Just a delayed update

Thought it was about time we posted a little update on what’s happening at the moment with The Ice Maiden.

We performed the work-in-progress version of our first act in the From Devon with Love festival and managed to get a lot of helpful feedback from it, which was the main thing we were looking for. A lot of our ideas went down well, people liked our aesthetic and we found out a lot about which sections were working better than others. From the feedback we got two main points  – to push our more dramatic, aesthetically-interesting  parts futher, and to give the whole piece more of a storytelling feel. Although we did have some bits which were quite like storytelling theatre, the theme was definetly lacking when you looked at the piece overall. Rather than having flats to function as wings, and blackouts to disguise scene changes, it was suggested we ‘don’t hide the strings’, integrate the narration in the action and have the actors sit on a bench at the back of the stage when not in a scene and other such ideas.

Although we had worked with other actors for that performance, we decided to carry on with just the three of us for the next stage of the project. Taking the feedback we tried to develop our script taking the new ideas into account but ended up hitting a wall. The concept of storytellers narrating the tale to the audience was integrated fairly easily, but there seemed no way around the fact that these characters seemed random, walking around the stage telling the audience this story for no particular reason. There were also problems with the plot, mostly from the character of Babette who we couldn’t escape simply being the ‘love interest’.

Therefore we decided we had to take a bit of a new direction with the piece. We looked at the plot and made it more centric around the main character Rudy, and decided to have him as a puppet throughout the whole piece, rather than just at the beginning. The plot changes opened up a lot of new potential scenes, and as we worked through a new script we tried to make sure sure that each scene had some sort of hook or device to it, and not simply be too reliant on dialogue (never one of our strong suits).

While we liked having storyteller characters narrate the whole piece, we needed a reason for them to be there and so they have ended up functioning as a framing device. It is now like it is being created by these storytellers as it goes along – the play is set in these creators’ rehearsal room as they struggle to come up with a new idea, and start writing this story. It allows us to be highly theatrical and acknowledge the storytelling themes, we can drop in and out of the action to narrate when we need to and we can show the strings as much as we want

We’re going to be performing in the Ignite festival in the Bike Shed and TheatreFest in Barnstsaple  – so lets see if we can make this version in three months….

 

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Work in progress performance

Just a quick note to say that a work-in-progress performance of the first act of The Ice Maiden is being performed on Monday 14th!

The Bike Shed Theatre, at 8:30pm and tickets are just £5. It’s part of the From Devon With Love festival and it would be great to see you there and any feedback will be very welcome!

From Devon With Love

theicemaiden3

“She, the murderess, the destroyer, is half a child of air and half the powerful ruler of the streams”

SourDough Theatre present Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ice Maiden, the dark tale of a young man called Rudy, whose life is beset by an evil being – the queen of the glaciers, a force of icy rage from the natural world, the titular Ice Maiden. After escaping her when he was young he must now do everything in his power to resist the lure of the Ice Maiden and escape her frosty grasps.

Working from Andersen’s original text, SourDough have devised their own version, merging the old story with their new interpretation. Here they unveil the first act of their latest production as part of a work-in-progress piece, a morbid fairy-tale, exploring a world that is both beautiful and grotesque. The story is illustrated with many of the company’s favourite devices; shadows, projection and live music. As the first performance of this new project SourDough are experimenting with bringing together a range of visual and technical elements, to create a distinctive storytelling experience.

SourDough Theatre will perform their piece at The Bike Shed Theatre as part of From Devon With Love, a 2 week festival of new local theatre.

Monday 14th January
8:30pm
Single show from £5, two shows from £7.

Writing challenges

The quest for a final version of a script often seems to be one that never ends. You can always go through a scene and tighten up a few lines ‘one last time’. And then one more last time after that. And a couple more revisions after that….

By the last few rehearsals you may not actually bother to adjust the actual script – if I look at the final drafts of previous shows they are always surpringingly different to what we actually did on the first night. That being said there is a distinct stage when you realise the latest draft is, well, pretty good. A draft you feel you could actually perform, or at the very least read-through without wincing at that crappy bit in scene 5.

It has been a tricky little writing process, mostly because it has the play changes tone so regularly. Obviously with any script, different scenes have different aims – one scene might just be there to introduce a character, another is to bring comic relief, etc. That rule is particularly stringent for The Ice Maiden as Hans Christian Andersen can vary the style from one chapter to another a great deal. Combined with our own plans for keeping the theatrical effects mixed-up can make scriptwriting a bit of a headache.

More than anything it’s a simple question of headspace as you have to change from writing a piece of narration, to a lighthearted piece of banter between two talking cats; from a naturalistic dinner scene to a thunderous, declamatory speech by the Ice Maiden. As it turns out we’re considerably stronger at writing the dramatic bits than we are at the simpler stuff, and have become quite efficient at combining the original text and our own writing together.

But dialogue-heavy scene are a different story altogether. Perhaps the lack of a jumping-off point is the problem – it is easy to find a well-written  descriptive passage that you can build around to creat a chunk of narration, while finding some of Andersen’s dialogue that isn’t pretty terrible is quite a challenge. In the end the best way we’ve discovered is storyboarding out what needs to happen in the scene, convert that into rough dialogue and then ‘age’ it by trying to find more archaic phrases for what you’re struggling to say. It certainly gets the scene done but they lack that little bit of detail that makes them seem more real, our dialogue often ends up being pointed and functional, lacking the filler that helps it flow.

