Tag Archives: Community

Rob’s Geordie blog, farewell!

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GatesheadMillenniumAmbitionSo here we are readers, my last blog post. I apologise if I get overly emotional at any point during this…it’s been an incredible ride and I’m quite sad that it’s over. I will, however, try to contain myself for now and tell you about our final show in Newcastle.

For the first time we were performing, not in a theatre space, but in a function room above Pride Café, a queer space within the Pink Triangle (Newcastle Queer Quarter). Not our most glamorous venue but it had a certain charm about it and, once we’d arranged the room how we wanted it, it felt ready to play host to us on this, our final night of performance.

Throughout the journey we’ve undergone, I have been telling you about the types of audiences who have come to see our show and the different reactions we have received in each city. As this is the last blog, I want to buck this trend. I will say that our audience for this show was very engaged and had lots they wanted to talk about. Particularly interesting were the conversations we had about the types of community in the North East. It does seem the Geordie culture is strong, even among the LGB members of the community and MightyTyneBridgeinterestingly, fervently among the Asian community. One man said he identified first and foremost as a Geordie and then as a British Asian.

I’d like to try and attempt to sum up the key things I have learnt from engaging with our audiences from across the country. One thing that has definitely made itself apparent is that no two groups are the same. They have differing views about the issues raised in the piece and they certainly have different ideas on how we should develop the piece going forward. Some groups thought that we had presented an accurate picture of life as a gay, British Asian while a few  thought there was too much angst in our presentation. Similarly, most liked the audio we had incorporated into the piece whilst others thought it was too much. We’ve had members of the audience come up to us after the event begging us to keep the audio. One lady in conversation with me in Leicester said that it was just too much and she wanted to see more physicality.

The different levels of theatrical engagement have also been interesting to track. While some audiences such as those in Smethwick have been very clued up on theatre and our post-show discussions focused on this, audiences in Leicester and Newcastle seemed less concerned about this and were more motivated by the content. This has given the team an excellent opportunity to explore how the themes of the show affected people and also how they might rework the show in order to fully engage with audiences through the medium of theatre.

But enough “talking shop” – the feedback we have received from our six locations, as well as the experience itself will now be poured over by the team, assimilated, and eventually used to redevelop the show from its current incarnation into the full piece.

Some of my favourite memories of the whole tour include stories of unbiased and tolerant people in the most surprising of places, stories of great courage and endurance and, in particular, a woman using her ten words to ask a character out on a date. I have learnt so much working on this show – both as a theatre-maker and as a LGB guy living in the UK. I have been touched by some incredible people but most importantly I have worked with a truly amazing team who I have grown incredibly close to. So before I sign off for the last time I would like to take a paragraph or two to thank them.

I am still very new to this business and this has been my first “proper” theatrical job since graduating this summer. Therefore, to be taken in and allowed the freedom to learn and help out has been amazing. Working on this project has really been a pleasure, from the rehearsal week in Wolverhampton where the team formed and got to know each other, right through to our six performances where we have relied on each other for love and support during the, at times, pressurised run.

Rochi and Dharmesh are two amazing actors and working with them has been great. As well as being very talented they are lovely people. It has been an honour to watch them shape their characters and to perform them with such skill. Steve and Kate have given me so much in terms of inspiration to be a director. To watch them work has been so instructive to me and a real insight into what I want to do. I don’t think they know how grateful I am to them but I guess if they’re reading this post they might get an idea. Carl’s work on the script is mind-blowing! To hear him talk about the journey he has personally undergone to form the work that we have been presenting is awe-inspiring. Also, he was a great train companion on that long and late train back from Sheffield and again on the super-long, crowded and uncomfortable train from Leicester to Newcastle (thought I’d try to get one more gripe at transport in before we finish). And then there is Bobby himself, who has kindly let me hi-jack his blog so that I can talk to you. If it wasn’t for him then I wouldn’t be here…well I would be here but I wouldn’t have worked on the project and therefore there would have been no Rob’s Blogs (and the world would have been a much poorer place!!). My message for Bobby would be – thank you for agreeing to meet me for coffee in Café Muse in Manchester all that time a go and thank you for letting me tag along and help out on what has turned out to be one of the most amazing projects I’ve had the luck to work on. AllPackedAndReadyToGo

