The magic of Beatrix Potter’s The Tailor of Gloucester

We caught up with Wiltshire Creative Artistic Director Gareth Machin, who has written a musical adaptation of Beatrix Potter’s The Tailor of Gloucester along with composer Glyn Kerslake.

Gareth MachinWhy did you pick The Tailor of Gloucester, of all of Beatrix Potter’s stories, for a musical adaptation for the stage?

“This follows on from the previous two shows Glyn Kerslake and I have written together – The Night Before Christmas and Little Robin Redbreast – both of which focused very much on Christmas, so we were looking for one more story with the same qualities of anticipation and the excitement of Christmas that children love. We were drawn to The Tailor of Gloucester for that reason, rather than because it’s a Beatrix Potter story, although of course children love animals and the cosiness of Beatrix Potter’s world. It’s the same with Agatha Christie, there’s a real interest in reimagining those stories in a more contemporary way. That’s why we’ve had the different versions of Peter Rabbit through a contemporary lens. Our version of The Tailor of Gloucester is more traditional but it is a fresh retelling of the story.”

What are your own experiences of Beatrix Potter’s work, either as a child or as a parent?

“I lived in Gloucester as a teenager and I used to leave my bicycle outside the tailor of Gloucester’s shop by the Cathedral so I was very aware of Beatrix Potter as a figure. There was a museum there and her figures are very prominent in Gloucester. My son has been enjoying the retellings of Peter Rabbit.”

Why do you think Beatrix Potter’s tales endure?

“She creates worlds that children feel very safe inside. There are very memorable characters who children can relate to. Children relate to animals and cuddly toys and that all feeds into the success of the Beatrix Potter films. There are good narratives – enough happens to keep children engaged. There’s also humour and a sense of play and fun in her stories.”

The Tailor of Gloucester cast LANDSCAPE V4

What are the opportunities of adapting work by one of Britain’s best loved children’s authors and illustrators?

“There’s a lot of music in the The Tailor of Gloucester story. There’s a big moment where the cat Simpkin is being tormented by the other animals on the night before Christmas and in the book that’s all done through song and traditional rhymes. The bells of Gloucester also feature, so there was the beginning of a musical world that we could latch on to. Simpkin the cat is a wonderfully naughty character and that gives the opportunity to undercut the potential sentimentality of the piece. Children like to see bad behavior on stage and whoever is behaving badly realising they’ve done wrong and making amends so that’s useful. It’s a heart-warming story with a very simple moral. The opportunity to create something very theatrical is there because there are a lot of animals: mice, birds, fish at one point. So there’s an opportunity for puppetry which is something we haven’t done in our other shows. With the tailor we have a sympathetic character. In the other two plays we’ve written there were more traditional families and we’ve noticed the number of grandparents who bring their grandchildren to the show, so being able to have more of a grandparent figure in the show is an interesting dynamic. The character will be played as an older character who can relate to children in the slightly different way from the way parents relate to children.”

How important is it that Wiltshire Creative is making the whole show, including set and costumes?

“We’re really proud that we invest in this work for this age group. It’s hard financially making work for this age group, the performances are short and ticket prices aren’t high so we subsidise these shows. But it’s really important to be able to offer a higher quality theatrical experience to this age group and for the opportunity to share the resources that we have here. Often shows for this age don’t have those sorts of production resources behind them.”

You and Glyn have already written two successful Christmas musicals for young children, The Night Before Christmas and Little Robin Redbreast – what’s the process of writing with Glyn?

“It starts with us kicking titles around, we each pitch in different ideas. Then I write a synopsis with suggested song placements. That goes through a couple of drafts until we feel we have a solid story and an idea of the songs. I then write the script and I write what each song is going to do, and get the voices of the characters going. Once we’re happy with the script, we go back to the start and work on the songs. We work out what kind of song it’s going to be. With this show Glyn had a lot of musical ideas already. There’s a ballad that flows through the whole piece where I wrote the lyrics to his music. Normally I would write a draft song, a verse and a chorus. There are usually one or two songs where we struggle. They tend to be the simpler songs. The participation songs are tricky because they have to be so simple and it’s difficult not to make them sound like every other participation song you’ve heard. It’s really hard being simple, musically and lyrically.”

