Sunday, 23 November 2014

The final episodes of Prospero, Duke of Milan

On Monday 24th November we are performing the last two episodes (3 & 4) of Prospero, Duke of Milan.
Prospero tries to read his books but gets interrupted all the time; he asks
his brother Antonio to help him do his job, to manage the state of Milan. 
We have found this work very exciting and it will be great to get feedback from the Schools and everyone else that has been involved. MAYK will be putting together an evaluation report and we look forward to discussing how we might improve and develop our work around relaxed performances in the future. We will post the Report on our website when it is completed.

Antonio ends up doing Prospero's job all the time, he gets ambitious
and wants to become the Duke of Milan - he wears the symbols of power.

It has also been good to work with new people to make this happen: Jenny Sherlock, stage manager; Jenny, Hal and Robel from Made in Bristol and Lydia who is helping us explore how we work with volunteers.

He starts to put together his own army, a treacherous army - they plot and whisper
and  plan to get rid of  Prospero and Miranda so that Antonio will be Duke of Milan.
It is also good to work closely with Bristol Old Vic: Christine and Aidan, Lucy and members of the Outreach Department.

Antonio's treacherous army
 Big thanks to everyone who has helped us develop this work.
The treacherous army put Prospero and Miranda into a
rotten butt of boat and cast them out to sea. 
The boat did not sink and Prospero and Miranda
did not drown - what happens next? Please see
William Shakespeare's The Tempest! 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Prospero, Duke of Milan, Episode 2

This Monday morning (10th November), Firebird performed the first episode of Prospero, Duke of Milan in the Basement at Bristol Old Vic. We welcomed students and teachers from Briarwood and New Fosseway Schools. Unfortunately, Kingsweston School could not join us.

We were really pleased to find out that the students from New Fosseway are studying The Tempest as part of their timetable at school, so Prospero is perfect timing from their point of view. It will be very interesting to find out if the performances helped them with their schoolwork.

Students and teachers will contribute to the evaluation report that MAYK will put together after the performances. We think we will learn masses from doing this work.

The performances were made special by the support of Lydia and Made In Bristol volunteers, Robel, Hal and Jenny who took on the roles of ushers and ice cream attendants - Marshfield ice creams went down very well!

It was great to work with Paul again. He took a group photo of the audience for our Access and Resource pack. He also filmed some of the performance.

Next week is Episode 2, when we will introduce Prospero's family: his daughter Miranda and his brother, Antonio. Also we will show Prospero's love of books.

Here are some more of Paul's wonderful photographs from Episode 2.
Prospero, the father, with daughter Miranda

Miranda is represented by a child's Christening gown

Sharlie uses simple techniques to animate the Christening gown and her voice brings Miranda to life.

Prospero loves his family - he loves his books, too!

Antonio: My brother feels his library is dukedom enough.


Sunday, 9 November 2014

Prospero, Duke of Milan

On Monday 10th November, we begin our relaxed performances for local schools: Briarwood, Kingsweston and New Fosseway. Throughout November we will be posting more wonderful photographs taken by Paul Blakemeore .

There will be 4 performances in all, played out every Monday morning in November in the Basement Theatre at Bristol Old Vic. Each performance is an episode (there are four in all) of Prospero, Duke of Milan. The story has been specifically devised by Firebird Theatre for our audience.

Prospero, Duke of Milan
Working with young people has always been important to Firebird and over the years, we have planned and delivered workshops for schools. These have tended to be 'one-offs' and over the last 3 years we have been trying out different ways of working in a more developmental way with schools,  in particular Briarwood School.  Last year, students from Briarwood and Kingsweston Schools performed on stage with Firebird for The Breadhorse in the Studio at Bristol Old Vic. From the feedback we received and in partnership with Briarwood School and Bristol Old Vic, we decided our next project should be about devising work for disabled children and young people who would like to visit the theatre as audience members.

Prospero's Guards

We think Prospero, Duke of Milan is suitable for any audience (mainstream included) and that was our intention from the outset – we did not want to devise anything that was patronising in any way. We chose to look at the back story in The Tempest because we knew the material well (The Tempest, 2010, The Nine Lessons of Caliban, 2012) and felt we could present an element of The Tempest story, using occasional Shakespearean language, in a powerful and meaningful way.

