The solution to creativity blocks

Well it has been a while since the last post and this is because, despite arriving fresh faced and bushy tailed into a new year, ready to get back into developing Watcher and the Watched, experiment with new styles and ask important artistic questions….we hit a complete block.

We could go over practicalities fine, discuss business card designs and rehearsal structures perfectly well but in terms of anything creative we had, well, nothing. Absolutely the worst thing to face when getting to a new phase in a project is a complete imagination drought.

So what can we do to get those creative juices flowing again? Games? Workshops?

Instead we remembered how coming exhausted out of Rogues and Wanderers we did a small, simple adaptation of an existing source that was both enjoyable and very allowing of creativity, namely A Christmas Carol. From this it was then very easy to flow straight into a more major project, The Bloodline.

Realising this was exactly what we needed we cast about for something to work off – a novel? A childhood story? A play? And then we realised we had a far better idea: James Bond. We would make our own Bond film.

Suffice to say we are just coming out of R+D and into storyboarding and we will give you more details in a few details when we have a script. A script that will of course be shaken.

Not stirred


Catch Up

I haven’t blogged in a really long time. And suddenly on this sleepy Saturday afternoon I feel a great need to. So here goes,  this is what’s been happening  with SourDough Theatre in the last couple of months.

The Bloodline

After the final performance of The Bloodline on Saturday 2nd April, SourDough Theatre hung up their sheep skin coats, wiped their faces clean from make-up, packed away their set, their complete works and moped the floor free from spaghetti. On Monday 4th April (My birthday!) at 6.30pm, we were back in the rehearsal room with a new show!

We felt very lucky to have an exciting new addition to the team; Dr Jerri Daboo as she invited us to work with her on staging Red Oleanders by Rabindrath Tagore to mark the celebration of Tagore’s 150th Birthday.

Jerri had been asked to stage something  for the Tagore Festival at Dartington, and for some reason she chose SourDough Theatre to be her actors in her chosen Tagore play Red Oleanders.In Rehearsal

Red Oleanders  was a totally new challenge for SourDough. Jerri had chosen it because the story paralleled to some current world issues, which forced us to present some bold political statements with the piece. Some of us were more comfortable with this than others in the group and it stirred some passionate debate.

We, as a group, had not yet attempted to be particularly political with anything else we’ve made this year. I’m not sure why really, but there tends to be a reluntance or prickliness between us when a political observation or interpretation is suggested. Lack of bravery perhaps.

Red Oleanders

So, with Red Oleanders, we had to find our comfort with the statements we were making which was a great challenge and by the end I felt really refreshed by it and looked forwarded to seeing how it would be received by an audience.

I couldn’t wait to perform at Dartington Hall for a lot of reasons. A few weeks before, I’d attended part of Jerri’s Michael Chekov conference at University of Exeter. She presented a film about the Michael Chekov Years at Dartington Hall. The film was so recent in my mind, I couldn’t help let the history of the place capture my imagination as we were there setting up before our performance. I was looking forward to performing to some Tagore experts, if not a little intimidated. Tagore’s writing was something I hadn’t come across before our process with Jerri, so I was certain the audience knew a lot more about the brave decisions Jerri had made in adapting the piece and I was eager to see how it would be received.

We were the only performers of the festival to perform one of Tagore’s plays. So we were privileged to be described (by someone, it might not have been true) as the head-liner of the day. Bizarre!

The Great Hall is massive! We had great fun performing there, we had to work really hard to fill the room with sound and energy and for me it was quite funny how much our performances changed or rather grew in intensity. Our little company probably won’t get the opportunity to play in such a large room for a while, so we owe Jerri a huge thank you for giving us that gift.

