Rising at LSBU
London South Bank University have developed a new Applied Theatre course, and it was brilliant to work with its first cohort of students in autumn 2020. We took Femi Keeling's play, Rising, and adapted it for an all female cast. We also trained the students to stage manage and to facilitate the Forum.
Forum Theatre is one of the most democratic ways of engaging an audience in a debate about the major concerns of modern British society. By creating a powerful premise it invites the audience to make instant and effective change. It's a learning forum, where we quickly realise that there are no easy answers to the social ills which bedevil our society. One of the pleasures of this process was enabling the students to learn the skill of Jokering. To be a conduit between the audience and the action. To play devils advocate. To cajole, encourage and enthuse the audience into making meaningful change.
In our version, Tracey leaves prison determined not to return to a life of crime. But have those close to her lost faith in her ability to reform? Will circumstances of the past and the present allow her to have a new future? Inevitably, with no money, a breakdown with her family, and no place to call home, like so many who leave prison, she becomes homeless. As revealed in the Guardian there has been a 25-fold increase between October 2016 and June 2018 in rough sleeping among those who have served sentences of less than six months in England and Wales. In campaigning to end homelessness, Crisis reveals the impact and the solutions to this malaise.
My thanks to Dawn Ingleson at London South Bank for giving me this opportunity.
Identity School of Acting (IDSA)
Identity is a ground breaking school of acting that places diversity at the heart of its training. I'm delighted to be invited back to direct a new showcase, Acts of Reflection, that seeks to respond to the extraordinary times in which we currently live. My job is to empower this diverse and highly talented company of young actors, all under the age of 21, to make the best work and to become the best actors they can be. It's a brand new challenge to do all this over Zoom, but one that has called upon myself and the young company to be innovative and daring.
Along side this I am also be teaching Intermediate and Fresher students audition technique and approaches to text. It's going to be a busy, but highly fruitful autumn with the aim of introducing new young actors from demographically diverse backgrounds into an industry that is in great need of their talent.
'In the time Stuart has worked at Identity he has demonstrated his skill and experience as a teacher of acting techniques and his talent, as an experienced and innovative director. His approach demonstrates a keen awareness of the need to be fully inclusive. Stuart shares a passion with Identity, to develop a more diverse and representative industry with regards theatre, film and TV.' Sam Miller Head of Acting Identity School of Acting
Mainly Pimps and Bouncers (in development)
At times I've been dubbed either the 'reluctant actor', or the 'reluctant director'. The reluctance that others sense in me arises from a feeling that I was never meant to be a theatre maker. I often feel like an imposter. An outsider. Apart from the yearly panto, I never went to the theatre. It was only when, mainly on a whim, I joined the local AmDram, the wonderful Moat Players, did I ever think that theatre was fun, entertaining or even educational. I was a local authority housing officer, an active trade unionist...now what am I?
Increasingly people recognise that class isn't just about a persons socio economic situation. It is as much about a cultural legacy, a set of values, the way you choose to identity yourself. As the title suggests, when an actor, I tended to be given certain parts, from an early stage in my drama school training I was pigeonholed.
Mainly Pimps and Bouncers is about my identity in general, but specifically linked to my relationship to theatre. Initially its an exploration of my cultural heritage: my family both close and extended, the community I was brought up in, the school I went to, the friends I made. I also want to explore local working class communities and the relationship those people have with theatre and the arts.
I don’t know what this is yet. I’m keen to develop my use of headphone verbatim. Through the skills of colleague and friend, Kristine Landon Smith, I initiated the use of it at Cardboard Citz. I want to do a lot of interviews. I see photos from the past, which depict the nature of class. I hope others will join me on this journey. Others who also seek to explore identity, meaning and their relationship to theatre.