Photography: Ian O’Leary

Beginnings


I have been fortunate enough to study at The Welsh College of Music and Drama, Stanford University, the University of Exeter Bill Douglas Centre for the history of Cinema and Popular Culture and with the late Brazilian director, Augusto Boal, on his Forum Theatre techniques course in association with the Adelaide Festival. My career-defining experience was in Java in Indonesia, studying the Wayang Golek puppetry tradition. In this theatre style, three dimensional rod puppetry performances in community spaces adapted as temporary performance venues are accompanied by a supporting orchestra.

From sundown to sunrise during these epic nights, I was able to view how gamelan musicians, puppeteer and puppets settled into and adopted spaces from outdoor urban environments to interior nooks and crannies in public buildings. And to consider how audiences came to own the spaces in the act of viewing the performance. I studied the natural theatricality of nighttime and the impact of low tech, domestic illuminations adopted alongside more standard performance lighting.

In observing an alternative to the hang-on-every-word expectation of much modern western performance, I started to document the meshing of a sustained audience absorption with a more distanced acknowledgement as viewers lit a cigarette or attended to children’s requests. And to consider how how various styles of engagement were not hierarchically measured. I began to analyse how performances depicting much loved and honoured stories variously permeated the audience consciousness over the eight hour performance period. And to seek to understand what sensory factors triggered the various types of engagement.

Current work


I lead experiential theatre company ExploreTheArch at our main domestic status venue, Archer Lodge, in St Leonards on Sea, Sussex. Sitting within the intimate theatre tradition, the venue opens around four times a year with ExploreTheArch’s unique interdisciplinary productions which run typically for three weeks.

New schools workshops programmes for 2022 include schools forum theatre workshop project, Choose2bKind, and the #ImaginedAbbey days accompanying the international installation and workshop tour, Marie in the Margins.

My hybrid puppetry work is typically with paper forms manipulated by strings and pulleys, floor to ceiling pages and visual responses to the architecture of the space.

“Much of the standard output in theatre invades a space and overtakes. I seek to work with the environment as performer”