Category Archives: Arts

Valentine’s Day – the Romeo and Juliet Way

Mix the Play with Tushar Pandey and Kriti Pant

Valentine’s Day, a recent phenomenon in India, has caught the fancy of people especially the youth. February 14 is a day when people express their love to their significant others (and also to their friends, teachers, siblings and parents). Popular Valentine’s Day symbols include flowers, cupid, arrows, love birds, hearts and the colours pink and red.  Restaurants, cinemas, malls and other popular hangout places are packed as couples celebrate the day in togetherness.

Legendary romantic couples down the ages have included Laila-Majnu, Shahjahan- Mumtaz Mahal,  Antony-Cleopatra,  Shirin-Farhad. And of course Romeo and Juliet –  the lead characters from Shakespeare’s tragedy about two young star-crossed lovers. Adapted numerous times for stage, film, musicals and opera it is perhaps the most-filmed play of all time. The most celebrated film versions have been George Cukor‘s multi-Oscar-nominated 1936 productionFranco Zeffirelli‘s 1968 version, and Baz Luhrmann‘s 1996 MTV-inspired Romeo + Juliet. The latter two were both, in their time, the highest-grossing Shakespeare films ever.

Romeo and Juliet have become emblems of young lovers and doomed love. Fatefully referred to as “star-cross’d” the stars seem to have predetermined the lovers’ future.  And Indians are the greatest believers in destiny and fate. More than a tragedy, people regard the plot as an emotional melodrama.  So how could Hindi cinema stay far behind from a storyline which offers so many exciting ingredients ?  Still talked about Bollywood adaptations have been Ek Duuje Ke Liye (a cross-cultural romance between a Tamil boy and a Goan girl),  Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak  (which introduced  mega star Aamir Khan),  Ishaqzaade (which revolved around  honour killings).   More recently Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s opulent  “Goliyon Ki Rasleela – Ram Leela” with current heart throbs Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh was a blockbuster hit.

The timeless story has also been interpreted in modern times using social media inventions. The Royal Shakespeare Company presented a version entitled Such Tweet Sorrow, as an improvised, real-time series of tweets on Twitter and YouTube pictures and video. In the age of  mobile  phones, the story would perhaps have had a modern twist –  Romeo and Juliet would have had location-aware apps telling them of their whereabouts, and thus “the course of true love would have been… more connected” .

Mix the Play with Kalki Koechlin and Adil Hussain

The British Council invites you connect with this fabulous tale of love via an exciting online app called Mix the Play.  You can control the casting, interpretation, setting and music and create your own version of the famous balcony scene.  The platform is intuitive and it is easy to share your creations on social media. Without any prior knowledge of directing or Shakespearean text, you can create your own scene and experience what it feels like to “direct” a scene from a Shakespeare classic. You never know when you may get an opportunity to direct your own play or film in the future. Here’s your training ground. And you can’t go wrong!

Reimagined by well- known theatre director Roysten Abel the classic balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet has been shot in different locations – a modern day café, on a wooden staircase in a theatre, in   a locked room in an old ancestral home. By making a choice of actors, storylines, sets, costumes and music there are 24 ways in which you can “mix” this scene, every permutation and combination leading to an exciting new version.  The cast includes well-known film and theatre actors Adil Hussain, Kalki Koechlin,  Tushar Pandey and Kriti Pant.

You can then upload the scene “directed” by you on Facebook or Twitter and mark it to #ShakespeareLives and #MixThePlay. And  of course you can tag your friends. Come on what are you waiting for ? This could be the most fun way you send your love online to your Valentine!

Written by Vivek Mansukhani

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Authors from Bloody Scotland at the 2017 Kolkata Lit Festival

Bloody Scotland is an annual Crime Writers festival held in Stirling, Scotland, and sees participation from some well-known crime fiction authors from Scotland and India. Earlier in February, three Scottish authors participated in a series of sessions with Indian crime fiction authors to explore themes around crime writing:

Lin Anderson shares her experience of participating in the Kolkata Literature festival in this Blog post here  

My favourite memory was of a boy of about ten who had chosen his book from a selection of classics. Clutching it to his chest like a prize possession he was approaching the pay desk with a broad smile on his face.

