s Artistic Director, Sophie Austin, tells us a bit more about why keeping community close is vital to their work.

‘All the world’s a stage…’

These words from Shakespeare’s As You Like It have always resonated with me.

I grew up in a small village where the local am dram company encouraged me to act when I was six and inspired me to direct my first play when I was 11, theatre has been woven into my life and is an essential part of my existence.

From seeing a touring company perform on the village green to the RSC performing at my comprehensive, I was brought up to see theatre as an inclusive experience: entertainment for everyone, not an event just for those who could afford it.

I moved to London 14 years ago and was lucky enough to go to drama school to do a directing degree – this was before the fees would make it impossible for someone like me to attend. When I graduated I set up Teatro Vivo. The aim was simple – to make magical and inspirational theatre accessible for all irrespective of income, background or age. This has lead the company to stage plays outside of theatres: from parks to cafes, museums to supermarkets, we have brought Chekhov, Shakespeare and Homer to diverse audiences across London, and in the last two years we have been touring our work nationally. I am always overwhelmed by the hunger of our audiences. Wherever we perform the response is the same: ‘more please!’

What can be frustrating is that despite our eager audience and the growing number of high profile partners keen to collaborate with us including the Albany Deptford, the Watermill in Newbury, and international company Dash Arts, our work is sometimes pigeon-holed as ‘community theatre’, and therefore not treated by press and industry in the same way that other productions might be. I’m interested to know when ‘theatre’ becomes ‘community theatre’ and why this title has negative connotations for some.

I am keen for our work to collaborate with the community, its venues and residents. This challenges us in many ways, but always strengthens our output artistically, whilst enabling businesses and locals unique access to a professional creative process. I am proud to create theatre in this way, but as it rarely involves a stage and often pops up in hard-to-reach areas, the mentality can be that this means the work is of lesser quality than you might experience in a Central London venue. I consider Teatro Vivo’s work a gateway to encouraging audiences to see more and get involved in more, and like my own experience, I want our work to be a part of the rich theatre tradition that is our British cultural heritage.

At the moment I am writing this at the Deptford Lounge, a library and community hub in the heart of Deptford, which is also the ‘Spinning Room’ for our new show, The Hunters Grimm.  This play will take the audience on an adventure around the dark streets of Deptford as they hunt for stories. This is the perfect place to tell tales of princes and kings, anarchic frogs and bloodthirsty wolves. And with themes of poverty, loneliness and love running through them, it’s a piece that will resonate with all who experience it.

I love my job and feel truly privileged to be embraced by the communities we are working in. The Halal butcher and the publican, the hairdresser and the cafe owners as well as the writer and designer: all are part of my creative team. I think our work benefits greatly from their involvement, but don’t take my word for it, come and join us in Deptford and see for yourself.

Sophie Austin, Artistic Director, Teatro Vivo

The Hunters Grimm runs Wednesday to Saturday, 22 October – 8 November, 7.30pm. For more information and to book tickets, click here.

 

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Phillip Dikotla on the Skierlik Tragedy and its Impact on South Africa

dikotla

In 2008, in the  South African settlement called Skierlik, 17-year-old Johan Nel went on a racially motivated killing spree.  In response to this tragic event, award-winning playwright/actor Phillip M Dikotla wrote the play Skierlik, telling the story of Thomas, whose wife and baby were two of Nel’s victims, as he returns to the scene of the carnage. This undeniably powerful one-man show, starring Phillip, is here tonight and tomorrow (16 & 17 October, 7.45pm) as part of Afrovibes festival.  Ahead of the performances, he delves into why he chose this difficult subject matter and his creative process.

When I started working on this project, it was an unconscious process of creation, where I was driven by questions and/or curiosity, and the more I tried to find answers and understanding in relation to the Skierlik event, which at first struck a lot of fear in me, the story wrote itself.

Because I am a performer and have always wanted to ‘act’ – which to me meant having fun and telling stories and making people laugh – I had disregarded what I now refer to as a ‘voice’…my voice; what I want people to leave with after the show. As Skierlik grew, I would interrogate each and every experience, and realized that there is something I want to say, and the more I wrote the more I had to say.

The more I travel with my mind and engage my imagination, the more I understand what this story stands for, what it represents in this new South Africa today. And more importantly, it is told by a young person – me – who has no experience of being a father. All the characters in the play are older than me, and have experienced life more than me.