You’ve ensured over recent years that Salisbury Playhouse has something on offer for younger children over the festive period. Can you say why you think this is important?

“It’s really important. There are a lot of young children in Salisbury so there’s a big audience to reach. As brilliant as panto is, over the last few years it’s got louder and young people can find it a bit of an assault on the senses both in terms of the sound and visually. Our shows in The Salberg have grown in parallel with the change in pantomime. That’s why it’s so important that we offer these shows. There’s also something else about the space. It’s very different sitting in The Salberg with 150 people to sitting in the main house with 500 which can feel overwhelming. You’re closer to the actors, the actors interact with the children, it’s a very different experience. Even some older children find the quieter, smaller experience more engaging.”

What are the magic ingredients of a Christmas musical for this age group?

“Lots of participation opportunities to interact and for a young audience to feel they’re making a difference to how the story turns out. It needs to be no longer than an hour. It needs charming songs that work on two levels: great tunes with simple ideas but also jokes and witty lines that keep the parents engaged. Sympathetic characters with lovely actors who can represent those characters. It needs to be visually engaging so there needs to be magic in the set. Dancing, seeing the characters move around. And snow. There needs to be snow.”

The Tailor of Gloucester runs in The Salberg at Salisbury Playhouse from 9 – 28 December. For more information and tickets visit www.wiltshirecreative.co.uk.

Rosie Kay’s Fantasia

Diane Parks caught up with choreographer Rosie Kay ahead of her company’s performance of Fantasia at Salisbury Arts Centre in November.

Choreographer Rosie Kay’s new work Fantasia is just that – a colourful mix of fantasy, magic and surprise.

RKDC Rosie Kay's Fantasia image Brian Slater 5

Rosie, who is perhaps best known for her works 5 SOLDIERS and the Commonwealth Games Handover to Birmingham, is this time using dance to play with ideas, expectations and reality in the show which comes to Salisbury Art Centre on Saturday 16 November.

Set to music by classical composers including Beethoven, Bach and Vaughan Williams, Fantasia features three female dancers in a piece inspired by concepts of ideals and beauty.

“I had a sense that everything I was going to see, whether it’s dance or theatre or movies, was actually quite miserable and ugly and about how terrible everything is,” says Rosie.

“So I started thinking about beauty and I was reading philosophy and Nietzsche who talks about how beauty is so much more than we think it is now. The Ancient Greeks believed there was a strong relationship between beauty and truth but beauty now is seen as very shallow.

“Today beauty is just about superficial appearance but actually it’s about so much more than that. Beauty has become separated from all the other ideas associated with it. For example, beauty can be terrifying – if you think about nature it can be beautiful yet also awe-inspiring at the same time.

“There are three women dancers in the show and I play with the idea of them looking ‘pretty’ and presenting themselves but there’s a relationship between beauty and philosophy and melancholy.”

RKDC Rosie Kay's Fantasia image Brian Slater 2 RKDC Rosie Kay's Fantasia image Brian Slater 7.jpg

To explore these ideas, Rosie’s choreography sees the dancers performing together and breaking off for solos in a series of different scenes inspired by the idea of a classical fantasia.

“I used to play the piano a lot and I always loved Mozart’s Fantasia in D Minor – I was fascinated because the structure of it is really crazy!” Rosie explains. “I discovered that a fantasia is a piece of musical composition that breaks all the rules.

“I love fantasias that take you on flights of fantasy. The most famous is Disney’s Fantasia film but a fantasia generally is a chance to play and explore. Also, the word is just magical – we’re not in a ‘fantasia’ world at the moment. If we stop in rehearsals to talk about the news of the day we have to stop and remind ourselves we really want to be looking at truth and beauty!”

Rosie was born in Scotland and trained at London Contemporary Dance School. After performing with companies across the world she formed Rosie Kay Dance Company in 2004. Based in Birmingham, her works have included site-specific productions such as The Great Train Dance on Severn Valley Railway and Ballet on the Buses with Birmingham Royal Ballet.

And she has taken on some difficult subjects to explore through dance. Over the past decade Rosie has created and toured a trio of works all looking at the human body and how it is affected by external forces. In 2010 she created 5 SOLDIERS: The Body is the Frontline which examined war and the body, and which earlier this year was expanded into the larger production 10 SOLDIERS. In 2012 she choreographed There is Hope which looked at the body and religion, and last year she toured MK Ultra which focused on the body and politics.

