Thank You, Clarissa.

There is a rule of thumb: as soon as the adrenaline rush prescribed by Dr Theatre wears off, all your stored-up, hard-earned unhealthiness will come looking for payback. Clarissa! finished last Saturday and a bug thumbed a ride. Now, it’s the following Saturday, just in time for Christmas.

In the meantime memories of some post-show encounters brought balm to my fevered brow. Several audience members asked if Clarissa was a real person. The thrill of knowing that we had created a fully rounded character was the greatest succour for tired and emotional thespians. You know what I mean. I am too shy or sensitive (unless pressed or hugged) to share the heaps of other praise Clarissa! was vouchsafed in the bar after.

So, instead, here are some reviews I would have shared these sooner if I hadn’t been overcome.

‘Clarissa! is an impressive piece of mixed theatre…” BUZZ MAGAZINE 

‘It’s a one-woman show, so it’s inevitable that attention will focus on Angharad Berrow, who plays the title role and who proves to be a real force of nature, switching from comedy to pathos as she charts Clarissa’s life. She’s dazzling as the young Clarissa, and takes you through the decades with great skill. GLAMORGAN GEM

‘…clever and brave.’ ARTS SCENE IN WALES

‘What is outstanding in this very fine amalgam of theatre and film, excellently written and directed by Terry Victor with cinematography by Christian Britten is the totally captivating and compelling performance of its solo star Angharad Berrow. She is a delight to watch, often with a wicked smile on her lips and an endearing look on her face […] She has responded well, with splendid ability and sensuality to the choreography of Tamsin Griffiths’ movement direction. Whilst she is a finely commanding solo performer this is very much an ensemble work.

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… a great show.’  THEATRE IN WALES

Theatre in Wales is right. Clarissa! is  ‘is very much an ensemble work.’ Indeed it is. I had the privilege of being in the rehearsal room throughout the process, and watching the extraordinary collaboration of intelligent talents that brought Clarissa! to life.

I know I got the credit as writer and director but everyone made Clarissa! happen and everyone blurred the boundaries of their job titles to do so. If you were in the rehearsal room you added something extra, from perspicacity to support, from soundtracks to tea and sympathy. My thanks go to…

  • Angharad Berrow (whoever cast her is a genius!) for turning my clay into porcelain;
  • Abbie Hirst, our creative producer (/style counsellor/and George), a smiling whirlwind of ‘never take no for an answer’ niceness, creative solutions and brilliant enhancements;
  • Tamsin Griffiths, who only relaxed her focus on incisive and Guernica-inspired choreography for long enough to attack Clarissa!’s soundtrack with equal vigour;
  • Gareth Wyn Griffiths, whose shifting landscape of music, which filled the rehearsal room was splendidly recorded in isolation;
  • Christian Britten whose visual epiphanies created more choices and superlative possibilities than one Clarissa! could ever contain – we bubbled over with cinematic wonderments.

Also in the room for some of the time, and making it happen:

  • Aisling Renton, our stage manager – a wise Niven on young shoulders;
  • Jane Lalljee, lighting designer – literally our light in the darkness;
  • Ruth Garnault, marketing consultant and social media disciplinarian;
  • Liz Gardiner, our admin director, who brought warmth and questions in equal measure;
  • Emma Stevens-Johnson, the production’s voice coach who (with Tamsin’s physical support) helped Angharad age from 16-99.

My love and thanks to all of them. Together we made something ugly/beautiful. No one knows where it yet may lead.

Backstage in the Seligman Theatre, we would have been lost without Dan and Will. And without the Arts Council of Wales we would not have been there at all.

Season’s Greetings to you all, Nadolig Llawen, Feliz Navidad, and kisses.

And for Julie Doyle…

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Now, still sniffy and aching, and definitely missing the heady world of just one fuzzy week ago, that’s quite enough of all that.

If you’d like to see a gallery of Noel Le Conte’s pics click here.

Terry Victor

 

Women Make Notional Theatre

NEWS RELEASE

Release date: for immediate release

Clarissa has been a celebrity for as long as she can remember…

A3 Bleed Edge and A0 A1 (Chapter approved)

Clarissa! is the picaresque new play by Terry Victor which premieres at Chapter from 13th December. A witty and moving fusion of cinema, theatre and modern art, it charts the life and impact of one extraordinary woman from the beginning of talking-pictures to the London riots of 2011.

Clarissa!has attracted a creative team consisting almost entirely of females.

Says Creative Producer, Abbie Hirst:

“Events since the scandals of Hollywood came to light in 2017 have opened a floodgate; never has there been such demand for female voices and female stories to be heard. The strength of Terry’s writing has attracted a company of talented women freelancers all determined to bring to life the story of this particular female and how she fought her way to the top in an era where a woman was defined by her husband.