The Ministers of the Government of the Duke of Milan
Firebird have used repetition and tableaux; very simple costume and props to create the story of Prospero. Each episode is between 10 – 15 minutes long. Working with Paul Blakemore, we have also produced an Access and Education Pack for the teachers to use with their students, prior to them coming to Bristol Old Vic on the 10th. The pack is very visual and introduces the whole experience of visiting the theatre from arriving at the front entrance, to entering the performance space, the people they will meet (Ushers) to the performance itself.

"Applause, please!"
Bristol Old Vic is working with us to make the whole experience of visiting the theatre an enjoyable one - relaxed and welcoming.

We are also working with:

MAYK our producers; they will also evaluate the project.

Clementine Greeley, costume design and maker

Volunteers Lydia Spry (Firebird volunteer), Robel Yoseph, Jenny Davis and Hallam Kelly from Made In Bristol BOV, who will welcome the students at the entrance to the theatre and act as very theatrical ice cream attendants during performance intervals!

A big thanks to Marshfield Ice Creams; they have sponsored the performances by providing ice creams for all intervals.












Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Firebird Theatre Newsletter, May 2014

The year is passing quickly and we thought it was about time we put together another newsletter to let you know what we have been doing since we were last in touch.

Please feel free to contact us if you want to know more and we will do our best to answer your questions and give you the information you need.


We are currently concentrating on devising work for performances for disabled students from local schools. We are working in partnership with BOV with this project. We are also talking to teaching staff at Briarwood School for advice and help with planning. The performances will be an introduction to the theatre for children and young people who have not visited before and will be presented in the Basement at Bristol Old Vic. We will include photos of the work we are doing towards these performances throughout this letter.

Playing with The Tempest
 We are looking at The Tempest again – this time Prospero’s story when he was Duke of Milan, before the story of The Tempest begins. We feel we know the story well and it is great to revisit it and think about it again. The idea is to present the story over four Monday mornings in the autumn term as four developing episodes. Our aim is to make the story as clear as possible and introduce students to the whole experience of visiting the theatre and watching a play. We will use things like costume, props and lighting to help tell the story and for young people to discover how Firebird uses these conventions. We also hope to design learning resources for the students to use in the classroom.

We have also worked with Jack Drewry again. Jack worked with us in The Breadhorse last year. Jack joined us in-between two visits he made to Asia and Australia touring We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.

The Looking Ahead Training Conference for medical professionals at Bristol Royal Infirmary on February 24th. We performed an extract from The Breadhorse and gave a short presentation and took questions from the floor. We thought it was a good event to do and enjoyed doing it. We asked the delegates questions and got lots of answers, here are a few:

What did you learn from Firebird’s performance and presentation this afternoon?

They all become like one voice as a group

Thought provoking

(How important it is) Working together, team work.

What did you understand from the performance?

The importance of equality

Excellent role models

How we should treat each other with respect and dignity

What did it make you feel?

Mixture of happiness and sadness

Uplifted, happy that you are trying to change people’s thinking

Challenged, happy, sad, inspired.

What did it make you think?

(We should) Always try to understand each other.

What a fantastic theatre company

About how we treat each other

Miranda, Prospero's 3 year old daughter

Workshops for new people

We have also run four workshops for people who have expressed an interest in finding out more about Firebird. There have been 10 people who will have done a workshop with us (our last one is on 19th May), more people than we thought. It is very difficult to make decisions about who we can support and how: our resources are very limited. We have decided that we will invite some people back to work with us for a longer period, say 6 weeks, before making decisions about what happens next.

Propero's enemies

We met with members of Made in Bristol (M in B) at the Bristol Old Vic on 31st January and heard about what they were doing. They also taught us some warm-up games that we have been using in our workshops for new people. Some of us went to see The Tinderbox in April, this was performed by the Young Company at BOV and some of the M in B people were also involved – we really enjoyed it, thought it was excellent work and used lots of storytelling techniques.

After The Tinderbox, we also attended the performance made for fundraising Gala at Bristol Old Vic, which was smashing and very funny: a lovely afternoon and evening.

