29 Mar 2012

Shows keep Trestle Arts Base Alive: New Professional Performance Programme funded by St Albans’ District Council

In Autumn 2011 a new programming partnership began, with St Albans City and District Council and Trestle Arts Base working together to bring the best of small scale, high quality, innovative performances from across the UK into Trestle Arts Base.

Lucy Godfrey from the Council works with us at Trestle to create a mix of art forms and voices within the programme. Running through all the shows is a passion for bringing in new audiences to professional touring work that is the best of its kind.

We began the new programme with the wonderful Just So Stories, brought to us by Red Table Theatre, which sold out at Christmas, bringing over 600 audience members to Trestle. Since then, all our work for children and their families has sold out. On the first Sunday of every month there is a children’s show and although we now recognize many of the children who come back and back for more, it’s always lovely to welcome new families to Trestle.

On the first Saturday evening of the month there are performances for young people and adults and so far we have enjoyed compelling dance theatre in The Falling Man by Smallpetitklein and brilliant physicality inThirsty by the Paper Birds. We are looking forward to welcoming a physical piece from Idle Motion, a fantastic new play, Wasted, from Paines Plough and hilarious dance comedy from the renowned New Art Club.

Soon it will best Albans’ Festival time and there’ll be a feast of new work at Trestle Arts Base, Trestle community performances at The Verulamium Museum and storytelling in the strangest of places…

India calling: will Trestle be touring the Unicorn’s stunning Snow Queen to India this Summer?

I had a delightful time, as Movement Director, collaborating with director Rosamunde Hutt on the Unicorn’s 2011 Christmas show, The Snow Queen, set in India. Trestle has developed an Indian influenced physical theatre language, following our Indian/UK collaboration in 2006-7. Rosamunde asked me to bring my experience of interpreting classical Indian movement into contemporary character work and physical storytelling to the Unicorn process.

Drawing on Indian dance (mudra hand gestures), martial arts (kalaripayattu), rasas and archetypal characters, we created a world for The Snow Queen in which a contemporary teenager could exist alongside a classical goddess and an ancient tree.

Indian based writer Anupama Chandrasekhar created a compelling version of the Hans Christian Anderson tale translated into an epic journey from the southern most tip of India up to the Himalayan Mountains. The British Council’s ‘Connections through Culture’ scheme made this commission possible. I first met Anupama in Chennai, her home city, in 2002, when I was researching young people’s theatre in India for the Unicorn (at the time I was Unicorn’s Associate Director). Anupama shared a spark of interest in writing for children and families and I was so pleased to work with her a decade later on her fabulous first script for young audiences.

Ten thousand people saw the production at the Unicorn Theatre, which was a resounding success, and there has been great interest in touring the show to India. The leading South Indian Hindu Metro Plus Theatre Festival has invited the production to Chennai and Coimbatore in August 2012. There is also the possibility of touring to Mumbai and Bangalore.

Trestle, with our experience of touring and international collaboration, has become the leading UK partner for the potential tour. We are planning, fundraising and negotiating along with the British Council in India & the UK and the creative team to make this adventure possible; taking the piece to the writer’s home would complete this cultural connection. The production really could encourage new writing for young audiences in India and inspire more touring of thrilling young people’s theatre internationally. Soon we will know if it is going ahead…..

Emily Gray

15 Mar 2012

New focus for Trestle: Expansion of mask work and emphasis on youth provision

Trestle, the St Albans based mask and physical theatre company, is to expand its highly acclaimed mask making business, backed by a programme of workshops and performances. Participatory and performance work for 11 to 25 year-olds will be Trestle’s priority. A year of consultation, reflection and restructuring followed Arts Council England’s decision not to award National Portfolio funding to Trestle.

The Company has reviewed its mask making business and will be taking the creative stimulus of Trestle’s work with young people and physical storytelling theatre into its mask resources and workshops. Driven by the last five years of international influences and cross-cultural collaboration, Trestle aims to take the masks in a new direction, with the offer of digital and live resources to support training, participation and performance.

Emily Gray says:

It was tough losing Arts Council subsidy, of course, but focusing on what we do well, and what our stakeholders would like us to offer, has driven a creative process which has been liberating and fruitful. In the past year, with a reduced, but highly effective staff team, we toured three productions, developed arts programmes for young people at Trestle Arts Base and Platform, and continued our workshops and training across the UK and abroad.Looking forward, we will launch a new website, deliver work with and for young people which responds to our masked and unmasked performance and continue collaborating with our partners and supporters.’

In the next year, Trestle will enjoy working with its new partners, looking for innovative ways to fund new performances and inviting young people to experience and shape the Company’s work. Trestle continues to have a good relationship with the Arts Council, who have a vested interest in the lottery funded Trestle Arts Base.

In the past year, Trestle has consolidated a number of strong international and local partnerships and been nominated for two awards; the Peter Brook Empty Space Award for Collaboration and the St Albans Mayor’s Pride Award for Cultural Innovation. Trestle has also been successful in securing funding from two Local Councils; St Albans District and Islington, where Trestle is in a partnership developing Platform, the new youth arts hub at Hornsey Road Baths.