Thursday, March 3, 2016, 02:01 PM
Hi, Francesca here, lurching out of my social media black-out cave (like Fight Club, but just me) to talk about my new show, ‘A Lie’.
Honestly, it’s a misleading title.
The show explores imagination, memory, language and the stories we tell about ourselves. It asks the question:
‘How do we know what is real and what is make believe?’
I haven’t yet been able to answer that question. Fortunately, I did find the answer to these questions:
‘What is the meaning of life?’
‘Who are we?’ and
‘What were we looking for when we opened the fridge?’
So, the idea for ‘A Lie’ first came to me in the lyrics of a David Bowie song, belted out by a tiny unicorn, sliding down a rainbow. I then forgot about it. Plus, after Chinese Whispers, produced by Apples and Snakes, I wanted to explore other forms, having already made, to the best of my ability, the solo show I wanted to make.
Then, because Stacy Makishi was facilitating, I signed up for a live art workshop. I had not at that point had much contact with the live art world. There was genital dancing. In the warm up. It was a dose of salts for the soul. At one point, we had to improvise the show we were making – I wasn’t making a show – didn’t matter. Stacy told me in her Tony Soprano/Hawaiian grandma voice ‘You’re getting old, you’re going to die, Francesca, you have to make another show.’ It was possibly that, possibly a reaction to the full frontal nudity in so many of the other scratch performances, but I improvised a show about persona – a show that was the opposite of revealing oneself to get to the truth.
I then forgot about it until Lisa Mead, the now artistic director of Apples and Snakes, invited me to take part in the first Inventing Room, a series of two day sessions where artists were paid to play in a room with a practitioner from another art form, with no expectation of outcome. The practitioner was Lee Simpson from Improbable and as part of the two days, we did some work around shamanic process and personal myth. (Lee Simpson mentored me on Chinese Whispers. Most of the ideas I pass off as my own are stolen from him. He’s influenced many things central to my practice - wasting rehearsal time in chat, procrastinating, minimal interest in good performance technique.) Kenny Baraka, Ali Gadema and I came out with ideas for a dozen shows, but the one I knew I could commit to failing at was A Lie.
Then I forgot about it until I was chatting with Hannah Jane Walker. I met Hannah as a poet and performer when I mentored her as part of Escalator, run by Writers Centre Norwich. That piece became ‘This is Just to Say.’ I then directed her on a show called ‘I Wish I was Lonely’ which she wrote, performed and toured with Chris Thorpe.
Hannah is one of those ‘ahead of the curve’, ‘think outside the box’ kinds of people who despise phrases like ‘blue sky thinking’. We wanted to pilot a new model of how work gets made in the live literature sector. We didn’t want to multi-task as artists/ cultural producers/brand promoters/social networkers. We wanted to experiment with an artistic collective where we could collaborate to make work by taking on roles dependent on need and project.
Lisa Mead agreed to support our GFTA and to mentor Hannah as a producer, along with Rachael Williams from Improbable. Lee Simpson agreed to act as a mentor to me. Hannah introduced me to Rob Watt, who had been directing her and Chris on a show. Rob knows about magic and there is magic in the show. Also, Rob is magic.
So that’s the team. I’ve had script help from Roger Robinson and Chris Thorpe. Piers Faccini, who wrote the music for Chinese Whispers, is writing music. I scratched the show last year with Apples and Snakes at The Bush and at Pulse Festival at New Wolsey Theatre. In July 2015, I performed an hour-long version of the show at Latitude Festival, thanks to Luke Wright and with Hotbed Festival, at the Junction in Cambridge and at Soho Theatre. I’m performing a reworked hour at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival on May 16th . And I’m sharing ten new minutes next week in Trailers, at Rich Mix on the 26th February.
So – you’re probably asking – is this show for me? Are you into ground-breaking, thought-provoking shows? Are you smart, yet stupid? Bitter but sweet? If you are not interested in the workings of the human brain, this show is probably not for you, but you can come anyway. What else? There are a couple of songs. There is an audacious magic trick. There’s some data mapping exercises, because who doesn’t love to be part of a Venn Diagram? If you are not into Venn Diagrams, this show is not for you and you shouldn’t come, unless prepared for Transformation. The only people who categorically would not get this show are people who have never told a lie. If you’re that person who has never told a lie, you are a liar, so, yeah, you can come. It’s very inclusive, this show. Unlike me, I’m a dreadful snob, but it’s ok because in this show, I play a character called Francesca who is much nicer than how I act ‘in real life.’
Gong Hee Fat Choy. The Year of the Fire Monkey is a good time for those working in art, culture and education. Many of us will be fortunate this year, although gambling, outbursts of temper and excessive drinking may prove unlucky for some. Be careful of your health, particularly in the winter months. (I’m not actually a medical professional, btw.) If you are in a relationship, take care to listen to your partner or arguments could arise. (You’re welcome, lovers.) If you are single, try spending more time with friends, one of them may develop into a romantic interest.