For Rosie, Fantasia is a breath of fresh air after tackling such weighty subjects.

“These have all been really big narrative pieces and, as a choreographer, after creating these works, I need to not make work about ‘stuff’,” she says. “I need to come back to my craft and why I’m a choreographer and not a director. It’s like a physical need in me to make a piece which is just about dance.

“That’s the start point for Fantasia – I really wanted to make really complex dance material. And then it’s a question of ‘what is that about?’ which led me to Fantasia.”

That’s not to say that Fantasia isn’t also packed full of ideas. Rosie has been busy researching sources as diverse as philosophy, composition and art through to neuroscience and theories of modern beauty – then bringing them together into the work.

“We’ve been looking at John Berger’s book Ways of Seeing from the 1970s and how we bring our own perspectives when we look at art. For female dancers, who use their own bodies in their art form, this has been revelatory. We’ve also been talking about the Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi. She was a contemporary of Caravaggio and her work is just as beautiful as Caravaggio’s but from a female perspective.

“Her father was a painter who trained her to paint and his assistant raped her when she was a teenager. She took the man to court but she ended up getting tortured to see if she was telling the truth or not – despite the fact the crime was done to her!

“So in the piece we are finding moments where we can be a picture of beauty but we’re also looking at what’s really going on behind that picture. There is the Baroque beauty but there’s also anger and sentiment and pain and inner monsters – and then back to beauty again.”

Rosie has long been fascinated by the links between our minds and bodies and has worked with neuroscientists to test how people respond to dance emotionally.

“I was part of a big research project in 2009 which was trying to discover whether you have an empathetic connection with the dancer when you watch dance. I choreographed a piece which was then tested with detailed verbal feedback and also with brain scanners.

“The same three-minute dance was danced to Bach, just to breath and to more modern techno music. The research showed humans have a strong reaction to dance to classical music, but we also have a strong reaction to the dance just with the breath – it seemed to fire up a part of the brain which was the body-to-body response.

“So when people say they respond to dance such as 5 SOLDIERS from the gut, they really do – it’s an empathetic response to what they are seeing.”

All of these ideas and the music of composers from Vivaldi to techno have helped Rosie create Fantasia. But although the context is rich, Rosie is clear that audiences will respond to the piece even if they know nothing beyond its name.

“The dance, the performance and the performers will speak for themselves,” she says. “You could just come in and watch the whole thing and it doesn’t matter whether any of this research is in your mind. A lot of it doesn’t matter for the audience – it’s for us, as creators and performers, so we know what we are playing with. The audience doesn’t need to know it – but they should feel it.

“There should be an emotional journey, it should have peaks and troughs and climaxes and quiet valleys. I want people to feel really emotional but also to laugh and find it funny but by the end of an hour it should be like they hear the world and look at the world anew.

“In some ways it’s quite a traditional piece of dance, it’s even got tutus, but it also breaks all the rules so it surprises us. I’ve gone off in my own direction – this piece gives me the liberty to challenge myself as much as possible.”

Rosie’s work has seen her play venues across the country and she is looking forward to returning to Salisbury.

“We have a very strong relationship with Salisbury because of the army and its connection to 5 SOLDIERS,” she says. “We took 5 SOLDIERS there in 2010 and took 5 SOLDIERS there again earlier this year. Now we hope we’ll get some soldiers to come and see tutus! And I love the venue, it’s such a beautiful church – for us it feels like a little home-from-home going there.

“I’ve always wanted to keep challenging myself and Fantasia is just that. It’s like a cornucopia of so much dancing – everyone will be filled to the brim. I don’t think I’ve ever made a piece with so much non-stop technical dancing and yet it’s in this beautiful baroque world – it’s a real Fantasia.”

Rosie Kay’s Fantasia will be performing at Salisbury Arts Centre on Saturday 16 November at 8.00pm.

For tickets see https://www.wiltshirecreative.co.uk/whats-on/salisbury-arts-centre/ or call 01722 320333.