Lin Anderson

Lin Anderson

Lin Anderson is best known as the author of a series of crime thriller novels and for her part in founding the annual ‘Bloody Scotland’ crime writing festival. Lin’s novel Paths of the Dead was shortlisted for the 2015 Scottish Crime Book of the Year award. Her novels have been published in translation in a number of countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden and Russia. Lin is also an award-winning scriptwriter, with her work broadcast internationally on radio and TV.

 

 

 

Doug Johnstone also writes about his time in Kolkata, dodging the traffic, meeting authors from India and gorging on masala omelettes in his blog here

Turns out we had a lot in common with our Kolkatan counterparts, and we learnt a lot about the crime scene there, as well as spreading the word about our own writing. Ideally, we ‘d love to have some Indian writers come over to Scotland in the future, and I hope we can make that happen.

Doug Johnstone. Picture: Chris Scott

Doug Johnstone. Picture: Chris Scott

Doug Johnstone is a writer, musician and journalist based in Edinburgh, Scotland. His eighth novel, Crash Land, was published by Faber & Faber in November 2016. His previous book, The Jump, was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Best Scottish Crime Novel. Doug has had short stories appear in various publications and anthologies.

 

 

 

 

Find out more about the Bloody Scotland Festival 

 

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David Leddy writing workshops in India

Being a writer is wonderful in many ways and frustrating in many ways. Words are very literal things. As Bjork says “words are useless, especially sentences.”  You can stretch language and manipulate it, that’s what I love to do. But it falls off a cliff pretty quick. The more obtuse your writing becomes the more it turns into linguistic soup. I often feel rather envious of visual artists for the freedom and ambiguity that the non-textual affords. It’s so much easier to be elliptical, indirect, atmospheric.

In November 2016 I came to Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi and Kolkata to lead workshops for writers and to have a series of meetings with artists who I might collaborate with in the future. The British Council asked me to write a blogpost about it.

So, bearing in mind what I’ve described above, I decided that I would give you a visual essay, a series of atmospheres that sums up my trip in an indirect way. I hope you enjoy it.

© David Leddy

© David Leddy

© David Leddy

© David Leddy

© David Leddy

© David Leddy

© David Leddy

© David Leddy

 

© David Leddy

© David Leddy

© David Leddy

Welcome home biscuits © David Leddy

 

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Sir Ian McKellen casts magic spell on Mumbai: launches Shakespeare on Film collection

Ian Mckellen addresses school children at the BD Somani school, Mumbai

Ian Mckellen addresses children at BD Somani school, Mumbai

The actor was in Mumbai between 23- 26 May, as a guest of the British Council and the British Film Institute, to launch the Shakespeare on Film Collection at the NCPA in Mumbai

Calm and collected. Sir Ian McKellen’s on-screen persona matches his real-life self. ‘Gandalf’ aka McKellen kicked-off his Shakespeare tour of India in the balmy weather of Mumbai, with an hour-long Twitter chat with fans from across the globe, on 22 May.

Having arrived the night before on a long-haul flight from London, McKellen was gracious enough to entertain questions from fans across the globe who enquired about his eating preferences to his favourite Shakespeare roles on-screen. Check out updates from the tweet chat here.

Having discovered Shakespeare “at the age of 9″, McKellen is known for his acting on stage in plays such as Macbeth, Henry IV; King Lear and Richard III. The next day, 23 May, he spent an entertaining evening, in-conversation with actor Aamir Khan at the NCPA, Mumbai.

With a full house, the nearly 1,000 audience members listened intently as both veterans discussed Shakespeare and acting influences.

It’s no surprise that McKellen is a master of the stage and that fact was exemplified when he delivered an impromptu performance of the Elizabethan play, Sir Thomas More, to a chorus of applause.

Ian McKellen with Robin Baker at the NCPA Mumbai talking about 'Richard III'

Ian McKellen with Robin Baker at the NCPA Mumbai talking about ‘Richard III’

The next day, McKellen screened his BFI classic RichardIII to a small gathering of Shakespeare fans from Mumbai.

The 108-minute screening was followed by a lively discussion on the influences behind the movie, between him and Robin Baker of the BFI!

 

 

Not just Shakespeare, McKellen is known for being a global LGBT rights celebrity having been vocal about his opinions from an early stage.

