18 Oct 2009

The Idiot Colony at Trestle Arts Base

This week we had the fantastic Red Cape Theatre Company bring their award-winning show The Idiot Colony to Trestle Arts Base.

The Idiot Colony is based on real life accounts of the treatment and incarceration of young women in mental asylums during 1940s England. This might not appear to be the stuff of a fun night out at the theatre; yet despite the serious subject matter the show was funny, poignant and affecting, if at times quietly unnerving.

The Idiot Colony was created after two years of research and interviews with former patients, mental health workers including those who lived and worked at St. Margaret's Hospital, Great Barr - known locally as The Idiot Colony. Trestle Arts Base, Trestle's home in St Albans, is housed in the former chapel of Hill End Hospital, once itself a lunatic asylum. Trestle's Community Company produced a promenade performance earlier this year called Out of Sight Out of Mind, which offered a journey through the building and into the minds of the patients and staff who lived and worked at the hospital over a 100 year period. Out of Sight Out of Mind, like The Idiot Colony, told stories that were full of sadness and pity, but also full of great humour and courage.

The imagery and lighting on stage was incredible. The set was simple but used to great effect. White towels were a key feature of almost every scene - most memorable were the bath and rain storm scenes. Another highlight was the portrayal of a romance between one of the patients and an African American GI; one of the actresses 'blacks up' in order to relive the love affair that saw her incarcerated in the first place.

Unfortunately a lot of the acting took place on the floor and due to poor sight lines (which surely they've experienced in other venues and might have accommodated for?) most of the audience missed out on what were probably quite poignant and powerful moments.

The Idiot Colony has won a stack of awards at the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has had great critical acclaim. The Times called it "...an affecting, humorous piece of physical theatre" and The Metro said is was "...endlessly inventive, thoroughly disquieting. It's stunning". The full house at Trestle Arts Base also seemed enamoured with the play. Definately one to look out for as it tours the UK. Click here for tour dates.

By Gemma

15 Oct 2009

Turkish teens' Trestle taster!

Last week Trestle Arts Base was buzzing with the sound of Turkish teenagers, Uskudar International School were in the building!

Embarking on an intensive theatre residency the eighth graders took a four day journey through Trestle's established mask techniques and into the unmasked physical storytelling that has characterised Trestle's work since 2004.

The work concluded with a sharing of favourite ideas that had been explored for each other, Trestle staff and colleagues.

"I don't have to rely on my voice" remarked student Tessa, on being asked what she would take with her from the project. "I know now that my body is powerful on stage."

Uskudar hope to return to Trestle next year for a similar experience, but meanwhile they will take back Trestle's unique Flamenco, Indian and Polish styles of working to inspire their colleagues and create a show in April.

Trestle Taking Part works with schools, universities, professional and community organisations worldwide to devise and run workshops, residencies and projects.

By Anna.

13 Oct 2009

Looking for an MA in Drama and Education? Look no further...

Today is the first day of our inaugural MA in Education (Drama) which we are jointly running with Middlesex University. The three-year part time masters programme is designed for teachers and lecturers of Drama, Theatre Studies and Performing Arts and will be run at Trestle Arts Base, Trestle's home in St Albans, Hertfordshire.

There is a growing trend of educational institutions and theatre companies joining forces to deliver post-graduate programmes - Polish theatre company Teatr Pieśń Kozla (Song of the Goat) and Manchester Metropolitan University's joint MA springs to mind for instance. However, this is the only instance of a professional theatre company and university co-creating and delivering an education drama MA in Britain.

It's also great to be continuing our long relationship with Middlesex - Trestle's founding members were all performing arts students at the university back in the 1970s. Inspired by their course tutor, John Wright, the students set up the Company in 1981 and established Trestle as one of Britain’s leading theatre companies.

Oliver Jones, Trestle's Associate Director said, “All the hallmarks of Trestle’s work: physicality, storytelling, and devising, are now at the heart of the drama and theatre studies curriculum, and it is a perfect time to launch what we are hoping will be a very successful and sustainable MA degree”.

Interested? Contact Programme Leaders Kevin Morris (Middlesex) on 0208 411 4310 or Oliver Jones (Trestle) on 01727 850 950 or at takingpart@trestle.org.uk for more information.

By Gemma

2 Oct 2009

The Glass Mountain Press Night

We held a press night last week for our latest production, The Glass Mountain, at the Tobacco Factory Theatre in Bristol.

We had a great turn out. The Bristol press came out in force and we were delighted to have members of the arts industry press, as well as theatre bloggers in attendance. We were also thrilled to have our friends from Radiowski BCfm (Polish community radio programme) who brought along the most amazing feast of Polish treats for us all to enjoy. Here are some photo's from the night...

The cast go through notes with Director, Emily Gray before the show opens

Emily and cast member Jacek after the show

Cast member Sean chats with Basia from Radiowski BCfm

The amazing Polish bread that was devoured on the night

Technical Stage Manager Becky and cast members Lenka and Jacek enjoy a well deserved drink

We've already had some great reviews come in. Check out this 4 star review from What's On Stage. The Glass Mountain continues its tour of the UK - this week we're heading up north to Pocklington and Scarborough and then onto the Unity Theatre in Liverpool. Click here for the full tour schedule.

By Gemma