Author Archives: Ciaran Hammond


About Ciaran Hammond

Ciaran Hammond is an actor, director, writer and theatre maker with a background in devised theatre. Ciaran works with absurdist theatre makers LoudGround (UK) as an associate artist, and is a founding member of physical theatre company, Romantika (SWE/UK). Ciaran has a BA(Hons) in European Theatre Arts from Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance, and also trained at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre as an actor. Ciaran is interested in collaborative methods of theatre making, and is drawn towards the weird and wonderful. He also does a little bit of juggling.

Perhaps Contraption: Nearly Human

Nearly Human is Perhaps Contraption’s first venture into theatre after having worked for nearly a decade as musicians. In Nearly Human, the band explores the infinite complexity of the universe with various brass instruments, drums, a guitar and a xylophone (used by Catherine Ring to deliver a cracking solo); to question where one thing ends and another begins in a reality where everything is essentially made from stardust.

It’s inferred that the beginning of the performance signifies the beginning of the universe, so throughout the piece there is an engaging sense of development. The songs Home and Nearly Human use musical canon to give a sense of reordering and structural change – like clockwork machines reorganising themselves

The piece is very conceptual and it lies towards the gig end within the spectrum of gig-theatre, focusing mostly on the music. That isn’t to say that other aspects of the piece are neglected, but the music is the main communicator of the piece’s ideas. All elements of the show, including the music, seem to represent different things at different times, the performers never take on characters, but instead their presence and movement is used to represent some sort of mechanism or process of the universe. The frantic running around the stage during crescendos in the energetic song Bloodhound ruminates on the essential chaos of the universe and how humans fit into this as an aspect of imperfection.

The silence between songs is filled by a pre-recorded voice delivering mind-blowing facts about the universe: “If you removed all the space, in our atoms, humans are nearly nothing. The entire human race would fit into the volume of a sugar cube. The rest is empty space, nearly nothing”. This is often accompanied with simple but effective movement scores to allow for transition into the next song.

The most notable technique used in the movement scores is the contact juggling. Occasionally, during intervals between songs, one or two of the band members come on to stage with glass balls and manipulate them so they hover and float around the stage, further painting a picture of particles colliding and stars forming. The contact juggling itself is charming and effective but it feels like it would be even more effective if the juggler remained more hidden, possibly allowing the balls to achieve an illusion of sentience.

The main scenic element of the show is the lighting rig behind the band. On the upstage wall, around thirty grapefruit-sized balls filled with light hang equidistant from one another, forming a grid. Throughout the piece, the balls change colour and represent all manner of things such as atoms, stars and hearts. These are utilised in tandem with the juggling to create a landscape of particles and planets.

In responding to the wonders of the universe, Perhaps Contraption have created a beautiful and humbling performance that ponders over our place within the cosmos, almost as if the band are lying down with you staring at the stars.


Cut the Cord: I Run

I Run tells the story of a man grieving for his dead daughter, and his discovery of running as a coping mechanism. Standing on a treadmill facing the audience, dressed in running gear, flanked by two fluorescent skylights that cover him in a stark and clinical light, the bereaved father begins to run. A small screen on the front of the treadmill displays Day 0, like the figurehead of a ship sailing into dark and stormy waters.

Day 0, we soon learn, is the day his six year-old daughter died. The piece jumps back and forth in time from before and after this moment, with each visit to the past making the fallout of the future more and more harrowing. The erratic nature of the changing time and place echoes the emotional turbulence the man is experiencing. The hour-long one-man play, written by Line Morkeby, and delivered by actor Max Keeble,  is full of image-rich poetry and the tortuous repetition of moments of anguish and elation: ‘I run, I glide, I fall, I run, I glide, I fall,’ yells Keeble, as he sprints from the hospital in the aftermath of his daughter’s passing.

The show kicks off hot and heavy, so by the midpoint we’ve reached a bit of an energy plateau. However, this doesn’t take away from the piece’s overall emotional resonance, with the ending still yanking at our heartstrings.

Keeble is somewhat acrobatic on the treadmill, which gives a subtle flair of spectacle to the piece without pulling away from the realism of the character. It doesn’t look like an easy piece to perform, but the actor’s remarkable stamina cements how important running is for the nameless dad; the sport is a constant and ingrained necessity to his being.

It would be predictable of a piece that looks at grief to attempt to take us out of the deep, dark tunnel and bring us to an emotional resolution. Instead, I Run examines the intricacies of the roughest parts of grief – in its written and visual poetry it is both chilling and hopeful.