Ian at Kashish Opening Ceremony

Ian at Kashish Opening Ceremony

He was also the guest of honour at the Kashish MIQF festival on 25 May, where he also celebrated his 77th birthday with a cake-cutting ceremony. On the final day of his visit, Ian had a school engagement where he addressed children from the BD Somani school, who also staged a version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. 

 

 

 

 

Further Reading: 

Alan Gemmell talks about Ian McKellen visit, Shakespeare and the Digital Open Call  

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The gigantic world of Shakespeare

Young actor Riddhi Sen performs Shakespeare at the British Council in Kolkata

Young actor Riddhi Sen performs Shakespeare at the British Council in Kolkata

Actor Riddhi Sen, who was part of the Shakespeare Day celebrations at the British Council in Kolkata on 23 April 2016, writes on how it’s essential to keep performing and reinterpreting Shakespeare.

William Shakespeare wrote plays on kings, soldiers and empires but even now his work perfectly fits our surroundings. Surprising, but if we really look around it makes perfect sense.
As a citizen of West Bengal it’s really wonderful to see how Shakespeare has been adapted on screen and stage repeatedly in recent times. There seems to be an urgency to adapt Shakespeare. What’s more interesting is that his plays don’t require interpretation. They fit smoothly into any situation.
The great Utpal Dutt staged Macbeth in the time of Emergency. In recent times we’ve seen a lot of Shakespeare in Bengali film and theatre. I have been really privileged to be a part of the play Macbeth, directed by my father Koushik Sen. The play gained a lot of accolades, including a review by Andrew Dickson in the Guardian. What amazed me was how Macbeth defined the exact socio-political situation of 2012 Bengal. It’s really inspiring to see how Julius Caesar becomes the story of Kolkata’s underworld in Srijit Mukherji’s Zulfiqar.
This gives me confidence as an artist to find out how Shakespeare’s plays live and breathe in my surroundings. It creates an insatiable desire in me to be a part of this gigantic yet human world of Shakespeare. It creates a sense of urgency in me to work with his plays. Maybe I’m not mature enough but instinctively it forces me to deal with all his characters and bring them under one roof in the form of a play or film.
I was amazed and inspired when I saw Kashmir become the setting of ‘to be or not to be’ in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider. It’s really important for our generation to realise that it’s just not important to interpret Shakespeare but it’s a bigger responsibility to make the plays more approachable for the masses. It’s more important to uproot the notion that in order to understand Shakespeare it requires a great deal of knowledge and maturity.

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A Cultural Shift: Dan Daw of Candoco Dance Company on disability in dance

Dance artist, Dan Daw, recently spent 10 days touring India with Candoco Dance Company, performing Studies for C supported by the British Council. In this blog, he captures his thoughts, feelings and observations of his first trip to India

Studies For C performers, Dan Daw and Mirjam Gurtner in Chennai

Studies For C performers, Dan Daw and Mirjam Gurtner in Chennai

Incredible India. Before experiencing India for myself, I’d look at that slogan plastered to the entire surface of a London black cab with a cynicism asking, “How can an entire country be described as just ‘incredible’?” It is a slogan our taxi driver in Delhi would exclaim proudly as we’d stop, patiently waiting while a holy bull sauntered nonchalantly across a road in rush hour, or as we’d swerve out of the way of vehicles coming toward us in strategic attempts to expedite their journey.

Having been, I can now answer my own question of doubt and unknowing by saying, “Because that’s exactly what it is. In every sense of the word, India is incredible.”

It is indeed a difficulty to pinpoint the very thing that makes India so incredible, but if held to task, it would absolutely be the people. This would be confirmed as I departed Chennai, departed Kolkata and departed Delhi on our 10-day tour, finding myself thinking back to moments shared with new-found friends.

Connected to each performance of Studies for C by Javier de Frutos, a work we have been touring with on and off for almost four years, was a post-show discussion, which revealed just how sincere and genuinely interested in Candoco Dance Company’s work, approach and legacy the people in each of the three cities actually were.

