Category Archives: Interviews

Circa: Peepshow – Meet acrobat Ela Bartilomo

The Underbelly Southbank festival is in full swing and combines the best of Udderbelly Festival and London Wonderground, to bring you the best in circus, comedy and family entertainment.

Taking over Underbelly’s spiegeltent with a night club vibe is Circa’s Peepshow. Most of Peepshow’s music is an original track written by Ori Lichtik (Batsheeva Dance Company) with an interlude of Sweet Dreams (originally by Eurythmics). Peepshow lets audiences see the world from the other side of the mirror and turns cabaret on its head, literally.

Playing with the extreme physicality of this troupe of phenomenal acrobats, Circa blur lines between movement, dance, theatre and circus. Exploring the concept of looking and being looked at, Peepshow uses circus to explore themes of gender and sexuality on the stage.

Circa presents Peepshow at Underbelly Festival 2018 (Photo by Pedro Greig) (2)
Peepshow’s acrobat Ela Bartilomo |Pedro Greig

Millennial London spoke to one of Peepshow’s performers, acrobat Ela Bartilomo to find out more about the production:

Describe the show in three words.

Perception, Reality, the-space in-between

What part of the show amazes audiences the most?

Whilst the solo moments allow the audience to get to know each performer, and vice versa, the large pyramids of people stacked on top of one another seems to astound the audience. Especially when they appear under the stunning lights designed by Jason Organ.

What do you enjoy about being part of the production? 

There is so much I enjoy about the show – the shift of worlds, the challenging of expectations and the representation gender. Most of all I enjoy having the ability to truly be myself onstage. Though it’s great to step into a show someone else has performed before you and experience their world, there is something awesome about knowing you can show the audience as much of you as you want.

What does being an acrobat as part of Circa mean to you?

Being a Circa acrobat to me means being part of a family with one unanimous goal which is to make our audiences feel something. I am honored to be part of a company that is so respectful, kind and caring to one another, though there isn’t really another way to be in this kind of work. As our director Yaron Lifschitz said, “we are not male, female, young, LGBT, old, experienced, or new; we are all just acrobats, unique acrobats of course, but equal”.

What current themes are reflected in Peepshow? How are they explored?

The biggest subject we explore throughout the show is the way that our society perceives women, and men. Inspired by the world of a Peepshow, where men come to look at women to fulfill their own sexual desires and women come to make money and pay the rent. Through a cabaret/ burlesque inspired first half we portray an image of beauty and desire. However, in the second half of the show, we learn that our perceptions are not our realities and come to the great realisation that the image of sex is a façade, and that sexuality is not what we see when we look for it, but something that we find when we express ourselves. This is where our acrobatics have the ability to be raw and unfazed by any expectations we have set up earlier. In fact, we don’t even give our audience a chance to see the fast-paced toss sequences, or 3 back saults in a row as things move fast, that’s reality.

What do you want the audience to take away from the show?

In an ideal world I would love the audience to look back at the show, obviously impressed by the skills throughout, but more importantly, inspired to look at things differently, and realise that things that conflict our existing beliefs are genuine opportunities. Uncertainty and discomfort should be places to dwell and let your perceptions explore, like visiting a marketplace in a foreign country, our assumptions are our greatest downfall.

 

Circa’s Peepshow runs at Underbelly Festival until 18 August 2018

Paper Creatures Theatre: Section 2 – an honest portrayal of mental health

A year after their successful debut production Flood,Paper Creatures Theatre are back at it again. This time they’re showcasing their play, Section 2, about mental health as part of the Breaking Out season at the Bunker Theatre.

SECTION 2 FINAL.jpg
Section 2 | Paper Creatures Theatre

Jon Tozzi and Nathan Coenen, the founders of Paper Creatures look back at their first year: “We knew that it was a great show and that we had a great team behind us. Having a sellout run, with lovely reviews confirmed to us that we need to keep doing this and that it wasn’t just a one off for us. We were passionate about it. We met loads of new people and hopefully gained new audiences and now is our chance of spreading that net wider and reach new people”.

For their new show, the duo found playwright Peter Imms. Section 2 tells the story of Cam who is sectioned and how this affects him and the people around him.

 “When we read the script, both Jon and I were really blown away by how glaringly honest it was – a portrayal of what being in a mental health facility and being sectioned was.”

Coenen continues: “There’s a lot of mental health plays being done right now, but something about sectioning specifically and doing it in such a realistic way, really piqued our curiosity”.

