The New Wolsey Theatre is committed to increasing the representation of D/deaf and disabled people in our audiences, in our workforce, and on our stages.
We support and showcase new work and new ideas from contemporary theatre makers through the Pulse artist development programme. In 2017, we introduced Testing Ground, a seed commission programme for original work from D/deaf and disabled artists. We are keen to develop these artists and work, and ensure the aesthetics of access are embedded in the creative process.
Over the last two years, we have invested in and provided development support to nine projects, several of which went on to be presented during the annual Pulse Festival: Nicola Werenowska’s Invisible, Rachel Bagshaw’s Shape of the Pain, Kiruna Stamell and Rhona MacKenzie’s Disability Sex Archive, Invisible Flash’s The Blind Traveller, Simon Startin’s Inspiration Porn and Brick Wall Ensemble’s Henry V.
‘Not only has Testing Ground given me invaluable time, space and resources to begin a new piece of work which I’m really excited about, but the process has been transformative in terms of exploring my personal relationship to my disability in my artistic practice and developing a neurodiverse led practice.’ – Nicola Werenowska, writer of Invisible – Testing Ground 1 commission.
Applications are now open for new Testing Ground commissions, leading to a presentation of work in Pulse Festival 2019. These commissions will vary according to the needs of your project and could include financial, dramaturgical, marketing and other in-kind support.
How do you apply? It’s easy. All you need to do is submit a page of A4 or equivalent video clip explaining the idea, what you’ve achieved up to now and your aspirations for developing the piece.
To apply, or for more details, contact Jamie Beddard, Agent for Change: JBeddard@wolseytheatre.co.uk.
The deadline for submissions is Wed 12 Dec 2018 at 10am.
Saturday saw the last day of PULSE 2018 and, although it was sad PULSE was coming to a close, it was a great way to end the festival. The day started with two shows for younger audiences but I confidently say that all the family would have enjoyed both Moonfall and I Wish I Was a Mountain. Moonfall, which was aimed at ages three and up, was in the Main House and it was great seeing the auditorium filled with fledgling theatre-goers, who gave the audience such a lovely atmosphere. The circus elements of the production were great and when the two performers were climbing the large rope suspended from the ceiling there were sounds of astonishment from children and adults alike.
I Wish I Was a Mountain was the next show at the Studio and aimed at slightly older children from around seven years old. This was a very thoughtful piece looking at what makes us happy and what we really want or need, it definitely made me think! Toby Thompson also had a great presence on stage, making the audience feel very at ease, as well as good record collection.
Next up was Rachel Mars’s Our Carnal Hearts and although that also had some wish-granting in, it was a very different vibe to I Wish I Was a Mountain. It was performed in the round with four amazing singers sat with the audience which really made you feel part of the show. Our Carnal Hearts looked at envy and I thought it was really interesting because, although we don’t like to admit it, the vast majority of do get jealous of other people and want what we can’t have. Rachel Mars put on an engaging and powerful performance.
Then we were back in the Studio for Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutas’s Palmyra, which I just googled and found out it’s an ancient Syrian city but I don’t know if that’s relevant, but you might be like me and wonder what it means. I really enjoyed this piece even though it didn’t exactly feel enjoyable at the time, to be honest there was more an uncomfortable feeling amongst the audience, but in a good way. Seeing the relationship being played out between Nasi and Bertrand was really interesting and I felt very sympathetic towards Nasi who seemed like he was being pushed over the edge by Bertrand. Although there was probably a bigger metaphor for the show that went over my head, I loved seeing how the audience reacted to what was happening on stage. I very intense piece of theatre.
Then it was off to see the big finale show, Hammerhead by Joseph Morpurgo. I didn’t really know what to expect as the programme didn’t give much away but it turned out to be a great show, if you can call it a show. It was in fact a post-show Q&A for a nine hour Frankenstein adaptation we hadn’t actually seen. I thought Joseph Morpurgo was very funny and I loved how he broke down the traditional performance formula into this Q&A spoof. He took questions from the audience, who did a great job but did struggle to stay on topic, with questions ranging from office romances to singing happy birthday, all to the frustration of Joseph.