Prospero's work load!
In April, a small group of us visited Briarwood School to see a performance of Jack in the Beanstalk. It was great to meet the students and teachers we had worked with before again and to meet new students. The performance was great fun and we appreciated being invited to see it.

Derby-based Theatre Company, Hubbub Theatre, have been successful with their funding application. Congratulations to them. This means they could afford to pay Firebird to do a workshop for them, they have asked if we could do it on 28th August. 

Prospero's soldiers

Trustees’ news

Currently, Brian Davis from the Company is attending and observing Trustee meetings. Brian is interested in becoming a trustee and this is part of the process of finding out more about how the Trustees work together and being voted on board.

The Stephen Knight Memorial Workshop Fund

We have recently written a brief for a choreographer to work with us for the first workshop in memory of Steve. Please see the brief below, if you are interested in knowing more. This decision was made by all the actors in Firebird Theatre. Mayk, Matthew and Kate, are going to help put us in touch with possible workshop leaders. We have not ruled out workshops with our patron Kathryn Hunter or other actors we love working with but these will be planned for later on. 

Funding and donations

Our Business Plan is now at the stage where everyone is looking at it to agree it. We are very pleased with it and want to say a big thank you to Katie Keeler and Theatre Bristol for their work on this. The plan is to use it to try get long-term funding. This will take the worry away of having to think about fundraising all the time. It will also help us to describe what we do, who we are and what we need funding for. Once the Plan has been agreed we will post it on our website for people to look at.

We are pleased to welcome Antigoni Messaritaki and Jane Edwards Reynolds to our Friends and Supporters Scheme.

We also received donations from two people and will seek their permission to include their names in the next newsletter.

Please feel free to help Firebird by encouraging people to join the Scheme; small regular donations can make all the difference to Firebird and help us plan our finances in a better way. People can find more information about joining the Scheme, or supporting Firebird with a ‘one-off’ donation by going onto our website: Alternatively contact us by post or telephone, see contact details below

Coming up!

28th August Workshop with Hubbub Theatre

October 14th Creative Minds South West: a conference to be held at @Bristol to look at how we measure quality in art, performance and film made by disabled people with learning difficulties. Firebird and sister organisation, Artists First, will be taking part in the conference, alongside other groups and organisations based in the south west, including the Misfits and Openstorytellers. Please visit for more information

Workshop brief

For the Steve Knight Memorial Workshop Fund, we have £350 to pay someone to run a day’s workshop for us.

Workshop length: 2 hours in the morning (10.30 – 12.30) LUNCH 12.30 - 1.30 2 hours in the afternoon (1.30 – 3.30pm) to include tea and coffee breaks

What we would like the workshop to cover:

Moving together as a group (the ensemble) – group movements and individual movement

Touch, e.g. Holly with Sarah

Creating focus on stage

Symmetry and asymmetry

Pace on stage: slow and fast- changing pace, creating energy

Sign and gesture, e.g. drinking, eating

Positioning on stage; height, spacing

Ways of helping us not to fidget on stage – when we are on stage and the focus is not on us (e.g. sitting on side of stage in 9 Lessons)

Basic dance moves: remembering some of us have mobility problems and one of us is a wheelchair user

Creating ritual, e.g. the placing of the shells in the 9 Lessons

Making shapes with our bodies, e.g. making the horse

Exits and entrances

We can give examples and explanations if our list is not clear. If you are interested in running a workshop for us, please email or write to us telling us a bit about yourself and send us a workshop plan. We do not expect anything long, a couple of paragraphs would do but we would like you to be clear about how you would work with us. Thank you.

