But For Us R&D

Last week we held our research and development week for But For Us at the Old Diorama Arts Centre (ODAC), culminating in a staged reading at the Bush Theatre for community and campaigners, and an Industry showing at ODAC.

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We had a phenomenal group of actors who worked their socks off to interrogate the script and develop the characters, under the watchful eye and skillful direction of Fiona MacPherson. We are extremely grateful to them for their willingness to hit the ground running, achieving a tremendous amount within the very limited time available to us.

We’d also like to say a huge thank you to all of the team at ODAC. Being Associate Performers has been an invaluable opportunity for us, and we thoroughly recommend other emerging artists explore this opportunity. Without ODAC, our R&D would not have been possible. And talking of which, another enormous thank you to our Kickstarter funders, without whom we would not have been able to pay anyone for all this hard work!

The showing at the Bush Theatre studio was sold out, with a fantastic atmosphere and a hugely appreciative audience. The feedback that we have collected from both readings will be invaluable as we take But For Us forward to the next stage.

So what is the next stage for But For Us?

Well, we did give ourselves the weekend off -but now we are back on it. We are digesting all the incredibly positive feedback we have received, as well as taking on board one or two constructively critical notes. We will then look towards fully integrating the video elements of the script, in collaboration with colleagues with projection design expertise. Ultimately, of course, our aim is to take But For Us to as wide an audience as possible with a fully staged production.

We will keep you posted!

Ali & Debs

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L-R back: Deborah Klayman (Writer/Producer), Adil Akram (Naveen), Nicky Goldie (Brenda), Eva Fontaine (Mary), Andre Lecointe-Gayle (Martin), Harry Napier (Ricky), Ali Kemp (Writer/Producer). L-R front: Natascha Slasten (Gretel), Lesley Ewen (Dora), Roger Conneff (Ray), Fiona Macpherson (Director).

With thanks to Alex Harvey-Brown at Savannah Photographic for the fantastic rehearsal photography, and for filming the reading at the Bush Theatre studio.

 

 

But For Us table read

In January, this happened…..

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But For Us table read January 2019, Old Diorama Arts Centre

Photos by Stew Calladine @arty_stew

Hearing actors, most that we’d never met before, discuss and read our characters with such intimate knowledge of them was a strange and wonderful experience. This play has been about three years in the writing, and at the reading it really felt like it was stepping out in the big wide world and starting a life of its own, finding its own voice. It got us quite emosh.

A huge thanks to the actors for their enthusiasm and invaluable input: Adil Akram, Yvonne Campbell, Roger Conneff, Eva Fontaine, Érin Geraghty, Andre Lecointe, Natascha Slasten and PK Taylor. Our eternal gratitude also to Paula David and Swee Wildman for their insightful contributions. It was a joy to be led by director Fiona MacPherson and wonderful to be reunited with friend of Whoop ‘n’ Wail, Stew Calladine, who took the photos for us.

Thanks also to The Old Diorama Arts Centre, who are supporting the development of our work through the Associate Performers Scheme – ultimately, without them, this day couldn’t have happened.

So, what next?

We aren’t sitting back on our laurels that’s for sure!

Feeling super inspired by Rikki Beadle-Blair’s, “Life’s A Pitch” workshop (Old Vic Workshops For Artists), and with tailored advice from David Byrne (New Diorama Monthly Artist Surgeries), we’re full steam ahead in preparation for two weeks of research and development in the spring.

You gotta play a long game to get from page to stage, but look at all the fabulous people you get to meet and learn from along the way!

 

Winners of the Cambridge University Press “Channel the Bard” competition!

In 2016, as part of their Shakespeare 400 commemorations, Cambridge University Press invited submission of short plays inspired by the works of the Bard. Ali Kemp and Deborah Klayman of Whoop ‘n’ Wail Theatre Company submitted their short play, My Bloody Laundrette to the “Channel the Bard” competition, and were delighted to win!

The full interview and playscript can be found here.


 

An Interview with Whoop ‘n’ Wail Theatre Company

Deborah Klayman and Ali Kemp (L-R) photo credit -Gianluca Romeo 1

Deborah Klayman & Ali Kemp (L-R). Photo credit: Gianluca Romeo

You can read their winning play entry for free here


In this interview we talk to Ali Kemp and Deborah Klayman, the co-founders of Whoop ‘n’ Wail Theatre Company, who won our competition with their winning entry My Bloody Laundrette.