Artiste Dan Daw (middle) in a post-show discussion with Dr Ambika Kameshwar (second from left) in Chennai

Artiste Dan Daw (middle) in a post-show discussion with Dr Ambika Kameshwar (second from left) in Chennai

Although clear that dance therapy was the broader understanding of inclusive dance practice, there was a sense of wanting to move beyond the notion that dance for disabled people was simply to ‘fix’ them.

How did our audiences respond? Our performance sparked debate and raised some interesting and key questions from within the Chennai, Kolkata and Delhi audiences and arts communities about how a cultural shift might be able to occur to allow perceptions to expand. As an artist and producer, I am interested in the traces my practice leaves behind; the ripples that remain long after the pool closes.

Studies For C in Delhi

Studies For C in Delhi

It is my hope, rather than expectation, that these traces provoke a shift in artistic and social consciousness.

How do we, as foreign artists, facilitate this shift in artistic and social consciousness?

In 10 days it is impossible to know what this shift is, let alone how to facilitate it, but with the foundation a series of performances, post-show discussions, press engagements and community workshops provides, a structure can now be built and I suspect construction will begin soon.

 

About Dan Daw:

Dan Daw

Dan Daw

Dan danced with Candoco for four years from 2010 until 2014 and worked as Assistant Creative Producer in 2013. He still performs with the company in Studies for C and Imperfect Storm.

He completed a Bachelor of Creative Arts at the Flinders University Drama Centre in 2004. And joined Restless Dance Company in 2002, performing in works by Ingrid Voorendt, Kat Worth, Daisy Brown, Michael Whaites, Garry Stewart, and Billie Cook.

In early 2006, Dan danced with UK company FRONTLINE dance in their 5th Anniversary Tour and in 2007 he performed with Scottish Dance Theatre as Guest Dancer in Adam Benjamin’s Angels of Incidence for their Spring Tour. In 2007/2008, Dan worked with Kate Champion’s Force Majeure performing in The Age I’m In for the 2008 Sydney and Adelaide Festivals.

READ: For more information on the Studies For C India tour, click here: 

 

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Kathryn Harkup: the secret poisons of Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie had most certainly one poison for every occasion. As her tally of “killings” in her novels reflects that a total of 100 killings out of 300 were committed by poison. As a former volunteer nurse in World War 1, Christie had gained extensive knowledge of her chemicals. No wonder she used them to good effect to eliminate her characters.

In her debut non-fiction book , A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie chemist Dr Kathryn Harkup reveals her passion and respect for the work of Agatha Christie.

In this blog post, Harkup shares some interesting trivia & lesser-known facts about Christie and her use of poison through her fiction series.

  • Christie used more poisons and more often than any other crime writer. Her toxic tally is over 30 different killer compounds. She killed over 300 characters, over 100 of them by poison. She consistently displays an impressively high degree of accuracy in her use of poisons.

    Kathryn Harkup

    Kathryn Harkup, author of “A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie”

Christie trained as an Apothecaries’ Assistant during WWI which made her very knowledgeable in chemistry as well as dangerous drugs and different prescriptions that were available. Her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, written when she was working in a hospital dispensary, used three drugs to kill the victim (bromide powders, a narcotic and strychnine). She was complimented on her accuracy by a reviewer in The Pharmaceutical Journal, a review she was said to cherish above all others.

  • Her novel The Pale Horse used thallium, a very unusual poison. The plot was similar to some aspects of a real-life poisoning case, Graham Young who poisoned several of his work colleagues with thallium, and it was suggested Christie may have inspired him but he always denied it. But the novel may have saved two lives because the accurate descriptions of thallium poisoning symptoms alerted doctors to the true cause of a young girl’s mysterious illness.
  • Christie often used real-life murder cases as inspiration for her plots. Aspects of the Dr Crippen poisoning case appear in Ordeal by Innocence. The arsenic in the cake in After the Funeral is similar to the Marie LaFarge case. The suspected arsenic poisoning in Murder is Easy is very similar to the Armstrong case.

*This post was contributed by Dr Kathryn Harkup who will present her session at the Crime Writers Festival at the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival on 15 January & on the 17 Jan at the Oxford Books store, Connaught Place, New Delhi.

