Let’s Get Physical, Liverpool

Feature in Issue 21-2 | Summer 2009

Elinor Randle previews Tmesis Theatre’s Physical Fest.

Tmesis Theatre (Formerly Momentum) are based in Liverpool and for the past six years we have developed a reputation for unique physical theatre pieces: Tmesis, Memento Mori, and Anima (a Liverpool Capital of Culture Commission) – all of which have toured nationally and internationally. Tmesis Theatre is run by its two artistic directors/performers, Yorgos Karamalegos and myself, Elinor Randle.

The idea for Physical Fest sparked from a plan to try and bring a friends’ four-day workshop from London to Liverpool. We also wanted to teach a longer workshop, so decided to put it all together and being as we are, always ambitious, call it a festival! With the support of Hope Street Ltd where we are based, Physical Fest began in 2005 as a self-funded event, driven by our desire to train, but tired of always having to travel to London to do exciting workshops. The first year was a great success, a brilliant atmosphere and obviously something the city was hungry for.

As a company we have always considered training and working with world-renowned practitioners as an intrinsic part of what we do. Neither of us have followed one specific path – we’ve always developed skills needed for the particular piece we are working on, and have had a great education through the people we bring to work with us, such as Linda Kerr Scott (Complicite) who helped us rework our first piece Tmesis in 2004; Tanya Khabarova (Derevo) who collaborated with us in the making of our second piece, Memento Mori; and Malou Airaudo (Pina Bausch) who worked on Anima.

We are passionate about continuously learning, and now through Physical Fest have created the opportunity to do ten days of training per year with practitioners we have chosen to invite to the festival, which also gives us the opportunity to meet and work with artists we may want to collaborate with in the future.

The Fest has grown from strength to strength over the past five years with evening events, taster classes, performances and an improvised jam event – and attracts an increasing diversity of participants. One of the reasons for its success is the atmosphere the Fest has always had – it’s a carefully curated programme run by people who are extremely passionate about physical theatre, and about bringing exciting work to Liverpool. In the first two years the practitioners were all people we knew like Yorgos Bakalos (Corpus Soma), Andrea Buckley, Marie Gabrielle Rotie (Butoh UK) and ourselves, who were prepared to work for lower fees than normal. Almost all of the people we invite are people we have met along the way or had some sort of connection with which helps maintain the warm feeling that the Fest has.

As we got some funding we were able to expand, bringing in 2007 our first performance, Tanya Khabarova’s Reflections. This was particularly fitting as it was the show that prompted us to ask her to work with us; it was also the first time a Derevo performance had been to the northwest. Fests 3 and 4 saw a growing participation nationally and from Europe, and last year we managed to get master of theatre Yoshi Oida to do an inspirational four-day workshop which created stronger international attention for the Fest.

Now in its fifth year, we have realised our ambitions for an internationally unique festival solely specialising in physical theatre. We are hosting Yoshi Oida’s solo show, Interrogations, and relaunching the reworked version of our first piece, Tmesis. We will, as always, be running workshops – along with special guests Gennadi Bogdanov (Biomechanics), Jean Laurent Sasportes (who works with Pina Bausch), Jorge Lopez Ramos (Zecora Ura), Free Running from Airborne Entertainment, a live jam with practitioners and participants in front of an audience, evening classes in Capoeira from internationally famous group Cordão de Ouro, Pilates, Samba – and a work in progress showing of Cover from local artist Maria Malone (who is also our festival coordinator).

This article in the magazine

Issue 21-2
p. 24