Graduate Summer Residency

Graduate Summer residency, 2012

For the month of July we worked with Birmingham Conservatoire ensemble 101 New Music Theatre and Coventry University graduate ensemble: TAPP to create two brand new productions.

a l o c l a s p was originally conceived as part of Coventry University performance and professional practice degree, was reworked and performed at mac birmingham and explosive music-theatre-dance vignette, Come Heavy Sleep was performed as part of RSC PILOT Night at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Both productions focused on the creation of new works via ensemble collaboration.

a l o c l a s p was a science-theatre production that re-imagined the teaching of of German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler, following his tortured search to understand the mechanics and theories of the distant edges of outer space.

For Come Heavy Sleep PILOT Night the ensemble was joined by a professional musician and our very own Sam Fox. Come Heavy Sleep re-invented Shakespeare’s bloodier tales as a murder story told through choreographed movements set to the romantic tune of Elizabethan lute song, the rhythmic pulse of Grindcore and ecstatic beats of Noise-Pop.

Our work with the graduates has lead to the development of Come Heavy Sleep as part of our future portfolio

“fun, sexy and wholly watchable – more of this please!” Audience comment, RSC PILOT Night

“An outstanding piece of ensemble work – it has been a long time since I saw such a large group of students so completely collectively committed on stage.” Geoff Willcocks, Head of Performing Arts Department, Coventry University

Images of Come Heavy Sleep taken in rehearsal and performance at RSC Pilot Night, July 2012.
Please click on the thumbnail to see a larger image:

All photographs © 2012 Stewart Hemley

A blog about the making of a l o c l a s p by 3rd year student Tim Scotson:

As I write this we’re three weeks into rehearsals for the show that has come to be known as ‘Aloclasp’ and the most appropriate word I can find for it is nebulous, which seems apt. After all, even though space is unimaginably vast it isn’t exactly empty. Breaking up the vast stretches of nothing are a billion and more stars and circling those are untold numbers of planets and asteroids. The sky is littered with stars and rocks and novae and even a nebula or two. So yes; if it is anything, Aloclasp is nebulous and that is exactly what it needs to be.

There is an entire student yeargroup (something like thirty five people) working collaboratively on the project and so many people can really crowd the creative process.In my experience if you were to simply throw thirty five students in a room and tell them to make a play, you would probably be lucky to get a final product in less than four years so the fact that we will have produced Aloclasp in around four weeks could reasonably be regarded as a miracle. And without the influence of Kindle it might have taken one, but they brought with them a working method that drove home focus and constant engagement while also allowing the whole group to work together on finding the material and playing with it. The end result is that a task that might have been a chore has instead been an utter joy.

Of course as far as themes go you could hardly get more scope and resonance than ‘outer space’. For as long as our species can recall we have looked up into the heavens, at Orion and Taurus, at the majesty of the Milky Way and the darkness of the eternal void and we have wondered. It must have been the stars that first griped the human mind and so awe-inspiring were they then that our ancestors named them for their gods and heroes. Who can truly say that anything has changed? We are just now taking our first tentative steps into the heavens of our predecessors but one day we may stride amongst the stars like titans and stand toe to toe with the gods and heroes of old. The night sky is eternal and as long as humanity exists it will look upon its grandeur and be inspired.

The temptation when making a play is usually to start with a narrative but here that seems a strangely arrogant and self-defeating goal. Space is so vast and its impact upon humanity so multifaceted that to choose just one tale to tell would seem impossible. So we eschewed linear narrative in favour of exploring the history of humanity’s love affair with the stars. Just as the human quest for knowledge will take us beyond the stars to greater vistas of revelation, so too does Aloclasp refuse to be restrained.We are inviting the audience on a journey of discovery, and I sincerely hope that they come to it with that same sense of excitement and anticipation for exploration that we have had since the project began.