For more information on Rosie Kay Dance Company, please visit: http://rosiekay.co.uk/

Behind the scenes! Week two of panto rehearsals

‘The atmosphere in the room has been incredibly playful.’ JMK Assistant Director Marcus Bazley on week two of rehearsals of Beauty and the Beast as the pantomime takes shape.

How have we already reached the end of week two of Beauty and the Beast rehearsals? The last couple of weeks have flown by and yet we’ve made really good progress and the show is starting to take shape.

We have now finished our first full work-through of the play. The broad approach to rehearsals has been to work through the script from start to finish, giving each scene a rough outline. The actors have been absolutely fantastic – most of the time knowing their lines from the start and being full of suggestions for little line tweaks and for their physical relationship with the other characters on stage. Pantomime is a relatively unique rehearsal process as the style means the cast have to be very responsive to their audience and part of the purpose of panto is to comment and poke fun at contemporary events. So there have been various moments in rehearsals where actors have arrived with suggestions for new jokes to be included, or where actors have been specifically asked to think about where jokes could be added to a particular moment. It’s an important part of actors taking full ownership over the piece and allowing them to have fun and play with their audiences. The atmosphere in the room has been incredibly playful and there’s been a lot of laughter as we explore different ways of playing scenes or different bits of choreography.

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The Beauty and the Beast cast, choreographer, director and assistant director have fun during rehearsals

As well as the adult company, we also have a young company in the show who act as our ensemble. I have been completely blown away by the skill and professionalism of this group of 12 girls. We have very limited time with the young company but the time is used incredibly efficiently thanks to their focus and commitment – and thanks to the remarkable energy of Nicky Griffiths, our choreographer. The young company are so much more than just a way of including local young people in the panto – they are an integral part of the show and they really rise to this challenge and responsibility.

The other thing that has been noticeable this week is the number of pink and glittery props that have gradually started to appear in the rehearsal room! The stage management team have been working away making and sourcing props so that the actors can get as familiar as possible with them during rehearsals and so we don’t suddenly discover a scene won’t work when a prop is introduced late in the process.

This is also the point where the practicalities of staging the show very much come to the fore. Meetings are squeezed in with the production team to plan certain on-stage effects. There are some big set-piece effects in this show that need quite intricate planning – but I’m not revealing anything!! And you certainly know you’re well in the swing of panto rehearsals when everyone in the production meeting has some form of glitter on the face! Seriously, we’re finding glitter everywhere!!

Beauty and the Beast runs in the Main House of Salisbury Playhouse from 1 December to 13 January 2019. For more information or tickets visit www.wiltshirecreative.co.uk or call 01722 320333.

Behind the scenes: week one of Beauty and the Beast panto rehearsals

Marcus Bazley is JMK Assistant Director on this year’s Salisbury Playhouse pantomime, Beauty and the Beast. Here he gives us a glimpse inside the rehearsal room in week one of rehearsals.

So panto season has begun and we’ve had a fantastic start to Beauty and the Beast rehearsals here in Salisbury. We started the week with a team breakfast in town which was a lovely, informal way for everyone to meet, have a laugh and get fuelled up for the busy couple of months ahead! There are always a few nerves around on the first day of rehearsals but this was a great way of easing us all into the process and building a group dynamic.

After breakfast, we headed over to the rehearsal room for a big meet and greet with the rest of the Salisbury building. The Salisbury Playhouse is undoubtedly one of the most welcoming buildings I have ever worked in and I immediately felt like we were part of the Wiltshire Creative family! This was also the first time I had truly appreciated what a huge undertaking the creation of this show is – the rehearsal room was filled with the staff who are all, in one way or another, making Beauty and the Beast happen.

A tour of the building followed, before the cast and creative team sat down for a read through of the script. I had really enjoyed working through the script myself as I prepared for rehearsals but hearing the cast throw themselves into their parts from day one was a real joy. And very funny! Immediately we were all laughing together and, if any first day nerves were still lingering, they were soon quelled!

After lunch, we gathered together for the model box showing. This is where the designer presents a scale model of the design for the show – essentially an incredibly detailed Beauty and the Beast dolls-house! The design is truly stunning and there were lots of “oohs” and “aaahs” as James Button (designer) revealed various elements of set and costume to us for the first time.

