Week Six: Eli Lower

Phew, what a week! Keen to get back into the swing of New Voices, it was a scrum this afternoon to get into the drama studio, drop our bags, and get straight to it. Excitingly, today was our first session welcoming our brilliant playwright Adam into the room, so we needed a couple of warm ups to remind each other of everyone’s names (and to showcase some of the team’s abilities to be very sneaky dancers!).

Once we were sufficiently warmed, we used our bodies to physically recreate several scenes – an abandoned classroom, a dusty attic…. but with a catch. Three members of the group had to leave the room while the rest of us built the world, becoming bins, computers, spiders, and more. Then, they re-entered, and by tapping each person on the head to hear a quick phrase – “my legs hurt!” – they tried to decode the scene. As it got harder, the detectives were allowed one question. Since the one question on everyone’s lips, “What are you?”, was forbidden, they had to settle for things like “Why do your legs hurt?” which soon revealed enough to show that Leah, whose legs hurt from being sat on all day, was a classroom chair! This game gave us all great practise at being inanimate, or non-human objects, which set us up perfectly for the next exercise.

Being carefully observed by Adam, we then went off to create characters of our own. This really gave our young people time to shine, as they came up with suggestions like surfer scarves, globetrotting eagles, and Justin Bieber’s horse-mother! Then we paired up to ask each other questions about our characters – the most important being, “if our characters met, would they get along?”, which got an almost resounding “yes!”. (One student wasn’t so sure about being friends with Jacob’s character, but he was a smelly apple core who lived in a compost bin, so who can blame them?!) All of the characters that were created were absolutely fantastic, and it was lovely to see our young people really get into the details, creating families, hopes and fears, and thinking of creative names.

After the session was over, we chatted to Adam about where to take the project from here, and we can just tell now that with his input the project is only going to get better. We’re now able to start thinking about how to build the scenes, explore characterisation, and even have inklings about what we might want to do with the set!

As we gear up towards the show on the 20th, it’s going to be so exciting to see our ideas develop from this embryonic stage into a fully-fledged narrative to be performed to an audience at the Tobacco Factory! Bring on next week!

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Week Five: A Week Off!

This week was half term at City Academy, and it felt very strange not to be heading down to Lawrence Hill, en masse, for our regular Wednesday afternoon workshop.

So, to combat the ‘no-BNV-blues’ we had a team sushi-making night! Despite missing a few mentors, we had a lovely evening chatting all things New Voices (and non-New Voices) and getting excited about the workshops to come.

Next week, our playwright Adam will be joining us with the aim of getting to know our mentors and young people and eventually writing them 10 short scenes for performance at the Tobacco Factory in just over a month’s time… Eek!

Week Four: Hector Dyer

It’s not all fun and games…well, actually we’re finding it quite easy to make sure our weekly sessions are exactly this. All of this is thanks to the ever-growing (in numbers and in confidence) group of young people we’re lucky to be working with. Their infectious energy and creativity is somehow increased each Wednesday afternoon and word seems to spreading – three more members this week! This was our final session before the half-term break and it was a good indication of how far this group has come together.
As the crucial matter of laying out some –very quickly snaffled – biscuits and orange squash was being done, an impromptu game of ‘Piggy in the Middle’ kicked off. It was quite quickly, and with good reason, renamed ‘Diggy in the Middle’ as the unmistakeably gangly limbs of Diggory did their best to launch him round the room in a quest to try and get hold of the fiendishly elusive ball. Sweaty, exhausted but with a grin bigger than the Chesire Cat, Diggory flopped down in the perfectly formed circle as we kicked off.
It is always exciting to welcome new young people to the group in an immediate sense. Not only because the scope of characters and suggestions grows and grows, but also because those who have been around for longer can show how much they have learnt and help them settle in, be it explaining the myriad of options for Zip Zap Boing, leading the way in exercises, or telling them of Our Three Rules. 
The theme to this week was how we can give life and character to anything in our imagination. Having created a park scene with a summer breeze and a radiant sun, we quickly showed our steelier side and built a kitchen dripping with grease, grime and bin juice.
The bulk of the session was spent devising characters from a hodge podge collection of household items. One team chose a nearly finished toothpaste tube, another chose a sweet packet, ours took a barbeque grill while a match-box completed the set. After only fifteen minutes the four groups had built characters with incredible histories and habitats. There was Colin McColgate – no prizes for guessing which object that was – who had fallen off a delivery truck in Spain and squeezed out toothpaste to propel himself along. Our group created Barbara – the barbeque grill floating in space who followed her fire-extinguisher of a brother around the milky way collecting stars…how’s that for imagination?
So, a week off for all of us and then we’re back with a bang on the 17th for our first session with Adam!

Week Three: Hattie de Santis

This week’s session started with a company catch up over biscuits, squash and a mini boogie to Justin Bieber. We welcomed three new members to our ever growing team and then it was down to business.

Daisy proudly held two juggling balls in the air to which the company stared, baffled at those who claimed they were jugglers. Luckily for me, no juggling skills were necessary for this exercise. The ball was thrown from member to member, each calling out their own name as the ball left their fingertips. Once we repeated this sequence a few times, cementing everyone’s names in our memory, it was time to introduce the second ball. We hit the floor ready to send two juggling balls around the circle. The key was to make eye contact with your partners in the sequence so that the flow was never broken. As a team, we completed the challenge in record breaking time – what a success!