We learnt a lot, as always, about our group dynamic during this process. The big challenge and the thing that is an ongoing learning curve for SourDough is the sheer mass of the group. We are a LARGE company of 9, and we are used to working very collaboratively and in each process experiment with different approaches to and levels of facilitation.  To work with an outside director was an important move for us and it was great that we had the chance to work with someone as experienced and trustworthy as Jerri. She was one of our lecturers at University and even though she didn’t teach all of us, she still was able to carry an authority from the student-teacher dynamic and managed to mediate discussion and debate in ways that hadn’t been possible within SourDough before.

On reflection, it was nice to hear responses from Jerri throughout the process along the lines of  ‘it’s nice to work with a fully formed ensemble, it makes my job easier because you are all so comfortable with each other’ and I think it was only in working with an outside director that I realised how in tune we have become as a company.

By experiencing what it is to have our trust in a director’s vision and being able to focus more our individual roles, I think we are now able to understand better the ways in which we work collaboratively. With Rogues and Wanderers and The Bloodline, there came a point in the process in which we felt the need to map the ‘peaks and troughs’ of the  dramaturgy of the piece. This would be a group exercise where we would spend as long as it took to reach an agreement of where the journey of the piece should lie, where the light and dark needed to be placed and at which points in the piece the energy needed to shift. We would do this because it would be important for us to have a collective understanding and agreement of the dramaturgy. In Red Oleanders, because of our trust in Jerri’s vision, this collective understanding and agreement wasn’t always necessary and we could see the work Jerri was doing to make those decisions herself as the director.

For us, this discovery highlights the importance of exercises like that (that being merely an example) when you’re are working collaboratively without a director, and perhaps teaches us to have greater trust in the importance of these exercises. I really feel more and more that we are discovering our own practice as a company, which is a nice feeling. It gives us a foundation to keep growing and developing from.

Next is a piece called Home Towns, that we are developing for the two Devon fringe festivals, Barnstaple’s Fringe TheatreFest and Exeter Fringe Festival. It is a piece that will explore each other’s histories and memories of our Home Towns. Again we are treading new ground here in search of ways to make something that has a strong relevance to us as a group and perhaps even a stronger access point for our audiences . . . who knows.

Monique Luckman

Tick tock tick tock tick tock

I am writing this as I sit watching last minute rehearsals for The Bloodline. The performance is on Thursday so time is ticking! Everyone has so much energy and is having so much fun with what has turned out to be a very physical piece!

I’m not performing in the piece this time so I have had the pleasure of sitting in on rehearsals as SourDough have been choreographing fights, squabbles, and gruesome gruesome deaths (we felt it wouldn’t be Shakespeare without them).

Mark Ruddick Is God

We were very lucky to have a workshop and guidance by Mark Ruddick from Squire Theatre last week. We were in utter awe of the extent of how much he was able to teach us about his fascinating craft in such a small amount of time. He really is a genius and we are very grateful for his time!

We are performing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7.30pm this week at the Bike Shed Theatre, it would be great to see you there! We have been very playful with Shakespeare . . . We have been playing with sub-plots, contexts, characters, settings and outcomes. I can’t wait to see what everyone thinks! I’d love to go into more detail but since it’s so close to performance day, I would hate to spoil it for you!

In the meantime, I will leave you a little video that shows how much fun we have really been having!

Monique Luckman


The Bloodline

Thursday 31st March – Saturday 2nd April 2011, 7.30pm

at The Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter.


Tickets: £10 (£5)
Book now 01392 667080

Women in the Mafia

Women in the Mafia


I thought I’d offer a personal reflection on a certain strand of research I have been undergoing for our upcoming show, The Bloodline.
The Bloodline is inspired by the dynamics of power within criminal underworlds and their parallels to Shakespeare’s King Lear. We are asking how power is perceived and how power is sought. Do we yearn for hierarchical structure? What happens when this structure is thrown into turmoil?

Criminal underworlds present insular environments where power is intensified, where the threat of violence is immediate and everyone’s morals and motives are questionable. Many of Shakespeare’s texts explore power in different ways. His words and characters carry weight and gravity that provide a timelessness which we feel will provide an access point for an audience to the themes of power we wish to explore.