Model box

Beauty and the Beast set design

 

Since then, Salisbury has become a hive of activity with the team dividing up to get everything rehearsed in time. We’ve spread ourselves across the whole building (and even over the city to Salisbury Arts Centre). A show like this has so many elements, so one section of the company will be working on music, while others are in another room working on choreography and others are in another room working on scenes. It really feels like a big machine has whirred into life – even if that machine is a big pink glittery one…

Beauty and the Beast, The Spellbinding Pantomime runs in the Main House of Salisbury Playhouse from Saturday 1 December to Sunday 13 January 2019. For more information and tickets, visit https://www.wiltshirecreative.co.uk/whats-on/main-house/beauty-and-the-beast/

The writing of Silence

This November we are thrilled to present new writing in The Salberg, with Nicola Werenowska‘s new play Silence. It explores the effects World War II has had on three generations of a family with Polish heritage. We spoke to Nicola and Research & Development Consultant, Nina Finbow,  about the inspiration behind the play and how they have worked together to shape the piece.

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Can you tell us a bit about your family history in relation to Silence?

Nicola: I am married to a Polish man whose parents were displaced from Poland during the Second World War and whose mother was deported from Eastern Poland to Siberia. The journey of the grandmother in the play from Poland to Siberia to Africa to the UK is the journey that my mother-in-law and hundreds of thousands like her underwent.

Nina: My mother, Maria, aged 19, was captured along with her husband during World War II (there is quite a story leading up to how she initially arrived in Eastern Poland coming from Warsaw) and was taken to a concentration camp in Siberia. Without giving too much away – it was her experience during the camp that has inspired a pivotal plot point in the play.

Her husband unfortunately died whilst they were attempting to escape. My mother however, managed to join the Polish army in order to get out of Siberia and eventually landed in England by sea where she joined the Polish Airforce and became a WAAF officer.

My mother met my father when he was home on holiday from Africa where he had been working since he left Scotland to join the forces in Kenya. I was brought up in Sierra Leone until I was 5. The family then moved to England and we settled in Suffolk.

When my mother, aged 86, died, everyone at the funeral begged me to write a book about her wartime experience. Whilst I have a lot about her unique story, I am missing a lot if vital information but still hope to find the time to research her family and perhaps one day write the book. When Nicky offered to write this play, it was as if a burden had been lifted from me and whilst her story is not exactly the same as my mother’s, the theme of intergenerational effects is very much what I have experienced but also these effects have also filtered through to my children. Intergenerational effects and epigenetics are both subjects I am fascinated by and one day I would love to write a paper on this subject.

Nina – How did you first meet Nicola? And how was the idea for Silence born?

A friend of mine took me to see Nicky’s play Tu I Teraz at The Hampstead Theatre which I was so impressed by. When I read a review of the play and discovered that Nicky lived not far from me in Colchester, I got in touch and we met up. We immediately hit it off and discovered that my mother and her mother-in-law had both experienced similar traumas during the war in a Siberian Prisoner of War camp and, interestingly, Nicola’s husband and I both knew our childhood upbringing was unusual and that we had suffered psychologically, identifying a series of mutual intergenerational effects.  I invited Nicky to read my mother’s story and we realised that together, we had the beginnings of a play…

How have you worked together to get the play where it is today?

Nina: We have both worked closely on this, meeting up every few months during its development and remain constantly in touch. I am so incredibly impressed with Nicky’s ability as a writer and a story-teller; her dialogue is incredible and her grasp of and empathy with the Polish people is quite astounding, especially given that she is not a Pole.

Nicola: As above, Nina has advised me in a research context as well as being an interviewee for the play and supporting the marketing and outreach events for the project at the R&D and production stages.

I understand there has been a lot of research and development work to get the play to where it is, can you tell us a bit about this process?

Nicola: With Nina’s support, alongside the Mercury who were my lead partner, I applied for an R&D GFA grant to kick-start the process back in 2016. I spent six months interviewing 2nd generation Poles and writing a draft of the play which I then worked on with actors and presented at two sharings in Colchester and London. The response to the sharing of this draft was fantastic from both Polish, non-Polish and theatre industry audience members and the Mercury Theatre offered to come on board as lead production partner to make the play happen.