CUP: Why did you decide to set up Whoop ‘n’ Wail Theatre Company back in 2011?

Ali Kemp: Well, first of all Deborah approached me because she had an idea of something that she was really burning to write, and you really wanted some help to get that going, didn’t you? That was it really, that was the birth of our first play, eXclusion in 2011, and we’ve carried on working together ever since.

eXclusion by Ali Kemp Deborah Klayman Photo Credit Rakesh Mohun

eXclusion by Ali Kemp & Deborah Klayman. Photo credit: Rakesh Mohun

Deborah Klayman: We enjoy writing plays that are funny (we hope!), but they do tend to have a bit of black humour.

AK: Yeah, we’re kind of drawn to social issues.

CUP: Why is Shakespeare important to you?

DK: We’ve got a very particular affinity with Shakespeare because, as actresses, Ali and I actually met working on King Lear.

AK: So Shakespeare is fundamentally important to us!

DK: That was in 2006, so it may be Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary, but it’s the 10th anniversary of us working together. That year we did a world tour of King Lear and we really hit it off straight away. That led us down the path really.

AK: We’ve worked together many times as actors, but also as a writing partnership and subsequently as producers, so Shakespeare gets the credit for that, I guess!

DK: One of the things we are drawn to in Shakespeare’s plays is that he writes quite black comedy at times, and that’s something that we like to do with our writing as well.

With some of the tragedies you also find that, whilst there are obviously some upsetting moments, you do have moments where there are quite ‘light’ parts (for instance with King Lear). Even in the comedies you have some quite dark moments. Twelfth Night is a good example, where you have comedic scenes and then you have what happens to Malvolio.

AK: Although it depends on how it is played and how it’s produced, how it’s interpreted by the actors and director.

DK: Yes, and implicit in the text there is quite a lot of scope for that. With other writers you don’t necessarily get so many options for how to play it, and I think Shakespeare really gives a lot of different opportunities, it’s got that light and dark, which is reflective of all people.

AK: And I suppose that never gets old, because of the endless numbers of possibilities for interpretation.

DK: Yes, I think people always talk about the themes being universal and relevant, but I think the characters are intrinsically like that as well because they are so rounded.

Shakespeare really gives a lot of different opportunities, it’s got that light and dark, which is reflective of all people.

CUP: What inspired you to write My Bloody Laundrette?

AK: It was a response to a shout out for short plays by an organisation called 17Percent for their SheWrites Showcase –

DK: On the theme of ‘What is art?’

AK: Yep, and we had quite recently been introduced to ‘The Bechdel Test’ when we’d started thinking about the play, and thinking about the number of roles for women in the Shakespeare canon. We found it interesting to think about the role of men creating art that is telling female stories, so that’s kind of where it came from initially, and then it developed. We started looking through Shakespeare’s plays to find the characters, and settled upon Juliet.

DK: I think our original concept actually was that it was going to be three Shakespearian women, so they needed to be really recognisable. Juliet was an immediate choice because she’s such an iconic and well known character.

AK: It seems to me that so much happens to her – instigated by men – so she was a really good choice to start with.

DK: Yes, and everyone talks about her and makes decisions for her. And obviously she does talk quite a lot with the nurse and so on, but again, generally speaking it’s about men.

AK: Hm.

DK: Yeah.

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Ali Kemp, Gerri Farrel, Tom Neill & Ian Crump (L-R) in “Madjesty” by Ali Kemp & Deborah Klayman. Photo credit: George Riddell

AK: So originally we were thinking that we were going to write about three Shakespearean women, but then we kind of threw it out a bit further –

DK: I had watched something – because we’d been looking at The Bechdel Test at the time – and somebody had talked about the fact that Princess Leia represents everything! She’s a fantastic female character, I mean she’s a wife and a mother at various points throughout the Star Wars canon, however she’s also a senator, she’s a politician, she’s a rebel, she’s a fighter, she’s a general.

AK: She’s a sex object!

DK: And I think if you read about Carrie Fisher, who played her, she seems to have felt the burden of that representation. So she’s definitely an interesting character in that regard because she’s such a strong, such a positive female character, and yet she’s the only one.

AK: And being everything to everyone.

DK: And so differently from Juliet we felt almost that she was over burdened with all of the things that she was being.

AK: We felt actually that you could have had five female characters, but with Princess Leia they were all rolled into one. We felt that she had a very different burden on her.

