Research and Development: #GBSproject
I’m going to begin at the end of the week by sharing this statement which our team of artists collectively wrote as an introduction to the piece required for one of our scratch performances:
What if you wake up to find your body slowly shutting down? Your ability to walk, talk, blink is stolen from you. Nobody knows how, nobody knows why.
Guillain Barré Syndrome affected Adam Pownall in 2009 causing full paralysis within 3 weeks. In a creative collision of movement, sound and new writing, the GBS Project tells a story of positive recovery.
That is what we are collectively working towards and here is a brief snapshot of how we worked towards this shared vision.
Week one was hosted by Deda in Derby and our team of creative artists, many of whom meeting each other for the first time, began to ask many questions about the project and each other, using their own skill set began to develop our own provocations of the project and one another.
Nick Wood had drafted a comprehensive selection of short scenes in a chronological order, using interviews with me and my friends and family who supported me during the illness. The scenes didn’t follow a form with some being extremely creative, some were directly scripted from the interviews and some were just ideas for scenes. Not all sections were true to life, but neither were they fictional, we agreed that what they are is honest if not a true recollection. This was a great starting point as the sections were shared with the team prior to day one along with the recordings of the interviews in order to research into the beginnings of the R&d period.
Tilly Branson, our Director, used these scenes to begin with us all reading out the scenes but in a lucky dip order. This gave us the chance to look at each scene on it’s own, hear the words out loud and reinforced the idea that we can play with time and sequence.
As the project moved forward at a refreshingly fast pace the more we realised that the questions we needed to ask were about form, not content, and what devices and techniques we could use to tell this story.
As mentioned in the synopsis above we knew we would be playing with movement sections instigated by Movement Director Marc Brew, we also knew that we would have scripted sections from Nick Wood. Northern based artist Luca Rutherford was assigned in a dramaturgical role but we knew she would add so much more than this with her contemporary style and could offer a ‘live art’ feel to sections of the piece involving direct address and challenges for performers Kitty Randle and myself.
We knew that we could blend and merge the sections of new writing, verbatim, movement and direct address to play with the forms of what we could create, add into this the layers of sound, music and underscoring from Sound Designer and Composer Adam P McReady. The shared excitement of this prospect can be felt in the room as the artists collaborate with a shared respect for each other’s craft.
This is a lot of form, you may agree, but an exciting challenge along with the huge amount of energy and ideas from our creative team, at this stage we won’t rule anything out, as that is what research and development is for but we will play with the forms, we will merge forms together and I must admit we are having a lot of fun along the way (which may or may not include yoghurt). Well done to Tilly for herding these creatives cats and keeping us focused, more of the same in week two.
It’s great sharing a stage with Kitty, an absolute gem of a find to work with, a performer with such strong movement skills and willingness to improvise but also a performer who is strong vocally, works hard at character development but most admirably has a wicked streak of playful mischief. Thinking about the forms we are using; the roles which she could play within ‘what this performance could be’ seem suitably matched. We seemed to have a struck an astounding shared movement relationship. Some performers you have to spend days with, fine tuning the ability to perform, move and respond together. Not Kitty and I, from day one working with Marc Brew we got straight into creating and playing and to produce an improvisation like the video below on day one seems incomprehensible, but we did it.
Personally it’s difficult for me to play myself in various guises. I must play ‘character Adam’ as we tell the story, as well as be ‘performer Adam’ as we link sections together, i think Kitty got the short straw though, she must play a host of voices, i say voices and not characters as some are just voices, but we are also visioning that GBS will be a character in various forms, again a challenge but an exciting one, of which i am a little jealous.
I’m exhausted after week one, I lay in bed writing this post! But reflecting on the week we have had, well 5 days (though it feels like 10 with the amount we have created, played with and discussed) I’m extremely proud to be Creative Producer and Performer on such an amazing project. The art is becoming more prominent as we move forward, I began this project in order to raise awareness of Guillian Barre Syndrome and GAIN Charity and that is still my main objective however undercurrent objectives are arising all the time; to develop myself, to develop the team of artists we have, to make great theatre and to tell an honest story of positive recovery.
Next week we are hosted by ARC Stockton, a fitting place for the project and artists involved as the venue and it’s Chief Executive Annabel Turpin are widely known for their progression in artist development and it is through this that the GBS Project is supported. We can’t wait to be present in such an exciting building, and more importantly share our work for the first time with their artists and audiences in the ARCADE Scratch Night on Wednesday 18th November.