The last show of the evening was Paul O’Donnell’s We’ve Got Each Other, a Bon Jovi musical, which because of budget issues, had to be imagined by the audience by Paul’s very vivid descriptions. Although I think I was a little young to fully appreciate the Jon Bon Jovi homage, other audience members, which I think included some pretty big Bon Jovi fans, definitely enjoyed the 80s throwback. I did think Paul did a great job in giving a sense what the imagined musical would look like, hydraulic lift and all.
Maddie and I have enjoyed PULSE 2018 so much and we’re sad it had to come to an end. I guess we’ll just have to start counting down the days till next year. See you at PULSE 2019!
Yesterday was the penultimate day of PULSE 2018 (we’re sad it’s nearly over too!) and the first show of the evening was The Audit (or Iceland, a modern myth) by Proto-type theatre company. We had seen Proto-type’s previous show at PULSE a couple of years ago, A Machine They’re Secretly Building, and both shows had a similar tense tone. The Audit focused on the 2008 financial crisis, looking at the events that built up to it, from 1999, to the subsequent consequences that brought us up to 2016. It was interesting and really makes you see that the people in charge are pretty corrupt. We especially enjoyed how they took this huge story but also incorporated personal stories alongside it, like the woman in Iceland who goes on the same walk every year on 1st January. Overall a thought-provoking and intense show from Proto-type.
Then we were back at the main house and it had been opened back up its 400-seat capacity for The Wardrobe’s Ensembles’ Education, Education, Education, and you could really see why they are called The Wardrobe’s Ensemble, as there were some pretty speedy costume changes as the actors switched between teachers and students. We loved their energy and their physical elements of jumping over and sliding under tables was very impressive. The show was set in a dysfunctional Secondary school, just after Tony Blair wins the 1997 election and although I started school in 2011, there were some striking similarities. The show made us all laugh out loud and everyone had a great time watching it.
The last show of the evening was Suicide Notes… the spoken word of Christopher Brett Bailey, where Brett Bailey was sat behind a desk reading a collection of rather strange short stories, which varies every show. It was great to have the relaxation and freedom he brought to his show creating an exciting energy in the room. We liked his dark, slightly absurd humour and we thought he had great presence on the stage. His storytelling was fantastic where he was able to create such a buzz just from sitting behind this table. Indeed, an entertaining show to end the night with.
We can’t believe that PULSE 2018 is coming to a close, but we are very excited to celebrate the last day with a bang!
Day 8 of PULSE was dance night where we watched one show called Andante by Igor and Moreno, The Palace and Tir Danza. Dance day is based at DanceEast in which it was exciting for myself and Ellie to be in a new venue and experience a different atmosphere in the auditorium. As we walked in we were greeted by a strong pleasant scent which was a new element to theatre we haven’t yet experienced. Andante was a show that allowed you to connect with your senses in which this feature added an interesting element to this.
This show was indeed abstract, and it was a new experience for us both, but it was definitely an interesting experience. The continuous movement throughout and the humming alongside it created a different atmosphere in the room. The four performers onstage explored different paces as well as walking up the steps towards us as the audience adding another interesting layer. The title itself reflected the gradual build up of the piece where andante in music terms is known as “at a walking pace” in which a steady rhythm and flow was created, particularly at the beginning.
What was especially interesting was the different interpretations that could be taken from this show. The extensive movement and no dialogue left the audience ourselves to take away what we want from this performance. The abstract piece was enhanced by the loud and surrounding music as well as the use of smoke where at some points we were not able to see on stage adding a sense of mysteriousness. This contemporary show ended in a way we have never seen before. A cloud of smoke filled the audience where we unable to view any of the stage. This was no traditional end to a performance and we saw no more of the performers which made the show feel like it was more about us rather than the performers on stage as they didn’t take any bows.
This was a very interesting show to experience where there were so many contemporary and abstract elements that brought a different aspect to a live theatre show. We love to see different pieces of theatre and Andante was certainly that.
Don’t miss Moonfall tomorrow morning for more beautiful theatre!