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Daljit Nagra: Ramayana – A Retelling India tour

Daljit Nagra was in India between 25 November – 5 December on a touring promotion of his latest novel Ramayana: A Retelling . He performed extracts from his latest compelling read in front of packed audiences in venues across Bangalore, New Delhi, Chandigarh and Mumbai as part of the Times Lit Fest. He shares some moments from his journey on the road and interacting with young audiences. Some moments from his reading:

Daljit Nagra

Daljit Nagra

Bangalore, 25 November, 2015
Venue: Vidya Shilp Academy school
Timing: 9:00 am – 3 pm

I suspect I’m crossing no line of tact by saying the traffic situation is impossible in Bangalore. Not only are the roads teeming with cars, motor bikes and horn bleats but there is no concept of lane driving. Drivers find a gap and invent a lane then shuffle along the jam-packed roads. I imagine all this would cause frustration. That’s too polite. I imagine it’d cause rage, proper road rage! So when on my third day here, my driver has an accident, my first but no doubt not last of the trip, he knocks a motorbike and both drivers head from their vehicles for a showdown.

Daljit Nagra at the Vidya Shilp Academy school in Bangalore

Daljit Nagra at the Vidya Shilp Academy school in Bangalore

I look away fearing fisticuffs and expletives. Instead, when I look up the drivers are checking each other vehicles and noticing nothing much has happened. Then in the 30 degree heat they seem to be wearing wry benign looks and seem to be chatting as though they’re about to exchange addresses for a meet up. When they eventually part, they seem lit with smiles as they return back into the traffic.

This must be an example of that famous laid-back, affable geniality attributed to Bangaloreans. I’m left wondering, if there’s any chance of the DVLA inculcating this gentility into the next generation of our British drivers?

New Delhi, 30 November, 2015
Venue: Maidens Hotel
Session: Performance reading

At the Delhi Festival last night, I watched the great Indian poet, Jeet Thayil, author of Booker Prize shortlisted Narcopolis, read from his Collected Poems. After the reading I bought his book and whilst queuing for the autograph, I bumped into a girl and a boy. It turned out although they looked like lean teenagers they were in their early 20s. I asked them about their poetry reading at school and they said they’d read mostly British Romantic poets and so they knew of very few Indian poets who write in English.

Daljit Nagra in New Delhi

Daljit Nagra at a performance reading of “Ramayana… in New Delhi

I asked them whether they were poets and both said that they were performance poets. They’d independently and quietly been writing page poetry then one day they’d gone on Youtube and discovered the likes of B Zephaniah and K Tempest. These clips had changed their lives because they too wanted to be performance poets.

 

 

They had both quit studies in Law to see if they could homogenise performance poetry in India. Into an Indian Poetry Society. They now live in Bangalore and have been funded in this venture by a young start-up entrepreneur. They both believe young people are not being encouraged into individual expression of if they are writing poetry they have no outlet for it. So this young couple, Shantanu and Nandini, have been visiting campuses around the country to spot new talent and give them an online presence.

 

I said I’d pass on their emails to people I know at The Poetry Society in Great Britain and to Apples & Snakes. Perhaps we are able to support this valiant cause.

Chandigarh, 1-2 December
Venue: British Library; Vivek High School; Yadavindra Public School, Mohali
Timing: 3 pm 

I have returned to the land of my ancestors as a poet, for the first time. Whilst being driven around and at poetry readings I’ve found myself hearing Dylan Thomas’ chiasmus about his own background, Ah the land of my fathers; my fathers can keep it! I felt this most potently last night at a reading I gave in Chandigarh.

Daljit Nagra at Brtish Library N Chnadigargh

Daljit Nagra at the British Library in Chandigarh

The audience for my event was even gendered and well-balanced in age, from College students up to a few elderly individuals. Once I was introduced by the MC I duly took the podium but there were no customary applause. Only stony silence. So I thought I’d try and lighten the mood with a couple of my more humorous poems. Neither was there laughter at my best lines nor was there applause at the end of each poem. Instead, each spectator seemed to wear a brow-knitted angered look. On it went, the stony silence, the perplexed look from each viewer. Anyway, I stopped reading ahead of time because I suspected my reading was clearly unwanted. Perhaps it had offended.