Their goal for this new production is to demystify potential misconceptions about sectioning and the people that are sectioned. “People who’ve been sectioned have told us that they don’t really want to talk about it publicly because they’re afraid it might affect their careers or relationships. The desire to do this play has now spiraled into this passion to be able to hopefully create a piece of theatre that has a lasting effect on the audiences that come to see it, and hopefully create more of an awareness of this subject of sectioning”.

Jon: “We were very keen that it wasn’t just a production about what it’s like to be a patient. That’s something that Peter Imms wanted to address, that it should be a piece about the people around them as well and the importance of that and how it doesn’t affect just one person but it affects so many people.”

Paper Creatures got director Georgie Staight on board.

“They sent me the first draft and it was the writing that spoke first and even that first draft was completely beautiful which meant that I wanted to work with them.”

Jon: “I think it’s a very educational piece. The audience will come out of this knowing a lot more than they did before going in. The audience should feel like they’re a fly on the wall with this production. That they’re watching a real situation just pan out, because it’s coming from a place of such honesty”.

Director Georgie on working with the space in the Bunker Theatre:

“The story focuses around these people surrounding Cam. You see Cam in different kind of stages of distress and comfort. I’m interested in how we stage and play out Cam’s mental state. A lot of it can be portrayed physically and metaphorically and through sound and staging. The Bunker is an interesting space, you have to tailor it specifically”.

Another thing that was important to them was to raise awareness and start a conversation about mental health and being sectioned. “We know with the play there has to be an element of outreach to it. So from the get go we got in touch with the charity Mind and they’ve been so generous with their time. I’ve spoken to about eight individuals who’ve previously been sectioned. We have some short films for the public to see and open up the conversation. We’re also going to do post-show talks with the creative team, people who have been sectioned and charity representatives so we can contribute to this debate.”

Section 2 plays at the Bunker Theatre on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11 June to 7 July. Tickets can be booked here.

Paper Creatures Theatre Company: Exploring simple, compelling and bold stories.

It seems fitting that I meet the founders of the new theatre company Paper Creatures at the National Theatre.

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Flood is the debut play by Paper Creatures | Paper Creatures
It’s only morning but the National Theatre is already buzzing with people, guided tours, tourists and people who are desperately trying to get tickets to Angels in America. We find a quiet and cool space on a warm, sunny day and start talking about Flood, the debut production by Paper Creatures.

The themes were important, we wanted to look at grief within the millennial generation, humour and heart.

Flood is a new comedy drama by playwright Tom Hartwell, about Adam who is “forced to confront his future when those closest to him return after the death of his Mum. Upon their arrival, repressed truths and unsettling secrets are revealed. Flood is a complex and humane portrayal of a group of friends struggling to define themselves beyond the confines of their small town.”

Starting rehearsal on 17 July, the two talk about the first read through of the script.

The first read through was really special. It was so relatble, he [Tom Hartwell] managed to take an ancient idea of a village flooding and put it in such a modern light of 20 year olds, dealing with home and identity.  We were fascinated with the idea, why is it that people want to leave their homes.

paper creatures
Founders Jon and Nathan | Paper Creatures
Jon and Nathan met when they were both working in an all-male Shakespeare troupe and travelled around the UK and Europe doing open air Shakespeare. “We became quite close on tour, got chatting and when we finished the tour we wanted to do something different after spending five months doing Shakespeare. We thought why don’t we put on a play?”

After seeing a lot of theatre once returned from their tour, they noticed that millennials need a “realistic and honest voice for our generation, the millennial generation, we sometimes felt we were painted a bit one dimensional.”

Also passionate about new plays, they decided to set up a theatre company.

The name paper creatures came from the paper representing the script, where it starts, the blank piece of paper. And then the creatures being the characters that come from that. We are the creatures that make the story and the theatre is the place where we perform, it’s the place where we can tell those stories.

Wanting to create a voice for not only this generation, Jon and Nathan also hope that in the future people will look back on these plays that are new writing now, but could be a potential classic in the future.

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Poster for Flood|Paper Creatures
Talking about the importance of new writing, Paper Creatures explains why they’re happy to be part of London’s theatre community. “There is so much opportunity for fringe theatre, there are so many lovely pub theatres in London and around the UK. It’s thriving at the moment. It’s almost like a revolution, all these new playwrights emerging, coming out of every place you can imagine and then they get transferred to the West End.”

There is such a dynamic community of new writing on the fringe circuit in London that is dominated by the millennial generation in a very positive way and it’s so vibrant, so helpful and so supportive. It’s a really great community to be part of.

By setting up Paper Creatures, the actors want to create a “platform for young new writers, young creators from all different fields, lighting designers, sound designers, to come together and create stories which are simple, bold and compelling.”

Our long term goal is to create a really creative environment to tell these stories with our generation contributing to them, for our generation.