Improbable, Apples and Snakes and Arts Council England are supporting the development of ‘A Lie’.
Saturday, October 31, 2015, 01:38 AM
Saturday, October 31, 2015, 12:18 AM
I've been working with Islington Community Theatre's young company of 11 to 14 year olds to make a piece exploring their relationship to digital environments.
We had a showing yesterday at Platform of work in progress. I'm looking forward to the next phase, with Miranda Cromwell, the director and Kwame Odoom, assisting, to make something for a public audience in the new year.
Miranda and I didn't want to make a bad play about the naughty internet. We are fascinated by the thought that we are evolving as human beings because of our relationship to digital technology - the way we interact, the way we think about memory, our collective consciousness, our identities.
I love the internet.
I am old enough to remember a time and place where there was probably not a single computer in the country as powerful as my smartphone.
I remember how long it took to call someone because you had to wait for the mechanism to spin back before you could hook your finger in the metal ring and drag it round.
However, the process is about listening to our young company at ICT and supporting them to shape something that communicates their reality to adults.
What came out of our devising conversations was overwhelmingly that these young people were overwhelmed by digital technology.
They found the constant need to deal with data flow stressful.
They found the continual branding and rebranding of their identities as consumers of that data toxic.
'Please make it stop', they said.
I am largely immune to the stress that they are talking about but even I get it, when I read an article like this Gawker published piece about viral media:
It makes me angry, for myself and for others, this insinuation that if you don't post about something, it didn't happen, it doesn't matter.
I'm pretty sure no one will read this, because I don't really post and also, when I do post, I post about live literature and poetry, not even slam poetry and well, that's obviously an ox bow lake of culture, but for the record -
Gawker, and all you other whatever you ares, although invisible to you, like much of the world, I've been busy doing stuff.
I sometimes want to share it, but often I don't because I would rather spend my time making other stuff or hanging out with family and friends or just reading in the bath.
Here's my truth - if you weren't there, you've missed it. Telling you about how great it was seems redundant and boastful.
And, sure it's about marketing and I do apologise to the people I work with about how crap I am at marketing, but actually, that's not my skill set and, as yet, it is not my job.
My job is to make sure that when you show up, you will be part of a live event and that it will be something magical and absolutely unique.
And if I post about it in the knowledge that you probably wouldn't be able to come,
I want to find a reason to post so that it isn't just passive aggressive spam.
Other people have different reasons for not sharing - they didn't have internet, or it wasn't in their culture and they didn't want to make it available online without context or they simply didn't care to have an audience of people who couldn't see what the physical reality of the event was.
But maybe you didn't mean what you said and were just rubbing against your phone. In which case, I recommend turning it off and removing the lithium battery before you insert it up your arse.
If you'd like to read this prompt, and in fairness, maybe I read it wrong, it's at the base of this post.
Storystock at the Bush Theatre - one brilliant day, two more to go...
Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 11:27 PM
This Wednesday in the half term break, me, the Chinese star animals and Anais Snow Antopolski , my special helper, were welcomed with the most graceful hospitality by the Bush Theatre and StoryStock.
We performed (ta da!) two shows of Animal Olympics.
Firstly, I would like to say that it was by far my favourite of all the Animal Olympics shows I have done. Both of them.
Secondly, I would like to say that this festival at the Bush is wonderful, there is two days left, and if you can, get down to it. There are a bunch of brilliant things on offer:
The first show we did was techd by Jimmy, son of Natalie Garces-Boves.
The second was techd by Snow because I think Jimmy was in a Manga workshop.
Not because there were not superb and ready and able tech adults, but because the kids actually could do the job, they did it really well.
Thank you all the children who came to the event and to their parents.
We shared a dressing room with Judith Kerr - legend - her backstage rider was 'a glass of good red wine'. Nat, the brilliant stage manager decided on Malbec, which, in my book, was a good choice.
Do do go, if you happen to see this, and happen to have kids, it's a lovely festival. And they will be there next year too, I think, I hope...
Two for One ticket offer this Friday 28th and Saturday 29th August!
Wednesday, August 26, 2015, 04:26 PM
A Lie - a new show by Francesca Beard
In this show, I will try to pull off one great trick.
What is the best lie you know?
Mine is... me.
A dazzling piece of theatre from 'The Queen of British Performance Poetry'
Age recommendation: 16+
Venue: Soho Theatre - Friday 28th and Saturday 29th August 6 pm
Part of Hotbed Festival of new writing 2015
'Hotbed showcases some of the best new writing in the UK' Lyn Gardner Guardian