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Can you hear me running?

A story about never giving up till the finish line.

Full steam ahead

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So we were over the moon to be  notified that we are to be awarded further Arts council England funding for our Theatre piece Can you hear me running?! We were genuinely shocked, as know how competitive it is these days to receive  money towards Theatre. As I read the notification online that we had been successful, I was on the bus, alone, and I admit, a little tear fell, for many reasons. The main reason was that we had come this far and it would have seemed a shame not to reach the finishing line by taking it into full production. Jo and myself had nursed the project for two years and then Steve, Eva and Dan enriched it with other elements, and it seemed that without realizing it, this idea that I’d hatched in the brilliant writer Jemma Kennedy’s class was inevitably growing.   I couldn’t get hold of Jo or Steve to tell them…not even my mum, so I just turned to the only other person on the W3 travelling over Alexandra Palace and smiled inanely. ‘Do you know what this means?’ I felt like saying. ‘Can you see that I lost something and may get it back?’. The rumble of the bus made me lose eye contact with her and I looked out the window to see the magnificent view of Ally Pally, always there, now such an ingrained view in my life through my running habit. Ironically, I was on my way to pick up my running number for the annual Crouch End 10k and thought about how running has informed so many aspects of my life now. It’s crept in, made a bed  for itself and, most surprisingly even got me (Well I hope) back on stage. Who knew? Well there’s no going back now as I find myself hurtling ( I never do things by halves) back into being a fully fledged stage actress again which is a totally different discipline from the TV, film  and commercial work I’ve been doing these last 7 or so years. I’ve a feeling it will be the best diet I’ve ever been on.

So we are already full steam ahead. Wow, I have so much respect for people who run Theatres, companies or like us are mounting a relatively simple, small production. The planning involved is far more than I though and Jo, myself and Steve have had to wear producer’s hats as well as being actor, writer, director.  There’s the copy, image, future marketing to think of, making sure all the creatives are on board, the crowd funding we needed to do to match our other funding,the list goes on, but soon there will be a time when we can all just do the jobs we want to do.  It’s very exciting and I’m looking forward to sharing the dates, times and venue very soon, when the tickets go on sale. So thank you Arts Council England. We’re in strange times given the precarious last couple of weeks and it’s just heartening to know we will still be able to create our piece later in the year. Watch this space. More details soon.

This story has a run in it!!

Oh and btw….brilliant to see such great support for Tonic Theatre’s celebration night. Showing women brilliantly visible in our profession.

 

Will it run? Round two.

teamSo I can’t believe it’s already six months since we showed the results of out research and development period of Can you hear me running?  at the Park Theatre and the Pleasance. We certainly needed time to reflect after, as well as collate the invaluable feedback that we’d gathered from the audience. We also had to send the Arts Council the Evaluation. Also life stuff carried on, work, family, other jobs coming in…Christmas. So it seems like the right time now to re -visit.  Here are just some of the responses from the showings.

  • I think it has universal themes , a woman going through life changes, I liked the projection, the sound, childhood memories and death of Dar very strong and moving. I love the idea of giving a voice to women who feel like they have lost their voice, their place for whatever reason.

 

  • Lovely interplay between music and story. Projections really subtle but provide wider context. Incredibly moving, gripping, passionate performance 

 

  • The play tempered raw introspection with anecdotal humour and balanced well the ethos, pathos and logos. Cathartic and empowering. 

 

  • I related to the idea of losing the thing you develop your identity around.

 

  • It shows how we can take our voice for granted and also crucially how our vocal chords are such a fundamental part of our lives.

There is still a way to go with the project though, and as much as the reaction to it was positive, we identified key aspects of the play that still needed to be clearer, such as the element of running in the piece and what it really meant to me when I felt all was lost with my voice.  We’d still also like to explore how running really affects you chemically and mentally  and  how  we show the physicality of ‘running’ on stage.  Running on the spot, strangely enough, doesn’t seem to really express the form of running well and actually some of the moments of stillness when ‘talking’ about running worked better. Lots to think about.   Have to say, it was pretty terrifying to spend an hour on stage, alone, hoping not to bore the audience senseless with what felt like at times a very narcissistic project but my nerves quietened down after the first five minutes and I enjoyed being on stage again, entertaining, or trying to!