I have a wild imagination and at first only visited Skierlik in my mind; by the time I actually went to Skierlik, everything was as I experienced it in my imagination. I have never met Thomas, but through my little experience as a story teller I realize that a character is not what is written, but what the actor experiences in the presence of an audience. So in a nutshell, I don’t prepare for the character. As a story teller, you can’t be prepared for an experience like this one.

Phillip Dikotla

Phillip M Dikotla is a 24-year-old South African playwright, actor, and comedian. An Arts and Culture Trust (ACT) Impact Award recipient for theatre 2012, he was part of the cast of the Naledi Award winning production Sekwatlapa 2010, writer of the Zabalaza Festival Best production Skierlik 2013 (Standard Bank Ovation Award recipient 2013, and Best New South Africa Script Fleur De Cap nominee), Nominee for best actor at the Zabalaza Festival 2013 and a Fleur De Cap winner for best performance in a one-man show.

Skierlik plays here Thursday 16 & Friday 17 October, 7.45pm as part of Afrovibes festival of South African culture. For more information and to book tickets, click here.

 

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The Albany Gets Infused with Afrovibes

The Albany is all abuzz this week for Afrovibes. This biennial festival is celebrating twenty years of democracy with South African culture. Our café has been transformed for the week-long festivities with Table Mountains, new tabletops and decor created by local primary school Tidemill Academy. Using South African inspired objects and artwork, the students spent a month working with professional artist Jack Brown. Lining the walls of our café, is an exhibition by South African photographer Tyler Dolan entitled Africa Inspired.  Both of these create the hub of our Festival Fringe, our own Township Café.

Come down to our Township Café for a host of free events and activities, including:

Mojisola Adebayo with Afrovibes artists 

Wednesday 15 October, 6pm: James Ngcobo, Artistic Director of Afrovibes

Thursday 16 October, 6pm: Mandla Bothwe, artist from Biko’s Quest

Friday 17 October, 6pm: Velile Sithole, artist from The Soil

 

Afrovibes After-Show Parties
Wednesday 15 October from 8.30pm
The Revivalists host with Deanna Rodger and Simon Mole
 
Thursday 16 October from 8.30pm
The Revivalists host with Ray Antrobus and Adam Kammerling
 
Friday 17 October from 8.30pm
Free music by The Soil and DJ Mr Gee 

Afrovibes Family Day

Saturday 18 October, 11am-4pm – Afrovibes Growing Up Club

Saturday 18 October, 12pm – African Folktales

Saturday 18 October, 2pm – Khumba

Saturday 18 October, 2pm – Instant Rap Workshop

 

You can even discover the tastes of South Africa with our Afrovibes café menu all week. Have a peek here:

Lunch 12-3pm

Soup of the day

Lentil Bunny Chow [street food in a bun]

Chicken Bunny Chow

Bobotie [South Africa’s National Dish]

Hand-cooked Chips with Mechouia

Sambal [Coleslaw]

Melktert

Dinner 5-10pm

Lentil Bunny Chow [street food in a street]

Chicken Bunny Chow

Pumpkin Paptert [Maize Tart]

Hoender Pastei [Boer Chicken Pie]

Hand-cooked Chips with Mechouia

Sambal [Coleslaw]

South African Colcannon

Chakalaka [Bean Relish]

Melktert

Malva Pudding

 

Afrovibes is at the Albany this week, Monday 13 – Saturday 18 October. For a full list of events, including free South African films and the main Afrovibes shows, click here.

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A Weekend of Fun Palaces

Last weekend saw the first ever Fun Palaces take place at 138 venues across the UK. Here in Deptford, we hosted Cirque Bijou‘s performance of Source, an outdoor circus show that wowed audiences, as well as a food fight, live music, and a party for the whole community. The weekend of Fun Palaces in 2014 was the start of something big, as the plan is to run the same campaign in 2015, 2016 and beyond. This is not just an event, it is a movement, putting cultural participation and public engagement at the heart, simultaneously and nationally, together – across the UK and beyond. The weekend was documented on social media and many people uploaded their pictures, here’s a collection of some of our favourites from #FunPalaces and a poem from poet Simon Mole about the weekend.

Source Bell Square --«Vipul Sangoi 368Source Bell Square --«Vipul Sangoi 143Deptford Fun Palace @MakeBelieveArtsDeptford Fun Palace @MakeBelieveArtsSource Bell Square --«Vipul Sangoi 695

Welcome to The Fun Palace
(down here in the deep blue sea)
That reggae bounce, that off-beat skank
That love, those balloons…

Two five year old feet on a surfboard
Fun tastes sweet and melts on your tongue

Take a sail and a fresh breeze,
add two spoonfuls of suffering,
Divide by experience, times by perspective
Add a sense of humour and fun’s what you’re left with

Family, friends, food.
A banana wearing a dress.