Nina: We have also had to do a lot of fact-checking along the way! We wanted to make sure that Maria’s journey was as historically and factually accurate as possible. Through this research we discovered that so many Poles were deported from Siberia and ended up literally all over the world.

Why do you feel it is important to tell this story?

Nicola: There are so many reasons!  Because this story hasn’t been told – there is an ignorance around what happened to Poland during the war and the way Poland was betrayed by the West; because there is an increase in anti-Polish sentiment in the UK, particularly since Brexit; because it explores an important and topical universal theme – the impact of trauma on subsequent generations.

Nina: I think we both passionately feel that this story has to be told, as many British people are unaware of the 1.7 million Poles deported to slave camps in Siberia and Kazakhstan. Only a third were to survive. If you mention Prisoner of War to English people most will automatically think of Auschwitz.

We are both keen to explore the idea of intergenerational effects and both of us want to attempt to prevent the effects of being second generation Poles from filtering through to our children – by being aware – and by talking about it.

Silence runs in The Salberg, Salisbury Playhouse from Tuesday 13 – Saturday 17 November. For more information or tickets visit www.wiltshirecreative.co.uk or call 01722 320333

Being part of Her Naked Skin

Rachel Fletcher is part of a group of local women cast as extras in our production of Her Naked Skin. Here she reflects on rehearsals, just as the production is about to open on Friday 5 October.

So, these 22 women walk into a rehearsal room..

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Rachel Fletcher

The start of September saw us meeting for the first time, to hear Director Gareth and Assistant Director Clare tell us about their vision for the show and how the community chorus would play its part in embodying the world of Edwardian women fighting to have their voices heard and win the vote.

Split into two teams – aptly re-christened Team Sylvia and Team Christabel – we were paired with an opposite number so that we could mirror each other throughout rehearsals and the run: we’d be sharing performances, placards, hats, and even carrots.

Rehearsals took shape through September, forming scenes, re-setting, starting again with new ideas. Harry, the musical supervisor, has had us singing up and down scales in ways you’d never thought of, and we’ve got to grips with tricky harmonies and stirring songs.

Real ‘wow’ moments? The Saturday session when we sat in the rehearsal room and watched the whole play run together. And that first chance to walk out on the set, and to have a sneaky ride on the revolve. Scariest thing? Keeping a map of backstage and my entrances and exits securely in my head.

This Monday, we walked into our Community Cast dressing room, and walked out transformed – wonders courtesy of Henrietta and the wardrobe team. Gone were the jeans and trainers we’d all been happily rehearsing in, and there instead stood 22 Edwardian women – coiffed, corseted, bonneted and lace-up booted. We didn’t recognise some of us at all!

Now we’re up to tech week. It’s been a real eye-opener to see it all come together, and to appreciate the huge amount of work that a show of this scale involves.

The professional cast have been generous and engaging and lovely to work alongside; Gareth is inspired, endlessly patient and tactful; and I can only dream of ever being as supremely organised as Rickie, the company stage manager and her team.

Clare’s been a constant, reassuring presence: from weird warm-up games to notes and updates in rehearsal. She’s going to have her work cut out in performance with calls and shepherding us, and even putting in pin curls for our wigs when she’s got a minute free.

I hope we do them – and ourselves – proud.

We’re drawn from the community – some of us walking to the theatre, some with a long commute – but we’re all here to be part of telling the story: the microscopic story of lives and the immense story of the struggle for equality.

And we’ve become a community through the process. Up in the dressing room, we’re sharing Sue P’s scrummy vegan treats and jokes about lacing up corsets. It’s been a great journey so far. And we’re just about to pick up speed.

By No. 10, Team Sylvia (aka Rachel Fletcher)

Her Naked Skin runs in the Main House from Friday 5 to Saturday 20 October 2018. For more information or tickets, visit http://www.wiltshirecreative.co.uk or call 01722 320333.

Time isn’t what we think it is…

Dom Coyote is an award-winning composer, performer and writer of songs who has created work with the RSC, National Theatre and Battersea Arts Centre. He is also a regular collaborator with Kneehigh Theatre. Dom brings his new show We Can Time Travel – think Stranger Things meets Kate Bush, Kate Tempest and Sigur Ros – to The Salberg on 4 to 6 October. Here he writes about time.