Well, Wednesday evening brought a great range of theatre. The first show was User Not Found by Dante or Die theatre company and created by Daphne Attias, Terry O’Donovan and Chris Goode. The show was up in the bar and there were lots of tables with headphones on. All the ‘audience members’, it didn’t really feel like we were an audience, put on the headphones and were each given a mobile which matched up with what Terry was saying and describing, while what he said was also going straight into our headphones. The show explored what happens to our digital footprint we leave behind when we die and I thought it was such an interesting discussion as it is something we have only recently had to think about. We discover Terry’s ex-boyfreind, Luka, has died but had signed up to this App that lets you choose someone to decide what happens to your social media when you’re gone. It was fascinating to watch Terry’s dilemma on what to do, especially as the two hadn’t ended things on good terms. I really enjoyed the immersive piece and I think they portrayed how people use social media very accurately which doesn’t always happen in theatre. Would you want your digital media footprint to live forever or to go with you?
Then we had Elephant And Castle which had the audience in stitches. It revolved around husband and wife. Tom, who was a sleep talker and walker, and Lily, who had to deal with Tom’s night-time escapades, which are made a lot more troublesome, as like Marilyn Monroe, Tom also likes to sleep naked. They told the story through song, live music and recordings of Tom’s sleep talking, and Lily had a great voice, I found out she even did the score for 1927’s Golem, which was the finale of last year’s PULSE. The show was very funny but also tender and sweet as you really got a sense of Tom and Lily’s love for each other.
The final show of the night was YESYESNONO’s Five Encounters on a Site Called Craiglist about five of Sam’s sexual encounters through the advertising website Craigslist. I really liked the vibe Sam created for the show, the auditorium felt like a very open and respectful space. Sam got people from the audience to help act out his different encounters and I even volunteered to go on stage! Sam asked me some of the 36 questions that psychologist Arthur Aron came up with that lead to love. The first question was who would be your dream dinner guest and I said Alex Turner, the Arctic Monkeys frontman, but thinking about it now, David Bowie or Nina Simone would be pretty high up on the list too. I definitely recommend that you try out these questions with your partner, friend, or, I don’t know, pet parrot, because you do really get to know someone.
Next Stop – Dance Day!
Be sure to get your tickets for The Audit and Education, Education, Education on Friday and Hammerhead and We’ve Got Each Other on Saturday!
PULSE gave as three solo shows for the sixth day of the Festival. The First of which was Quarter Life Crisis written and performed by Yolanda Mercy as Alicia a Londoner of Nigerian descent and I really enjoyed the way Yolanda blended these two cultures together with Alicia stressing over her 16-25 railcard while vividly describing the foods and music of Africa. Alicia is single and never stays very long in any retail job, while her friends are getting ‘careers’ and having babies. I really enjoyed Yolanda’s relatable humour but thankfully I definitely don’t feel the pressure to be a grown-up any time soon. To be honest, I didn’t really think Alicia was having much of a ‘crisis’ she seemed in a pretty good position to me, she had a degree and was having a good time, from the way things are going I doubt if I’ll get a single A-level, but Pulse over revision any day!
Then it was on to the studio for Frankie Vah by Luke Wright. This was the first modern, or anything not Shakespearian, I’d seen written in verse and I was really impressed. It seemed like he barely paused or even took a breath and there was a great energy throughout. Set during the 80s, Frankie Vah was the stage name of Simon, who pushed against his conservative vicar father with left-wing politics and his career in ranting performance poetry. The mixture of Thatcherism, the relationships between the characters, all played by Luke Wright, and Frankie Vah’s growing stardom touring with the band The Midnight Shift (a John Cooper Clarke reference?) kept the show exciting and probably gave a great sense of what it was like living in the 80s, not that I was there, but it did sound how my mum described it back in her perm days. I have also watched some Spitting Image in history, sorry if that makes anyone feel old. Overall the show was very clever and energetic and really fun to watch.
White was the final show of the evening and more spoken word performed by Koko Brown alongside the use of vocal looping, which I think sounds so cool. White focuses on Koko’s identity as a mixed-race woman, and the idea of mixed-race privilege, which I had never really thought about. I found the piece fascinating and really enjoyed hearing these ideas from a perspective which is unrepresented in theatre. I really got a sense of honesty which I loved and it was definitely one of the best shows I have seen on identity and race. It was both funny and powerful.
