Thursday, 31 August 2017

Summer Holiday Newsletter

Dear Friends and Supporters,

We are currently on a 3 week summer break but still have news we want to share with you!

On our last day before we broke up, 14th August, we were joined by Sash, Maria and Richard, to discuss the Taster workshops we would like to run over the next few months.

               Thanks to Sash, Maria and Richard for joining us on the 14th                                        August to help plan the Taster Workshops

It was very helpful to hear their ideas and realise how enthusiastic they are to get involved in making theatre. We hope to link-up with Bristol Old Vic’s Outreach Department to deliver these workshops and hope to give you more news about these in the next couple of months.

We start back on 11th September with a meeting with producers, MAYK, to discuss possibilities for touring A Spark and a Beating Heart and to plan parts of the Research Project that is being coordinated by Cath Greig.

We are also planning a workshop that can run alongside A Spark and a Beating Heart; which will be about Telling Stories.

On 25th September we are visiting Bristol University to look at their Theatre Collection – part of the visit will be to see if it is possible for Firebird to be part of the Collection. The other reason for visiting is to see one of the world’s largest archives of British Theatre history and live art. http://www.bristol.ac.uk/theatre-collection/about

During our holiday, Olivia and Dan are attending a one day film making workshop in Plymouth as part of the Random Acts Film Project run by Random Acts, Calling the Shots and Biggerhouse Film.

Finally, we are including some more rehearsal photos taken by Paul Blakemore of A Spark and a Beating Heart.

Happy Summer Days until we’re in touch again!

Sharlie and Tina: Imagine a firebird

Fionn and Dan: Penny's and Marushka's stories
Loving the rain!





Friday, 4 August 2017

Newsletter, August 2017


Dear Friends and Supporters,

Here is some more news from us all at Firebird Theatre!

Firstly, a few more photographs from our current production: A Spark and a Beating Heart; all photographs taken by Paul Blakemore.

Fionn and Chris watching Chris's film 


Olivia and Dan: Go for it!


Tina: In the beginning.         



Our Celebration Party at River Station on the 27th July: On 27th July we had our celebration Bash at River Station on the Cumberland Rd. This was an opportunity to thank all the people who helped us make A Spark: Kate and little Joseph from MAYK, our producers; Sam, who interpreted each show into British Sign Language; Frank from Redweather who did all the filming and projections; Claire Williamson, who helped us collect all our stories, thoughts and ideas at the beginning of making work around Firebird’s 25th Anniversary (2 years ago now!); Mel, Jo and Jude, our Trustees; Fionn, who acted on stage with the Company, playing the part of the storyteller; Kevin and Fiona, who supported the production and members of the Company; Cath Greig, who is coordinating the professional development project that we will begin in September and last but not least, all the Firebird performers apart from Sharlie who was on holiday.

There are obviously a lot of people missing from the above list, particularly Adrian, our musician; Anna, our Stage Manager; Paul, our photographer, Ben, our lighting designer and many other people from the technical and support team who helped make A Spark. Unfortunately, these people couldn’t come to the Bash but we didn’t forget them!

Sharlie wrote a speech to be read out at the Bash before she went on holiday; she said everything we all wanted to say and so we include it here as well:

To all the amazing people that helped to make A Spark and a Beating Heart a success.

Thank you for all your hard work.

To Firebird, you are all amazing people. What a fantastic celebration of 25 years work and here’s to the next 25 years.

I am sorry I can’t be here to celebrate with you but have a great night and see you soon.

Finally a BIG thanks to Ali and Bob who own River Station; they were our hosts for the evening and did us proud – Ali’s food/buffet was excellent.

Other news: Sonoko from Japan who visited us a few weeks ago with Scott, our Australian visitor has been working with us over the last 2 weeks, helping us look at ideas for the workshop we want to plan to run alongside A Spark when we perform it at other venues – it will be for disabled and non disabled children, young people and we hope will be relevant to adults as well. Sonoko has been doing a Residency at Bristol Old Vic since spring, she returns to Japan in October – we have loved working with her and hope we can keep in touch with her when she gets back home.

We continue to wish you all a good Summer; Firebird is closing for 3 weeks over the August Bank Holiday time and we will back back in September to begin the research project into making Firebird strong for the future (the professional development project). We will be in touch again in October, uintil then best wishes from us all in Firebird Theatre

To finish off, as promised in our last newsletter, we are including extracts from Sharlie’s Report from the Conference she attended in Birmingham last month, supported by Anna Griffith.