Flood runs as part of the Camden Fringe 2017 at the Tristan Bate Theatre from 31 July until 5 August. You can get tickets here.

@paper_creatures, @jon_tozzi, @NathanJCoenen

Dealing with post-show depression

Devastated fans explain what happened when their favourite show left the West End for good.

Sunny Afternoon closing night. Image by Harold Pinter Theatre
Sunny Afternoon closing night |Harold Pinter

“I’m missing a huge part of my life. I used to have somewhere to go to, knowing it would make me happy and feel good, I don’t anymore,” said Jessica Gray, 26.

Whether you’re a musical or play lover, London’s West End offers a wide range of shows: from the emotional Les Misèrables, to a juke box musical like Jersey Boys and Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap, the longest running show in London, there’s something to satisfy everyone’s tastes.

Every show accumulates a fan base with the musical becoming part of their life, developing friendships with supporters as well as cast members, following the show to other events and creating social media fan accounts becomes a normality.  So, what happens when a show closes?

Sunny Afternoon has grazed the West End for the two rock ‘n’ roll filled years. Not only has it accumulated a huge fan base, it has also won four Olivier Awards and has been praised by many stars, Mark Hamill being one of them.

In August 2016, the hit show on the rise and stardom of iconic English band The Kinks embarked on their first UK Tour, with the West End cast doing their last performance on October 29th 2016.

Below, three very dedicated followers shared their experiences.

Deborah Gilpin

Deborah Gilpin on stage at her 50th show with part of the cast I Image by Deborah Gilpin
Deborah on stage at her 50th show with part of the cast |Deborah Gilpin

Deborah,28, undoubtedly set the record for seeing the most shows within the Sunny Afternoon fan base, hitting the mark at 279 times.

How involved were you with Sunny Afternoon?

Deborah Gilpin: I ended up seeing 279 shows, although I’d have liked to reach the 300 mark.

Throughout her visits, Debbie quickly became friends with other regular audience members, together they started a Twitter fan account. “We just wanted to bring people together initially, then this year we’ve tried our best to promote the second cast as they seemed to be getting less attention, which led to the Cast Member & Understudy of the Month awards,” said Debbie.

How are you coping with the show leaving the West End?

I had no idea how to cope with it at the beginning, my plan was to make the most of it being there, enjoying every minute of it and waiting to see how everything went afterwards. Luckily I have my theatre reviewing keeping me busy. I’m waiting for more of the actors (from both casts) to get new jobs or announce gigs, I’m going to follow them on their new projects. Plus I’m excited to see what the tour is like, I’m planning to see it once it reaches a venue closer to me.

Ksenia Nemchinova

Ksenia Nemchinova outside the Harold Pinter Theatre. Image by Ksenia Nemchinova
Ksenia Nemchinova outside the Harold Pinter Theatre | Ksenia Nemchinova

Ksenia,30,  travelled to London from Russia a lot, seeing the show 122 times: “Being a Kinks fan, I’d been following the development of the show since its first workshop in December 2012.

“I fell in love with Sunny Afternoon and there was no turning back. I’m also co-running the fan page with Debbie and Jess”.

How you’re feeling now and how you’re trying to cope with its ending, do you have a special plan for that?

Ksenia Nemchinova: I’ve never been this attached to a show before so it’s not easy to process and to cope. Sunny Afternoon may not be in London anymore, but I’ve seen the touring production several times and I have grown to love them dearly, so it’s definitely not the end for me, the tour will keep me going for another few months.

And after that, who knows? The show may be back in London again, maybe if we all wish really hard…

Jessica Gray

Jessica Gray with part of the cast at the stage door. Image by Jessica Gray
Jessica Gray with part of the cast at the stage door | Jessica Gray

Jessica has been following the show since its very beginning: “I first saw Sunny Afternoon at the beginning of October 2014.

“I had been invited to review the show for my blog, and became a fan immediately.”

“I started a fan page first on Twitter and then on Facebook and eventually I made arrangements with the show’s marketing company for an official Sunny Afternoon Challenge Week to happen.”

“During it, we would attend every show over a week and blog about it daily, with a new challenge being assigned to us every day.”

What are your plans now?

Jessica Gray: I’m actually leaving London – not exactly because of the show closing, but I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t make my decision a lot easier. I’d like to see the tour again, however following it around the country isn’t an option for me. I’d mostly like to see what actors from the West End production do in the future in terms of new shows.

The world doesn’t end when a show ends. There are different ways to cope with it, whether that is concentrating on other shows, supporting the cast members in new projects or trying to stay away. Even when the show has ended, you’ll always have the memories. Not to forget the cast recording.