So now we’re onto round two and midway through our next Arts Council application to hopefully get the show up and running in the Autumn at a central London Theatre venue for at least a three week run. It would be great to open it up to the public and get a wider audience in and use our contacts with Voice specialists and running community to help that.

I was just thinking the other day how sport has woven its way into our piece and how many similarities there are between acting and being a sportsman or woman. Both take skill, willpower, physical strength and endurance. You can’t just run a marathon and you can’t just walk on stage and bash out Hamlet without substantial preparation. I mean, you can, but you’d be reading from the script on stage, exhausted by the second scene and at mile ten in a marathon you’d have lactic acid overload and probably be sick, or pull or strain a muscle.

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Talking of which, I’m doing a half marathon this Sunday, but I doubt I’ll be going over any Shakespeare I’ve done in the past, but I will be concentrating on pacing myself and making sure I stretch out the night before. It was five years ago that I completed the London Marathon in 4hrs 30 but my body feels like its’ changed’ and a few niggles have come in with this lot of training. It never feels like ‘a breeze’ but I’m always glad when I can enjoy the aftermath ( again like acting) and that rush of serotonin that come with doing challenging things. I’m also raising money for a cause close to my heart, JDRF the Juvenile diabetes research foundation so achy legs aside I’ll be thinking of my Dad who I lost to the disease years ago and also my niece who suffers with it.  With long training  runs behind me now, thanks to my amazing friends and co runners, I should be ready, and then once that run is over, we’ll be clicking SEND on that Arts Council Application again to hopefully get Can you hear me running? ….a proper RUN! Wish me luck on both counts. I’ll need it.

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Louise Breckon Richards

 

 

Gearing up.

IMG_4008 So most of our prep has been done now for the project. All the interviews have been collected and edited, mainly from Voice people. Jo went to visit Mr John Rubin, the Consultant ear nose and throat surgeon who  operated on me at the  hospital and he gave some amazing insights and information that we can use. It felt strange not to be there myself and I wondered how I would have felt seeing him again. In one of my diary entries I describe him as my hero as I felt my career and voice were literally in his hands and reflecting back I hadn’t realised how vulnerable that made me feel. They were truly amazing there and recognised all that the voice means to people, especially performers.

We’d still like to ask more people about running and what it means to them but there’s time. We have a projector to play with and are looking at ways that we can visually tell the story. I carried the most enormous roll of paper from town the other day which will hopefully we able to help some of the projection or it could just be that we us the paper for other parts of the story. It is after all about how I had to write everything down when my voice failed me, so paper plays a huge part in the telling of this tale.

I also realised that I haven’t actually been running as much as I’d like. My distances have got shorter, always the way when I’m not training for something, but then I thought, well, gearing up to do a one woman show should be motivation enough, that, and too much sangria and paella, so I’ve given myself a little nudge this week to get out more. It’s been a while since I’ve rehearsed a Theatre piece and I’m excited and a little nervous in equal measure so the running is still playing a huge part in keeping my equilibrium and sanity.

I did have a moment the other day when I thought ‘Why am I doing this to myself?’ regurgitating old wounds, old stories, putting myself in the spotlight in such an exposing way. Why do we need to sometimes need to churn up old ground?  Shouldn’t I have just accepted that something happened, then I healed myself through it and then moved on?, blah blah blah.  And then I realised exactly why I was questioning it.  It was that old chestnut. Fear. Creeping over your shoulder.  I was trying to convince myself that what I have to offer is not worthwhile. When in reality it has been one of the most creative collaborations and experiences to date, all born out of an adverse event. And that’s to be celebrated, not hidden. And I’m not on my own this time. We get to play as a team.