On the Verge Conference, Birmingham Hippodrome, Tuesday 4th July 2017, including a performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time on the evening of the 3rd July

The Conference was asking: How do we open up our main stages to Learning Disabled performers? How do we build structures of support that encourage Learning Disabled Actors to flourish? How doe we ensure Learning Disability is central to the diversity debate?

Are we On the Verge of a breakthrough??

What will happen on the day: we will examine these questions frankly and supportively through a dynamic and thought –provoking day of conversations, workshops and performances. The conference brings together performers, directors, programmers and casting directors to create a platform for sharing best practice across arts organisations.

Feedback from Sharlie

The Curious Incident

We arrived at the Birmingham Hippodrome and were made very welcome. We were given an information sheet on what to expect in the performance.

They had set-up a sensory room, toys and crayons for people who need to leave the theatre during the play. We were also offered sensory toys if we needed them as went into the theatre – these were to help people if they were feeling anxious.

Overall I felt I’d been hit by a hurricane. It was a whirlwind of activity and I just loved it. I have to say that the young man who played Christopher was fantastic. I truly believed in his character. I would recommend seeing this play to everyone.

Comment for Firebird: I could not tell what had been done to make the performance relaxed. I found the music and the sound effects to be too loud and the talking was too quiet/drowned out by the music and effects. I could not stay for the Q & A afterwards because of the noise, I was overwhelmed.

The Conference

There were around 150 people at On the Verge. It was held in a small studio and several rehearsal spaces at the back of the Hippodrome.

The conference started with 2 keynote speeches by Lyn Gardner and Richard Hayhow and then there were breakout groups. I attended two Breakout sessions:

Breakout session 1 Led by BecauseWeCanCanCan and Richard Hayhow

This group just talked about themselves and didn’t really give us chance to ask questions. Also they didn’t give a lot of information about their company, just about the actors.

Breakout session 2 Led by Richard Newnham and HiJinx Theatre

We were shown a video of a sitcom Richard had made with support from HiJinx. It is called ‘Flat Mates’ and can be found on YouTube. They talked about getting funding from a group called Unlimited and how it was put together.

We had lots of people talking but they went on so long and about many topics that it was hard to keep up. Also I would have liked to hear about Hi Jinx and the theatre they make as well as the video that Richard had made.

The session in the afternoon with Henry Normal was good – it was about his son and I really enjoyed it.

Points for Firebird to consider: I felt this conference was more for non disabled people: artistic directors and staff  than the actors/performers themselves, as far as I could tell there were not many disabled people at the conference so it became ‘talking about the performers’ rather than the performers discussing issues that were important to them, getting their work out there!.

I would have liked more break-out sessions and the chance to talk with other performers. It would have been good if more companies had been involved so we could have shared information about how we worked.

With lots of the issues that people were discussing, I thought: Firebird is already doing this! It made me think that Firebird needs to get out there more. If we could have shared A Spark and a Beating Heart with people at the Conference I think people (and us) would have got so much from it. We could give a lot to conferences and sharing our work.

I also think Firebird is thinking properly about making relaxed performances, changing the environment and the play to make it easier for an audience.

Sharlie Yea.






Sunday, 23 July 2017

An update: for all our friends and supporters


This is a short up-date of our activities throughout the summer. We are meeting on Mondays for a shorter time than usual for July and August. We are doing a lot of planning sessions for the research we will do in September around the professional development of Firebird Theatre.

We are also planning a workshop for schools and young people that will be part of taking A Spark and a Beating Heart further afield.

We are talking to new people who want to learn more and are interested in being part of Firebird Theatre.

We will be visiting Bristol University’s Theatre Collection in September to see if it is appropriate for Firebird to be part of.

On Monday 17th July, we had 2 visitors: Scott Gooding a drama practitioner from Melbourne, Australia and Sonoko, who is from Japan and currently part of a residency at Bristol Old Vic. It was great to meet them both and good for us to talk about our work and tell them about Firebird and how we work.
Our visitors, Scott and Sonoko

In our next newsletter we will be including a report made by Sharlie  about the On the Verge Conference she attended, which was held in Birmingham on 4th July.

