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Forward Theatre: Genesis

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Our brilliant Associate Company, Forward Theatre Project, are touring their new show GENESIS this autumn. Artistic Director, Charlotte Bennett, tells us what it’s all about…

In 2013, I met a brilliant, inspiring woman called Morag Siller.

Morag was an actress, had incurable breast cancer and was the patron of charity Prevent Breast Cancer. She told me about this small but radical organisation; the UK’s only charity to solely focus on breast cancer prevention, which had started with a vision of finding an alternative way to achieve a breast cancer free future – and I was blown away.

Morag wanted to create a play to raise awareness of prevention and asked if I would work with her. We wanted to look at how we could reach not only scientific minds but non-scientific ones by telling the human stories behind the science. And so myself and playwright Frazer Flintham, interviewed patients and scientists to create a new play: GENESIS, which tells a story about genetic testing for breast cancer.

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As part of ‘tooling up’ we spent hours ensuring we understood the science and the terms (the sort of stuff that if you are a non-science bod make you want to bolt). We know how to tell human stories, but understanding the science was the real challenge. It was hard but GLORIOUS. And the support from the brilliant staff at Prevent Breast Cancer empowered us to make a play that is now as scientifically informed as it is theatrically crafted.

Morag passed away in April. She was a woman who campaigned right to the end of her life to bring the science of this charity into the fore of the conversation about a breast cancer free future. And she was also a brilliant actress who recognised the ability of theatre to have conversations with audiences about difficult things like genetic testing by using humour, drama and story. And so we make this one for her.

And now here we are, rehearsing this important piece of theatre in Manchester. We premiere at The Lowry, Salford. We then tour to Soho Theatre, London, then to Cumbria, Preston and Doncaster.

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Booking details are here:

11th – 12th November The Lowry (8pm, 2.30pm and 8pm) Tickets £12 / £10 concessions

15th – 19th November Soho Theatre (7pm, Sat matinee 4pm) Tickets £16 / £14 concessions

22nd November Beggar’s Theatre Cumbria (7.30pm) Tickets £10 / £7 concessions

23rd November  Preston Continental  (8pm) Tickets £8 / £6 concessions

24th November Cast Doncaster (7.45pm) Tickets £10.50 / £9 concessions

GENESIS is supported by funding from Arts Council England, the Teale Charitable Trust, the Richard Carne Trust, Talbot Validus, the Granada Foundation, the Unity Theatre Trust, the Royal Victoria Hall Foundation, Morag Siller, other private donors, and our crowdfund backers.

Associate Companies update: a Soho takeover and funding success

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It might be getting colder as we near the end of 2014 but things are really heating up in the world of our Associate Companies. So here’s the exclusive low-down on what’s been going on.

Theatre Uncut are currently flying high with their flagship production of five new plays which they commissioned for 2014: fascinating, interlinked short pieces that explore themes of knowledge, information, the news media, power and politics in the digital age by some incredibly exciting writers: Clara Brennan, Inua Ellams, Vivienne Franzmann, Anders Lustgarten and Hayley Squires. Even better, for the first time ever the flagship production will be touring the UK until 13th December: you can catch it at Soho Theatre this week (until Sun 30th Nov), or in Brighton, Bristol, Canterbury or Liverpool. To find out what the critics have been seeing check here.

The flagship plays are also available for anyone in the world to download, read and perform, rights-free, until 13th December. So far already this year the plays have been downloaded over 320 times in 25 countries. We’re proud to support a project that makes new writing available around the world on an unprecedented scale. You can access the plays by visiting Theatre Uncut’s website here.

Meanwhile nabokov have also pitched up at Soho, making it an “associate companies sandwich”  and have taken over the downstairs cabaret space with their rollicking, rocking mashup of theatre and live music, SYMPHONY. A co-production with Soho, the show comes straight off the back of a hugely successful Edinburgh run in August followed by a UK tour. Now it’s taking London audiences by storm if these audience reactions are anything to go by. With three new plays by Ella Hickson, Nick Payne and Tom Wells, interwoven with music from London Snorkelling Team’s Ed Gaughan, it’s definitely not to be missed – a good helping of festival vibes to warm up your winter! You’ve got until Sunday 30th to catch it so be quick!

Last but by no means least, we’re delighted to announce that Forward Theatre Project have just been awarded a grant of £30,000 from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, to support their core overheads and the salary of Artistic Director Charlotte Bennett over the next two years. This hugely exciting and thoroughly well deserved money will allow Forward Theatre Project  to continue to produce distinctive work, created through collaborations between members of the collective, with strong connections to regional locations.