Yet when I was asked for questions, I was flooded by a stream of insightful questions. The audience put up their hands and whilst still not smiling, at least there were many lovely questions about my work which went on for over 40 minutes. Even after the event had finished, several people came up to me to discuss poetic and political issues. These issues helped me deepen, and are helping me deepen an understanding of myself.

Audience members enjoy the reading session at the British Library

Audience members enjoy the reading session at the British Library

So what I learned about my ancestors: their serious looks are scary looks (which I must have worn all my life in England!), they don’t care for humour but only for deadly serious poetry, they are wonderfully brilliant listeners and supremely interiorised about their appreciation; they allow you to elicit their pleasure by asking you brilliant questions.

I am proud to say the land of my fathers is a land I’d like to keep close to my heart. Next time I read in Punjab, I’ll come fully prepared to treat the silent treatment as a sign of affection.

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“Twelfth Night is about the madness of love”: Oliver Dimsdale, Filter theatre

Oliver Dimsdale, artistic director, Filter theatre on turning around a 400-year-old script and using a music and sound to keep the theatre experience live

  • Why is the production staged almost like a rehearsal? Why is it so minimal on stage?

When we made the show we only had 10 days to rehearse it, and a limited amount of money. This limited us to a smaller number of actors and meant that we didn’t have the budget for an expensive set. That’s why we have double roles with some actors.

“If music be the food of love, play on” is the first line of Twelfth Night. The play is about every form of love, and we interpreted that in as many forms of music and song too. We knew we were going to work with music and sound, the text, and the actors, so why make it any more than that?
If there is a design, or a concept behind the rehearsal aesthetic of the show, it is that there is a band on stage. They are Orsino’s band, helping him to find that ‘strain’ that unlocks the key to Olivia’s heart. They are also the band in Olivia’s household – Feste’s band perhaps. In that respect all we need is the equipment that a band has.

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night by Filter theatre ©Robert Day

  • How did the idea of ‘Filter’s Twelfth Night’ come about?

We got invited to go and be part of the RSC’s Complete Works after we’d performed Caucasian Chalk Circle for the National Theatre London, and they offered us a full rehearsal period. We said we’d like to approach Twelfth Night. Because there was no pressure on us, we were only going to do three performances up in Stratford for their Complete Works Festival and it was a tiny little footnote in the big, grand programme of the RSC.

Oliver Dimsdale, artistic director, Filter theatre

Oliver Dimsdale, Artistic Director, Filter Theatre

Twelfth Night’s definitely Shakespeare’s most lyrical play and Sean Holmes (the director) suggested that we use the Filter process to free ourselves of the shackles that can plague more traditional Shakespeare productions. The ethos was really ‘Let’s chuck the play into the room, add sound designers and brilliant actors and a me, and let’s just see what comes out of the process’, and sure enough sometimes when you’re using the gut and the heart instead of the head for inspiration, irreverent, interesting and dynamic things can come out of it.

  • You started off with six actors. How did you go about casting it and making those decisions?

A couple of suggested doublings from Sean were brilliant. The Fool and Maria (a double) both have huge vendettas against Malvolio and have good reasons to want to exact a revenge so at the point at which you see the Fool putting the nose on Malvolio at the end, there are echoes of Maria’s revenge as well in laying the letter down.

Andrew Aguecheek and Orsino (again, a double) are both in love with the same woman, so there were many echoes which was the point. And the Viola/ Sebastian double is obviously a very tricky double, but we think it adds a really lovely ambiguity and innuendo, a ‘ménage à trois’ going on with all these people that are chasing one person.

Twelfth Night by Filter Theatre ©Robert Day

Twelfth Night by Filter Theatre ©Robert Day

  • What is the significance of using so many microphones and sound technology?

In our production of Twelfth Night we use the natural voice, the amplified voice (microphones), the distorted voice (reverberated through use of a ‘memory man’ distortion machine), and a pre-recorded voice (i.e. the Shipping Forecast on the radio).

Sound is very important to Filter, though very often not central to many other theatre productions, where it’s very often tacked on to the end of a rehearsal process. Filter shows have sound design and music at the very heart of the action on stage because we work very closely with sound designers and composers.

If you show the sound being created on stage, we think it frees the audience to think beyond the boundaries of theatre, whereas if you simply hear sound effects or music on stage whilst not seeing where and who is creating it, it feels like you are trying to con the audience that the play, or the scene, is happening in a particular period or environment.