“Has anything really changed? Are we still in a world where young girls dream of becoming a footballer’s wife, a reality TV star, a Celebrity? Can women, especially women in the creative industries, really sit back in the fond hope that we have created a better future? Clarissa! looks at the life of one woman and through her eyes we can see how far we have come. We can see parallels in the lives of modern women through a darkly comic vision of the past.”

Starring Angharad Berrow ‘If you see Angharad Berrow in a cast or creative team, go and see that thing’ Cardiff TheatreReview.

Clarissa! runs from 13th – 15th December at 8pm with a Saturday matinee at 2:30pm. Both Saturday performances are BSL signed. For full information and booking details go to http://www.chapter.org.uk

ENDS


Additional information for editors



For more information, photos and interviews contact:

Abbie Hirst, Creative Producer

mail@abbiehirst.co.uk, mobile 07873 624 959


Women involved in this production are:

Tamsin Griffiths – Physical Direction – is known as the ‘Mini Ninja.’ She has a background in gymnastics and circus skills and is a contemporary dancer and physical theatre performer. “I believe in work which connects with an audience, is real, with a purpose and meaning behind the movement.”

Abbie Hirst – Creative Producer – is a trained Actress (BAFTA Cymru nominated The Corpse Series) with a Double Masters in Business and Spanish. Combining these skills to bring impactful stories to an audience is what makes her tick.

Jane Lalljee– Lighting Director – Shortlisted for Best Lighting of Little Wolf at the Wales Theatre Awards 2018, Jane is ready for the challenges of lighting Clarissa!’s live performance against a cinematic backdrop.

Aisling Renton – Stage Manager – joins fresh from the WNO’s all female-production of Rhondda Rips It Up, La Traviata andWar And Peace.

Ruth Garnault – Marketing Consultant – is a freelance consultant working in arts, culture, heritage, 3rd sector, mostly in Wales.

Julie Doyle – BSL Signer – ‘Happily providing Freelance BSL/English Interpreting services for 20 years’

Emma Stevens-Johnson – Voice Coach – ‘….a long and distinguished career in vocal tuition for film, television and theatre.’


Notional Theatre mounts ‘occasional theatre.’ “When we have a notion, we make an occasion of it,” says writer-director Terry Victor.

 As well as a long career in theatre, Terry Victor is a regular contributor across the BBC network, including 5 Live’s Up All Night ‘Grammar Phone-In’. He is co-editor / compiler of major slang dictionaries: The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (Dalzell & Victor, Routledge 2005 & 2012) and A Dictionary of Rhyming Slangs (Lillo & Victor, De Gruyter Mouton, 2017)

This project has received support from Chapter and Lottery Funding through Arts Council Wales.

This show may contain Trigger Warnings

Is this a new age of enlightenment? We live and create in a climate when reason, it seems, is ruled by individualism, and practice is hampered by fear of complaint. A moment in history when offence may be routinely taken or manufactured; our ‘friends’ are divided and unfriended, our ideas unplatformed; a time when, if art is censored, debate is inevitably stultified.

Clarissa! is a play about corrosive celebrity. If you really want or need to know what to expect before you book tickets you will find more explicit details when you scroll to the end. However, should you?

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It has now become good practice in some theatres to offer audiences advance warnings of content. More than just unexpected bangs or strobes.

Here’s some advice found on the Royal Court’s website.

We don’t want to spoil anyone’s experience of a new play at the Royal Court and therefore avoid giving too much away when promoting the play. It’s often the unexpected shared moments and plot twists that capture the audience and create the debate and conversation beyond the performance.

Fair enough. Nothing to argue with there.

However, we’re also conscious that these moments can be particularly distressing for some individuals. If there are certain themes that you know would cause you extreme distress and you’d like to speak to one of the Royal Court team to find out more about a show before you book, call the box office or email us.

I am not sure that Clarissa would like the caring approach taken by the Royal Court. At the heart of her celebrity Clarissa is a private woman. Why would she ever wish to declare to the box office that she is likely to be distressed by unexpected content?

Difficult to know what to do for the best, isn’t it? What’s best anyway – creative conceits or a comfy audience? Once you open the Trigger Warning can of worms… Is the audience paying for an experience or plot spoilers?


The Royal Court Theatre is an awesomely original hotbed at the London end of the M4. Meanwhile, up the road, if you get off the motorway at any of the Cardiff junctions  you can find the Seligman Theatre which is part of the awesomely creative Chapter in Canton. That’s where Clarissa! is being staged from the 13th to 15th December 2018.


So, back to wrestling with Trigger Warnings.

If you are happy with a generalised ‘Clarissa! contains adult themes’ or the more cinematic “Parental Guidance’ then it is probably safe for you to leave this to leave this blog.

A3 Bleed Edge and A0 A1 (Chapter approved)

If even that was too much information, I apologise but you have been warned. Clarissa! has content.

