What is “un-named”?

Un-named is our latest project. The six cast members have worked together for a year under the guidance of artistic director Bella Stewart. These are some of the performers’ thoughts and feelings about the work.

The cast of in situ:'s un-named

What’s the topic of Un-named?

“We started by broadly looking at the topic of ‘feral children’ – children raised in the wild, such as the Wild Boy of Aveyron. But the exciting thing is how the piece has evolved into something much wider.

We now cover themes such as; ‘abandonment’ and what effect that could have on a child’s development; children raised under unusual circumstances such as in foundling hospitals; language and what it means to be without it; the juxtaposition of two worlds, the ‘wild’ and the ‘civilised’; the implications of ‘feral’, socially and culturally,

Rachel Duthie in in situ:'s un-named

This thematic development has happened through our thoughts, our discussions, our accumulation of understanding and meaning. In particular, at the start of every class we hold a ‘Quaker’ meeting, where we bring ideas, experiences, music, website links, source material from different directions. Then, in the class, we ‘devise’ dramatic pieces, creative responses to what we have heard and learned.

What do you do when you ‘devise’?

“Led by Bella, we take a stimulus – such as reading ‘The Jungle Book’ – and produce solo pieces using objects, voice, movement, or any combination.

Maxine Fay and Rachel Duthie in in situ:'s un-named

We then work with others in the group to create a collective piece. We put ideas into the pot and mix it all together – often not knowing exactly what we’re doing, often laughing – until we see what plops out the other end. Whether that’s good, bad or indifferent. It’s always original.

Cyrus Pundole in in situ:'s un-named

One particular stimulus was a visit from Lydia. Born in the 1930’s, she was given by her mother – who had been abandoned by her partner – to the Foundling Hospital, in Bloomsbury [founded by Thomas Coram in 1739, now The Foundling Museum]. Bloomsbury. Lydia spoke to us very movingly about her experience of coming to terms with being a foundling. We didn’t replicate her story directly, but instead ‘devised’ a scene in response to her emotion and to our own.

What’s it like to develop a theatre piece outdoors?

“Working at Wandlebury is wonderful – energising and creatively stimulating yet utterly relaxing. We work there from Easter onwards as the weather gets warmer – though it would be lovely to work there for the whole year.

in situ: un-named

Wandlebury gives us so much – open spaces, trees, walls and mysterious doors – to bounce off creatively as we develop the performance. The Park looks different each time we visit, and it’s lovely to work in an environment that evolves with the seasons; it expands our entire experience.

We also feel that working outdoors is a completely different experience for the audience. We’re trying to take them inside the mind of a feral human, or a foundling all alone, abandoned; Wandlebury is perfect for creating what that might be like… it’s a wild space with a distinct urban edge.”

Cyrus Pundole in in situ:'s un-named

What was the hardest challenge in the project?

“It was hard to… imagine what it is like to be without language… retrieve for performance elements we formed nearly a year ago… gather in the best bits of what we have done… put together so many diverse elements for the production… listen to some of the very moving stories we were told… do those stories justice.”

Maxine Fay, Silvano Squizatto and Rachel Thilwind in situ:'s un-named

What were the best bits?

“Using a different part of my brain than in other areas of my life… realising how one’s own experience in the early years can have such a dramatic impact on who one is… rehearsing outside… devising… the creative process… Lydia’s story… creating whole group movement pieces in response to Lydia’s story… working with the other performers. Hopefully, the best bit will be actually performing the piece!”

Mat Wollerton in in situ:'s un-named

Why should people come to see Un-named?

Because we’ve taken core ideas, added individual inspiration, brought everything together “in collaboration, and created something that makes you think about the boundaries of tolerance, resilience and the human spirit.”

Rachel Thilwind and Silvano Squizatto in situ: un-named

These were the (lightly edited) words of: Cyrus Pundole, Mat Wollerton, Maxine Fay, Rachael Duthie, Rachel Thilwind, Silvano Squizzato.


Interrogation: Hamlet

Saturday night’s performance of Hamlet at St. Andrews Hall, Cambridge is SOLD OUT.