The piece examines the persistence of grief by reinforcing its timelessness. Past, present and future exist together eternally. Although he’s running, he stays in the room with us, never moving an inch; the more he takes us into the future, he’s sure to take us back to those final moments with his daughter, again and again. His emotional journey is huge, but it seems at times hopeless. As his near-continuous running is boxed in by the fluorescent lights to his sides, he appears forever moving between entrapment and freedom making the piece, as a whole, hellishly durational and inspiring in its persistence.



Daniel Hellmann: Traumboy / Anne Welenc: Traumgirl

Traumboy and Traumgirl have been created in response to one another by Daniel Hellmann and Anne Welenc, and although programmed separately, playing on alternate days in Summerhall’s Old Lab, they are best viewed (and reviewed) with the relationship between them acknowledged.

Both pieces present an open and unashamed view into life as a sex worker in Switzerland. Both are solo shows, with Daniel and Anne talking directly to the audience in TED Talk style; and they move through the same theatrical structures – both pieces open with details of how they discovered sex work, then a detailed story of their first client, then into a piece of choreography in front of a large, white, photography backdrop.

However, there are differences in the content and artistic choices. Daniel chooses to play himself. Anne takes an autofictional approach, presenting herself as an actress called Kim. In the opening for Traumboy, we see Daniel sitting unassumingly in the audience. There’s a standard cold wash of lighting on the stage and the photography backdrop is folded on the floor, yet to be strung up. The following evening, upon entering the same space for Traumgirl, Anne/Kim is lying naked on the floor with her back to the audience. A glittery machine blows bubbles from in between her thighs, ethereal music is playing, the word WORK is projected onto the wall behind her, pink light envelops everything onstage, and the photography backdrop is raised with a live stream of her vagina projected onto it.

Both shows work to alleviate negative expectations of sex work, and both consist of stories with varying degrees of detail from Daniel and Anne’s lives. It seems that the vaguer parts of each story serve as a way of making the audience check in with their expectations. I was left wondering whether Anne is still working in the sex industry as she was never specific about whether she’d left it or not. To me it seemed like she had, but in that moment I wondered whether I had assumed this due to the common perception of brothels as places that nobody would ever want to work in.

One of the main messages that Daniel and Anne present is that their experiences of sex work is not trauma, reiterated many times throughout, explaining that traum is German for dream. The shows’ titles elicit expectations of misery in the performances but both Traumboy and Traumgirl are positive and warm. Also, the way Daniel and Anne engage with the audience is immensely welcoming and caring. At one point, Daniel asks the audience quite personal questions surrounding sex and sex work, but approaches the situation impeccably, taking the time to gauge how comfortable each person is with his enquiries.

Just after the midpoint of each performance, Daniel and Anne explain their processes for interacting with clients: Daniel works independently, finding clients online, and meets them at an agreed location, whereas Anne (or is it Kim?) works in a brothel with other sex workers, a madame and a manager. What is clear from Daniel and Anne is that they both deeply enjoy providing physical intimacy for their clients and see it as an extension of empathy. Once they’ve laid their cards on the table, you can’t help but feel they are both using the same skills of empathy and facilitation on the audience as they would with clients. In doing so, both shows create an environment in which the audience are invited to question their own expectations of sex work, allowing Daniel and Anne to put forward attitudes towards sex and intimacy that are rarely discussed yet arguably much needed in the world.

Traumboy and Traumgirl are presented at Summerhall as part of the Pro Helvetia’s  Swiss Selection Edinburgh 2019

Hidden Track: Standard:Elite

I walk into the performance space of Bedlam Theatre where a boy and a girl are cheerfully greeting the audience. Dressed in black and white trousers, shirts and braces, with white facepaint and black lips, their demeanour is hospitable and endearing, like mimes who are excitedly talking to people for the first time. A man sits onstage behind an assortment of musical instruments, smiling in silence.  The boy and girl tell audience members where to sit: ‘You three are Standards so you’ll sit in the stalls here!’ In what seems to be a random method of selection, the boy upgrades three people to become Elites. The second chosen Elite is given the ability to choose the third and final person to be elevated to this prestige, and he chooses lucky ol’ me!

The three of us Elites are shepherded onto the stage and are given silver, cushioned chairs, placed upstage, facing outwards to the audience. Once sat, we are given gold Christmas cracker crowns and blue light-up thumbs to wear. Once both classes of audience are seated, the performers greet us Elites very enthusiastically, reiterating how happy they are to have us here. Then, the Standards are given a simple, monotone ‘Welcome’. From this point on, us Elites are pampered, and given authority to decide the direction of the story at key points throughout the piece, by using our light-up thumbs to signal our choice between two options, by either raising it into the air or leaving it down.