DK: So, we then thought that if we have these two characters it would be quite interesting to have three different art forms, and the most iconic woman we could think of in Fine Art was the Mona Lisa.

AK: There’s been so much speculation as to what she’s thinking, what’s she’s doing –

DK: And I mean the attacks that she’s suffered over the years!

AK: They’re for real!

DK: She’s even had paint thrown on her.

AK: It’s quite interesting that a painting could generate such a response from its viewers. So, she was the obvious third choice for us.

DK: And once we had the three characters the play kind of wrote itself.

You could have had five female characters, but with Princess Leia they were all rolled into one. We felt that she had a very different burden on her… she’s such a strong, such a positive female character, and yet she’s the only one.

CUP: What projects are you currently working on?

DK: We have quite a few things in the pipeline, we haven’t written a full length play since eXclusion because we have been focusing on new writing, The Bechdel Test –

AK: And Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents… which is ongoing.

DK: Absolutely. Represents… is quite a time consuming venture because Ali and I do all of that. We manage open submissions for plays – which, as I’m sure you know, takes a lot of time and reading! Once we have the scripts then we give two to each director to choose between, and we give a female writer to a male director and vice versa.

AK: Because it’s a gender equal showcase.

DK: So all the plays have to pass The Bechdel Test, but we have three male writers and three female writers.

AK: And we have three male directors and three female directors. It makes the whole experience very much a gender equal collaboration.

DK: Then the director will do the casting and will invite the writers to be involved in the rehearsal process. We normally do two nights of the production (six plays). They are quite work intensive but we have got a huge amount out of doing it.

AK: Personally, but also in terms of working with talented writers, directors and actors – and there’s been a lot of ongoing collaboration between them, so that’s really exciting, introducing artists to each other, which has been very gratifying for us.

DK: We’ve also had feedback from some of the writers that the remit we’ve set has actually influenced them and their craft as well.

Heart's Desire 3

Jonathan Akingba & Caroline Loncq in “Heart’s Desire” by Ali Kemp & Deborah Klayman. Photo credit: George Riddell

AK: Alongside Represents… we are also writing our second full length play which we’ve been researching and it’s now starting to take shape now.

DK: We can’t say too much more about it now – it’s at a very early stage.

AK: So watch this space!

CUP: What is your favourite Shakespeare play and why?

AK: King Lear because we met doing King Lear!

DK: Aw! Well sorry, mine is Macbeth! Firstly, it’s ‘the Scottish play’ and I’m Scottish, but also because I find the characters and the themes really interesting, and it’s the part I’ve always wanted to play – as an actor, Lady Macbeth is the part to play! I do also like Henry VI Part III, which may be a little obscure, but there are some really great speeches for Queen Margaret.

We have quite a few things in the pipeline… so watch this space!

Check out the interview at: www.cambridgeblog.org

A matter of consent

Playwright and long time Whoop ‘n’ Wail collaborator, Dan Horrigan, tells us about his play, Face the Camera and Smile, which features in this month’s 50/50 at the Arts Theatre, London as part of the Women In The West End Festival.

The 50/50 Festival caught my attention because it’s a welcome and required concept – present work where the balance of genders is equal, what you see on the stage is a parity. In it’s way it is contributing to a sea change taking place right now in British Theatre – to do with representation.

I am currently redrafting my play Face The Camera And Smile, a scene from which is part of the 50/50 Festival. It was previously shortlisted for The Kings Cross Award for New Writing in 2009. It was also treated very kindly by Writers Avenue with readings of the first 20 minutes at The Rosemary Branch, The Pleasance, and Soho Theatre.

At the time, there was a lot of pressure to redraft the play for its various readings at each venue. I held off the deep redrafts, providing only a few tweaks and a bit of polish. I have always been fascinated by how things change over time, and at the time the question was ‘how do you end conflict responsibly?’ – we were coming out of Afghanistan and the question seemed pertinent. I wasn’t ready to end the play, because there was no end in sight.

A repeated comment on my play was it may no longer be of interest because the war in Iraq was old news. I knew these comments were hopelessly limited. Sometimes a play has a deeper question than that posed by the buzz of the zeitgeist. Writers are often put under pressure to comment in the present tense.

Coming back to the play I now see that the actual drive for the play was consent.  The fact is we went to war without a mandate, and the dodgy dossier was a pack of lies. The Government did not have our consent to go to war. The people of Iraq did not invite us to destroy their lives.