Firebird Theatre Ltd . Registered in England and Wales No. 5728116
Registered office: 5 Dial Hill Road, Clevedon, North Somerset BS21 7HJ
Registered main Charity Number: 1115658


Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Firebird Theatre Newsletter, January 2014

From The Breadhorse, March 2013: "And we ran the stars"


Happy New Year to all our friends and supporters and thank you for your support during 2013; it is much appreciated and valued by everyone in Firebird Theatre.
During this New Year we are going to try to send more regular updates and newsletters to let you know what we are doing.
Please feel free to contact us if you want to know more and we will do our best to answer your questions and give you the information you need.
News in brief
Two new Trustees

Firebird Trustees: l to r: Jo, Jane, Gary, Antigoni and Judy

We voted two new Trustees onto Firebird at our Annual General Meeting on November 30th 2013. We are proud to welcome Antigoni Messaritaki and Jane Edwards Reynolds to the Firebird team and look very forward to working with them both.
The Stephen Knight Memorial Workshop Fund

Kathryn Hunter and Steve during The Baby in the Hat workshop

We have received £964.25 so far in donations towards an overall total of £1750 to run one workshop a year for 5 years in memory of Steve. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this Fund. We will start planning the first workshop soon and hope that our patron Kathryn Hunter can be our first workshop leader – she had a very special respect for Steve’s work as a performer and they were good friends. 

Steve and Kathryn working together in the workshop

Funding and donations
Many thanks also to Trusts, Foundations, Friends and Supporters, and others who have donated money or made grants to Firebird over the last few months. We have no other sources of funding and Firebird depends on these to keep us going.
Most recently we have received a grant of £1000 from the Odin Trust, who has said it will give us the same amount for the next 3 years, which is great news.
Also, we have received a cheque for £250 from the Burges Salmon Charitable Trust.
Our new trustee, Antigoni Messaritaki, has initiated a collection at her place of work and they have raised £181.80 for Firebird.
John Sallis and Joe Wylie raised £344.65 for Firebird by getting sponsors for taking part in the Boxing Day Run in Clevedon.

Joe, number 390,  running for Firebird

John, number 388, running for Firebird
We are currently working with Theatre Bristol to complete our 3 year Business Plan, when this is done we will be making applications to Arts Council England and other Trusts and Foundations to help us fund the work we want to do over the next 3 years.
Please feel free to help Firebird by encouraging people to join our Friends and Supporters Scheme; small regular donations can make all the difference to Firebird and help us plan our finances in a better way. People can find more information about joining the Scheme, or supporting Firebird with a ‘one-off’ donation by going onto our website: Alternatively contact us by post or telephone, see contact details below
What we want to do over the next 3 years
We would like to perform The Breadhorse again in a venue outside Bristol. We would like to show more people our work and it would also help us to get better known with audiences outside Bristol as well. If we do this, it would mean us working with a different choir and making new links.
We would also like to plan and design short performances for young disabled people and children. We would like to invite audiences of disabled children and young people into our rehearsal space at Bristol Old Vic once a week for no longer than an hour, over a period of 3 - 4 weeks. We would like these performances to be about introducing audiences to every aspect of the theatre from coming into a space to seeing a performance; we would also like the audience to get involved in the performance through story telling, roles, costume, sound, music, voice, props, and lighting and planned activities that could be taken back into school during the week.

Presenting an idea for new work at Firebird's Annual General Meeting, November 2013
We are planning new work for 2015 to celebrate our 25th anniversary. We would like the new work to be around our own stories, who we are and how we feel; what is important and meaningful to us. At the same time, we would like our new work to celebrate the theatre as a place where we have been able to tell stories. In 1990, Firebird – then known as the Portway Players - performed Yellow Sun, Red Moon at Bristol Old Vic as a lunchtime performance.

Presenting  ideas for new work at the Annual General Meeting, November 30th 2013
Coming up!
We will be rehearsing and practising for a performance and presentation we are doing as part of a Conference for medical professionals at Bristol Royal Infirmary on February 24th.
We will also be planning a workshop day for people who have expressed an interest in becoming a member of Firebird Theatre. We will follow-up this day with auditions, dates to be confirmed.
We met with members of Made in Bristol (M in B) at the Bristol Old Vic before Christmas. We did some sharing of work and had mince pies and coffee and tea. We will be meeting again on 31st January. We are hoping to meet every so often, do some sharing and see what comes out of our time together.

Getting together: Made in Bristol and Firebird at Bristol Old Vic on Friday 6th December
Derby-based Theatre Company, Hubbub Theatre, have asked if members of Firebird would run a workshop for them in August. 
We will be in touch again soon and, until then, best wishes from us all in Firebird Theatre