This is the text (aka what I should have said but didn’t) of a presentation I gave recently at 15 Queen Street. You can find the visuals which sit alongside the presentation here. You can find out more about the creative community which is based in and around 15 Queen Street here – and about Eastern Angles here.
When I first began thinking about this presentation I stated in the usual place – a kind of traditional look at who Eastern Angles are, what we do and a bit about our history. I’m sure you know the kind of thing.
But fellow users of the hot desk room will know it’s only been a little over year since I was shouting ‘o computer’ every 15 minutes at my lap top whilst consuming an unhealthily large amount of doughnuts– so telling the 30 year story of Eastern Angles seemed somewhat fraudulent.
It does however beg another question – how do you get from the brilliant madness of Cepheus or the exuberance of Phrased and Confused (the last two projects I was working on whilst here in Queen Street) to what at first glance seems the more traditional world of Eastern Angles.
And for me the personal answer starts here. This is me aged about 15:-
By this time I’d already been given the theatre bug by my parents who had taken me to see Charley’s Aunt and Toad in Toad Hall where I’d seen the same actor play the lead roles of Toad and Charleys Aunt. I was hooked.
Then came the lucky bit. I grew up here
At a time when as a student or under 25 I could get stand by tickets for about £3 for all the major theatre venues. I’d sit in the gods of Leeds Grand Theatre watching opera in my no poll tax t shirt. I’d see straight plays at Harrogate and the Playhouse and I’d sneak into early – and for me groundbreaking – shows by the likes of Theatre de Complicite and Volcano.
At one point Volcano brought Tony Harrison ( a Leeds born poet) V to Leeds Civic Theatre. It was a performance that has stayed with me ever since. What was it about V that struck me so much? Partly it was the strong sense of place, partly its extraordinary mix of language and physical theatre, but perhaps most of all it was this sense that I’d seen, and been part of, something very special…and I had been there.
[this video extract is not of the Volcano show, but of the poet himself reading V. I can still remember 4 leather clad perfomers – angrily owning the stage giving voice to Harrison’s angry words – more theatrical, less poetic than Harrison’s interpretation]
Whilst my love life was non existent ( I fell in love with exotically sounding serious actresses like Alexandra Mathie and Anastasia Mulrooney). O yes – and blonde leading ladies – I think at the tender age of 17 I went to see Sara Crowe in Sugar Some Like it Hot some 6 times. Kept telling my folks it was a very good show!
The point of all this spiel is that from an early age I developed a taste for everything from panto to opera, from avant garde to the simply bonkers because I had access to it. I was fortunate – and it’s something I’ve never forgotten.
‘when we celebrate the success of The War Horses and the Matildas of this world we explain that such shows could never have emerged from the commercial sector which quite simply would never have countenanced the amount of money and length of time that it takes to create such a show. What we do not mention is all the ghost War Horses and Matildas that will never emerge, and which are lost to us quite simply because those who might have gone on to create them never got access to the theatre in the first place’
[here is Lyn’s blog – which uses much of that Shift Happens speech]
Providing that kind of access is at the heart of everything Eastern Angles does. We tour to the parts of the East region that other companies simply don’t reach.
We take everything in the trusty Eastern Angles van – the stage, the lights, the sound, the performers, the crew even the dressing room some times and definitely the coffee.
Building the whole thing in 3 hours – doing the show and then taking it all down again. The ultimate travelling players!
Private Resistance our spring tour of 2012 did 70 odd performances in 55 different venues!
And it works – two current examples – not only in terms of audiences but in developing the artists
Naomi Jones who directed Private Resistance –first came across theatre when Eastern Angles visited her school in Saffron Walden describing the experience as hugely influential.
Joel Horwood – author of I heart Peterborough more of which later – saw a whole load of Eastern Angles shows whilst growing up in Leiston. He talks about how he’d never seen anything like it before and ‘that I only knew of anything about theatre because of productions such as Hereward the Wake’
Nearly all our shows are inspired by, celebrates or relates to the region.
This is our 30th anniversary show – Margaret Catchpole – the story of an 18th Century girl who gets transported for stealing a horse in Ipswich from a brewer and riding it to London to find her lover who’d fallen in with the wrong kind of guy. He gets shot – surprise surprise!
Going back to Naomi, Joel and Lyn’s idea of ‘ghost artists’ – Eastern Angles take seriously (like lots of other arts organisations) our commitment to new talent
We often work with actors at the beginning of their careers. But its not just about actors. Margaret Catchpole had no fewer than four trainees (in directing, design, costume and community chorus) working on it. In I heart Peterborough the company gave joel the opportunity to direct his own work professionally. Most importantly we currently have three young writers working with us on new commissions – with a couple more in the pipe line.
That focus on new writing is also central to Eastern Angles way of doing things. Every Eastern Angles show is especially commissioned for the company – an extraordinary commitment to new writing which is easy to overlook or take for granted.
And of course the most recent example of this is our current show ‘I heart Peterborough’ which has just finished its run at the Edinburgh Fringe and now embarks on a brief tour before arriving at Soho Theatre in October.
The show has been described as ‘a little heart breaker’ (The Guardian), ‘a little show with a big heart’ (The Independent) and a ‘triumph’ (Public Reviews) – you can read all the reviews here,
But this is one I quite like – this is actress miriam margolyes who came to see the show twice…
So at the heart of Eastern Angles are four things which I hope if you were unfortunate to cut me open you’d find written across my heart! Access, new writing, supporting new talent and a celebration of place. And for me personally I’d argue that all four of these stem from my teen experience back in Leeds.
And just sometimes those four throws up art which – to quote Miriam – ‘that I don’t fucking understand’ – and I have to say I quite like it that way.