I hope Face the Camera and Smile will be a salient reminder that when the simple things are not given their due recognition the consequences affect us all. Going to war without a mandate or proper justification is part of a long line of transgression by continuous governments in the UK that led to unmitigated disasters and untold humanitarian suffering.

Working on the 50/50 Festival is an opportunity for me to re-ignite the powder trail that leads to the play’s themes – themes which are played out through consent on a micro and macro level and are gendered. In doing so we hope to inspire our audience to ask questions about what is done in our name, or not, and where it is taking us.

The changes to the script are the result of waiting. As such I feel a deeper commitment to the story and what I am trying to put out there for your consideration.

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Dan Horrigan (@DBHorrigan) is a writer and director working in film and theatre. His play Three Women and a Music Box recieved a five star review when it was performed at Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents…The Launch in 2014 and then in 2015 Dan returned to Whoop ‘n’ Wail for Represents…Desire in 2015 but this time, as a director. His work on 3AM by Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich was also reviewed with five stars.

Face the Camera and Smile by Dan Horrigan, directed by Zachary James, will be performed by Ali Kemp (Sarah) and Fergal Phillips (Danny) on Wednesday 30th March at 3pm & 7.30pm at The Arts Theatre, London. Click here for tickets and for more information about Women In The West End, head to the Anonymous Is A Woman Theatre Company website.

 

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“Acting is the reality of doing”

This month, Sienna Miller revealed that she turned down a Broadway play, a two-hander, because she was being offered less than half the pay of her male co-star. Turning down an opportunity like this is a brave move career-wise, and revealing the fact braver still.

As we well know there are far fewer roles for women in theatre, film and TV – and as a result, actresses can ill-afford to be turning any roles down, even if you are a Hollywood star. Emma Thompson acknowledged that, at the age of 56, she took the role of a 77 year old woman in the film The Legend of Barney Thomson – even though it would have been nice for a 77 year old actress to play it – because it was ‘a wildly comic role and I couldn’t resist’. And having been told by a producer that, at 37, Maggie Gyllenhaal was too old to play a romantic counterpart to a 55 year old man, she apparently felt sad, then angry and then laughed.

Well, perhaps if you didn’t laugh, you’d cry. How should we respond to this?

Legendary American acting coach Sandford Meisner said “Acting is the reality of doing”. He was talking about an actor’s approach to their craft – living truthfully in the imaginary circumstances of the play. Should not a play then live truthfully within the world in which it inhabits, in order to reflect and engage with the audience, no matter what the imaginary circumstances? So, if it’s all about the ‘reality of doing’, let’s do it!

As Viola Davis accepted her ‘Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama’ Emmy, the first African-American to ever receive the accolade, she made a point of thanking the writers of How to Get Away with Murder for being the people who “redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black”. On the same night, Orange Is the New Black star Uzo Aduba became the first actress to win both a drama and comedy Emmy for the same role. She expressed her gratitude to show creator Jenji Kohan, thanking her for “making this show, for creating this space, for creating a platform”.

At Whoop ‘n’ Wail HQ, we are very proud of all the writers who have risen to the Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents… challenge since it’s launch in 2014 – because it is that very reality of doing, and of having a space and platform, that will make real change in the future.

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Don’t mention the M word!

Film director Georgie Weedon’s journey into feminist theatre.

As a director of factual movies (I have stopped saying documentaries following Michael Moore’s recent brilliant advice), the opportunity to direct a play was thrilling and a little terrifying.

I met Ali and Debs for the first time, in a cafe in Covent Garden in March. I had seen an advert calling for directors for a night of new plays that would pass the Bechdel TestWhoop ‘n’ Wail Represents…Mayday.

To me the appeal was two-fold: I am dazzled by Mark Rylance’s performance in Wolf Hall but bored by the number of male characters wafting about the screen in some kind of Tudor stag night saga; And then those ugly stats about the dismal number of female directors and lack of trust in female-led films and theatre.

Ali and Debs weren’t just ruing the situation, they were doing something about it. I wanted in.

I was given three plays to read and chose The M Word by Brian Redmond. In the world of the play, women are not allowed to talk about men at all and a KGB-type surveillance drops in when our two lead characters wander into what seems to be a conversation about a man. It had humour and a point.