It’s completely impossible to actually live in the present. For example, now that you’ve just read that, it is in the past. In fact, the words you are reading right now are also in the past. Scientists believe it takes 13 milliseconds for the information you receive from your senses to reach your brain. So what we think of as the absolute present, even that is in the past.  That suggests there’s no such thing as the present, only the distant past, recent past, and immediate past. And then of course there is the future – our hopes, our dreams, our fears and educated guesses of what’s to come next… and next… and next… Yep, you’re right, I’m thinking way too much.

WE CAN TIME TRAVEL-30I can’t help it. I’m a musician. I work with the substance of time. It sounds overblown and a bit wizardy, but it’s true! We musicians work with time all of the time. We rehearse to be in time with each other, we learn to be out of time and play loosely with each other, we speed up and slow down time through tempo. We loop time in recordings and loop pedals and drum machines, losing years of our lives to bleeps and tones and notes and rhythms. We interrogate time constantly. We can time travel. But it’s not just us. Every single one of us can and does travel through time every single day. Here’s how…

Firstly, through our memories. We are such emotional beings, each memory has an emotional sub-current. Some of those memories make us who we are, for better or worse, and some of them won’t leave us alone, they come up to the surface when we least expect them to. The past has an active effect on our present. And some things trigger those memories immediately… like songs.

Songs are time machines. They take us back to deeply personal moments in our lives. A song can rewind a broken relationship back to the start, bring the dead back to life, remind us of the first songs our mothers sang to us. They rewind the clock and transport us through time. This is categorically not me waffling! The musical time machine is a well-used machine for music therapists dealing with trauma and dementia, a patients’ favourite song can unlock memories and bring them into the present.

“Music is a language that doesn’t speak in particular words. It speaks in emotions, and if it’s in the bones, it’s in the bones.” ― Keith Richards

Now onto the future… Expectation, hope, fear, ambition and promise. These are all ways of us imagining what our futures will become. We are not just emotional beings, we are imaginative ones. Imagination is another kind of time machine. A multi-dimensional one at that. We use it to perceive multiple futures, multiple currents in the river of time. Here’s an example… ‘I just worked out what I want to be when I grow up. I’m going to be a doctor, a rock star, a scientist, a pirate, a pilates teacher, the world cheese-rolling champion.’ Children are taught to imagine what they will become.

Here’s another example… ‘I want to win big. I wish I was rich. I deserve to be loved… For richer, for poorer, for better for worse, amen.’ We just can’t help ourselves can we? We are all fortune tellers, imagining the fate of our lives.

“It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.” George Harrison

Time isn’t what we think it is anyhow. Let’s not go too far down the rabbit hole, but… time is most likely a social construct combined with a chemical in our brains that makes us perceive time as a straight line when in fact all moments are happening simultaneously and déja vu is really just a future memory, like prophetic dreams where you see yourself as an old man quietly trumping in your chair as a form of resistance against your hospice overlords arghhh!

Ahem. So the question is, how do we live in the present? Well it’s impossible. But we can at least try. If we get too lost in our pasts, or too twisted by our futures, we stop seeing what’s happening around us. We become passive observers, watching as our lives become moments in history. Musicians have an ability to take a look at time and shape it. And music is one of humanity’s time machines. So next time you find yourself consumed by heartache or embittered by what might be coming, take a moment, take a breath and play your favourite song, really, really loudly. Remember. We are here. Right now. Every single moment is happening right now.

We Can Time Travel runs in The Salberg from 4 to 6 October. For more information or tickets visit www.wiltshirecreative.co.uk or call 01722 320333.

Behind the scenes of Her Naked Skin

Her Naked Skin Assistant Director Clare Threadgold takes us behind the scenes as the professional and community cast settle into rehearsals.

 

What do you think you know about the suffragette movement?

I have books, articles, web pages, replica, literature and old photos, and I feel I haven’t even scratched the surface of the suffragette movement.

Arriving here at Salisbury Playhouse at the end of the second week of rehearsals we have covered a lot of ground, but research continues when working with a piece that references real-life events. It’s very important to get all the information correct. This play offers so much depth and has made us realise the amazing scale of what went on 100 years ago. Not only that, but the impact the women’s suffrage movement had on society and the effect it had on people’s lives.

her naked skin cast

In our first week we focused on unpicking the histories and the timelines of some characters, and we discussed and explored their backstories and experiences during the play.

