Monday, 23 March 2015

Guest Blog: Beth Shouler - Tricycle Takeover 2015

Beth Shouler, Director of Tricycle Young Company, writes a Guest Blog for West End Frame about the Tricycle Takeover 2015 which runs until Sunday 29th March 2015.

The Tricycle Theatre has been overrun with young people aged under 26 and the work they’ve made: plays, performances, films, talks, workshops, music and art. There’s a palpable buzz of anticipation around the building. There are pieces of set, costume and props in just about every room, corner and crevice you can store something. Already I’ve come in this morning to find a camping chair on my desk and a fake death certificate. As you do.

I’ve just joined the Tricycle as the new Young Company Director. Last year I came to the Takeover Festival and it was magical, so when I got the job I was thrilled. 

I’m directing three plays and created one film with four ensembles: Press Road Young Company 10-14s, Young Company 11-14s, 15-18s and 19-25s. I started the year asking them questions and trying to get to the heart of what stories they wanted to tell. The performances they’re all working on are very different in style, as are the rehearsal processes, but all the groups are headed in quite a political direction. Some of the material is hilarious but there is a deeper subtext which illustrates the anxieties and questions young people have regarding their future and there is some real anger about being dismissed by those adults who call young people politically apathetic.

19-25s The Dissidents

The company is working on a new play called The Dissidents by Shamser Sinha, which he has written in response to working with them for two months. This play reflects broad concerns they have about affording to live and work in this city that they love. The play contains over fifty characters and so the actors have had to embrace playing multiple roles. I have never been in a rehearsal room with so many accents! It’s been startling to see young actors take risks and experiment with their limitations and make all sorts of discoveries about what they’re capable of as actors. My assistant director, Rob, has been brilliant at creating moments on stage with the entire ensemble. Never underestimate how valuable an assistant director can be. 

15-18s The Endless Night

The Endless Night has been devised by the company and explores how a group of teenagers make a dramatic protest to get themselves heard. They created characters from scratch and were insistent that while some of the characters should be political activists, some should be completely uninterested in politics and far more self-involved reflecting their own experiences of being teenagers. This play takes place in different spaces around the building which throws up all sorts of interesting rehearsal conundrums, like rehearsing in a public space without freaking out people having a drink in the bar. This group is fascinating. Feisty, funny and inquisitive, they’re the most creatively unpredictable. They’ve also attempted to teach Bhav (my assistant director) and me hip-hop dancing. I attempted to teach them ballet. That is the brilliance of this group – one minute you’re debating whether it’s fair that under 21s have a different minimum wage and the next you’re being taught how to spin on your head. 

11-14s Gargantua

After playing with lots of scripts the group voted to perform Gargantua by Carl Grose. The characters are larger than life and we have had the challenge of working out how to stage a giant baby trashing a city. Sadeysa Greenaway's (our designer) set is beautiful and sets up this play as a comic book, while an actor from the 19-25 ensemble plays the baby. It’s a weird and wonderful moment in a rehearsal - I’m playing videos of my baby nephew eating, crawling, standing, and laughing while Nathan and I copy him on the floor. As a director how do you interpret stage directions such as ‘Gargantua eats all of the politicians’? 

So here we are, a week before the festival. My epic stage management team Seb, Tom and Devika are busily sourcing the last of the list of several hundred props and working out where on earth we put them. Sadeysa is frantically painting miniature puppets of 16 actors, while the cast of The Dissidents have lent a hand painting zillions of objects white for the world of Gargantua. Our young producers are in and out of the office with spreadsheets and cameras pulling together the final schedule and marketing materials for next week. I’m on my fifth diet coke of the day and third Malteser bunny and about to go through the fight sequence in The Dissidents with the fight director and the cast. The cast love rehearsing this moment - they’re a ridiculously talented bunch.

We’re on schedule for a really thrilling week. I can’t wait!

Beth Shouler 
Director of Tricycle Young Company

The Tricycle Takeover 2015 runs at the Tricycle Theatre until  Sunday 29th March 2015.
Please visit for further information.

Photo Credit: Mark Douet

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