The mind-blowing world of designer Bunny Christie – in pictures

From mapping the journey of The Curious Incident’s teen hero to putting Shakespeare in prison and erecting a towering newsroom for Ink, Bunny Christie talks through five of her creations Link to full article

Bunny Christie doesn’t design stage sets. She creates worlds.

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Audaciously theatrical and frequently startling, her creations pull spectators headlong into the universe of a play – whether through the disorienting aperture of The Red Barn or the vintage newsroom pile-up in Ink. Christie often places us inside a protagonist’s head – she designs psychology as well as space, most notably for the singular hero of The Curious Incident, which won her one of her three Olivier awards. She relishes how design unites the entire production.

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“Most of the set was white, with rounded walls. I was thinking about big pills and capsules, and it also looked clinical, like you could hose it down.”

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“Designers are often a conduit from the rehearsal room to the rest of the team,” she says. “We’re with the director from the moment of starting the show, but also go into the wardrobe, prop shop and stage management. You share the thinking. It’s really important.”

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Playing dead – Farce

My kind of role…

In Orton’s dark farce, staged uncut for the first time, Anah Ruddin plays the recently deceased Mrs McLeavy whose body is extravagantly manhandled. She describes the stiff challenges of the role.

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From the necrophilia to the suggestion Christ was framed, the playwright’s most dangerous work – performed without the censor’s cuts for the first time – shows Orton wasn’t just out to shock.

To mark the 50th anniversary of Joe Orton’s death, this revival of his most famous play restores the cuts originally insisted upon by the stage censor, the Lord Chamberlain. The result not only sharpens an already subversive text but yields a first-rate production by Michael Fentiman that reminds us of the serious intent behind Orton’s drollery. This, you might say, is dangerous farce. https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/aug/24/loot-review-joe-orton-park-theatre-london

On 9 August 1967, the playwright Joe Orton was murdered by his lover, Kenneth Halliwell, in their Islington flat. The following day, Guardian theatre critic Philip Hope-Wallace wrote, “Joe Orton had an irreverent eye and a splendid ear for comic dialogue. It was ruthless, mordant, epigrammatic, and formal in a way which caused people to make comparisons to Oscar Wilde.”

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Journal Article

Joe Orton and the Redefinition of Farce

Joan F. Dean
Theatre Journal
Vol. 34, No. 4 (Dec., 1982), pp. 481-492

 

Ray Cooney’s six rules of farce

Britain’s greatest living farceur, Ray Cooney, offers his tips for writing the perfect farce

Being asked to write the rules of farce is akin to being asked to describe the rules of life – where do you start and what do you leave out? However, before laying bare my formula, I would say that “farce” covers a wide area. There would seem to be a point at which comedy becomes farce and having become farce it then flows into several farcical tributaries. Mine is just one of them.

 

1: PLOT

In the beginning there is the plot. I’m not searching for a “comedy” plot or a “funny” storyline. I’m searching for something potentially tragic. Farce is more akin to tragedy than it is to comedy.

In my play Run for Your Wife, the hero is a bigamist. This situation in real life is an absolute tragedy for those finding themselves involved in it. My play doesn’t dwell on the tragedy, but the audience instinctively understands what is at stake.

In Out of Order, a Cabinet minister’s illicit evening in a London hotel is brought to an abrupt halt when he and the young lady discover a dead body in the bedroom. The Government could fall and so he embarks on a cover-up which risks both his marriage and his political future. In real life – as politicians know – this situation brings tragedy. In Out of Order, it also brings laughter – because the audience know what is at stake for the characters in the play.

 

2: CHARACTERS

The characters must be truthful and recognisable. Again this is why the audience laughs. The characters are believable – it is the situations that are slightly out of the ordinary. Ordinary people who are out of their depth in a predicament which is beyond their control and they are unable to contain. Tragedy again.

3: REWRITING

The willingness to rewrite is essential. My farces are pure concoctions. I never get it exactly right the first time. The original script is comparable to a middle-of-the-range Ford motor car. By the time it appears on the West End stage it must have acquired the precision, the elegance and the comfort of a Rolls-Royce.

I achieve this by having a play reading early on. Then I take the play back to the drawing-board and huge areas are then restructured, rewritten and generally reshaped. Characters may be added or removed in order to serve the requirements of the play. The play will get more and more tryouts, until I know it’s as perfect as it can be.