So that is that! Three weeks and a lot of blogging later and we’re finally at the end. But the project continues and as you sit there reading this post, somewhere Carl, Bobby, Steve and Kate are cooking up ideas for how to create Beneath the Surface THE FULL SHOW!!! When, where, what, how probably still remains a mystery to them but they will get there and when they do, and they start up again with the process of bringing it to life, I hope to be back in front of my laptop, ready to make stupid jokes and tell you all about how it’s going. So don’t view this blog post as goodbye, rather farewell and see you again soon. Until the next time we meet my very dear readers – stay absolutely fabulous!

Your friend and enthusiastic blogger, Rob Beck (who might have mentioned once or twice that he has a Twitter account and that you should follow him on @Rhubarb1992. Also, if you don’t want the blogging to end then start reading Rob’s own blog at theatremad.wordpress. It’s still new and he’s neglected it a bit as he’s been so busy writing these posts but will now get back to telling you all about his fascinating life – so give it a read!!)

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Smethwick blog Rob!

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Time to do it all again! After a couple of days off – which felt very strange after having spent so much time with everybody last week – we reconvened at Smethwick library yesterday, raring to go for Beneath the Surface event 2!

There was a considerably more relaxed feel in the room when I arrived. SmethwickLibraryWe’d done it once so why shouldn’t we be able to do it again? The post-Southbank event discussion highlighted an intensity in the room during the event. We understood part of this was the direct relevance of the content for most of the audience. Some of this would have been aided by the character of the room like the low ceiling and so on. And finally, probably somewhat informed by our own first show apprehension. We decided that we consciously needed to make the space warmer for the audience. We played some music on arrival and just generally tried to be more at ease…easier said than done.

The audience was slightly smaller than had booked. Apparently, through some quirk of irony, there was some postcode confusion for a few; some had been directed to The Smethwick Conservative Club rather than the library…without wishing to get political, I can think of nothing the Tories would love more than our audience arriving at their club! Still, we had a good number through the doors. Interestingly, today’s audience was made up of families in the main and there was a more even cultural mix of Asians and other communities. There were  a few supporters of the project in too – my Dad for one! So again, it was a very warm and receptive audience.

The performers are definitely gaining confidence in performing their parts. Their smooth delivery is a marvel to watch and, personally, I have always loved listening to them enunciate their lines. During the audio extracts I find myself just listening to the hard consonants and softer vowels and the range they perform with – it’s magical! SmethwickSet-Up

Then it was on to the discussion after the show. Again, it was great to hear people’s reactions to what they’d seen and how their own experiences affecting their engagement with the piece. One man was very articulate in expressing his belief that you can be both gay and Indian and that while we collectively feel that it is something we cannot talk about, actually on an individual basis we are very free and open with discussing these ideas.

Similarly, I had a very interesting discussion about how the concept of family represents the idea of unconditional support and love, whether you come from a very large family or a very small one. I come from a very small, close-knit family while some of the people I talked to come from very large, extended ones. Yet we both agreed that a family takes care of each other and supports it’s members. It was interesting how people from such different backgrounds can hold very similar beliefs and I found it fascinating to discuss and listen.

So hot off the tail of Smethwick, we are in Birmingham tonight at mac birmingham. God knows what state I’m going to arrive in – ironically, while I am a Midlander through and through I have absolutely no idea how to work the bus system in Birmingham! So this may be my last blog…that or I’ll be writing to you from Glasgow or something equally ridiculous! Until the next time – stay fabulous!

(Follow Robert Beck on Twitter @Rhubarb1992…because he’s lonely and wants more followers!) 

Rob’s Beneath the Surface London blog

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Well readers, that’s it – the event is now up and running. The hard work that has gone into the rehearsal period has paid off and we have now performed to our first audience! It’s great to get people in to watch what we’ve created and to see how they react to it. I don’t mind telling you there were some parts that they reacted to quite differently to what we had anticipated and the whole thing was a real eye opener for us all…but more on that later.