The Bloodline


We have delved into many paths of research on different organised crime gangs around the world and I must admit, the first thing that has struck me is that women are almost never mentioned in these contexts. At first it seemed as if women have never existed within these age old traditions of crime and power.

As a group, we are mostly concerning ourselves with the American Italian mafia and are becoming more and more influenced by the iconic gangster film genre. Its influence seems to be uncontrollably bleeding into our work, which we’re not minding at all at the moment but perhaps that’s for another blog. It is the American Italian mafia and the Italian mafia where I have been able to find an insight into the role of women, and its complicated web of changing traditions have become a real stimulant for me.

There are traditional mafia rules that formally excludes the participation of women in the criminal organisation. Only men of Italian descent are allowed to become members. The traditional role for mafia women are to be mothers and wives of Mafia members. They belong to the Mafia as opposed to being part of it. They are ‘Property of the Mafia’. It seems that Mafia women are expected not to ask questions about Mafia business and are actively kept out of the loop. Some writings tend to root that fact in catholic belief, the mother is Madonna – the pure being. But other reasons are suggested, that women become emotional over the dangers regarding their sons and husbands and that she will lose all objectivity.

women in the mafia


It interested me how these traditions effect relationships with their husbands. “Pillow Talk” is regarded as a blatant violation of the code of absolute secrecy. It is believed that the reason mobsters take mistresses is to have a woman they are able to confide in.

We have been looking at these traditions and their parallels and contradictions with Shakespeare stories and it is when we have been looking at King lear that my imagination has gone wild! What happens when women of the mafia somehow are presented with a high position of power and the responsibilities and choices that come with it.

We have been aware that in the last few decades women’s roles in the Mafia have begun to change. Now that Mafia women get educated, they have become more active in the criminal organisation and are let into the secrets. They have become book-keepers and messengers. Karen Hill, a character in Goodfellas is a good example.

There are rare examples of women who have began to take power when their husbands and brothers have been sent to prison or have been forced to go on the run. Many of these women have proved themselves by running a successful and equally brutal regime. However, no female is yet to be appointed by virtue of their own leadership qualities. They have only delegate or substitute power. There has been no official change to the Mafia code in regards to female involvement.

I am wondering whether female liberation is happening in these rare examples of female leadership or whether women are performing an act of further obedience by allowing the Mafia system to continue during the absence of the male family members. These questions are allowing me to view King Lear through a new lense, especially the Goneril and Regan characters and their dynamic with Cordelia. I’m not sure yet how this research might manifest in the final product as we are always shifting ideas and evolving healthily but it’s proving a complex topic for me and I’m really enjoying exploring its possibilities in the rehearsal room.

Monique Luckman


2011 is already shaping up to be a very exciting year for SourDough Theatre. We are currently deep into rehearsals for our upcoming show, The Bloodline, which is an adaptation of King Lear and, indeed, many things Shakespeare. Our emphasis with this show will be on the visual as we use The Bard’s text as another media (such as shadows or music). The framework we have been researching since 2010’s mince-pie fuelled fundraiser, A Christmas Carol, is that of underground organisations and the crime world. We are fairly confident that we can somehow find a place for Will’s words in this world. The Bloodline will be performed at The Bike Shed Theatre on 31st March – 2nd April.

The Bloodline Poster

We have exciting news to do with the In The Flesh festival at The Barbican in Plymouth, where we will be showcasing a sneak-peek extract from The Bloodline. We will also be performing at the Tagore Festival at Dartington where we have teamed up with Jerri Daboo to create a new version of The Red Oleanders which we will taking to the festival (and possibly beyond?). We have put our names forward for a few other festivals and, if these applications pay off, 2011 will shape up to be a very interesting one.

With each New Year come (it seems) new opportunities and we have been talking long and hard about where to take the company as we finish off our first year of existence (and indeed what kind of theatre company we are). In light of this we are looking to take one of our shows (tbc-watch this space!) on a South West Summer Tour.