Still at least it gives us something to use for rehearsals, and perhaps improvise around, though we’d probably have to then transcribe our improv lines and age them all over again. Will that work? Watch this space

The Ice Maiden

It’s about time I reveal the detail of our major new project – The Ice Maiden, inspired from the original short story by Hans Christian Anderson, a strange little fairy tale that will work as the source for a very SourDough adaptation.

Following on from the previous blog, I’ll summarise how we came across this relatively-unknown tale. Having decided that we wanted to do an adaptation of a pre-existing text, probably an archaic one with a nice mythological flavour, we ended up looking at a wide variety of classic stories from around the world, eventually narrowing it down to 2 possiblities – The Ice Maiden and The Odyssey. We were quite split over which one to do, but ultimately decided that while we had a lot of ideas for The Odyssey they were logistically and financially too ambitious right now – and so we came to The Ice Maiden.

Anderson’s story is pretty dark, a tale about a young man in Switzerland called Rudy, whose life is beset by an evil being, the queen of the glaciers, a force of icey rage from the natural world, the titular Ice Maiden. Its translated, archaic dialogue gives you a gothic richness, while also leaving room for our own writing to fill in the gaps inevitably left by the novel-play transisition. If you glance through the original text you can see the sort of thing many theatre companies would do with it, it would really work as a folksy, whimsical piece for children – Theatre Alibi would love to do this play.

But we wanted to do something a little more interesting. Family-orientated theatre has never been our thing and we saw a lot more potential in the story. Our version would be ‘multi-old-media’, deeply immersed in a morbid fairy-tale atmosphere, a world both beautiful and grotesque, illustrated with many of our favourite devices; shadows, projection and live music. If you’ve seen our previous productions the most similar we can compare it to is A Christmas Carol, at least in it’s more theatrical parts where we used several set devices to create the effects we wanted. We should be able to make this quite a fascinating performative journey though a dark little world.
We’ve been working on it for a few weeks now and are making steady progress. We started by repeatedly running through the text, working out how to change the structure, narrowing down the characters and gathering more and more ideas of what we wanted to try. A list of conventions was made – shadow puppets for animals, wooden puppets for children for instance – and gradually a script started taking form. It was a tricky one to write, mostly because we end up changing style so frequently; it is hard to change your mindset from planning a part-live, part-projected video dream sequence, to writing naturalistic dialogue for an awkward dinner scene. But we now have a working script and are beginning to create and experiment, bit-by-bit.

From now on we’ll try and keep this blog a little more updated, and give you all the latest news on the high and lows of making such a changeable, complex piece.

What we’ve been doing with the past few months

Looks like I haven’t been keeping this very updated, so it’s about time I let everyone know what we’ve been up to lately.

When we finally finished You Only Let Die Anyone Who Loved Me Forever, we had to make a decsion about what we were going to do next. The Watcher and the Watched is still something we really want to carry on doing one day, as we think the idea has a lot of potential. However it is really dependent on getting the right space for the piece – we can’t construct a set, but need to find a perfect venue for both rehearsal and performance purposes, and we have yet to find this elusive place which can cure our creativity blocks and give us the momentum to play with the idea. So we’re putting the piece in a box for the time being, though with every intention of coming back to it in the future.

So instead we decided to start on an entirely new project, with a brand new idea. Now one of the hardest stages of any process is coming up with that initial concept – there was nothing we were trying to inspire from, we had to choose from pretty much every idea we could think of, which takes a lot of narrowing down to say the least. As we branstormed through various concepts, some ended up being explored in more depth than others. One idea we liked, one born of Laura’s and Charlotte’s experiences as teaching assistants, was what it was like being 12 – the ridiculousness of that age, the things that seem important then, and so on. This sort of expanded into contrasting ourselves now to ourselves at various other ages, and we ended up writing little individual bits and podding out some small performances to play around with the concept a little more.

In the end however we decided to go down one of our favourite routes – adapting from a pre-existing text. We’ve never had much strength in writing a good script from scratch, but have alwys had much better results when we have some original work to start from. Sometimes we’ve been pretty faithful to the original, such as in A Christmas Carol, but this time we wanted to use a piece as more of an inspiration from which we can go down a really interesting artistic direction. We talked about variuys texts, mythologies and stories and eventually settled on one. In fact, we’ve been working on it for a little while, but I’ll give you the details in another blog shortly. Suffice to say, we are very keen on it….

 

Membership changes

I’m a bit late posting about this, but thought I should make a blog to update everyone about this.

Recently there has been some major changes in SourDough – one of our main members, Bec Benzie, has left the group. She has been a vital part of our group, a performer in many of our productions, a constant contributor, a Shakespeare expert – her importance in our work cannot be understated.

We are very sad to see her go….

…but we are even happier to welcome our new member Bec Fraser!

Bec and Theo got married on August 3rd and are now living like a proper grown-up couple in Bristol, commuting down to Exeter for rehearsal purposes. So share in the congratulations to the happy, performative couple!