If you want to see this performance, please don’t risk disappointment – book one of the remaining tickets for Thursday or Friday as soon as possible.

Buy Hamlet tickets

“Being an Actor” – In Situ: and Hamlet

Interrogation: Hamlet

“Being an actor”. The phrase summons up all kinds of images. Laurence Olivier declaiming the Bard. Jobbing actors unpacking their weekly suitcases in provincial repertory. Grinning West End performers taking their thirteenth curtain call. And the sort of waspishness which has given “amdram” a bad name”

“Being an in situ: actor” is none of these – bar perhaps the grins, for it’s rare that what we do isn’t enjoyable as well as demanding. Otherwise, we are ruthlessly discouraged from declaiming. We perform not in provincial theatres but in special locations – the “in situ” of the name – such as Cambridge’s Leper Chapel or Wandlebury Common. And we are never waspish. Rather, any leanings towards diva-dom are instantly crushed; the underlying ethos of in situ: is that if you can’t collaborate, you don’t participate.

Our repertoire is devised. Sometimes that’s from scratch, with actors inputting from their own research and insights, guided towards performance by our directors Bella and Richard – past pieces of this kind have been based on the works of Freud, have explored Creation Myths, have recreated the Calendar Cycle of the seasons. Just as often, our productions are based on existing texts; such as a recent five-hour reworking of Aeschylus’s Oresteia and a ‘walk-around’ King Lear where the audience followed the performers through nearly a mile of countryside to the play’s climax.

Now there’s Hamlet. You could almost hear the audible gulp when Richard told us what we would be performing next. But thankfully, we didn’t come to the play unprepared. The Hamlet half of the in situ: company – the other half is currently devising an outdoor piece about Feral Children – has been together for nearly a year already, working on various Shakespeare texts to master how to make the Bard’s work intelligible as well as enjoyable. (All of us have also completed the essential “Learn to Act” classes which are the gateway to joining the company, many have in addition done the annual residential courses, and most have taken our productions to the Brighton Theatre Festival fringe.)

My favourite moments in this pre-rehearsal work? It’s a toss up between recreating one of the soliloquies from Romeo and Juliet whilst pretending to be a ballet dancer… having a wrestling match with another actor as a setting for a scene from Midsummer’s Night’s Dream… and enacting the murder of Polonius while jumping on and off on chairs. Trust me, these exploits will likely never appear in an in situ: production, but they certainly made us break out of our preconceptions of what Shakespeare’s work ‘should be’ in order to get a much better grasp of what it ideally ‘could be’.

All of which exploration finally came into focus when in November 2015 we were handed our scripts for Hamlet. Reduced by our director Richard from the original 4+ hours to a focussed 2, we actors then had the Christmas break to master the text. The words ‘hit’, ‘head’ and ‘brick wall’ came inexorably to my mind, as line learning has never been my strength, but we all returned in the new year almost ‘off book’.

What has followed has been a mixture of intensive weekly whole-group rehearsals in our performance space at St Andrew’s Church Hall. Further weekly individual and small-group coaching with Richard where each scene is dissected, analysed, then put together again. Watching videos of classic versions of the play. Reading round literary criticism – some of it from centuries ago. And, finally, sourcing the tiny sprinkling of backdrop elements – in situ: style is to reduce sets, scenery, costumes and props to a minimum and allow the audience to fill the gaps with their own imagination.

Fascinatingly, the more we do, the less it seems as if it is about any of us ‘being an actor’. Getting to understand the text, the characters we play, our relationships with each other, the way we use the space, the arc of the play’s narrative, the links between one scene and the next… that’s what we find ourselves doing. Conscious performance drops away more and more; ‘acting’ per se comes to seem in some ways to be irrelevant.

Are we ready for performance yet? At the time of writing, in early 2016, the answer is No… we have another two months and another numerous rehearsals ahead of us. But, as with every in situ: production in the seven years I’ve been involved, we do have a growing sense of possibility.

In the end, we’ll reach the point where – in order to perform – we’ll need only one final element; the audience.

And that would be you…