In Filter shows there is always a playfulness and an honestly about the relationship between the actor, the story and the sound designer on-stage that we believe is an exciting ‘live’ aspect to theatre. It’s about keeping the experience of theatre as live as possible, not always so pre-recorded, or second-hand.

  • Why does the actor playing Sir Toby Belch wear traditional Elizabethan costume?

The idea came from when I originally played Sir Toby 10 years ago. When we’d done the first performance, I’d been sitting around on stage, like the rest of the cast, in jeans and a T-shirt, and it just didn’t seem to work for me personally, as well as with Belch being an anarchic whirlwind who is constantly disrupting Olivia’s household, causing mayhem.

So I took myself off to the RSC Costume department and fitted myself in a clichéd Elizabethan doublet and hose, and ruff. Nobody else knew about this, and no one on stage knew what I was going to do. I made sure I had a can of Special Brew (beer) and there was food hidden everywhere around the stage. During the performance I entered and exited the stage whenever I wanted to during the scenes.

Twelfth Night by Filter Theatre ©Robert Day

Twelfth Night by Filter Theatre ©Robert Day

We wanted to get away from the cliched portrayal of Belch. We wanted him to be real – as real as possible – by having a young Sir Toby Belch dressed in doublet and hose searching for alcohol, to embrace what the character is about. He’s desperately looking for the next drink to forget his woes.”
The really interesting thing about the experiment was that not only was it demonstrating the destructive element in Belch with Olivia’s household, but there was also the notion of there being the remnants of this 400-year-old text that we were speaking and that this is the way that it was done originally but with a bit of a twist because he’s got a can of Special Brew and he’s genuinely drunk.

The play is about the madness and wonder of love. Every character is in love with, or loved by, another character, in many different ways. It is also his most lyrical play, and hence the amount of different types of music in our show.

  • Where do you draw the line between interpretation and adaptation when approaching Twelfth Night?

The play is called Twelfth Night, or What You Will, and the production draws inspiration from both the title and the subtitle. We interpret and adapt from the original, but never at the expense of the robust emotional heart of Shakespeare’s play. The first version of the production was a response to Twelfth Night, and in many ways that’s what it still is, but we are actually incredibly faithful to the linear structure of Shakespeare’s original play.

This post was contributed by Oliver Dimsdale, artistic director, Filter Theatre. Find out about Twelfth Night tour dates in your city.

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#DPF 2015 interview: Artist and curator David Campany

Nine questions with the keynote speaker for the Delhi Photo Festival 2015. David Campany who is a writer, curator and artist who works with photography.

1. You are a prolific writer. How do you balance your time between writing, teaching and curatorial work?

Ha. The real balance is between all those things and family life! Writing has become a vital form of thinking for me. I genuinely don’t know what to think, or even how to think about photography unless I’m writing it down. So the need to write is closely wedded to the need to think. Beyond that I guess I’m prolific because my enthusiasms for photography and for the uncertainties it generates have not waned since I got interested as a kid. That came as a surprise.

I thought photography was going to be another fad for me, like stamp collecting. Decades on, I’m still interested and still grazing on the lower slopes of my own ignorance. I would also say that photography can be a license to be interested in anything that it takes as its subject matter, which is pretty much anything. Politics, natures, cities, people, objects, superstition, science, history, anthropology, power, you name it. By definition, photography cannot be autonomous or isolated. It’s implicated in the world and the word is implicated in it. When photography is only photography it isn’t even photography.

2. What draws you to writing about photography? And as a writer, how difficult is it to interpret a photographer’s work for the reader?

I had no intentions of being a writer, until in my late twenties I was invited to write a couple of essays. On the basis of those I was approached to write a big survey book about photography in art since the 60s. I was teaching at that point, which meant I had spent a lot of time trying to express complex ideas and connections as simply as I could. The writing grew directly out of that. I write for my 19 year-old self, trying to interest him, prick him, help him notice things, tell him he’s not alone. Interpretation for others? I slightly wince at that idea. In writing about images one does, it inevitably. But it’s something a writer should be wary of. I don’t want to occlude what the reader might think about things. I want to supplement it.