A disembodied voice echoes through the space, introducing the audience to the performers and instructs the performers to begin the story. The disembodied voice’s main duty seems to be stepping in when there are major moments of conflict, stopping the performance by turning on the house lights and shouting ‘No Conflict!’.

The main narrative thread is a tale of fantasy, following a boy made of clouds from the wealthy Highground. He falls from his home and lands in the poor Lowground. Here, he meets a local girl made from silk in a dodgy pub. The girl helps the boy get back home, climbing upwards from Lowground to Highground, their journey being an obvious metaphor for upward social mobility. The performers use puppets, masks and multi-role playing to bring to life characters full of quirk, such as an arrogant duck, a serious business skunk, and a lawyer with a fish for a head. Meanwhile, the musician sits in his corner and underscores the action with a soundscape of bells, whistles and xylophones. All three performers tell this story with a splendid amount of playfulness, giving the piece an excellent pace and engaging rhythm.

But where the show really shines is in its interactivity – Standard:Elite cleverly explores who, in society, decides what stories are told, by giving this decision to a select few audience members. It confronts the audience with how they behave within systems of power – when a group of Standards were given the chance to usurp us Elites, I became immensely defensive – and playfully prods at a very British avoidance of talking about class.

By ‘No Conflict’ the disembodied voice really means: ‘Let’s all play along so we don’t have to talk about this and fight… which would be awkward.’ This is echoed by the silent music man who pipes up for the first time towards the end with ‘This is why we don’t make shows about class…Everyone just gets upset!’

Featured image: Hidden Track: Standard:Elite. Photo by Rosie Powell


Personal Contexts: Chatting with Kate Radford

Kate Radford is a multidisciplinary artist working primarily in Hebden Bridge whose work focuses on exploring women’s voices through performance. She performed her mythological, sonic, solo piece, Drought, at Vault Festival 2019. Ciaran Hammond speaks to her.

When and where would you say you first started working as an artist?

Well I was first published when I was thirteen, and that was a poem that I submitted on the internet, and I’ve steadily written since then. Obviously, the types of art that I’ve done and the way I’ve been employed as an artist has changed, but with a steady practice. I was writing every day when I was a teenager, and I still pretty much write every day.

Any main collaborators?

Yes, I have, but [Drought] isn’t as clear when it comes to collaborators, people have moved in and out of this project. The geography of where I work makes it a little bit more challenging to connect with people and to have the same people. The structure that I work with is very different from what happens here [in London], where everyone is in the same space and you can do things a lot faster.

One of the main collaborators I’ve had is Square Chapel Arts Centre in Halifax, who’ve offered me space to work. I was able to preview the show, get some feedback, and get some responses from the team there, then take those notes on to rewrite and work on it.

An artist that worked with me a lot was Laurence Alliston-Greiner; we met through Rose Bruford when we were both there. We worked on a scratch with the material we were using. Then we did a week working together, and then I took it into a draft and I’ve been working on it since then.

Also, I always ask anybody that sees the show or anybody that relates to it in some way to offer feedback, so I take that as collaboration in every sense. I do take all of that on board and it has shaped [the piece]. And in other projects I work collaboratively with other organisations and artists.

What would you say the most formative experience has been for you as an artist?

Wow there’s too many to count! I suppose the moment when I decided I wasn’t an actor, that was formative. I suppose my language moved away from identifying as [working] only in theatre, my work has moved a lot and quite rapidly since I accepted that dimension of my practice. But I trained in that way as well so there’s a funny kind of paradox that kind of exists within that. So that was probably quite a formative moment, I can’t really give you a day or a time, but coming to that realisation that I didn’t necessarily fit within a theatrical context, and what that meant. For a long time, I was feeling frustrated by that because I was chasing things that I felt I didn’t belong to, whereas now I get to shape things that I feel that I do belong to. And it’s harder and it’s messier and it’s really confusing. But it feels very radical in a sense, or new, to feel a little bit out of the framework or the context where you know something is going to work. When you create work out of that context you have no idea what’s going to turn out, and that has a huge benefit, as the surprise element is wonderful and amazing, but obviously the risk that comes with that is also very real. So that felt quite formative.

What else… I think moving outside London – that was actually a very big step.  [It’s] part of that whole transition of coming from a rural area: none of my family is in art or has any kind of strong connection to it. So making the decision that I was going to pursue that, and then feeling like I had to be in London to do something – that feeling has come back a little bit actually, since I’ve been here [for Vault Festival] funnily enough – but moving away and spending a lot of time outside in nature, and having a very different quality of life, has shaped my work, and realising that geography has a huge part in the voice that you create. We’re constantly in touch with our psychology and our landscape is a really big part of that, so I think that has been a very formative element as well.