This week the full company started to rehearse with a read through and they are now working chronologically through the script. We’ve also been revisiting scenes we looked at previously and are layering new dynamics, intensions and motivations.

One the first events of rehearsals is viewing the model box. Designer Dawn Allsopp presented the set and costume design to the cast this week. This pulls together the themes of the play and informs everyone in the company of the set they will be working on. We then have what we call a ‘mark-up’ in rehearsals, where the stage management team mark out the dimensions of the set using different coloured tape on the rehearsal room floor. This helps the actors get used to the space they have to perform in.

In the meantime stage management have been sourcing and collecting props for us to use, while wardrobe have been finding a selection of costumes ready for fittings.

Lastly, but not leastly, our wonderful community cast of local women who have had four rehearsals so far and are in full swing. Not only have they been getting to know each other and trying to remember everyone’s name, they’ve also been working on creating their own characters and getting stuck into scenes with the professional cast.

To top it off, our music supervisor Harry Blake has been in to teach the full company a few songs. These songs were from the period and will be used throughout the play.

It’s going to be serious and interesting and fun!

 

Her Naked Skin runs in the Main House of Salisbury Playhouse from Friday 5 to Saturday 20 October. For more information and tickets visit www.wiltshirecreative.co.uk or call 01722 320333.

 

A Wiltshire Tale: an excerpt

Read an extract of A Wiltshire Tale by musician Nick Harper and journey through Wiltshire’s history, landscape and wildlife.

A WILTSHIRE TALE

By Nick Harper

A wiltshire tale Photo by Lily Harper

PART THE FIRST: FARMER GILES MEETS NICHOLAS FLAMEL

 

Fleets of Bedford Rascals make like shepherds for the border

Bringing treats and tasty parcels past the grasp of law and order

To a man who mows a meadow just a mile or so from Marlborough

With his silo bins of psilocybin hidden underwater.

Moonraking making merry modern mirthful smirking mortals

As crop circle tourists circle searching for the perfect portal

And one per-centers hurtle on in bounty laden Bentleys;

The centre of their world’s beyond this county evidently.

 

Here Farmer Giles smiles gently ‘gainst a stile as if a sentry

His dog the vale air snorts a-plenty, faithful four and twenty,

Who hackles up and means to bark, but checks his master’s feelings lest

He puts to flight the figure who approaches o’er the crest

For neither know nor friend nor foe like this unbidden guest

Who settles there the stile his chair and utters this bequest:

 

“I am that man they call Nicholas Flamel who cannot die;

Quicksilver streams immortal dreams between you and my eye.

For I was here many a long, long year before big belly oak was a sapling

From the hill-fort down to the village green I saw the tribal teams a-grappling

Where Merlin’s mound bound magic in the chalk down ground and the causeway side,

Where the white horse rides in the bright night sky when the Bourne is high and wide,

Where was a hill hand-harrowed with the marrow of the barrow and the megalith henges aligned.

Now golf course buggies caddy daddies to the sand and the modern day tumuli.

 

Where Romans dropped their coins in wells and lit candles for their friends.

They came, they saw, they left and burnt the sandal at both ends.

This shire, the spear of Alfred’s Wessex put the Danelaw’s men to run,

Lashed from here to Essex with rock hard cakes and the English tongue.

 

Where Templars sharpened swords of steel on standing sarsen stones,

Where the wind cries ‘Myrtle!’ round Hangman’s tree and the old oak gibbett moans.

Once again crusaders train on the Bustard plain to flatten Saracen homes

With broadband waistline uptown download chat room ring tone ‘phones.”

 

And there at last he stopped and cast a graven eye at dog and man

And he says with weary, “I wish no more to live beyond what mortals can.”

And he reached down deep in his cloak and he offered up a pebble in his open hand

And he said, “Here have this, the stone that grants a never-ending span.”

 

Hear the rest of A Wiltshire Tale as Nick Harper recites the poem at Salisbury Arts Centre on Friday 14 and Saturday 15 September. A Wiltshire Tale is a Wiltshire Creative production. For more information or tickets, click here or call 01722 320333.