Super Sunday: Open Auditions

We’re gearing up for Super Sunday once again, with 190 actors coming along to our Open Auditions at The Actor’s Centre.

It’s one of our favourite ways to spend a day, meeting lots of great people and watching them perform extracts of contemporary plays.

Open Auditions are our way of broadening our horizons when it comes to casting, and getting to meet actors we might not otherwise get to know. So we split the PP team across three rooms and meet actors for a quick chat, and ask them to prepare a duologue from a play written in the last 15 years.

We’re not casting for anything specific, it’s just a chance for us to meet you, and for you to meet us. But we employ around 50 actors per year, so of course we’ve got an eye on the productions we have coming up in the next year, and hoping to meet people who might be the right fit for one of our shows.

Alongside Team PP, we invite other directors to join us, to maximise the opportunities actors have to meet people who can give them jobs. Joining us this Sunday are Charlotte Bennett (artistic director, Forward Theatre Project), Joe Murphy (artistic director of nabokov and associate director of Soho Theatre), Stef O’Driscoll (artistic director of Dirty Stop Out), Jack Lowe (artistic director of Curious Directive), freelance directors David Mercatali and Gemma Kerr, as well as freelance casting director Sophie Davies.

Team PP is represented in full by artistic directors James and George, producer Tara, administrator Hanna, general manager Claire, production assistant Sarah and our super volunteer Annabel.

We have a little chat, find out a bit about you and what plays and playwrights you like, see your duologue, and give you a chance to grill us about anything you like.

So what happens next? We keep everyone’s details on file and if we liked what you showed us we’ll be sure to keep you in mind for future castings. Lots of people we’ve met for the first time through Open Auditions have subsequently been invited in to meet for our productions. At the end of the day, we all head to the pub for a discussion centred around finding parts for people who really blew us away.

If you’re coming on Sunday, thank you, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Auditions, Auditions, Auditions…

This week has been a busy one for Forward Theatre Project as we have been casting our latest play Scarberia by Evan Placey which is being performed between 24th May – 2nd June at York Theatre Royal as part of the TakeOver ’12 Festival. The play was commissioned by the TakeOver team who are a group of young people between 11-26 years old and has been created by working directly with young people in York and Scarborough England and North York and Scarborough Toronto. We also set up an international pen pal system between the 4 groups of young people – which is all done on email nowadays apparently (losing the fun factor of receiving a letter in the post I think –  but definitely more time effective!) We wanted to create a play which was about youth and which engaged with young people at every level. We didn’t want to guess at what young people want to see on stage about their generation but to actually get them to commission the idea they want to see and be involved in its creation to ensure we were creating an authentic voice on stage.

The play looks at the areas of Scarborough in the two different countries. Both wildly different in reputation, we were interested in creating a play which looked at how these two different places with the same name can be connected by one event… a killing. The play has been created by working with FTP’s collective approach to making theatre; the writer came with the beginnings of an idea and then with the director Gemma Kerr and the designer Lydia Denno, the team have worked together at every level to develop the play by working with young people to inform its development. They undertook an intensive 5 week research and development period which involved going across to Toronto to work in their Scarborough – an exciting step for FTP as we start to create work internationally and as we are live streaming the show to our group of Canadian young people as part of the run.

So we begin rehearsals in 2 weeks…actually a week and a half now…eek, where did time go?! So castings are fairly late in the day because of the way the piece has been created but we are really excited about finally bringing the full team together. We have been in the Paines Plough rehearsal room all this week seeing lots of brilliant Yorkshire and Canadian accents come in and out and have just set down to make final decisions. The play is a total cast of 3; two boys that play the English and Canadian roles and a Canadian girl who has gone missing. All the roles are 15 years old so it is a big ask to play both this age and with two very different accents. Luckily as I am from Yorkshire I can cover that side, and Evan is from Toronto so we also have a Canadian voice in the room – definitely useful tools! Auditions are always exciting as it is finding the final piece of the puzzle for your team and we are certainly excited about finding the pieces left for this production. And at being part of TakeOver- a brilliant initiative set up by York Theatre Royal in which every role at the theatre is taken over by artists under 26 years old who then are mentored by their equivalent staff member to programme and run a three week arts festival across the Mainhouse, Studio and other found performance spaces. This year the TakeOver team are hugely exciting to work with and have programmed some brilliant companies including Paines Plough of course for their production of Wasted as well as getting companies such as Frantic Assembly to offer workshops on their work. It is going to be a fun start to the summer, once it stops raining…

Charlotte Bennett
Artistic Director
Forward Theatre Project