Be sure not to miss love Moonfall, Education, Education, Education, The Audit and Hammerhead if these shows sound right up you street you’ll be in for a treat!
The first show of the evening, and the midpoint of PULSE (hasn’t it flown by?), was Small World and boy was it a treat, definitely a highlight of the festival so far. You could see Rich Rusk’s Gecko connection and the movement in the show was just beautiful to watch. I especially loved how they used sound effects to replace props, like with the drinks. It must have been such a challenge matching up the actors’ movements with the audio. The use of lighting was another great layer that really added an interesting aspect to the piece. Truly a multimedia endeavour. I also felt the mixture between abstract and more naturalistic scenes was a great balance, I really enjoyed the scenes in the pub quiz as I do love a quiz and I am slightly competitive, although I think the person next to me didn’t appreciate me whispering my answers into their ear. It was the right answer though! The strangest thing about the performance however was the fact that it was phone friendly. There were two people live streaming from each side of the stage and Rich was also recording from his perspective, with the audience encouraged to take photos and videos. I did switch my phone on but I have the idea of not using my phone at the theatre so heavily entrenched, I just felt too odd to record what was on stage. Maddie managed to take some photos though, so keep an eye on the New Wolsey Instagram to get a look at what the show was like.
The next show of the evening was The Black Cat by Lapelle’s Factory and was a modern retelling of the Edgar Allen Poe story of the same name. The two actors on stage sat behind desks and read the scripts of the adaptations but these were broken up by intermissions from the performers to tell the audience what they would do differently to this enigmatic ‘writer’. The story is pretty dark and *spoiler alert* the cat dies and there’s also eye-gouging or as was written in the script eye-gauging, the actors couldn’t decide if it was a typo. Don’t worry though, no cats were harmed in the show, only balloons. Apparently, the actors even discovered that when the New Wolsey Studio was being renovated from a chapel the builders found mummified cats in the walls, which were used to ward off evil spirits. What really made me shiver is that they then supposedly put them back! I don’t know if I prefer to have dead pets in the walls or evil spirits. I hope you’ll think about that when sitting in the studio because I sure will.
The final show of the evening was Louise Orwin’s Oh Yes Oh No, an intense exploration into sex and the taboo surrounding desire and fantasies that may not align with one’s own politics or beliefs in right and wrong. Louise managed to incorporate this conflict expertly into her show, especially with the use of the real-life interviews she played during the performance. It really felt like you got to hear a lot of different voices in a big conversation. I found Louise’s monologues to be really engaging, and had me hooked throughout. It’s a very powerful piece about something a subject that doesn’t get spoken about often or openly.
See you this evening for even more PULSE fun! And please come up and have a chat on what you think about any of the PULSE shows you have seen. Maddie is off being a performer herself for a couple of days so I would appreciate the company very much.
Be sure to catch 5 Encounters on a Site Called Craigslist on Wed 6 Jun at 9:30pm, Education, Education, Education on Fri 8 Jun at 8pm and Hammerhead on Sat 9 Jun at 7:30pm.
What an amazing first few days we have experienced at PULSE. We have watched some brilliant pieces of theatre and day four did not disappoint. Day four was a new experiment for PULSE which was called Free Day in which everything we were watching hadn’t been viewed until their sharing today. The idea is to pay after you have watched the show and then decide how much you think it was worth. We have to say the risk was worth taking as we saw some fantastic pieces of work from different companies.
The day started with One Item Only by Margarita Sidirokastriti which was about a young person going on an adventure and travelling away from home. It was a story that was beautifully told where the use of minimal objects and props told her story. We especially loved how she used simple hand gestures to represent the person wandering their way through different places. This was also supported by simple but effective illustrations that was drawn throughout the piece. This simplistic way of storytelling created an interesting piece to watch where the choice of music beautifully enhanced what was happening on stage. The story itself had the adventurous element that appealed to the younger audience members that were in the room, but it also had the underlying message of a refugee leaving home where as an older audience we were able to connect to.