So let’s start at the beginning. Driving down with the producer, Bobby Tiwana. I met him in Wolverhampton and together we made our way down to London. Generally a good ride…apart from at the end when my perhaps questionable navigational skills sent us over Waterloo Bridge an extra time (the other way) than was necessary…oops. Never mind, we made it to Southbank Centre in one piece and met up with the rest of the team who had arrived and were ready to go.

There’s something electric in the room before a show. The nerves and the anticipation of the performers and the production team. We knew that we’d put the work in but we all just hoped that it’d pay off; that the odd line still escaping the performers would be cemented; and that we’d get a good crowd in who would be up for discussion and giving feedback.

So at 5pm the doors opened and in they came. A real mix of men, women, couples and people on their own, black, white, and Asian. I counted seventeen people, which for the first event was a great number. It was also a friendly audience, made up of several project acquaintances and supporters. Some of our interviewees from the research phase were in; as well as a few participants from Bobby and Carl’s Alchemy workshop from earlier this year. My friend from uni (if your memory needs refreshing then please refer to my very first blog) was in the audience too. A good audience to start on, not that it did much to dispel the tension from the performers who were about to present their work to a paying public and to the directors who had invested so much time and effort in the piece.

From the very first moment there were surprises. The audience reacting to one of the characters whom they did not realise was part of the show was something we’d talked about but not really come up with a plan for. In this instance, the friendliness of the audience threw Dharmesh and for a second I thought he might trip up. However, he carried on masterfully and it was interesting to see how the ripple of understanding spread throughout the room.

Similarly, reactions to the seating changes were interesting. While we had expected people to turn around to face bits of performance that were taking place behind them, the general attitude of this audience was that these moments were to be listened to and not watched. Therefore, parts of the direction may need to be reworked in order to take this into account or not. Of course, we will have to see what other audiences in other cities do as well.

I hope all this description isn’t too mind boggling, readers. There was so much going on that evening and much of it needs to be recorded. You might like to view it as me trying to capture the essence of the evening; the magic that was happening and the chemistry in the room. If bits of it don’t make sense then I implore you to come to one of the events and experience the content for yourself, then you too, will have a view on what most worked for you and what might be re-worked.

The discussions that followed the presentation of the rehearsed extracts were fascinating. I guess one thing that I will try and do too is to assess how each city and the people from it are different. I think that London, being so metropolitan and open attracts people who are not afraid to speak their minds and discuss, certainly in a venue like this. While there was maybe an initial shyness, people were quickly volunteering information on what the concepts of family and community mean to them and how they reacted to the piece and what might be done differently. I took heart that many of the LGB Asians who had come along we’re happy to share their experiences – it was truly amazing to hear what they had to say. One lady hadn’t spoken to her father in seven years and had built her own family from friends who supported her and her lifestyle in a way her family couldn’t right now. Similarly, one gentleman revealed to us that once he would create different personas for different communities and that it was both tiring and frustrating having to be so different depending on who he was with. Stories like these make the whole project seem worthwhile and made me realise that what we’re doing is creating a platform for these ideas and experiences to be shared with the world.

Perhaps one of the the most touching stories was told by a woman of African descent. She drew comparisons between her community and the south Asian community; how both are still very traditional communities and that this can often lead to prejudice. Yet she told the story about how with every generation there comes a greater level of tolerance and that the younger generations can be instrumental in dispelling the prejudices of older ones. She gave the example of her five year-old son who, when taken to a wedding some months back, asked what kind of wedding it was -“…two daddies?  Or two mummies?” And when told that is was a wedding between and man and a woman replied “HOW STRANGE!” Touching and lighthearted yet, apparently, this child’s indiscriminate tolerance had affected the views of his grandmother who herself has become much more accepting of different lifestyles. It was a story that made us all smile but also affected many of us and made us think.

So that will probably do for now, readers. London has provided us with an excellent start to the run and has already given us loads to think about. I can’t wait for the next workshop performance event on Wednesday at Smethwick Library. Now if you’ll excuse me – as you can imagine, there was much celebrating after the success of the first show and I was somewhat delicate the following day… To catch an event near you. Until the next time, stay fabulous.

Rob Beck