An untitled photograph by David Campny

‘Limousine’, 2008, from the project Adventures in the Valley, by David Campany & Polly Braden

3. Where do you get the time to practise your own work as an artist? Do you view yourself as a photo practitioner?
I remember reading an interview long ago with the British artists Gilbert & George. They were asked: “What made you want to be artists?” A boring question but the answer was great: “We didn’t set out to be artists. All we wanted was to be with art.” That is a great answer because it is not a careerist answer. For what ever reason I’ve wanted to be with photography and I’ve not worried too much about what form that might take – writing, curating exhibitions, teaching, making photographs, working with found photographs, editing. In fact the last one – editing – is probably the key. Every photographer must edit and so must every writer.

4. What are the biggest challenges facing photographers today?

There are as many answers to that as there are photographers. If you push me harder I would say there are three things, in no particular order. Money. The high standards of the past. The dizzying range of possibilities offered by the medium.

David Campany portrait

David Campany portrait

5. Is there a crisis in photography at this time?

Photography has always been in crisis. It’s a modern medium, so how could it not be in crisis? That’s what’s so compelling about it.

6. Where does the future of photography lie? In photobooks, on Instagram and social media, or on the gallery wall and in art institutions?

I never speculate. I’ve learned never to rule anything out. Ten years ago who would have thought printed matter would have had such a renaissance? The interest shown by photography in the art world has ebbed and flowed for decades. That won’t change. And who knows what individual brilliance will appear?

7. What are the exciting photobooks that one must look out for in 2015?

Justine Kurland will publish Highway Kind soon. I’m very much looking forward to that. She documents particular sub-cultures living away from mainstream society and its values. I presented a little preview of the work in my anthology The Open Road: Photographic Road Trips across America. David Batchelder’s Tidelands is published soon. He’s been photographing sand patterns on the same beach for years. Photography attracts all kinds of obsessives who ignore what’s going on around them and just do their own thing. The non-conformity of that is to be cherished.

8. While photography becomes a mass vehicle owing to the growth in technology and smartphones, will ‘fine art photography’ become increasingly more popular and accessible?

Fine art photography is for anyone but for everyone.

9. Tell us about your curatorial work, specifically your exhibition on Walker Evans for this summer’s Les Rencontres d’Arles. Its aims, challenges and reception.

Walker Evans (1903-1975) is as celebrated and canonical as a photographer can get. But the terms of that recognition have been pretty narrow, set by the big museums. His achievements were far wider. For example Evans made extraordinary work for mainstream magazines, setting his own assignments, shooting, writing the captions, designing his own layouts. He managed to fashion a sort of counter-commentary on America and its values from within its mass media. He hated celebrity, consumerism, waste and market-driven design. So instead he championed anonymous workers, conservation and vernacular culture. This work feels very contemporary, and it could be a beacon for all photographers with critical minds who have to ask themselves how they are going to survive without compromising themselves artistically or politically. So I spent years tracking down and buying up copies of the old magazines in which he published this work. I wrote a book about it and the magazines then became the basis of a traveling exhibition. I guess the project is an example of the way the official history of photography is still very much alive and contested. Exhibited printed matter is tricky, so alongside the original pages we made large blow-ups for the wall, to make them comfortable to read. The reception has been very pleasing both from visitors and the press. It shows there’s an appetite for this kind of rethinking.

About David Campany: David Campany, writes, curates exhibitions, makes art and teaches a range of modules in photographic theory and practice, from undergraduate to doctoral study. His books include: A Handful of Dust (MACK 2015), Walker Evans: the magazine work (Steidl 2014), Gasoline (MACK, 2013), Photography and Cinema (Reaktion 2008) and Art and Photography (Phaidon 2003). In 2013, he curated major shows of the work of Mark Neville (The Photographer’s Gallery, London) and Victor Burgin (AmbikaP3 and Richard Saltoun Gallery). In 2014 he curated three shows of the work of Walker Evans. He currently teaches at the University of Westminster, UK.

For more click here: www.davidcampany.com

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David Campany is the keynote speaker for the third edition of the Delhi Photo Festival that will be held from Oct 30-Nov 8.

This post is courtesy of Gauri Vij, Delhi Photo Festival 2015

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