Rising at LSBU
It was a great honour to direct Femi's play back in 2018. Perhaps the highlight of my time as Associate Director at Cardboard Citizens. Its with great pleasure and excitement that I can once again give life to this delicate but tragic piece. The Terence of the original production becomes Tracey, in what will be an all female cast of young actresses, keen to develop their skills as Applied Theatre practitioners.
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.
Forum Theatre is, for me, the most dynamic way 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 will be 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.
My thanks to Dawn Ingleson at London South Bank for giving me this opportunity. Look out for Rising in October 2020.
Since September 2019 I have had the great pleasure of working with these extraordinary young people. Live Life is a group of young people who have experienced homelessness. Under the guidance of the brilliant Leonie Maddin they advocate and fund-raise for youth led initiatives. Together we are developing their ability to tell their authentic stories inspiring change, with a determination to end homelessness.
I first came across Live Life when I worked with Herts Young Homeless (HYH) as part of the Squatlife project in St Albans. HYH provide many services for young people who have either experienced a loss of housing or are at risk of doing so. These young people are vulnerable, often the victims of family breakdown or abuse.
After Squatlife Leonie and I agreed that a Live Life member, who was able to stand in a school assembly, or a local council meeting, or sit happily in a room of investors and funders, was worth so much in their ability to move people and inspire change. This has been our work together, to develop a small cohort of Live Life members to become skilled presenters, confident and vibrant, celebrating their own resilience, and challenging society to change.
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 that seeks to respond to the extraordinary times in which we currently live. My job is to empower the diverse and highly talented group of young actors, all under the age of 21, to make the best work we can together, and to make them into the best actors they can be. It's a brand new challenge to do all this over Zoom, but one that will call upon myself and the young company to be innovative and daring.
Along side this I will 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
Nothing (looking for its English Premiere)
Adapted by Danish theatre director and playwright, Pelle Koppel from the novel by Jane Teller, this extraordinary two hander explodes with whit and vitriol as the 16 year old Pierre Anthon announces to his class mates that '“Nothing matters. I’ve known that for a long time. So nothing’s worth doing. I just realised that.' Shocked and hurt his class mates set out to prove him wrong. They build a pile of meaning, that means so much to them, that they are prepared to sacrifice in the face of his unrelenting polemic: 'Why not admit from the outset that nothing matters and just enjoy the nothing that is?'
'We were supposed to amount to something. Something was the same as someone and even if nobody ever said so out loud, it was hardly left unspoken, either. It was just in the air, or in the time, or in the fence surrounding the school.'
Directing at the Independent Centre for Actor Training (ICAT)
Recently directed the ICAT student showcase. Thirteen actors in as series of duologues, diverse in their cultural, socio economic, gender and age. It's important that I teach and direct at places like ICAT. Places that ensure our industry is inclusive, representing the diversity of society. Everyone should be allowed to have a dream, it may not come true for all, but the passion, commitment and love shown by the staff under Simon Trinder's leadership, means that no-one leaves ICAT without having maximised their talent whilst learning to become a better citizen of the world.
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.