What would you say the biggest change has been in your artistic practice? I know it spans a large amount of time.

Hmm. I’m trying to think of something to compare it to in a way. I think the first shows that I started to make felt very cabaret or funny, and I think that’s because that’s part of my personality, I am quite funny, and I’m not ashamed to admit that, haha! When I spend time with people that know me a little bit better, there’s an element of fun and playfulness that’s very present. But I don’t strongly identify my personality with my work – not that they should always be separate. I’ve kind of moved away from what people saw me as – “Oh you’re funny, so you should make funny work” – because that’s not really what I want to say, I’ve been moving more into a message that felt closer to my true voice. That felt quite important, because how people perceive you will constantly change, and I don’t think you can build a body of work around how people see you, it has to be the value you put in yourself. As a woman that’s hard work sometimes, because we’re very conditioned to believe other people’s opinions more greatly than our own. So shedding that, or trying to, has been very interesting.

That’s interesting that as a solo artist you have that distance between your work and your personality.

I don’t think the work can always live in your personality. We’re all trying to put something out into the world that then people can identify us with, but actually if you don’t only identify with your work, then people are a bit confused by you. I don’t walk around like the serious, feminist artist that doesn’t talk to anyone. I talk to everyone, and can be really silly and goofy and odd, and it’s a bit confusing because it doesn’t necessarily fit with the aesthetic of my work. But for me that feels right because we’re not only one thing, we’re different for our family, our friends, for our work. It has to have a bit of movement otherwise we’d suffocate I think.

What artists have influenced you the most?

I’m constantly, constantly stimulated, as most creatives are, and that is a gift and a curse at the same time isn’t it? So a lot. A lot, a lot, a lot. I would say practically my work that I’ve done with Bred in The Bone has been absolutely imperative to the way that I connect to music, and sound, and speaking. That’s been a huge inspiration, in terms of a practice.

In what way?

The training that we had and continue to have connects to a part of performance that also connects to a way of seeing and connecting to the world, which I think for me is also how I connect to my work. It’s not the same, as in it’s the same and not the same; I’m doing a solo show. Within [Bred in the Bone] its ensemble work. So the parameters of it, I’ve moved and challenged I guess. But the way sound and body and energy and how all of those things relate has been an absolutely integral part of my learning which I think undoubtedly informs my work.

I’m very inspired by visual art, I’m very inspired by music – and lots of different kinds of music. I really like Tune-Yards, they’re an amazing, female-led band. They use loop pedals and I remember when I first saw them, it was the first time I’d seen somebody using loop pedals and I thought “Wow! That’s amazing!” And I use that quite a lot within my work now.

And Alina Szapocznikow, who’s a Polish, mixed-disciplinary sculptor, artist and survivor of the Holocaust. Anybody that transcends form I think I’m very, very interested in, and she’s somebody that does that.

Who else… So many others… I feel like I can write you a list and that might be more helpful… Pina Bausch, my work is nothing like hers, but I find her energy inspirational. You can be inspired by many different facets I think. Not even in an aesthetic way, but just how somebody approaches their work, I guess.

What artists would you say, living or dead, you see the most of in your work?

I honestly don’t. I don’t think I can answer that. I think other people could answer that more readily. As in, we’re always connected to the things that have inspired us and moved us, and I’m sure if I was more outside of it I’d see that clearer.

There are so many female artists and female solo writers and singers. I’d like to think that if Björk and Virginia Woolf had a love child that was from Yorkshire but also really loved visual art, I might sit somewhere in that spectrum. But that person almost doesn’t exist. In my mind it’s that sort of flavour. I guess would be a nice thing to taste. You’ve seen the show, what do you think?

I’d say that’s fairly accurate.

Maybe in ten years’ time I’ll sit somewhere in that spectrum, I mean now I feel quite early in my work, the resources that I’ve got, like I’m working with what I have. But those are the idols I have in a way that I work towards.

How would you say the world for performance has changed and how does your work fit in with it?

Again, I feel a bit of a straddler, so I don’t feel that I can comment on the theatre world in the same way because I do feel a bit removed from it.

But you ARE performing at Vault Festival!

I know! But that’s sort of confirmed it in a way, and not in a bad way. I’ve realised that the theatre world has a very different energy, and a way of mechanising itself as a vehicle, which is different to the way that I work now. I work a lot more with the public than I do with the industry, if that makes sense.

