Tag Archives: artist development

Beatboxing champion Grace Savage on working with The Paper Birds for Blind

6f1e26c61dd4f688d97b21522217cd9aLeeds-based theatre company The Paper Birds previews new production Blind here as part of Hatched, our artists’ development programme, this Friday 18 July at 7pm. Devised with and performed by two-time UK beatboxing champion Grace Savage, Blind explores what young people are hearing today and how that affects who they will become, complete with flour and glitter. Grace fills us in ahead of the show’s Edinburgh Fringe première next month:

How did you get involved with The Paper Birds?

I went to Leeds University and during the summer breaks I would flyer for them in Edinburgh. I got to know the company and their work during this time and we have kept in touch ever since. Jemma caught me beatboxing whilst doing the washing up in our Edinburgh flat and that’s how she found out that I was a beatboxer! She came to see me do a singing/beatboxing gig in London a few years later and then asked if I was interested in making a solo show with them. We started applying for funding, received some support and before I knew it we were making a show together.

What are young people hearing about these days and how was this brought into Blind?

Although the show does focus on what we are hearing in the world, this is largely explored through my own personal experiences and it’s very specific to me as a young woman growing up in the 90’s and early 00’s in Devon, including how I came to be a professional beatboxer. Hopefully within these stories we can highlight similarities to that of the audience’s lives and therefore echo what people may be hearing in the wider world too. The show includes things such as advice from my mum, news reports that were big at the time, lyrics in the music I listened to, advertising slogans, violence in the media…etc.

When you’re growing up you are discovering who you are or want to be: what are your beliefs? How do you want others to view you? These things are really important to you and because as a teenager you are so unsure of who you are inside, you naturally start to gather information from the outside world; start to form opinions, to shape yourself (sometimes consciously sometimes not) and Blind kind of documents how I started to build an identity for myself from these external sources.

Have these things changed since you were that age?

I guess things are always changing and evolving it just takes time to recognise the impact these changes are having. Parents’ advice will change over time based on the experiences of their own generation, music and role models in music are always evolving: Hip Hop is hugely influential now, there has been a change in government, a recession and of course the rise of the internet has been a massive change. I bridged the gap of the internet/smart phone generation so I remember what it was like to not have those things but I also remember how quickly it entered and consumed my life. The internet and social media is a constant presence for young people now and it has changed the way in which we can access the wider world. There is SO much available to listen to now, kids are more easily exposed to things than when I was younger…

What is it like working with a theatre company? Was it a strange dynamic from what you may be used to as a beatboxer?

My background from a very early age has been in theatre and I studied it at University so I am used to working in a theatre environment so I wouldn’t say it was strange but to be combining the two worlds of beatboxing and contemporary theatre has been really exciting and refreshing for me as a performer who loves both art forms.

What was the most challenging thing about this collaboration?

As it is quite a personal piece and a lot of the material is close to home I found that every line and every theme or point we were making suddenly became more heavily weighted as I realised it would be seen as my opinion and that was quite frightening; there is no character for me to hide behind on stage. There was a point in rehearsals that I was analysing every line and sentiment and going “do I really feel that? Does that really represent me? Will the audience think this or that of me, is what I’m saying entirely truthful to me?” but I had to remind myself that a) there is always room for artistic licence in theatre and b) the show is about discovery and uncertainty so all the more reason to embrace my doubts!

Another challenge was trying to find creative and interesting ways to incorporate beatboxing into the piece. We did a lot of playing around with this and really tried to make sure that every time the audience see me beatboxing or I refer to beatboxing, that it is represented/used in a different way.

After this production, would you like to continue collaborating with theatre?

I was recently in a production called Home (directed by Nadia Fall) at The National Theatre as a young pregnant mum who communicated via beatboxing and loved every second of the process. I hope to find a new acting agent and continue a career in both music and acting.

Is there anything you think you’ll take away from this experience and bring back into your music?

There are always transferrable skills between theatre and music, both are essentially story telling art forms and so I hope by continuing with both, they will strengthen each other equally.

How did you start beatboxing?

There were a few older guys who were into beatboxing in the little town I grew up in Devon, one of my best friends Belle (aka Bellatrix) started to learn from them and I was inspired to learn too. I learnt a lot on Youtube and a lot from Belle, we are now pretty much the only two professional beatboxers in the country..and it all started in Crediton!

Can you offer any advice for aspiring beatboxers?

Practice. Practice. Practice. Be original and have no fear. When you feel confident, start out doing some open mic nights and working with other musicians to get better timing and work on your stage presence.

And most importantly, are glitters tasty?

They certainly tasted better than the flour!

Grace Savage performs in Blind this Friday 18 July at 7pm, to find out more and to book, click here. Blind is previewing here as part of Hatched, our artists development programme, for more information on other productions that are part of it, click here.

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Marcus Hercules hatches physical theatre piece Prison Game

Hatched, our artists development programme, is back starting this week with more work-in-progress productions every Friday of this month. Kicking it off is Marcus Hercules with one-man physical theatre piece, Prison Game, focusing on the prison system and what happens to people psychologically when they have been institutionalised. Ahead of the performance this Friday 11 July at 7pm, we asked Marcus a little bit more about it:

What piqued your interest in prisons and the lives of inmates? And why did you choose this subject matter?

I was at my cousin’s house who had spent several years locked up and it was fascinating to hear them talk about their time in prison and how it was sometimes a place where they had the most structure in their lives. Also that because they had spent so much time there it no longer seemed like punishment to them.

Who is the main character in the piece?

The character is based on my cousin, but some parts have been changed, but I would say 80% is based on real life experiences.

How did you prepare for Prison Game both as an actor and theatre maker?

For the first stage of writing I went to St Lucia which was great and I got a first draft, then coming back through customs was searched for two hours, which was interesting because of how they perceived me to be a drug smuggler.

What do you hope audiences will take from it? Is this meant to be a cautionary tale?

The inner strength we all have and how it’s important what we do with it, and the importance of life. It does have things in the story that will make you think about your own life, good or bad.

What are your thoughts on the prison system in the UK?

It seems like a mixed bag: some good some bad, and I think that a young person going to prison just for the structure of prison life is a shame.

Have you known anyone who has been in the prison system?

Yes, where I’m from I think that is normal; most people will know someone, it’s just a part of life, just like getting stopped coming through customs, being told you can’t get into a club because you’re dressed too dark, not getting the job interview because of your post code, these things can push some people to rebel against the system.

What inspired you to become a performer and theatre maker?

When I was at school it’s what I loved to do and I am fortunate to be able to do what I love. I chose to start making work because I wanted to work.

Is it very different devising and performing in a piece of theatre rather than just performing? Does it give you extra freedom artistically?

Most definitely because I know my strengths and I can write a piece that will get the best out of me, which is an advantage.

What is the most challenging and the most rewarding thing about being a theatre maker?

Telling stories that you want to tell is great, but getting things going and preservation is a challenge, but I always remember what my mum used to say “nothing good comes easy”.

What is your dream role to play, either from pre-existing theatre or something yet to be written?

I would like to play Martin Luther King, or Bob Marley, but where is the script?  They would be great stories to tell.

 

Prison Game will be on this Friday 11 July, 7pmfor more information and to book, click here.

Hatched, our programme for artist development, is happening every Friday this month from 11 July – 1 August, for details on all four productions, click here.

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