Or a penguin, hitching a lift on a camel’s back
A mission to explore summer
With just a bottle of water
and a jar full of yellow happiness

Bright silver and red lights spell out the word
F-U-N on the side of the shard

We kick back, laugh, watch clouds and relax
Two party hats joined together,
seven thousand kazoos
You don’t have to be clever to realise what fun is…

Simon Mole

Source Bell Square --«Vipul Sangoi 135Source Bell Square --«Vipul Sangoi 341Source Bell Square --«Vipul Sangoi 106Source Bell Square --«Vipul Sangoi 056

We hope that you had as much fun as we did, and if you missed out, don’t worry because we will see you next year.

Rachel McCall, Marketing, The Albany

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Afrovibes Gets a Dose of Chill Pill

Afrovibes 2014 'REVIVALISTS'Only a week to go until Afrovibes, a festival celebrating South African culture, takes over Deptford with award-winning theatre, music and dance. As part of the festival, our associate company Chill Pill have headed to Amsterdam to work with the South African artists of The Revivalists, where they will sample sections from four well-known plays and transform them to make statements about their identities. The Revivalists will have its only UK performance with us on Friday 17 October, 7.30pm. Chill Pill poet Adam Kammerling lets us know how rehearsals are progressing in Amsterdam so far: 

What links Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard, Euripides’ The Bacchae, Henry Ibsen’s The Enemy Of The People, Maria Stuart by Schiller and Shakespeare’s Othello? Answer on a postcard please.

Me and long time Chill Pill compadre, Stephanie Turner, are all up in Amsterdam working on a show called The Revivalists. It’s a theatre show that aims to find the answer to the above question. The Revivalists are a crew of incredible South African artists, all from different disciplines, reviving classic texts in their own styles, telling their personal stories through monologues in the aforementioned texts. A narrative has emerged organically over the process of development and the show is getting pretty epic.

The experience has been deep in a thousand ways for a thousand reasons. Firstly, theatre practice is SERIOUSLY different to the life of isolated key bashing/pen scratching that us poets inhabit. There’s more sweating. More dancing. More trusting.

Secondly, the vision of Maarten van Hinte and Marjorie Boston, and the current cast is huge. The span of themes being pulled in through the filter of these texts is amazing. The process of cyphering allows everything in to interact with everything else. If you have an idea, you realise it as fully as possible and then the group decides if and how it can play out in the entire piece. The process is a conversation of short works (and then actual conversations) between all the artists. It makes for the richest and most creative space I have ever worked in.Adam Kammerling

We rolled up to a fashion event on Sunday and ran a short extract of the piece. The other performers, who are mainly theatre makers, are all seriously amazing and we blew some unsuspecting minds. First full run is this weekend and we’ll be doing the show at the Albany on the 17th. We can’t wait.

Meanwhile, back in the land of London, the rest of the gang have sorted out some cracking acts for our parties in the Township Cafe during Afrovibes UK. Not to mention our Chill Pill show on the 16th, featuring South Africa’s own Toni Stuart and London Zulu. I am very excited.

Right. Back to rehearsals.

PEACE

Adam Kammerling, Poet, Chill Pill

Chill Pill will perform with The Revivalists artists throughout the week of Afrovibes festival at three different events: Chill Pill Plus… (Wednesday – Friday 17 October, 8.30pm), Chill Pill: Afrovibes (Thursday 16 October, 7.30pm) and The Revivalists (Friday 17 October, 7.30pm). 

For more information about Afrovibes and to book tickets, click here.

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Stella Duffy on Why the Albany is the Perfect Home for Fun Palaces

Brockwell Lido Fun Palace, Image by Tom Parker

Brockwell Lido Fun Palace, Image by Tom Parker

Fun Palaces is a free, nationwide celebration of arts, sciences and culture, taking place on Saturday 4 & Sunday 5 October in 130+ locations across the UK and internationally. The event celebrates the centenary of cultural innovator Joan Littlewood and brings to life the vision she shared with Cedric Price for the creation of a ‘Fun Palace’. We are proud to be the national home for Fun Palaces, and also to be part of the Deptford Fun Palace. Ahead of this momentous weekend, Fun Palaces Founder and Co-Director Stella Duffy explains why the Albany is the perfect home for Fun Palaces.