But it has changed a lot, technology is making a massive difference, for me that has been an asset because, weirdly, I started making solo work because I didn’t have the funding or resources to make ensemble work, it’s too expensive. So technology has allowed me to make quite a big show, frankly, by myself. The loop pedal has allowed me to make choruses in a way that I could have made with an ensemble but I’m not able to. The visual elements, I was able to learn how to make because of technology: the cinematography, the videoscape that sits within the show; the prominent part of the [light] design which is LEDs – which I use quite a lot for different things, because they can go into non-conventional spaces, and it makes it quite fluid in that sense. So technology has allowed me to work more independently, for better or for worse. And I think that’s what we, as artists, are straggling with at the moment. We’re seeing a big movement with installations, things that blur those lines which is great.

There was a quote that I heard earlier today that was like “we’re dealing with life” and it really reminded me of theatre because we have to remember that the reason why it exists is because it deals with life. It talks about it, we digest it, we transform it into something else, but actually the people who see it are part of that. So then as soon as we remove ourselves from it, what happens? And maybe the reason that I feel distant from the theatre industry, is not because my work isn’t a piece of theatre but because I’m not working with other people and I’m not working with other life in a way, I’m only sort of working with my own. And that’s not to say that other things that are coming aren’t super valid and interesting and can make such great commentary. But at the same time there’s a question mark for me of what is theatre now? Is it the same thing? Is that good? Is that bad? Is it blurred and that’s good? We’re always riding that wave I guess. And in terms of where my work sits, I think it sits for people who want to see it, and for me that makes it a piece of theatre in a very old way. As in, a person speaking on a street could be a piece of theatre, so why not have something simple that is one person, or whatever, that can still be seen as that. But at the same time there are digital elements that make it a piece of art or sort of filmic. I’m planning to record it onto vinyl or some other way that’s audible but not visual and play around with deconstructing it in a sense. Then it definitely won’t be a piece of theatre. It might be a book or a film. Its form will still continue to evolve.

I think Drought definitely is theatre, there’s a certain dynamic you have with the audience. I was surprised when you said that you might have some suspicions that it wasn’t within those traditional conventions. I can see why, but I’d describe it as a one woman-show so…

But it doesn’t really feel like a one woman show though.

How so?

Because it’s quite loud isn’t it?


(chuckles) Well part of the loop pedals is to feel that I’m not on my own, or so that the music becomes a partnership in a way. Even by saying one woman and a loop pedal, makes me feel a bit… because when you say one woman you can almost hear just one person speaking and that’s the dynamic of it. But I’m also up for discussion and y’know if people watch it and they say, “Hey that’s definitely a piece of theatre,” I say “Hey, that’s great.” What’s the saying, if it looks like a duck…

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck…

Yeah if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, then it’s a piece of theatre.

Then it’s Kate Radford.

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck then it’s probably Kate Radford… But yeah I mean we’re always discussing it aren’t? Part of the work as theatre-makers is that – and I see that so clearly from other people’s work, and being so happy to see it – of questioning and forms changing and moving and I guess… yeah… what’s theatre anyway?

I think we’re conditioned to move and relate to things by attachments or labels or categorisations of things. And I think a part of my work is to not do that. I make installations that I don’t think are pieces of theatre. I don’t identify as a theatre-maker, I identify as an artist. And not that artists aren’t theatre-makers, but as in, I’m not that specific with my genres to say “I am a theatre maker”, if that makes sense? I would say I’m an artist that does lots of different things and sometimes does theatre.

It’s almost like the tree falling in the woods; if the show happened outside of London, did it really happen? That’s been a sort of test in me coming here, because I’ve been working for a while and feeling… not invisible, because people see the work, and it’s moved people, and it’s made steps in the women’s movement, and so many other things. But within the career element, has it really happened unless somebody’s seen it? And coming here has been like “Okay, well people can see it, so it exists,” but it did exist before! Drought happened last year, it happened in Square Chapel in front of eighty people. And that was as real as it was here, but somehow this is more real because now there are stars next to it, and that’s not a criticism, that’s a question for us as people who work in our sector. It’s the question of where is it more real for us?

It should not be more real for us to sit in a room alone and be like “I am an artist, or theatre maker, or this or that,” than if we were in the National Theatre. It should not be different, really.

You put yourself in a context so that other people can understand it, but you have to carry your own context. That is really important I think; if I was stood in a room in a factory and said “I’m an artist,” they should have the same response. So when I’m alone in the Pennines saying “I’m an artist!” that shouldn’t be different from me saying that here. It’s the same work.


To see more of what Kate is up to, go to

Interview by Ciaran Hammond.