Tag Archives: Lil Warren

Behind the Scenes: Filming an Interview with Professor Anna Birch

Having graduated from university in 2018, I thought my research days were behind me. However, an exciting opportunity to dust off my research skills arose when Lil Warren, Heritage Outcomes Manager at Unity Arts, told me of their latest project Blue Circle of Dissent. This National Lottery Funded project focusses on the lives, work, and circles around Mary Wollstonecraft and Blue Stockings Society leader Elizabeth Montagu.

My first independent assignment was to interview Wollstonecraft expert Professor Anna Birch for a short documentary film. Anna is the director of Fragments & Monuments, a company which creates performance and film work about the life and legacy of Wollstonecraft.

As I discovered, most of the work for producing a filmed interview takes place off-camera; this blog is to give you a behind-the-scenes insight into the process.

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
I began by asking myself a question: what did I already know about Mary Wollstonecraft? Answer: that she was Mary Shelley’s mother, and that she wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), marking her as the first British feminist. There was a lot more to discover…
I read about Wollstonecraft and made notes on what I wanted to know more about. I became particularly intrigued by her travels: she went to live in France in 1792 – when the turbulent revolution was well underway – and travelled to Scandinavia in 1795 to recover a stolen ship in an attempt to win back her former lover.

In a series of meetings with Lil and the Digital Outputs Team, we decided that the interview with Anna would focus on Wollstonecraft as the pioneering female travel writer. I had also learnt three tips for filming day: don’t wear stripes, wear make-up, and wear bright colours. My monochromatic wardrobe struggled with this third tip, but as a wise man once said: two out of three ain’t bad.

When turning my research into questions, I wanted to create a narrative structure to help the interview flow. The questions would begin by setting the scene, asking Anna about her work and involvement with Wollstonecraft. Then we would turn to Wollstonecraft’s travels to France and Scandinavia, and finally her personal life and legacy, concluding with my favourite question: ‘what do you think Wollstonecraft would make of society today?’. With the questions finalised on paper, it was now time to bring them to life.

Lights, Camera…
Of course, I wasn’t working on this interview day alone. Lil was directing, Neil Webster from Edwin Louis Fear Films and Christian Smith were filming, and Sarah Warren was Production Assistant. On filming day, we met for a briefing before walking to Anna’s house (where we would have arrived earlier if my walking pace could match a Londoner’s!).

While Neil and Christian set up the filming equipment, Anna took Lil, Sarah and me up to her library for coffee. Although set-up took longer than anticipated (about an hour), it gave Anna and I valuable time to get to know each other off-screen. We had been to the same university, so we talked about its theatre scene and the lack of female writers on the reading lists, before moving on to Anna’s work with Fragments and Monuments. Anna and the company challenge the traditionally held definition of a monument as something static: they create living, dynamic ‘monuments’ to Wollstonecraft, such as walks that enable participants to trace Wollstonecraft’s footsteps in Stoke Newington. It struck me that our short film would also be a moving monument to the writer.

…Action!
With the all-clear from the crew, Anna and I took our seats at her kitchen table, under two fabulous STEWY prints of Wollstonecraft. Neil and Christian had set up two cameras ‘Parky style’: one at the front of the table with both of us in shot, and one behind my left shoulder for close-up shots of Anna – shots that I kept ‘dirtying’ by inadvertently moving into view!
We wanted the conversation to feel natural, so I listened carefully to Anna’s answers and would pick up on something she had said to link to the following question. Our time spent chatting beforehand really helped during the interview as it felt like a continuation of our conversation upstairs. This rapport translated onto the screen: Sarah said that we looked like we had known each other for years!

We filmed the interview in one take, pausing only once for Neil to reset his camera.  After wrapping, we had a post-interview debrief at the Luminary Bakery, and I then walked with Sarah to Newington Green to visit Wollstonecraft’s former stomping ground (and future site of her memorial sculpture).

“That’s a wrap” doesn’t signal the end of working on the film, as the editing process is just beginning.

Taking part in the interview was a wonderful experience that combined independent research with working as part of a team, all to create a work that will be shared with a wider audience. It was inspiring to meet passionate and knowledgeable creatives, and intellectually stimulating to research and discuss such a fascinating female figure.

I’m greatly looking forward to seeing the finished film, and to working with Unity Arts further on Blue Circle Of Dissent.

Ellen Gage

Location Photos by Christian Maier Smith

HERITAGE FILM TRAINING

Unity Arts are creating a series of short documentaries for the National Lottery Funded BLUE CIRCLE OF DISSENT.