Moonchild Theatre Company: “The Planets have aligned for us”

A new theatre company has landed in London. The Moonchild Theatre Company is staging its first play Pluto at the Baron’s Court Theatre, starting 18 April.

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Charlotte Price (Charon/ Prof. Furtham) and Liam Joseph (Pluto)

The two co-founders Liam Joseph and Callum O’Brien met as Front of House staff at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Liam, whose background is theatre and acting and Callum who studied film, teamed up and not only co-found their theatre company but also created their first production. Callum wrote the script and is directing the play with Liam producing and starring in it. They both have a passion for space and astronomy and are interested in current affairs; socially and politically. Liam had already paid for the space at the Baron’s Court Theatre, so he asked Callum to write him a play.

“Pluto was an alignment of planets”, says Callum.

“When I was writing about space, at the same time I was reading an article on North Carolina passing a law in 2016 that makes you use the bathroom that you were born into. So, if you’re transgender that causes confusion. It was passed by a bunch of people who would never see the effect it would have on the community.”

He continues: “I was thinking about space and I was thinking about this story. People who have had their identity defined by people who do not know them and it’s quite similar to Pluto, who was a planet but is no longer a planet and it was defined for “him” based on people who have never been to the planet. I took these two stories and married them and we’ve created this unusual piece of work, but it works.”

“It could mean a lot of things to a lot of people, we deal with politics, we deal with friendship, depression and you could take it literally and it could be a story of planets.”

The two criticise the London theatre industry. “A lot of shows nowadays cater to a very specific or older audience.”

Callum adds: “I think new writing can cater more towards a millennial audience. A lot that Pluto deals with is frustration, your voice has been stolen from you, your agency has been deprived, you cannot speak out for what you want to and it reflects the way millennials are portrayed as; numb observers.”

As director, Callum wants to make Pluto and turn it into an iconic object that could be the “figurehead of the LGBT cause.” However, he is worried about trying to tackle too many issues in their production. “We run the risk of writing something that could be about everything and nothing.”

Unlike many other theatre companies, Moonchild Theatre Company caters to millennials; “I’d rather make theatre accessible, but a lot of shows follow the older generation, and the tickets are so expensive.”

“All great artistic movements cater to the young and it’s foolish to overlook them, they will inherit the world one day. What you teach them now, that’s what they’ll take with them later in life and if you can get them interested in theatre and art now, hopefully there will be a future for art, especially in a world with an administration that cut art funding and pride things like guns and war.”

Looking at the news and everything that’s been going on recently the play seems to “come at the right time. I think there’s something happening right now, something is going to happen soon, the young people are beginning to regroup and feel there is this slight injustice against something.”

The two recount how everything has happened at the same time and how the timing of meeting at the Harold Pinter couldn’t have been better. “It’s like a volcano, everything has come at once, LGBT communities, Trump and technology. It never would’ve happened hadn’t we worked in the theatre together. Liam and I wouldn’t have met. Charlotte Price, who is also in Pluto also works at the Harold Pinter as front of house, so does Aimee Leigh the production manager and Giuliana Davolio the set designer for Pluto.”

“We’re incredibly lucky to work in such a supportive venue”

Their manager Rachel is interested in what their doing, as well as ATG. “It makes it worth what we’re doing, to know that your manager is interested in what you’re doing outside of work, it’s really warming and quite rare, not many theatres have that kind of support. She’s been so nice, she’s let us put the flyers around the building and helps us put them in other theatres as well”, says producer Liam Joseph.

“It’s encouraging to know that someone in such a high position cares about new writing and helping her staff .”

The rehearsal for the play is going well according to Callum. Even though this is a stressful time, he finds it rewarding. “It’s the most interesting learning curve for me, knowing how to develop the script. All four of us have fine tuned it and arranged it and moulded this play to be something that we all want to be part of.”

In the future the team wants to create and produce theatre as well as film. “We also want to look at merchandising our company, because we feel like we’re very sell-able”, says Liam. “We’ve got a cool logo.”

“Creatively we would like to go off in every branch in media and art.”

After Pluto, the theatre company will potentially put up an exhibit of pictures from Pluto’s set and production in an art gallery in Camden. “That’s what interested us, because theatre is never looked at through still images, with the exhibition, you meet theatre and film in the middle.”

Help Moonchild Theatre Company stage their first production and donate to their IndieGOGO page.

IndieGOGO from Liam Joseph on Vimeo.

Pluto transfers to the Cockpit Theatre in August. It’s running at the Camden venue from 14 August until 17 August and is part of the Camden Fringe Festival.

#iheartPLUTO @MoonchildPluto