New Dogs, Old Tricks

Feature in Issue 21-4 | Winter 2009

Gaffer technology, sewing Bavarian aprons, and the Johnny Hutch boot camp – it’s not your average workshop, but what else would we expect from The People Show? Ladies and gentlemen, we bring you – People Show 120: The Workshop.

Hi (first name)

Thank you so much for attending our audition day for People Show 120: The Workshop. The point of this session is that you get to see if you want to work with us – and we get to see if you are right for this project.

The session will be in two halves: the first being a workshop with a few short devising exercises, where you will work in a group. The second half is when we would like you to present the following task.

The Task:

Take 1–2 minutes of a scene from a film of your choice. You will then present that scene to the group in any manner you want. You can act it out, dance it out, sing it out, describe it, symbolise it… etc. Whatever you like.

Use it as a starting point for a small piece of work. If this task was given to me, I might take the lift action scene from Die Hard and describe in detail to you every detail of Bruce Willis’s rope work. I might take the final speech from Bladerunner and do it a bit upbeat.

Play to your strengths and don’t worry.

Any questions just email me at

The People Show have been creating devised performances for the past four decades, and are often considered to be the UK’s first experimental theatre company. In summer 2009, they created a three-week intensive summer school with 22 exciting new artists. This diverse and multitalented group developed, honed and expanded their skills under expert guidance from People Show artists, to create a show combining promenade performance, cabaret, film, new writing, dance, music, light, sound, puppetry, animation...

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

It’s day two, every few hours my reasons for being here change and that’s great and unsettling and I like it. Mark Long gave a chat this morning on the ‘serious’ business of making theatre, devising, the ingredients, what its all about. Michele

Beginnings. Four People Show artists sitting in a small, cold room drinking coffee, coming up with ideas. If the People Show did workshops what would they do? Useful stuff. Pulley Masterclass. Gaffer Technology and its Origins. Johnny Hutch Boot Camp. Two years later and we still haven’t done these workshops, let’s just get it done – summer 2009. Looked back at the notes… they were good ideas, but we needed to get simpler – more direct. What shall we call it? People Show 120 (it is the next number after 119 after all), The Workshop.

We put into action the marketing plan which we had formulated before and during the funding application process. We received over 150 applicants by deadline and then engaged in a careful and rigorous vetting process, which resulted in getting the numbers down to 44 applicants for the audition days.

Week 1

22 participants, 10am–6pm
Monday to Friday, plus homework.

‘I can see in his eyes that, yeah, he regrets capitalism.’

You’re trying not to be visible but you are, and it’s beautiful and it’s like a painting.

As a performer, find the point at which you know you are being listened to.

The importance of the dynamic of a show, but not necessarily as in beginning-middle-end, instead to do with instinct, like a day going from night to dawn to light to dusk and night again.

I want to see (and hear) two minutes of just the balloons squeaking minutely against each other in front of the microphone.

I want to hear Delano tell his whole journey home by only describing people’s shoes.

I want to see Ruby just stand and lick the inside of a chocolate bar wrapper until the lights go out. Ira

Images are emerging in my head that link all our diverse journeys to one port of call, one airport, one train station, the last place on earth – how did we get there? Who did we see? Why are we here? What have we got to show for our journey? What are our fears, hopes, dreams? ... cough spit drool sneeze cough ... frantic mushrooming uncontrollable ... who knows!!

Right got to go or will be late to see you. James

Week 2

The careful planning of each session that characterised Week 1 was now more fluid and was necessarily more responsive to the issues emerging from the work being developed in each of the spaces... The participants were divided into groups of fives and sixes and were assigned a space within People Show Studios for which to create a piece of work. These spaces were the garden, the toilets, the stairs/foyer and the tank room (props and wardrobe store). One particular focus was to ensure that those with least performance experience did not settle into comfortable roles of non-performance, but were challenged to discover a performance mode that suited their ability and/ or interest in self-development.