Now the task was to get the play on its feet, to find the right actors to bring the characters and tone of the piece to life, to push and tug at the script until we had found its shape. I cast Sharon Maughan, Amy Cooke Hodgson and Jonah Fazel.

The M Word by Brian Redmond. Amy Cooke Hodgson & Sharon Maughan

The M Word by Brian Redmond                           Amy Cooke Hodgson & Sharon Maughan

Sharon’s career was somewhat terrifying to a newbie stage director. She has starred with Hayley Mills in Flame Trees of Ithaca, countless other stand out films, performed at the National Theatre, the Royal Court and also for the Queen alongside Helen Mirren and Joan Plowright.

Equally daunting to me was Amy Cooke Hodgson, a comic genius and star of the sell-out improvised comedy group Austentatious, as well as being an accomplished director herself. And to cap it all, both dazzling performers were to be interrogated through a megaphone by the brilliant Jonah Fazel, comedy actor and artistic director of Forked Path Theatre.

All in all, they were theatre gods to me and at the start of the rehearsals I did that thing where you pretend you have it all in hand when deep down you can’t quite believe this is happening.

We had three days to rehearse at the storied Troubadour pub in Earls Court, which has a legendary artistic history of its own and it felt like the right place for our project to take shape. I had read all the books I could on the rehearsal process, from Katie Mitchell’s The Director’s Craft to John Caird’s Theatre Craft, but now it was time to do it for real.

Amy Cooke Hodgson & Sharon Maughan in The M Word

We were opening the show, which was scary but a brilliant programming decision by Ali and Debs. Our play talked about the Bechdel Test head-on in a playful tone, and the cast’s electric performances got the audience laughing and comfortable to open up to the five excellent wide-ranging pieces which followed.

Perhaps the hardest part of all, coming from directing film, is learning to accept how transient a theatre production is. You can spend months shooting a film and many more in the edit suite trying to create an atmosphere or an argument which will be watched again and again.

Theatre actors create experiences of the same intense fascination and watchability, but when the run is over everyone disbands and moves on to tell other stories. But there is a huge positive aspect to this: the constant re-engagement with texts and fellow theatre-makers means that your own imagination, and those of audiences, are challenged and delighted in new ways over and over.

I’m thrilled to have been part of Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents… and highly recommend you pop along to their next festival to get your hit of powerful, perspective-changing entertainment.

Georgie Weedon is a filmmaker, author and emerging theatre director. She runs Gingerwink Films and is a founding associate for the global arts initiative @ProjectARIADNE, profiling female theatre makers working in conflict affected areas around the world. 

Here it is: The line-up for the third Represents… showcase!

Mayday - Banner

We wish to extend our thanks to all the writers from across the UK who have sent us their work in response to the theme of Mayday. It has truly been a pleasure to read such a broad range of plays, all of which include significant female characters and in doing so bring theatre in the UK closer to achieving realistic gender representation.

We are excited to be able to announce the line up for the third Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents… returning to Waterloo East Theatre on 27th & 28th April 2015:

Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents…Mayday

The Clearing by Paul Howard, directed by Alice Bonifacio

The Shipping Forecast by Lizzie Bourne, directed by James Callas Ball

The M Word by Brian Redmond, directed by Georgie Weedon

Madjesty by Ali Kemp & Deborah Klayman, directed by Paul Taylor

Resting by William Patterson, directed by Janet L Palmer

Grit by Sarah Davies, directed by Marc Kelly

Congratulations to all the successful playwrights, and we look forward to seeing your work on stage at the end of April!

We are welcoming Lizzie Bourne back to Represents… as she has performed in the previous two showcases and is now sharing her talent as a writer. Alice Bonifacio and Paul Taylor are also returning as directors for Team Represents…; and we are delighted that James Callas Ball, Georgie Weedon, Janet L Palmer and Marc Kelly will be joining them for the first time.

Our playwrights have been put in touch with their directors and casting is well underway.

All there is to do now is for you to book your tickets! Remember there is a £2 discount if you book in advance – plus you don’t want to be one of those people who we’ve had to turn away when the performances have sold out!

Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents…Mayday
Waterloo East Theatre, London, SE1 8TG
Monday 27th & Tuesday 28th April 2015, 7.30pm
Tickets on sale now: £10 in advance (£12 on the door)
Box office: 020 7928 0060 / www.waterlooeast.co.uk

Approximate running time: 2 hours 15 including interval.

OOs

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