What is Theatre and Landscape?

Every year for the past 14 years, in situ: has offered a residential workshop, Theatre and Landscape in site-specific theatre. The current format is that the group – facilitated by artistic director Bella Stewart – spend a whole week in an inspiring location, devising pieces of experimental ‘Theatre’ inspired by the surrounding ‘Landscape’. These are some of the participants’ thoughts and feelings about the work.

Moulin La Salmoniere

What is Theatre and Landscape?
We go to fascinating places where we enjoy good food, good company, and doing what we love. We explore the environment in a way that centres around a theme, with visits to sites that are linked by this theme. We use the landscape as a backdrop but also as an inspiration, devising, improvising and presenting stimulating art, text, installations, movement and theatre.

We learn a huge amount yet it never feels like learning; we create, collaborate, make friends, have fun. That said, it’s hard work, intense – but intensely rewarding.

Where does Theatre and Landscape happen?
We’ve based our work around visits to a bird sanctuary, an Iron Age fort, a priory, a religious shrine, the seaside, woods, beaches, a huge Elizabethan manor, an abandoned village, a Stone Age tomb and a 15th-century house single-handedly dis-assembled then reassembled in a new location.

We’ve stayed in beautiful houses in Llandudno. Devon. Cornwall. Dorset. Northumbria. Dartmoor, North Yorkshire. the Isle of Purbeck, Whitby, Galloway, Norfolk, Tintagel. This year it’s Brittany!

What do you actually do?
We visit the various locations… sometimes hear a talk from a museum keeper or a warden about the place we are visiting… sometimes explore alone to write and draw as we gain inspiration… devise solos and group work… create artwork and installations… develop movement and voice pieces… make decisions about location, structure, tone… then show our work to each other. (We don’t have outside audience – these workshops are time for exploration and experimentation without the demands of performance.)

Sketchbook page

What are the challenges?
Every day is a new challenge of creating from what we have collected, often in answer to questions given by Bella, such as “What is hidden? What is missing? What textures do you feel? What rhythms do you see?” Then there’s the added challenge of working together, devising and improvising, collaborating to produce something new from everyone’s individual ideas.

Tintagel sketch

What are your best memories?
Performing in a ruined chapel on a windy headland… exploring an abandoned village… playing ‘call and respond’ in the woods… wearing cow masks while performing on a beach in the rain… mimicking strobe lights by getting everyone ‘to blink in unison… sitting on the edge of a bathtub looking out, as if we were ghosts. Very spooky!

Why should people attend a Theatre and Landscape course?
To: spend a week with funny, intelligent, creative people in lovely houses with good food… discover new places immersed in their past and present… try something new… have fun… tap into practical creativity… look at the world as an artist does… work and bond with like-minded people… learn the skills of performing… come away feeling renewed and refreshed. The parties aren’t bad, either!

Parnacott House

Theatre and Landscape brings a new perspective to your life. The world starts to look different. And you start to look differently at the world.

These were the (lightly edited) words of: Katrina Nuttall, Maxine Fay, Mike Fay, Rachel Thilwind, Radar, Silvano Squizzato, Steve Adams

The 2016 Theatre and Landscape course is in Brittany from September 10 to 17, and the cost of £500 covers all accommodation, food, drink, tuition and materials.

The workshop is open to everyone, and you don’t need to have previously studied art or theatre. Simply bring your enthusiasm and energy!

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.

Oresteia: four years in the making

Aeschylus’s Oresteia is the sole surviving trilogy of Ancient Greek plays and yet it is rarely performed in its entirety.

In this brief interview clip, Richard Spaul tells how in situ:’s production has taken four years to complete and why in situ: decided to attempt such an ambitious undertaking.