 

Following workshops and training in the spring and summer The Digital Outputs team, with professional support and mentoring from Edwin Louis Fear Films and Meddle Films, were part of the crew that produced HACKNEY DISSENT

During the coming months we will be training, writing and shooting more footage for these documentaries including interviewing experts like Professor Anna Birch.

with an eventual project output of an installation film for our exhibition in Hackney in November 2020.

Please contact us via the form below if you would like to learn more about interviewing experts, writing scripts for documentaries, how to choose relevant underscoring, helping the edit when shooting.

There will be opportunities to be part of the crew and gain credits and work for portfolios.

All levels of experience welcome!!!!

 

Hackney Dissent Documentary

In May of this year Unity Arts delievered a week of heritage workshops in Hoxton and in Hoxton Hall called

HACKNEY DISSENT

Out of which we created a short film Hackney Dissent

The workshops, in partnership with Hoxton Hall, used slam poetry, research trips (including a special day at Dr Johnson’s House).

We used sources like The Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman to inspire work from all areas of our community to make an exhibition and share in performance.

Groups of 7-11 year olds, 12-18 year olds and 18+ all looked at debate, radical writings and how to communicate ideas.

We had a well attended sharing at Hoxton Hall on 31 May and on 1 June (a very HOT day) an exhibition and sharing at Dr Johnson’s House.

With the support of Edwin Louis Fear Films the Digital Outputs volunteers interviewed participants and were also part of the final editing process.

The documentry can be found here Hackney Dissent Documentary

Also you can find some of the research materials that helped inform the outputs.

We have more Heritage Film Workshops coming up so please contact us if you have an interest in filmaking documentaries and doing interviews with experts about Mary Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth Montgu and the Bluestocking Society.

 

 

****FINE AND DANDY by Sue Frumin at Kings Head Theatre

Sea-Change Theatre Company give us a new version of Sue Frumin’s exhilarating, bold and ever-so slightly mad comedy, concerning the picaresque adventures of a Wandering Jew at the turn of the 20th Century, in a production more representative of the whole LGBTQI community than in its previous incarnations.

In the lead role of Ernest Faigele Fine, Dani Singer delivers a likeable line in innocent bewilderment as they encounter an array of showbiz villains and heroes on their journey from parental abandonment towards self-discovery, kinship and acceptance at the heart of British Music Hall. They bring an assured centredness to the evening’s rambunctious proceedings.

Stylised staging (shades of Steven Berkoff) allows the seven strong cast to deftly navigate the small acting area at the Kings Head, switching from land to sea to land again, as the action quickly moves from Russia to America, via Liverpool, Manchester, Blackpool and France. Great credit here goes to director Lil Warren, who keeps the frenetic pace going throughout, while eliciting up-front, high octane performances from her fully committed Troupe.

Tamsin Omund gives an energetic performance as the eponymous Dandy, who falls in love with Ernest. Anca Vaida is noteworthy not only as a ringmaster but for also skilfully embodying a serpent that comes to an unfortunate end. Worth a mention too is Sarah Warren’s Lulu, Fine and Dandy’s Glaswegian nemesis.


A slowing of the pace at times might have allowed the audience to absorb the many plot twists in Ernest’s episodic odyssey (characters often come and go at a confusing rate) but this could be first night adrenaline.

Anyway, it’s a small caveat. In a play that dares to merge song, dance, slapstick, snake charming, mime, shamanism, queer topics, music hall and a particularly winning version of ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’ in Yiddish, what brilliantly shines through is fine, gender-fluid ensemble acting and a celebration of the historical inclusiveness of theatre.

KINGS HEAD THEATRE, Islington 6th – 11th Aug, as part of the Kings Head Queer Season

Tickets for Fine And Dandy

Images by Ray Malone Photography

Paul McNeilly 

Bubble & Squeak Theatre Collective

 

DR GILDA WILLIAMS Writing For Exhibitions

On 29 June 130 – 430  

Old Diorama Arts Centre

201 Drummond Street, London NW1 3FE 

Unity Arts will be launching a series of Summer activities with a workshop led by Dr Gilda Williams.

We will be exploring how you WRITE for EXHIBITIONS.

Here she is in  Interview about the role of the Art Critic

Practical components in the workshop will include  How To Write an Artist’s Statement, How to Label Art Pieces, What do You Put in the Booklet?