4: CASTING

The right casting is vital. Because of the laughter my kind of play evokes, it is sometimes thought that comedians serve farce well. Invariably disaster! Farce needs actors who can play tragedy – and that is only the first requirement. They must also have the technique, the stamina, the precision and the dexterity that farce demands.

And, almost above all, they must have a generosity of spirit. Farce is teamwork. There is no standing behind beautiful monologues. It’s mundane language. The characters aren’t standing centre-stage, spotlit, intellectualising about their predicament. They’re rushing about dealing with it.

5: TIME

A rule personal to me is “real time”. The two hours spent in the theatre are two hours in the existence of the characters in the play. No passage of time between Acts 1 and 2. When the curtain rises on the second act, the characters are exactly how we left them at the end of act one, and the action continues. This imposes huge demands on the playwright. Only one setting and two hours of continuous drama/laughter.

6: INTELLIGENCE

Finally, never underestimate the intelligence of your audience. I believe that the audience like to work for their laughter.

 

‘Most of life is farce. Whoever said history repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce was right.’

Playwright and novelist, John Mortimer – quoted by Michael Arditti here

A great resource for the STP

I forgot all about this, and I might have posted about it before, but it’s worth doing again I think. It’s a great way to introduce the STP.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OD7phopWWk&list=PL5DE67813461897E6

 

Katie Mitchell’s video installation at the V&A in 2011 that refracted Ophelia’s death scene into five 20th-century dramatic styles: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog/2011/jul/21/five-truths-katie-mitchell-v-a?CMP=share_btn_link

 

Peter Brook – only found this film yesterday!

“You know there’s always this terrible moment at the beginning of everything, when people come together and all of them are saying what the hell’s it about? What are we doing here? What are we here? And here, it’s to explore something that very few people really see as being a true and almost impossible challenge, which is making theatre that is real, that is alive, that is alive at every moment, that touches one, and in which once hold doesn’t let one go.”

I wonder what would happen if this was also what every classroom aspired to?  What if education also tried to be real, meaningful and in the moment..?

 

Exciting – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

The Eighth Story.
Nineteen years later.

http://www.harrypottertheplay.com/

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a new play by Jack Thorne will receive its world premiere in London’s West End at the Palace Theatre this summer.

Jamie Parker, Noma Dumezweni and Paul Thornley will lead the cast as Harry, Hermione and Ron, as part of a 42 strong Company.

Written by Jack Thorne and directed by Olivier and Tony award winner John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage, bringing together some of the most exciting talent working in the theatre today.

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/gallery/2016/may/17/west-end-designing-harry-potter-and-the-cursed-child-palace-theatre-in-pictures

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One of my all time favourite actors: Noma Dumezweni. She gave one of the best performances I have ever seen in Kay Adshed’s ‘The Bogus Woman’. Would love to get a chance to see this show.

Good Chance may be the only chance they have

…between the British-funded razor-wire fences on one side and the French riot police on the other, these two governments have turned the Jungle into a vacuum of their own moral authority. The only thing currently filling that vacuum are the volunteer organisations that have popped up, at the heart of which sits the theatre. For many of the camp’s residents, Good Chance may be the only chance they have.

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2016/feb/18/calais-jungle-refugees-good-chance-theatre

A great article discussing the efficacy of contemporary applied theatre practice – well actually it reads more like an advert…but still – VERY interesting

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http://goodchance.org.uk/

What is the Jungle: The jungle’ is the name of an ad hoc encampment of about 6,000 people who have made trans-continental journeys from their home country for a wide array of reasons. There are people here from countries all across the Middle East and Africa, including Sudan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Morocco, Egypt, Eritrea, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nigeria and more. There are many languages spoken in the camp, and many cultures, situations and stories present.

Company aims:

What is Good Chance Calais?

Our aim is to provide a safe, warm and welcoming space for people to express themselves and their situations in the Jungle in Calais.

We have been up and running since October 29th and will stay for as long as the space is needed by the people here.

We work hard to deliver a full and surprising programme of theatre, art and music events, and are planning residencies by visiting companies from around the world all through winter.

We believe expression is a basic human right for all. In a situation as terrible as this, it is essential.