OK, if you are still reading then you should be told that Clarissa has lived a long and full life. Her story contains elements humanity and inhumanity. She has experienced moral and political censorship but it is art that hurts her most.


Chapter – more power to its figurative elbow – does not have an official policy on Trigger Warnings but will attach one by request if it seems appropriate. The cautious criteria are concerned, it seems, with offence rather than distress.

Clarissa! is not labelled with a Trigger Warning: she has a richly detailed private life but it is not graphic and she doesn’t swear too much, so that’s alright.

Clarissa! is a story of the power and excesses of celebrity. The purpose of the production is to entertain, but also to ‘provoke debate and conversation beyond the performance’. Clarissa has lived a full life. You will recognise her, you may even share some of her memories, and that may be Trigger Temptation enough.


Just down the road from Chapter, the quite wonderful Other Room theatre takes a different approach. Their website offers a Content Warning page. A brief click and a glance and it looks like no show arrives on the Other Room stage without baggage. Still, you can never be too careful or too caring; or is too much the default?

While writing this there have been broader conversations on the topic, admittedly with persons working in the arts and blessed with vested interests. However, interpreting Trigger Warnings as a form of censorship, the concept garnered a generally negative range of responses: from derision to sabotage: from ‘Winnie the Pooh has a Tigger Warning’ to a suggestion that each trigger should hot-linked to a helpline.

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So, you have been warned: here are some Trigger Warnings for Clarissa!

Clarissa! contains visual, textual and sub-textual references to:

Ageing

Mental Health

Extra-marital sex

Promiscuity

Propaganda

Homosexuality

Racism

McCarthyism

War

Guernika

Murder

Criminal activity

Class

Political corruption

Facism

Misogyny

Art

Blood

Suicide

Drugs

Smoking

Alcohol

Gambling

Death

If you have been affected by any of the topics listed in this article…

Tickets for Clarissa! are available here.

 

 

 

 

CREATING MEMORY THEATRE

Memory Theatre is an artistic idea developing in response to CLARISSA! A set of questions and statements that might explore parallel journeys in search of different lives. Memory Theatre is an ambition, possibly our artistic imperative, but not a fully-formed philosophy. Nor is it yet a manifesto.

Memory Theatre is neither reminiscence nor nostalgia. It is neither documentary nor history. Memory Theatre must be an impressionistic form. A snatch of song or a scent of childhood: there to encourage personal remembrance, and create a partial, ephemeral setting in support of a theatrical narrative.

Is there a way to create and share touchstone fragments that spark a greater and richer whole? We all have that private cinema of the mind to screen our stories; the ambition of Memory Theatre is to capture that essence and frame those splintered visuals as an individualised subtext. Can Memory Theatre express thoughts that both carry a narrative and give our memories room to breathe?

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It might be finding glimpses of remembered life, jogged memories that may be shared in hidden or forgotten ways. The image of sunlight on a field of poppies is not a memory of war – although it may, in some, trigger those thoughts. And those thoughts may be coloured by personal history or public propaganda. Memories that live outside of our formal theatre narrative but occupy the world in which our characters exist. Each glimpsed memory means different things to different people. It is an invitation to watch a play and see something more.

Memory Theatre may be the content of the background against which a less specific story is told. It is a passing and elliptical context. Nor is it design – although that matters greatly – it is content, in whatever form (sound, light, shape or movement) that may prompt private stories.

Memory Theatre seeks to couch moments in glimpses of remembered life. And capture each moment afresh, however redefined or reframed. The longer the life the more memories are stored so perhaps this is about the creation of textured theatre for the Baby Boomers and older generations.

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In some ways Memory Theatre must be about creating new, non-traditional work for audiences of greater years. It is not about reinterpreting classic fare. It is not about patronising. The theatrical narrative, as it is new, must be relevant to young lives too. Ultimately it is about trying to touch the real life and past times of every audience member.

Memory Theatre may be issue-led or people-driven. It is about the backwash of detail, not clutter on a stage. Finding an image in mutual experience that may enhance and, perhaps, affect an emotional response to a given narrative. It gives power and space to the peripheral. It may be seen as an emotional sharing between theatrical truth and suspended disbelief.

Clarissa! is the story of a celebrated woman. We are inside her memories. The dancing cinematic shadows of Christian Britten’s visualisation blend with the hints and impressions of Terry Victor’s text and blur with Tamsin Griffiths’ energetic choreography of a physical life fully lived to create a theatre of memory.

Maybe this is a manifesto. Perhaps it is reaching for the moon. Memory Theatre is certainly an ambitious school-of-thought-in-progress and CLARISSA! is holding our hands, leading us back to Guernica.

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Clarissa! premieres on December 13th 2018 at the Seligman Theatre in Chapter, Cardiff.