Here’s three more bright young things working in outdoor performance

Feature in Issue 21-2 | Summer 2009

Lucy Frost studies at Arden School of Theatre in Manchester, works with established street arts company Artizani, and is now starting up her own company, Molly Orange

I’m a performer, designer, and stage manager who has studied trapeze, ballet, breakdancing, poi, gymnastics – and violin welding! I used to perform informally and never considered street arts as a career until I met James McPherson from Artizani, who taught on Arden’s Performance Design & Management course. Until that point, what we’d learnt had been geared to regular, mainstream stage work. James opened my eyes to new worlds!

Working outdoors is different; and the scenography and design needs to reflect that. On a very practical level, there’s a lot of small but significant details, like what materials are weatherproof, so you don’t have things with running colours! From there, I started working for him – as a designer / maker (making moving lobsters etc) and then as a ‘visible technician’ on his show Desert Island Discs.

I have spent the past year collecting skills through workshops, such as clowning with Gerry Flanagan (director of Desert Island Discs); at a clown school in Hanover, Germany; and various aerial and acrobatics workshops at Skylight Circus Arts in Rochdale. I have been researching for my dissertation, ‘The Language of Street Theatre’, looking at storytelling techniques in unpredictable environments, interviewing practitioners, attending conferences, and generally submerging myself in the industry.

Performance-wise, with Artizani I am touring with Desert Island Discs for the second year and am working on a new project with Artizani’s James Macpherson in August entitled The Cabaret of Dr. Caligari. This is an outdoor cabaret with the goal of launching young people with strong artistic ideas into the industry under the nurturing umbrella of a company with twenty years experience (and odd to think that Artizani was founded in the year I was born!). This will be touring the Lake District as part of Lakes Alive.

I have started my own company, Molly Orange Street Theatre, with another Arden graduate, Sian Haslock. Our first show is an acrobatic walkabout performance, Spit Spot, based on the characters of two street cleaners – a surreal walkabout. We have a few bookings this year including the Feast / x.trax showcase in June, and have contacted the Arts Council about Grants for the Arts funding.

Milo Foster-Prior graduates this summer from the UK’s first foundation degree in Street, Festival and Site Specific Arts. As Deputy Stage Manager with Periplum, he’s worked at many of the major UK street arts festivals, and toured to Mexico.

I went to the Brighton Steiner School, where there’s a lot of emphasis on art and drama. When I was fifteen I did my GCSE work experience with Same Sky, making large sculptural puppets for the children’s parade that opens the Brighton Festival. I got taken to a lot of festivals as a child, and at one someone lent me her firestaff. I did my first fire performance when I was about eleven – Flaming Gorgeous (stilts/pyro company) were doing a show, and I was allowed to do some spinning. When I was sixteen, I co-founded a small company called Spin Out, doing mostly firestaff and poi. One of our first bookings was a New Year’s Eve fireshow at a country mansion – we got paid £75 each! I dropped out of sixth form, and worked with Cultures Club, as a trainee theatre workshop leader; also leading circus skills workshops, and doing mini-performances. In 2007, I got onto the new Street Arts foundation degree at Northbrook College.

My tutor is Claire Raftery and some props-making work with her company Periplum turned into a long-term job as Deputy Stage Manager of The Bell and Arquiem. I worked on both shows for the summer season 2008, which included Brighton Festival, x.trax, Greenwich & Docklands, and Hat Fair – then I went to Mexico to present The Bell at the 7mo Festival Internacional de Teatro de Calle at Zacatecas.

In street theatre, you might have a job title, but the lines between roles get blurred – everyone just works together to get everything done. The Bell has around twenty people on the road, cast and crew. It’s a pretty full-on set-up: three towers with crows-nests; two trampolines; an A-frame aerial rig on giant rockers; a big cart that moves through the crowd. Then there’s the hods, birdies, pulleys, strops, thirty giant flags on poles, nets…

I also work ‘indoors’ as a stage manager and technician for cabaret/revue shows and for live art events at The Basement; and have done other outdoor arts work – another project I worked on for Periplum was making giant snow-globes for Newcastle-Gateshead’s Winter Wonderland.

Outside of Uni, I train in aerial, kung fu, and gymnastics. I’m doing two shows for May – performing in the Northbrook street arts show, Ocean’s Skin, which is programmed into the Brighton Festival [Editor’s note:
no pressure, then!] and stage-managing A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Fringe.

I’m finishing my foundation degree this summer, and probably won’t do the extra year to get a BA. I don’t really like writing about my work – I develop ideas through thinking and doing, not on paper. So my plans are to get a part-time job to fund my aerial training, and hopefully to continue to work in outdoor performance and stage management.

Liz O’Byrne is a student of the Creative Events degree course at University of Kent. She also works with The World Famous outdoor performance and pyrotechnics company.

In August 2006 I was working in a mind numbing catering and hospitality management job, which had – for three years – squeezed almost every ounce of creativity from my soul. I quit. The next day, not knowing what to do, I Googled creative events training and found that the University of Kent at Medway were launching a new degree Creative Events: Design & Production that September. I applied that day and enrolled the next week.

On our very first day of the course we were loaded into a minibus and driven to Calais. All we knew at the time was that we were going to see an elephant. Nothing could have prepared us for what we experienced in the presence of Royal de Luxe’s The Sultan’s Elephant. For most of us, it was our first real experience of street arts, and what an outstanding example to be initiated with.

Unlike most degree courses, Creative Events has a huge percentage of practical learning and assessment in true-to-life scenarios. Our three years have been filled with project workshops offering us a chance to learn from and work alongside the likes of Sue Gill & John Fox, Emergency Exit Arts, Bangditos, The World Famous, White Light, Caterina Loriggio, Art Hewitt, and Jane Pitt. The I.O.S.H Managing Health and Safety course was included as part of our theoretical studies alongside licensing, and the business of event production.

Our proudest moments from the course have included the thirteen of us working together as a company in our second year to design and create processional puppets, and lanterns from community workshops, which were the focus of a 30 minute performance we produced for the opening of Medway Fuse Festival 2008. In the same year, in smaller groups, we devised, built and performed our own piece of street performance. The group I was in created The Science Sisters, five crazy but stylish scientists following the alchemists’ dream, showing off their extremely explosive portable magical machine.

The opportunities that the course has opened up have been extraordinary. In 2008, one student flew off to Beijing to take on a role as assistant stage manager for the company that produced the Olympic hand-over performance. For me, meeting The World Famous was a changing point for me: after an amazing two-day workshop, I undertook work experience during the summer of 2007, and have been honoured by continuing work with them since.

This article in the magazine

Issue 21-2
p. 13 - 14