As we rose to the floor Daisy wished us all a happy birthday and informed us that there was a present located behind us. Each us picked them up; some were heavy, some were ginormously large and some were teeny tiny. One by one we presented our gifts to our friends. We all couldn’t wait to see their reactions! One member was over the moon with her Justin Bieber tickets (can you see there’s a bit of running theme to our sessions). Another was a slightly disappointed with her small box of raisins. Yet, one lucky mentor was ecstatic with her sparkling diamond ring presented to her by fellow mentor Diggory. The two mentors are now blissfully engaged. Congratulations to the happy couple!

After we warmed up our imaginations it was time to split into teams. Team ‘Girl Power + Jacob’, Team ‘Snapchat’ and Team ‘Could We Have Another Moment’ worked on individual freeze frames focusing on how we could tell a story through characters reactions. The image of a groom jilted at the altar was made more distressing by his parent’s tearful facial expressions. The parents in Team ‘Snapchat’s image were angered more by the cheeky expressions of the students who had thrown a house party without their permission. Finally, it was the scared reactions of the girls watching Jacob being bullied which made that image even more poignant. Once we had inspected each team’s freeze frame Daisy asked us to return to our groups and make one final image of what happened next. Team ‘Snapchat’ and Team ‘Could We Have Another Moment’s scenes crumbled into despair as a fight broke out in the church and the parents yelled at their daughter for her irresponsible behaviour. In contrast, Team ‘Girl Power + Jacob’s image had a completely different feel. Through their final image we learnt that the girls who previously looked on in horror found the strength to stick up for their friend. The bully was left alone as her friends abandoned her too. The power had totally shifted in this final image because the girls decided to step in and help.

Once again I left the session feeling incredibly proud of all our company members. All of us are embracing the 3 golden rules to the max; we’re being brave, being kind and most importantly, being ourselves.

Week Two: Diggory Waite

There was something very, very different about this week’s session. Maybe it was the change of setting from the black box theatre to a carpeted classroom. Maybe it was the introduction of a few fresh new faces among both mentors and students alike. Or maybe it was because there was a murderer on the loose. A murderer of the winking variety.

We began as normal, sitting in a circle, chatting about the past week and what we’d be doing later on. And then it happened. Argh! A rather spectacularly lubricious and unconvincing death occurred. And then another. And another. In the blink of an eye (literally), students and mentors alike were dropping like flies (who just so happened to be terrible at playing dead). New mentor Max was elected as Detective to root out this wicked winker, but to no avail. After three false accusations, the game was up; and fellow new mentor Jude revealed herself as the murderer and the game’s victor.

To celebrate the end of Jude’s tyranny, we hosted two parties, both of which would include some very interesting guests. After being given a status-rating between 1 and 10, guests would enter the party and play the role of their respective rating. Whilst boisterous 9s and 10s could be seen swanning around the parties, conservative 1s and 2s would sheepishly stick to one place, watching the party from afar. It was the 4s and 6s, however, who were the most interesting watches. Subtle mannerisms, from humble bragging to slight feet-dragging, proved to sway one’s rating either side of a 5.

As the parties died down, a circle reformed and the theatre-favourite game Zip, Zap, Boing was proposed. Never heard of it? It’s simple. You Zip to send it to the person next to you, Zap to send it to a person across the circle from you and Boing to send that Zip or Zap straight back. Simple. So simple, in fact, that we started adding our own rules to add a little edge to our game. Bowling Ball would send a rolling ball hurtling around the circle that players would have to leap over – Mexican Wave style. Lobster saw everyone in the circle doing their favourite expensive sea-food impressions, snipping the air in unison with their pinchers. But, the most chaotic addition, Fruit Salad, became a worryingly frequent new feature, almost always becoming a mad and frantic affair as everyone was required to switch places within the circle.

Despite this week seeming different with new rules to an already well-established game, a new room and new people, one thing had stayed the same from the first week – we had a jolly good time.

Week One: Leah Weerasinghe

Although I know that especially to Daisy, Hughie and Jacob ‘Bristol New Voices’ has been in the making for many months now – and realistically, we are probably on about day 98– today was our first ‘official’ day as BNV. All the planning, fundraising and workshopping became a reality this afternoon. So, armed with coloured pens, DBS forms, juice, name-games and a playlist of age appropriate music (any excuse to welcome Justin Bieber back into our lives…) we set off for Lawrence Hill. We were ushered by two friendly year eights to the large, black box studio-space that will become our little creative home for the next few months and, within moments, we met some of the expectant faces of our new company. Pens and paper at the ready, ‘Human Bingo’ had begun. I know I should go into more detail but, seriously, the time flew by. I entered the workshop teetering between excited and nervous and left with my brain whizzing with improvisations, facts about the team and ideas for next week. It is wonderful to see how a room full of creative and imaginative young people can affect your brain. Personal highlights of the first workshop include: Eli’s mid-throwing up rollercoaster face, Diggory’s impression of a spy, finding out that one of the younger members of our company also shares my strange and violent allergy to kiwis and Daisy’s three rules for the space: ‘Be Brave. Be Kind. Be Yourself’, which should really apply to everything. At the end, whilst saying our goodbyes, one of the girls came up to me and mentioned how glad she was to be there and, up until that moment, I hadn’t really stopped to realise how utterly glad I was that we are able to do this (Fundraisers: thank you!) and how happy I am to be a small part of it all. Bring on week 2.