Rare Productions delivered a fantastic show called Skin A Cat which was about a woman called Alana telling her story about her awkward sexual journey that started with her getting her first period to trying to work out why she can’t lose her virginity. What we loved about this show was how real it felt. It was an honest piece and there was no coverings or metaphors of what she was experiencing. It had the perfect balance of humour as well as the serious and emotional side contributing to the quality this show was at. It was a very well done piece in which Alana was telling her story whilst acting it out with the support of two other actors switching characters helping us to really follow Alana’s story. We both agreed, as well as other audience members we spoke to after, it was a fantastic piece both from the story it portrayed to how it was presented on stage, which were both brilliantly delivered.
We both enjoy dark comedy and the show we watched next was just that. Burning Tails by Eden Harbud was based around puppetry, but it was not the puppet show we were expecting. It was a dark and emotional story of a fox as he experiences a mixture of tragic events. Eden did a fantastic job of making the puppets come to life where as an audience we really connected to them as characters. The humour throughout made us laugh out loud and it was very cleverly done. We also enjoyed the side story of Eden himself performing the show rather than just having the focus fully on the puppets story alone. It was original and a very enjoyable show to watch.
Following this was Action At A Distance by Argonaut Theatre. This was a very powerful performance highlighting some serious and important topics. The story explored a character becoming desperate and obsessive which was brilliantly delivered with conviction. An interesting element of the play was how the man and woman were talking to each other face to face on stage; however, they hadn’t actually meet. This was very effective as they appeared to be talking to each other in real life but as the audience we still understood it was an online conversation.
We love when a PULSE day finishes with a bang and day four certainly did. People You May Know presented Nice Guys looking at toxic masculinity and the modern man identity crisis. The combination of humour and serious subjects created a powerful and interesting show. It was great how the show left such an impact on us. After it had finished it had made us think about what was spoken about, which is the amazing thing about theatre. At certain points it made us feel uneasy due to them addressing subjects that aren’t usually addressed which was very refreshing to see. This show was delivered with great energy and passion. It was a fantastic show that we both loved, the audience interaction was very effective and a brilliant performance by all four of them. What a fantastic end to the first weekend of PULSE.
If you couldn’t make Sundays shows and these shows sound a little bit of what you like, don’t fear as there’s plenty to come! Be sure to check out Oh Yes Oh No on Mon 4 Jun, Quarter Life Crisis and WHITE on Tue 5 Jun as well as Moonfall and Our Carnal Hearts on Sat 9 Jun.
The third day of this year’s PULSE Festival was Scratch Day. This is where companies come and show their work early in production which is really interesting to watch. All the shows were at different stages, some being worked for several months while other have only been in development for less than a week. We saw a total of 11 scratch pieces over four sessions and a total range of theatre.
Session one started off with a quirky first piece by Eleanor Westbrook called Big Berg and we really enjoyed the eccentric characterisation. Although the performance was quite abstract we still found the story of a man trying to claim the land for himself easy to follow. We also enjoyed Pepper and Honey in the first session which involved a baking tutorial during the show, where members of the audience really got involved making traditional Croatian pepper and honey biscuits, which we can confirm tasted great. Despite the fact some of it was also spoken in another language, we never felt we couldn’t understand what was happening on stage.
The second scratch session was presented by Testing Ground, a programme commissioned by the festival to bring work by D/deaf and disabled artists to the stage. We immediately were intrigued by the first show The Blind Traveller when we were invited to sit at a table on the stage along with the performers. It was exciting really being in the action on stage, while there were also performers in the audience really blurring the lines between what was the audience and what was the show, which we loved. Then the next show Henry 5 brought to together football and Shakespearean language and although we’re not really football crazy we did really feel like we were in a pub with them, and couldn’t help feeling their excitement. The final Testing Ground performance was Inspiration Porn which was a very engaging delivery despite the fact the company had been working on it for less than a week.
The third session started with Haley McGee with The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale. We loved the relaxed approach Haley took, making us as the audience feel relaxed but also engaged with her story. It was unique combining math equations with gifts from exes to determine how much they would sell for. She managed to make maths interesting which is quiet the achievement.