I’m 51. I’ve been working in the arts since I was 18 when I got my Equity card. For many of us, perhaps especially those from my generation – those of us for whom not getting a ‘proper’ job (before you could at least get degrees in non-‘proper’ jobs) meant saying no to an office, no to a desk, no to a set place to work – for many of us, saying yes to the arts meant saying no to a home. We didn’t think we needed or wanted a home. We wanted to be ‘free’.

And free is all very well, but it doesn’t take long to realise that free is also scary, tiring, and that sometimes what we really want, as well as free, is a home.

A base, somewhere to work from, somewhere that understands the kind of work we’re trying to make, somewhere that understands the kind of artist we’re trying to be, that can hold us while we’re trying to be the kind of artist we might become. And it doesn’t matter what stage we’re at in our work, EVERY artist needs this kind of support, every artist is emerging to some extent, every time they make a new piece of work. We all need support.

I’ve been lucky, as a novelist and short story writer, to have this in the publishers I’ve worked with; I’ve been lucky as a performer and director to have this in a couple of the companies I’ve been part of – they are the companies I still work with. But I can count on the fingers of one hand the theatres and arts centres where I feel truly welcome, as either a writer or a theatremaker – where I honestly feel they ‘get’ the work I care to make. (Interestingly, for those of you who think being published might rid you of all your outsider feelings – none of the ones I feel particularly welcome in are those that consider themselves “writers’ theatres”. Maybe that’s why I call myself a theatremaker not a playwright …)

I don’t think we look for THE home, as artists, as makers, I think we look for A home. A place that gets the work we’re passionate about now, a base that can support us to reach further than we’ve reached before, a space that will let us run with an idea, even when it’s slightly (or very) excessive, even when we don’t really know what we’re doing (and neither do they), just in case it works. A place that is, perhaps more importantly, brave enough to say yes, knowing it might not work.

The Albany is that place for Fun Palaces. Crucially, it calls itself an arts centre. It is not only interested in theatre, it is interested in arts. And it is right in the middle of a vibrant, bustling community – it is part of that community, truly part of it. It’s no accident that Sarah-Jane Rawlings, my Co-Director in Fun Palaces, had been working at the Albany last year on Meet Me at the Albany when I asked her to work on Fun Palaces with me. Meet Me at the Albany is a creative arts club for older people – it’s the antithesis of a traditional day centre. Every Tuesday the café at the Albany is full of vibrant, busy, noisy, LOCAL people, who happen to be older people, making the Albany their home. Not being looked after, or catered for, but creating by and for themselves. It’s a Fun Palace. While we were getting Fun Palaces off the ground last year, across the UK and beyond, the Albany were already making a Fun Palace for older people in their own café.

Stella Duffy, writer, actorSo when we needed a home – and fast – earlier this year, the Albany was the obvious place to turn. And because the Albany gets it, because they were already doing it, they welcomed us in. They’re us, we’re them – two of our team are working for Fun Palaces and the Albany at the same time; the Albany are also part of the Deptford Fun Palace; brilliant people from Meet Me at the Albany feature in the new film on our website.

When Sarah-Jane told Gavin Barlow (Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the Albany) that we needed a home, he immediately offered us a home there. And yes, we have a formal letter of agreement, and yes, our finances are carefully ring-fenced, and we’ve both done all the correct due diligence we need and want to be doing as publicly-funded bodies … but much as we needed a home for the business side of making Fun Palaces, for the funding side, we also needed a home that got it. That understood not just what we’re doing, but why we want to do it. Why we would be prepared to work so hard, for so long, on a dream. Because it’s the Albany’s dream too, and has been since it’s inception as The Deptford Fund in 1894. Access that is real, not just lip-service. Engagement that is about working with people to enhance our community, not just to tick boxes. Making a difference where we live.

The Albany was the right place, because it was already doing it.

Just as every Fun Palace maker is, right now, in the final lead-up to the weekend, already being a Fun Palace –working with their community, being artists and scientists in doing so, doing the work to make their weekend happen – so too, do we have our home at the Albany – because they were already a Fun Palace.

Stella Duffy, Founder & Co-Director, Fun Palaces

Fun Palaces takes place nationally & internationally on Saturday 4 & Sunday 5 October. For more information and to find your local Fun Palace, click here.

The Albany is part of the Deptford Fun Palace taking place at various locations and with an assortment of organisations and individuals in the Deptford area. For more information, click here.

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