Arts Council England funded development of NEST, 2022
Updated: Nov 7, 2022
As this stage of development draws to a close we wanted to look back at the last few weeks and thank our many partners and artists who have joined and supported us through this amazing process. And by we, I mean the three core Spilt Ink artists: Nathalie Codsi, Hester Welch and Sarah Cribdon.
We kicked off our Research and Development phase at The Egg, Royal Theatre Bath. We worked remotely with our wonderful co-writer Shagufta K Iqbal to pin down the heart of the story and find the most necessary pieces of language for our minimal-text show. At this early stage it was also important for us to have our designer, Ruby Brown, in the room so she could see the practical needs of our props and costume items. An integral part of her work was also developing on the original backpack houses designed by Blythe Brett from our previous R&D.
We were also fortunate to bring in Adam Fuller as an outside eye and our sound designer / stage manager Jack Drewry, who was wearing his sound designer hat at this point. By having our creatives in the room in the early stages of the project, we are able to work collaboratively and develop the project as an ensemble of artists.
An important part of our research and development process was returning to workshop with the same group of Year 4 and Year 6 children at St Nicholas of Tolentine Primary School, that we started the project with back in 2021. For these workshops, at their school, we asked the Year 4 children to design elements of props and costumes that they would use to arm themselves to get a bird out of their bedroom. We later passed these drawings on to our designer and she was able to create a blanket designed directly by one of the children and included props such as a wooden spoon in our inventory. With the Year 6 children, we discussed the different qualities of the main character Hadeel and started experimenting with music to transport us to different worlds.
At the end of this week we also met up with our puppet designer and makers Josh Elwell and Karolina Czyz who talked us through their designs. Additionally, we received our final flyers/poster designs from our illustrator, Neve Morley, and set to work distributing both online and in person.
After a making week for our designer and puppet maker, we reunited at Trinity Community Arts to begin our devising period. Now equipped with our incredible bird puppet and beautiful props and costumes we were able to start playing in earnest and discovering the shape of the show. At the start of the devising stage, we welcomed our school children into Trinity Community Arts so that they could experience being in their local an arts venue and working alongside professional artists. The Year 4 children explored the friends in the story and devised games, one of which, called 'the bomb' made it into the final show as the game that the friends play at the beginning. Our incredible collaborating musician, Alphonse Daudet Touna, led the Year 6s in a percussion workshop in which the children created their own rhythms. They got the chance to ask questions to Alphonse and our sound designer Jack, who also recorded some of the rhythms and would later include them in the final sound design.
The rest of our devising period was spent creating and building material, working closely with our creatives. In this period, we also felt the need to embody the character of Baba through a voice, so we employed Saeed Taji Farouky, to record Hadeel's precious letter being read aloud. We were excited to welcome back Adam for some days across the devising and subsequent rehearsal periods, to continue having an outside eye giving direction and reminding us of the wider story. We also had our puppet director, Josh, come in for one session in the devising period and one session in the rehearsal period, to continue to hone our use of puppetry and tie it in with the overall physical language of the piece.
For our rehearsal period, back at The Egg, Jack swapped his hat to stage manager and started to consider lighting, while Adam helped to clarify sequences and tighten moments of choreography. On the last day we had our photographer and videographer, Camilla Adams joined us to capture moments of our run throughs, with the intention to produce a marketing package of images and a trailer to attract future bookers and producers to the project.
Then we were straight into our first shows! Which were as follows:
6th October 22: The Wardrobe Theatre (fee-paying public show)
7th October 22: Trinity Community Arts (closed show Jacari charity)
8th October 22: Trinity Community Arts (fee-paying public show)
8th October 22: J3 Library (free open show)
9th October 22: Felix Road Playground (free open show)
10th October 22: Trinity Community Arts (closed school show: St Nicholas of Tolentine Primary School)
10th October 22: Trinity Community Arts (closed school show: Hannah More Primary School)
After the school performances and the open shows in community places, Hester led post-show workshops to explore the themes of the show and some of our tools as play-driven devisers. We also collected feedback from all of the audiences by inviting children, teachers and guardians to write or draw their favourite moments or give general feedback. Finally, we gave each child an extension activity sheet for them to take home and complete with their family. The activity sheet included a QR code linking to a youtube video that taught the children the Kunde song, as well as creative drawing activities on the theme of home. We translated the simple instructions into three of the most commonly spoken languages in East Bristol (Romanian, Bengali and Arabic), so that parents could fully engage alongside their children, regardless of their English level.
Performer / Deviser / Producer: Nathalie Codsi
Performer / Deviser / Producer: Hester Welch
Performer / Deviser: Sarah Cribdon
Voice of Baba: Saeed Taji Farouky
Stage Manager / Sound Designer / Composer: Jack Drewry
Costume and Prop Designer: Ruby Brown
Original Prop Designs: Blythe Brett
Puppet Designer and Maker / Puppet Director: Josh Elwell
Puppet Designer and Maker: Karolina Czyz
Co-writer: Shagufta K Iqbal
Outside-Eye: Adam Fuller
Kunde Song Composer: Alphonse Daudet Touna
Illustrator: Neve Morley
Photography / Videography: Camilla Adams
Arts Council England
Trinity Community Arts
The Wardrobe Theatre
The Egg, Royal Theatre Bath
St Nicholas of Tolentine Primary School
Junction 3 Library