Finally, we are including more photos from A Spark and a Beating Heart. We hope you enjoy them.
Sharlie's story, told by Penny and Sharlie. The story of the phoenix told by Fionn.
The end of A Spark with the ensemble watching fireworks projected on the screen by Frank Spencer
Marilyn with the golden apple from the Garden Scene

We wish you a happy sunny summer and hope you enjoy the rain too!
Sharlie and Brian enjoying the rain, excerpt from Brian's story

All photographs of A Spark and a Beating Heart by Paul Blakemore: pb@paulblakemore.co.uk

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Newsletter for June 2017


First of all, we want to thank all the people who managed to come to see A Spark and a Beating Heart at the Trinity Centre in May. It was a very special time for us and we so appreciated sharing our work with an audience. Please see the Home page of our website for feedback and reviews.

We do hope to be performing the show again and If you didn't catch it this time round, then there might be another opportunity to see it in the future.

We are currently evaluating A Spark for our End of Activity Report for Arts Council England and making a gentle start on our latest project, which is a research project into the professional development of Firebird Theatre for the future.

Over the next few weeks we will be posting photographs from A Spark and a Beating Heart for everyone to see - there are lots of them! 

All photographs were taken by Paul Blakemore during a Dress Rehearsal and he has done an amazing job, http://www.paulblakemore.co.uk/

The opening : What is a Firebird? With Sharlie, Dan, Penny and ensemble
Telling our stories, featuring Penny and Fionn, with music by Adrian

Left: Fionn as storyteller. Right: Adrian, composer and musician: the firebird looking for five    perfect notes                                                                                                                           


















Other news:

We will be working with Cath Greig on the research development project, Cath will coordinate the project. It will involve us working with people with whom we already have established strong working relationships over the years, like MAYK, Frank Spencer and Ruby Spencer Pugh and also new people who we haven't worked with before. The Company artists will be central to the project and it will be the start of an exciting process. We will continue to share information with you about this project, which will kick off properly in September.   

Please contact us if you have any questions, information or ideas that you would like to share with us. We so appreciate your support.

All best wishes and thanks from us all in Firebird Theatre; we hope you have a great summer!




Sunday, 9 April 2017

Latest news!

Last Monday we did a run-through of A Spark and a Beating Heart with Adrian Lee and Fionn Gill, both of whom are performing with us in May - Fionn is the story-teller and Adrian is composer and musician. It is VERY exciting to be working with them both.

Frank from Redweather Productions filmed the run-through, which will be useful for us all and help us to polish our performances. We still need to do a lot of work but we are very happy with our progress.

Frank is also making a promotional video for the show and when he has done the final edit we will post it on our website.

We will continue to keep you up-dated and hope to see you in May for our performances of A Spark.

Finally, Tomas Brice joined us last Monday and took lots of photographs, here is a small selection. A big thanks to Tomas.






Thursday, 30 March 2017

A Spark and a Beating Heart - update

We now have four lovely flyers to publicize A Spark and a Beating Heart, images by Paul Blakemore and design by Matthew Austin at MAYK.

We think they are beautiful and hope you do too. We are emailing or posting them, one at a time over the next few weeks up until the performances in May, to people on our mailing list. We will also show them on our website.

We have been rehearsing using props made by Ruby Spencer Pugh. Ruby is our set, costume and props designer.

Last Monday we tried out the golden apples that Ruby has made for the garden scene in A Spark. Here's Dan 'stealing one of the golden apples'!

Photograph by Penny Goater, Firebird Theatre
This coming Monday 3rd April we are doing a run-through of A Spark for the first time, working with Fionn Gill and Adrian Lee, both of whom are joining us on the day.

This is an exciting but frightening time - we only have a few days of rehearsal left and lots of things have to come together over the next few weeks. Having said that we are now ready to share our work with an audience and we hope people will come and see  A Spark and a Beating Heart - we think it is special production and we hope you do too.



Sunday, 12 March 2017

Working with Adrain Lee, musician and composer

Last Monday, 6th March, we had our first practical session with Adrian Lee. Adrian is working with us as composer and musician for A Spark and a Beating Heart. He is telling the story of the firebird who is looking for five perfect notes to create a beautiful melody for its song, through specially composed music for this production.

Adrian is a musician with the British Paraorchestra and has a lot of experience of composing music for the theatre and television. It is wonderful to be able to work with him to realise all our ideas and creative ambitions for A Spark and a Beating Heart. In April, Adrian will join us again, along with Fionn, for a run-through of the performance.

We will keep you up-dated, step-by-step, with how the work is developing, leading up to the performances in May.


Adrian working with the Company, photo by Penny Goater