Day … erm ... *lili struggles to count her fingers* ... Nine … and my first blog attempt …

I embarked on this workshop looking for adventure and I haven’t been disappointed… I have pushed boundaries and pull muscles that I didn’t know I had! Each day I dip my toes willingly into the unknown… My own practice works within the loose framework of the surreal and the absurd, which generally manifests itself through sculpture and fine art performance… working as part of such a huge group is unknown territory for little old me. I never imagined it would be quite as powerful as it is… We are at times menacing and destructive then at the blink of an eye, delicate and graceful… No mean feat for some 20 something individuals who barely know each other a week!

The past few days have found us in smaller groups working site-specifically in various points of the People show building. Michele, Nicola, Lyndal, Camilla, Alice and myself are in the garden. Not the best of spots to work in today… But we braved the good old English summertime in our matching red plastic ponchos (think strawberry flavoured condoms!) And began adding to the foundations we have already built… and, in my case especially, discovered a few things that really should be left alone! BTW ladies… I have to insist the lobster stays… Even if only as my cigarette holder! ; ) Lili

Wow, late, I should go to bed and I should write some freedom slogans for the toilet and learn my poem and sew a Bavarian apron... Sophie

Week 3

As this week began the practicalities of performance and fear of failure became paramount for the participants. This was countered by continuing to play with ideas and exercises and reinforcing some of the principles of People Show performance which include drilling and refining theatrical moments, and maintaining the idea of a sharing of our work ahead of delivering a polished performance. With this in mind the form of our presentation was progressively shared and understood by all.

The fact that each space could handle different amounts of audience (twelve was the maximum in one of the spaces), helped to shape the form the presentation would take. By now each group had full possession of the aesthetics and shape of their work, to which we added the constriction that their performance should have a duration of no more than ten minutes. Together these limitations led to a form in which 60 audience members would be divided into 5 groups of 12, so that at any given time four audiences would be seeing work in the four spaces with the fifth group held for a time in the hall. Out of this necessity grew the idea of the hall as a gallery in which a speculative photographic idea begun in Week 2 became the focus alongside written or representational material.

13, 14, 15 August 2009: the performances were fantastic. All three shows sold out, and the People Show were extremely proud to host a new forum for new artists. The audience feedback was astounding.

Endings. No – new beginnings. New aims: to support the 22 new talented People Show artists as much as we can. To do the 2nd act airport show again in another venue with all the original cast. To do the workshop every year because it is too important not to. To refine and respond.

The viscosity of icing sugar
The ratio of hair to talcum powder
The relative merits of expensive balloons
The many varied uses of lampshades as clothing
A People Show 120 workshop excursion to Gatwick Airport

All things that are spinning (right round) in my head tonight. Good night john-boy. (Anna)

Words by Gareth Brierley, Sadie Cook, Tyrone Huggins and members of the People Show 120 company. Images: Sadie Cook.

People Show 120 Company: Anna Benner, Jade Blue, Ira Brand, James Cowan, Rachael Fountain, Chantal Francis, Delano Giovanii, Ruby Glaskin, Teba Gomez, Sophie Habenicht, Isobel Henderson, Camilla Lysell, Lyndal Marwick, Laura Milnes, Michele Moran, Rebecca Nada-Rajah, Rachel Owens, Alice Parsloe, Nicola Singh, Isobel Slater, Lili Spain, Monique Squeri.


The People Show Team: Workshop leaders: Gareth Brierley, Sadie Cook, Fiona Creese, Tyrone Huggins General Manager: David Duchin People Show artists: Mark Long, George Khan, Chahine Yavroyan, Richard Rudnicki, Nik Kennedy, Nick Tigg, Fred De Faye, Bernadette Russell.

For further information on The People Show, and details of past, present, and future projects, see

Referenced Artists

This article in the magazine

Issue 21-4
p. 14 - 15