In the final session of Scratch Day, it started off with Live Long and Die Out by Melanie Wilson. This piece was different in that it combined dialogue alongside three singers producing beautiful harmonies really adding to the intensity of the show which explored the themes of how we as individuals damage the planet. As audience members, we also had to write down our own answers to the question “why do we have children” in which the singers took what was written down and sang them together in three parts. We found this was much more of an engaging way to reflect on how we responded to this question as an audience. Small Nose Productions with Punch and Judy’s – A CLOWN’S Version was performed with great presence. Mark and Dan worked great as a comedic duo, while as an audience we were laughing from the moment they entered the stage. With great timing and charm, this clown version of Punch and Judy was truly enjoyable. Together they provided us with a funny and feel good show where we all left with a smile on our faces.
At PULSE 2016 we watched and loved Vincent Gambini’s magic show and when we saw he was coming back this year with a new show The Chore of Enchantment we both couldn’t wait. We both had high expectations as we love magic and we have to say, he didn’t disappoint. It was a truly enchanting performance where we were blown away by his tricks during the show. What we love about Vincent Gambini is his combination of his great skills as a magician alongside the comedy he delivers with it. We weren’t only amazed by the magic throughout the show but all of the audience were laughing out loud as well. We only wish we knew how he does it!
Scratch Day was fantastic with so much potential for some great completed pieces of theatre. We loved the versatility that was displayed throughout the day and can’t wait to see the shows later on when they have had more work put towards them.
Does this sound right up your street? Don’t miss out on Quarter Life Crisis on Tue 5 Jun, Education, Education, Education on Fri 8 Jun and Moonfall on Sat 9 Jun
So, the second day of PULSE was the annual Suitcase Prize Day, and both our first full experience of Suitcase Day, and we were not disappointed. We saw a total of 12 shows all competing for the coveted Suitcase prize, which contains a cheque for £1000, with the shows having to try and be environmentally and especially public transport friendly for touring, ideally all the props fitting into just a suitcase, hence the name.
There was such a variety of shows and we’re very glad we didn’t have the impossible job of choosing a winner. The very deserving Augmented managed to earn the title of the Suitcase Winner. The show gave such a unique, powerful but also funny insight into hearing loss and cochlear implants, and Sophie Woolley told her story with passion. We went in not knowing anything about cochlear implants, and we found the scene of Sophie dancing alone to music streamed straight to her implant very powerful. Indeed, it was a very moving and worthy winner of this year’s Suitcase Prize.
But the brilliant shows didn’t stop there. We both have to agree that the performance of Venus from Dan Watson was a standout show for us. We loved the fun energy that immediately filled the audience as soon as Dan took to the stage. It was a struggle to stay in our seats and not get up and join the 80s Pontins dance competition recreation.
Not only was there fabulous dancing but also some beautiful singing from several of the shows. Eiger by Haroula Theatre combined their high energy movement with a singer that brought another level of emotion to the piece. Dressed. by ThisEgg and Made My Wardrobe was similar to Eiger with their mixture of live singing and physical theatre, which enhanced the true story that was being told.
Another show we both enjoyed was The Light Bulb Man by The Backpack Ensemble. We really enjoyed their imaginative use of an overhead projector, which was a flash from the past, and the silhouettes projected on stage. We were intrigued by the story and wanted to find out how it ended.
The day concluded with last year’s Suitcase Prize winner James McDermott’s hilarious Rubber Ring. We really felt like we were on the journey with him from Sheringham to the o2 to see Morrissey (even though Maddie wasn’t sure who The Smiths were!). James’s simple yet effective switch in characterisation felt like we met a range of different people despite just James being alone on stage.
What a great and varied Suitcase Day. All the shows had something to offer, we can’t wait to see these developed further in the future and Augmented next year where Sophie Woolley will hand over the Suitcase prize to the next lucky winner.
If you like the sound of these shows then you will love Quarter Life Crisis on Tue 5 Jun at 6:30pm, Education, Education, Education on Fri 8 Jun at 8pm, Our Carnal Hearts on Sat 9 Jun at 3pm and We’ve Got Each Other on Sat 9 Jun at 9pm
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