Gilda Williams has taught at Goldsmiths since 2008. She was Editor and Commissioning Editor (from 1997) for Contemporary Art at Phaidon Press 1994-2005, where she commissioned the ‘Contemporary Artists’ monographs, ‘Themes and Movements’ series of anthologies, and other books including Salon to Biennale: Exhibitions that Made Art History (2008).

She is a London correspondent for Artforum, and has written for Art Monthly, The Guardian, Sight & Sound, Burlington, frieze and many more.

This workshop is FREE and supported by The National Heritage Lottery Fund.

Register attendance here WRITING FOR EXHIBITIONS

 

 

NEWINGTON GREEN BIRTHDAY PARTY!

On 27 & 28 April 2019

we celebrated the 260th birthday of

Mary Wollstonecraft

The 27 April saw a small gathering on the site of the proposed Wollstonecraft statue in Newington Green. The weather was awful but we managed to sing Happy Birthday, shoot a short film and begin the work on the STEWY  installation for next year.


Our large outside event on 28 April saw over 130 people gathered in very windy and cold weather to have a birthday picnic on Newington Green with a small installation

A specialist talk from Professor Anna Birch

Singers from St Mary’s Community

Extracts from Wollstonecraft’s short stories for Children by one of the Hackney Pirates Young Writers group

Songs of Rebellion from Young Dissenters Choir

We all lit candles and sang Happy Birthday!

And we ALL ate CAKE!


It nearly rained on us but everyone was very cheerful, the Lizzy’s Café, Newington Green Action Group, Fragments & Monuments and Dr Jenny Littlewood were so supportive and we had a lot of additional sign up for the project .

We hope everyone learnt something about the wonderful woman Mary Wollstonecraft and we look forward to all the research, trips and workshops coming up.

NEXT EVENT –  HALF TERM WORKSHOPS AT HOXTON HALL!

Photos by Sharron Wallace

 

 

 

 

 

****The Lesson by Eugene Ionesco – The Hope Theatre, London

7 + 1 is sometimes 9. Especially in the absurdist world of The Lesson by Eugene Ionesco (in a completely accessible translation by Donald Watson), playing at The Hope Theatre until 13 October. The satirisation of education, politics, language and psychology could not be more apposite. First shown in Paris in 1951 this seventy minute illustration of futility still bites. Hard.The evening begins with us walking into a brilliant evocation of a mind in turmoil counterpointed by a cold, white centrepiece echoing a science lab or operating room. A beautifully envisioned and executed set by Designer Rachael Ryan. The Maid (Joan Potter) is steadfastly cleaning the table. An enthusiastic pupil (Sheetal Kapoor) visits The Professor (Roger Alborough) for a lesson. As in The Bald Soprano, Ionesco effectively uses the tools of repetition and circularity to parody the bourgeoisie’s need to repress and destroy the best in human nature. Instinctively we understand this which is why so many of us rebel at school. 
We know what is going to happen. Ionesco forces us into the uncomfortable role of complicit voyeur as we laugh (I did, often) at the ridiculous contradictions of reductive reasoning and he often jolts us into a realisation of our inescapable part in this appallingly nonsensical world. Ionesco is hard to pull off. His plays call for an understanding of the grotesque. Ruthlessly require technical excellence, truthful performances and perfect timing. As soon as Roger Alborough, playing The Professor, entered, I knew we were in very safe hands. A completely stunning performance. Alborough just ate up those meaningless monologues that are such a bitch to learn.

His handling of Ionesco’s many idiotic phrases and comic asides, absolutely pitch perfect. Energy pumping out of every pore. What an absolute treat to see acting of that calibre up so close. If he does not win an award for this fantastic portrayal I will eat my socks and the ear of a coat button.
I would have preferred The Pupil to have been played in the upper teens but given the powerhouse she was working with Sheetal Kapoor more than pulled her weight and Joan Potter wrung a laugh out of every line she had.  Again Potter, like Alborough, knew how to hold a beat. Played the rhythm of every line to a tee. Excellent.
Matthew Parker is a complete star. He has often been bold in his programming at The Hope and his in-house productions have been enormously successful. In making the choice to produce an Ionesco play he has taken a huge leap of faith. Cannily he has surrounded himself with great Creatives (I must also mention the clever and creepy Sound Design by Simon Arrowsmith).
Fringe Theatre is where all the apathy busting and challenging theatre is happening and I wish Parker and his very talented team every success. In an era where we are numbed by tepid clichés and slogans this was a breath of icy, harsh air. Highly recommended.