So, Tuesday here we come. Actor head needs to go on soon and most importantly….I need to do a voice warm up!

 

 

Running and talking

So, it’s been a busy three or four weeks already researching our piece. We’ve been beavering away contacting people, engaging the rest of the team and setting up meetings. Peter callow, a film maker has created the brilliant promo that is on our about page and it was great fun to do weaving up and down Ally Pally though we were worn out by the end of the day. He’s really captured an essence of what the piece is about and I think it’s great to have something visual to look at to give people a rough idea of what the project is. Then we’ve been cracking on with our interviews (I’m a frustrated journalist and loved holding out the Dictaphone.)  First on our list was to see the registered Osteopath, psychotherapist and specialist in management of vocal crisis. Jacob Lieberman. I went to see him twice when I was suffering with my voice, both before and after surgery in the hope that a well as having  the groove like furrow, the sulcus on my right vocal chord what harm could it do to look at muscle tension I was also holding in that area. Here is more of what he does:   http://www.jacob-lieberman.co.uk/. We got some great information for our piece that we’re looking forward to sharing and it also served to remind me of how many avenues I went down in order to find answers to my problem. I remember it being a very emotional, releasing experience and I’m sure it helped as part of the whole healing process. The only thing we got wrong was that we recorded the interview in possibly the loudest café in North west London so have struggled to hear back some of his insights.  Note to ourselves….find a quiet spot next time. I then found myself six years since I was first referred there  back at the Royal Ear nose and throat hospital to visit voice specialist Dr Ruth Epstein. I certainly felt nervous walking back through the corridors, I knew the route like the back of my hand having been back and two there so many time over the years and felt my throat instantly tighten and breath rise. But I was returning this time not in search of where my voice had gone, but how I could re call the story of how it all happened and healed and piece it all together so we can make sense of it in the rehearsal room.

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Ruth too  has given us plenty of useful information for our piece and I came away with  well over an hours worth of interview. Steve and Jo  soon after interviewed Michael Usher Professor of Behavioural Medicine at St George’s, University of London. Himself also a very experienced runner, one of the top in his age group, they asked him questions about the relationship between mental health and physical activity and got some great information as well as a fascinating story of his first marathon experience.

Then we spent two days last week in script meetings bringing the original script and everything else we have collated over the last couple of weeks and tried to look at how best to structure the piece and make sense of it. Both the running story and the voice story in our piece have their own journey and so Jo has the job of fusing them together.  We also tried some verbatim theatre. For anyone who’s never heard of it it’s where you listen to a real story or interview and literally with the headphones still in, with it playing, you repeat what you hear. I’d never tried it before and have to say, it’s harder than you think. If you’re not used to speaking in someone else’s rhythm you can easily run out of breath.

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Jo is now working on the re writes so that when we get into a room at the beginning of September we will have already made some decisions about what we want to use in the script and what we no longer need to tell the story the best we can.  Our problem or rather gift, whichever way you look at it is  that we don’t have too little to work with, but so much .

We’re very excited to have Eva Auster on board with the team.  Eva  is a freelance video and projection designer with experience working with UK theatre companies and directors, creating visual content for live performances and online/ promotional videos. It will be fascinating to see how she can further express the story through a visual medium.

Also Dan Glover joins. he is a pianist, composer and musical director and having already spent two days work -shopping the project with him in December we’re really pleased he can join us again. Music and sound are at the heart of the story and it will be great to see how we can further develop that element too.

So onwards…….quite a bit more to do and then into the rehearsal room we go at the beginning of September.

 

 

And so it begins.

good one So this is our first post for Can you hear me running? We have been lucky enough to receive a Grants for Arts award to research and develop our piece and we are very excited about how the project will progress. We have already interviewed facinating voice, speech and language specialists including Ruth Epstein and Jacob Lierberman and there are plenty more to come. In this blog we will share our experiences of what it is like to collaborate on the piece. Louise Breckon – Richards

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