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

Whoopnwail_Butforus-1207

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.

 

 

It’s the Final Countdown!

There are 3 days to go on the But For Us Kickstarter campaign, and we are so close to achieving our goal. Thank you so much to everyone who has already pledged and supported us so far – you are a brilliant bunch of backers!

We’ve raised 70% of our target so far – please help us with the final push. We need to get the But For Us message to as many people as possible, so if you are able to share the project on social media or with friends and family we would be very grateful.

Kickstarter: http://kck.st/2RQITkL

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/whoopnwailtheatre

Twitter: https://twitter.com/whoopnwail

Ali, Debs & Fiona - script meeting in York

Ali, Debs & Fiona – script meeting in York

Today we took a day trip to meet with our director, Fiona McPherson, in York which is halfway between her base and Whoop ‘n’ Wail HQ. We had an incredibly productive afternoon fine tuning the script and planning for the R&D in September.

#TheFightGoesOn #ButForUsThePlay

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!

 

Call out for actors

Dora

Whoop ‘n’ Wail Theatre are casting 8 actors (ages between 40 – 80, including specifically BAME) for a one-day table read of a brand new play, But For Us, by award winning playwrights Ali Kemp and Deborah Klayman. This is an unpaid opportunity for actors with a passion for new writing and an interest in the welfare state, social inclusion and politics. The plan for the day will be a read through followed by a discussion, then work on individual sections as decided by the director. This is to inform an ongoing R&D process with a view to a future production.

Please visit the casting page on our website for the full details and character breakdown. Deadline for submissions is Tuesday 18th December 2018.

Synopsis

Welfare’s in a state and the pensioners are revolting.

In 2022, the Uncoupled Kingdom is feeling the pinch and welfare’s in a state. Prescription charges are through the roof, hospitals are bursting at the seams, and camps have sprung up on the borders. Now Chastity Healthcare has the NHS in its sights and the pensioners are revolting.

75-year old Dora Cockburn came to the UK as a child on the Windrush, and ever since has lived on an estate in Shepherd’s Bush. A life-long socialist and campaigner, she is fighting to save the NHS from the politicians and privateers, with only a packet of questionable biscuits and partner-in-crime Ray to help her overcome. Now, her estranged son is on her doorstep – what’s a woman to do?

Martin Cockburn is Conservative Minister for Health and Social Care, and he’s standing for re-election. What’s in his way? Toeing the party line, rebellious constituents, and a wife that’s kicked him out. When you’re forced to live with your Trotskyite mum, how can you become Britain’s top Tory?

From the halls of power to the high rise and the cabinet to the camps, Dora must battle power plays, family feuds and media muscle in her quest for victory. But when the biscuits are down, help may come from an unlikely source…

 

No excuses this time

Excuses, excuses. There’s always something, isn’t there?

“It’s a great idea but I’m really busy at the moment?”

“I’d love to but I’ve got so much on, you wouldn’t believe!”

“I would but I’m completely snowed under. Next time.”

Well, I guess this was us. We’d known about Theatre Uncut for some time. It’s a theatrical call to arms, originally in response to the 2011 cuts in public spending. Every year, Hannah Price and Emma Callander of Theatre Uncut make a number of short political plays available for anyone to perform, rights free, anywhere in the world, creating a theatrical critical mass.

This is, of course, right up our street. We love a bit of theatrical activism but every year we’ve found a reason why we’d have to leave it until next time. To be fair to us, we have been very busy writing, producing, performing, doing the day job, as well as everything else that constitutes our lives. Producing plays is a very time consuming job and when you have a lot else going on, taking on yet another project might not make you very popular with your long-suffering loved ones.

This year was no different. Here at Whoop ‘n’ Wail we are preparing for the next stage in the development of our new play But For Us – watch this space for more on that! and what with putting together our creative team, applying for funding and scheduling some R&D, the likelihood of us producing anything from this year’s Theatre Uncut Power Plays looked very slim indeed:

“But, hang on. Not again! It’s like this every year and every year we miss out. Surely one more little side project won’t kill us!”

So we thought, realistically, the best we could do was get a few people around to Whoop ‘n’ Wail HQ for a really informal play read and good old fashioned discussion. So we did.

Bringing together friends and collaborators, some we haven’t seen in years and others we’ve only just met, we had our get-together on the morning of Sunday 24th June 2018. We read through the plays in turn and more than once, each provoking so much chat that we had to start watching the clock as we all had a variety of rehearsals, performances, meetings and social whirlery to get to later in the day. And apart from downloading and printing scripts, stocking up with plenty of tea and coffee and baking a batch of Whoop ‘n’ Wails infamous Caramac Cookies, very little time and effort needed to go into it. You can find extracts of our play reading here.

Theatre Uncut 2018

Theatre Uncut – Power Plays read by Paul Taylor, Ali Kemp, Radhika Aggarwal, Madeleine MacMahon, Deborah Klayman, Cassandra Cartwright

 

We will do the same next year, unless we decide to go the whole hog that is. But either way, from a small community here in the front room to the global community of Theatre Uncutters, we are all taking part in the discussion, not putting it off until next time.

“Theatre can create community and community, I know, can create change.”      

Emma Callander, Theatre Uncut 5-4-5 Podcast 1

The release period for this year’s plays has been extended until the end of the year – download, perform and debate Power Plays.

A selection of Power Plays will be performed at Traverse Theatre during the Edinburgh Festival on the 6th & 13th August 2018.

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.

madjesty-14

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

“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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