Oscar Ciros is a playwright, director and clown.

Playing at The Hope Theatre until 13 October

Photos by LH Photography

The Lesson at The Hope Theatre

****Sister Mary’s Playtime – Edinburgh Preview LONDON by Lil Warren

Reviewers should never mention topics outwith the artists’ control. The journey, the seats, the stairs or the toilets nor the TEMPERATURE but……they do.

I mention the heat here because Tim McArthur, who shared his new show Sister Mary’s Playtime, in preview, at the Arts Theatre Upstairs, Leicester Square performed in a complete nun’s habit. Feet bedecked in taps.  For over an hour. At FULL THROTTLE and in FULL VOICE! We, however, could barely pick up our gin and tonics.

The audience members were perspiring as if in a Tennessee Williams revival in Arizona. So moist, they were even beyond wiping away the glistening sweat beading lip and brow and well, everywhere.

We were eventually cajoled out of our seats for the opening “prayer” and were galvanised enough to join in the Hand-BAG! Freezer-BAG! Ball-BAG! shout-along.

This fantastic sing-a-long, do actions-a-long, shriek-a-long is supported by the deliciously wonderful Brother Mathew on the ivories and even the little timing glitches that we expect in preview, dare I say it, were greeted warmly by a now noisy and appreciative audience.

I particularly enjoyed the “interview” segment at the end of the show, McArthur is a skilled and highly entertaining interviewer, allowing guests to make us laugh too.  And the surprise guest was astoundingly good. (No spoiler alert here).

Sister Mary is outrageously rude, camp, cheeky with enough political bite to make someone (me) snort their beer and nearly choke. Expect audience participation, to be pulled up (not off) on stage and some sort of cake as a reward for joyously joining in with Musical Theatre faves that are just knocked out of the park by this fabulous performer. A perfect Edinburgh show!

TIM MCARTHUR

Playing in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 3-26 August 2018 @ 5pm

Frankenstein Pub, 26 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EN

Lil Warren is a writer and director, an  old Edinburgh Festival lag, and co-host on Free Seed on Soho Radio CULTURE CHANNEL.

 

STRANGE THE ROAD by LIL WARREN Review

“STRANGE THE ROAD” – The Hope Theatre, London Feb 2017

From the moment the audience enters this studio space at the Hope & Anchor Pub Theatre they are confronted with a display of violent hierarchy in a frozen tableau of the full cast. 1930s New York Gangster Malloy (Pat Koupland) at the centre, drink in hand aggressively keeping his subordinates Randall (Darren Paul McStay) and Hughie (Rikki Chamberlain) in check.

Separated by this melee stage right we see a waitress (Andromeda Godfrey) who we will later meet as Verda, and stage left we see Frenchie (Joey Ellis) leaning with an air of melancholy surrounding him. He is however the first to spring into life signifying the start of the play. This is his story. Ellis’ character takes relish in explaining his emotional turmoil at every opportunity. The audience in this intimate space clearly hang on his every word as he explodes into exposition. We witness Frenchie falling in love with Verda who works at the club that these gangsters hang out at but he is Malloy’s driver and he has his aggressive sight set Verda, as does Randall. (Godfrey and McStay clearly enjoy playing Verda and Randall with verve and style). Wonderful subplots involving Randall and Hughie keep the audience on their toes as they flip between hilarious childhood buddies and ugly underworld villains.

This play is so well written by writer director Lil Warren. Every character brought to life from their opening frozen state are well rounded and immediately endeared by the audience without cliches attached. The carefully crafted black humour is immensely enjoyable and the staging within the space is sometimes intimate as characters plot secretly upstage then other times the audience are jolted back in their seats as characters are attacked. Lil Warren has achieved something wonderful with a very strong cast in this small space. I hope that one day STRANGE THE ROAD will be given the opportunity to spread its wings in a larger auditorium.

Simon Bowles   Production Designer   
Portfolio & Showreel: http://www.SimonBowles.com  
Member of the Britsh Film Designers Guild 
Member of British Academy of Film and Television 
 simon_bowles

BLACKOUT SIZZLE TRAILER

BLACKOUT SIZZLE TRAILER

Blackout will be performed

22 April Bloomsbury Theatre

https://www.thebloomsbury.com/event/run/15107

23 April Soho Theatre

http://www.sohotheatre.com/whats-on/national-theatre-connections-2016/

There are some free tickets for Under 18s. Please contact us via below to reserve these.

Photograph by Michael Cheetham