Un-named is our latest project. The six cast members have worked together for a year under the guidance of artistic director Bella Stewart. These are some of the performers’ thoughts and feelings about the work.
What’s the topic of Un-named?
“We started by broadly looking at the topic of ‘feral children’ – children raised in the wild, such as the Wild Boy of Aveyron. But the exciting thing is how the piece has evolved into something much wider.
We now cover themes such as; ‘abandonment’ and what effect that could have on a child’s development; children raised under unusual circumstances such as in foundling hospitals; language and what it means to be without it; the juxtaposition of two worlds, the ‘wild’ and the ‘civilised’; the implications of ‘feral’, socially and culturally,
This thematic development has happened through our thoughts, our discussions, our accumulation of understanding and meaning. In particular, at the start of every class we hold a ‘Quaker’ meeting, where we bring ideas, experiences, music, website links, source material from different directions. Then, in the class, we ‘devise’ dramatic pieces, creative responses to what we have heard and learned.
What do you do when you ‘devise’?
“Led by Bella, we take a stimulus – such as reading ‘The Jungle Book’ – and produce solo pieces using objects, voice, movement, or any combination.
We then work with others in the group to create a collective piece. We put ideas into the pot and mix it all together – often not knowing exactly what we’re doing, often laughing – until we see what plops out the other end. Whether that’s good, bad or indifferent. It’s always original.
One particular stimulus was a visit from Lydia. Born in the 1930’s, she was given by her mother – who had been abandoned by her partner – to the Foundling Hospital, in Bloomsbury [founded by Thomas Coram in 1739, now The Foundling Museum]. Bloomsbury. Lydia spoke to us very movingly about her experience of coming to terms with being a foundling. We didn’t replicate her story directly, but instead ‘devised’ a scene in response to her emotion and to our own.
What’s it like to develop a theatre piece outdoors?
“Working at Wandlebury is wonderful – energising and creatively stimulating yet utterly relaxing. We work there from Easter onwards as the weather gets warmer – though it would be lovely to work there for the whole year.
Wandlebury gives us so much – open spaces, trees, walls and mysterious doors – to bounce off creatively as we develop the performance. The Park looks different each time we visit, and it’s lovely to work in an environment that evolves with the seasons; it expands our entire experience.
We also feel that working outdoors is a completely different experience for the audience. We’re trying to take them inside the mind of a feral human, or a foundling all alone, abandoned; Wandlebury is perfect for creating what that might be like… it’s a wild space with a distinct urban edge.”
What was the hardest challenge in the project?
“It was hard to… imagine what it is like to be without language… retrieve for performance elements we formed nearly a year ago… gather in the best bits of what we have done… put together so many diverse elements for the production… listen to some of the very moving stories we were told… do those stories justice.”
What were the best bits?
“Using a different part of my brain than in other areas of my life… realising how one’s own experience in the early years can have such a dramatic impact on who one is… rehearsing outside… devising… the creative process… Lydia’s story… creating whole group movement pieces in response to Lydia’s story… working with the other performers. Hopefully, the best bit will be actually performing the piece!”
Why should people come to see Un-named?
Because we’ve taken core ideas, added individual inspiration, brought everything together “in collaboration, and created something that makes you think about the boundaries of tolerance, resilience and the human spirit.”
These were the (lightly edited) words of: Cyrus Pundole, Mat Wollerton, Maxine Fay, Rachael Duthie, Rachel Thilwind, Silvano Squizzato.