Audio Blog from Circles Playwright Rachel De-lahay

Friday, May 30th, 2014 by Tricycle

Actresses Janice McKenzie and Sarah Manners in Circles

Today we have an audio blog from Circles playwright Rachel De-lahay, recorded whilst the show was on stage at Birmingham Rep. Now on stage at the Tricycle, Rachel talks about making late night changes to the script and having fun in the rehearsal room, as well as her thought process behind telling the story of three generations of women effected by cycles of domestic violence. 

Listen to ‘Circles – Interview with playwright Rachel De-lahay’ on Audioboo

Circles is on stage at the Tricycle until 14 June, click here for more information and to book.



Bringing Circles to the stage with verve, energy and fearlessness

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014 by Tricycle

Danusia Samal as Demi in Circles

Today we have a guest blog from Tessa Walker, director of our upcoming production presented by Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Circles. Tessa gives us an insight into what she loves about playwright Rachel De-lahay’s work, the journey of bringing Circles to the stage and the thought processes behind some of the directing choices.

I love Rachel’s writing; I love the verve and energy and fearlessness with which she writes. I love how she sees the world through utterly unique eyes, like no one else does. I thought the life, the fire and the epic sweep of The Westbridge was unbelievably impressive for anyone, particularly a first time writer, and the detail and precision with which she wrote Routes, combined with a sheer anger at our immigration system, will always stay with me.
When I first started at The REP, two years ago now, I began to seek out Birmingham writers, actors, theatre makers and directors. I was delighted to find out that Rachel was from the city, had her first experience of theatre in Birmingham and still spends a great deal of time here. She felt absolutely the right person to be a writer in residence and I was beyond pleased when she became our Channel Four writer in residence. It was during her time with us that she re-visited Circles, the beginnings of which were a few scenes between two young people circling the city on the Number 11 bus. As the play emerged it found a much wider, more brutal scope as she began to write not just about a friendship that, without wanting to give too much away, is not all it seems but became about cycles of violence, more specifically cycles of violence and its effect on women. Three generations of women in this case. It’s not an easy subject, it’s not palatable, I don’t think it’s something society really wants to face but the reality is many women on the receiving end of violence act this violence out in turn, sometimes on themselves, sometimes on others but mostly in ways we will never see and are even less be able to understand. Its my feeling that we are surrounded daily by the most subtle – dangerously subtle, so much we hardly see them – images and narratives in which women are treated violently. I’m not saying Circles can re-balance all of these, but I’m incredibly proud to be associated with a play that runs right at the subject, tackling it head on and with detail, integrity and humour to boot.
One of the things that has also been so vivid about the play is that it has the Birmingham accent in it. Not because the characters are comedic – though they can be – or for whatever reason the Birmingham accent usually finds it way into the stage, but just because the people in it are from Birmingham. Simple as that. This shouldn’t be rare, we should hear the Birmingham accent everywhere, but we don’t and its a pleasure to hear it on our stage, and even more of a pleasure to hear Birmingham audiences responding to it. The play is also a hymn to the city; you can almost see it going past the window on the bus and the characters carry the landscape of Birmingham within them and in their stores, their experiences and their references.

Janice McKenzie and Sarah Manners in Circles

Janice McKenzie and Sarah Manners in Circles

 The play’s development has had quite a journey. About half of it was re-written in rehearsals; Rachel would write in one room as we would rehearse new scenes in the other. We had no idea how it would all hang together until about two days before we started teching and even then we have performed scenes in a different order from the text as it is published. We found, and are still finding now, different ways to overlap and interweave the stories in the staging so that the stories hopefully collide and comment on each other. It’s play of two very separate stories, it’s a bit like combining Skins with The Beauty Queen of Leenane and its been a joyful and exciting challenge to create a space in which the two strands, so different in tone and pace and focus, can exist together.

The actors have been wonderful in achieving this, they have been responded openly and swiftly and with great integrity to the changes and, as a result, have a real ownership of the play and it’s world. It’s only a short play – just over an hour – but the journeys in it are huge and the cast navigate them with honesty and with commitment and with brilliant insight. We rehearsed in two pairs really, both sets of rehearsals fueled by endless cups of tea and too many biscuits. In both pairs we started by reading the scenes a few times and then we broke the text into units, working through the scenes moment by moment. This is a great way to unpick what is really happening and to stop too general an approach. It’s a good way to make sure scenes don’t run away with you but rather you are, as much as you ever can be, in control of them. Do this for too long though and it can get boring so we also got scenes on their feet as soon as we could and began to discover a physical life for them. I quickly gave up on the bus scenes being too realistic, I didn’t want us or the audience to ask about where the other passengers were (sitting downstairs, if anyone asks) or for us to worry about not being able to roam around, jump up and down, use seats in all the different ways one can. The bus scenes needed a life and a warmth and a sense of ownership and that’s very hard to achieve just sitting still. In comparison the scenes at ‘home’ that should feel safe and relaxed and warm don’t, neither of the women can be at home with each other, too trapped in what they can’t say and what they don’t want to deal with. It was fantastic to find this, and much more, in rehearsals. It always seems a bit naff to me when directors say they’ve had fun in rehearsals, as if all you’re doing is guffawing and playing practical jokes, but rehearsals for this have been fun. Sometimes very focused, sometimes a bit baffling, sometimes getting loads done and at other times nothing, but I have had fun. Fun because the actors are brilliant, funny, vibrant people. Fun because the play is unique and complicated and has brilliance in it. Fun because every day you make a discovery, even if the next day you might realise it was the wrong one.

I’ve been asked to write here about what the response to Circles has been. I’m afraid I don’t really know. Audiences seem to like it a lot, though ‘like’ is probably not the right word. I hope people recognise their city and their voice and maybe their story in it. There’s a lot of laughter from audiences I’ve seen it with and also some shock and upset. It might be the sort of piece that people describe as ‘packing a punch’. The reality is though its very difficult to really see work you have directed for what it really is, let alone work out what people really think. I’m not sure you ever can. What I know at this point is that I love the writing and I love the story. I think – thanks to a tirelessly talented creative team – it looks and sounds brilliant. I think the acting is fantastic. I think it puts an untold story from an under represented city on stage. I know I’m very proud of it.

Circles plays at the Tricycle from 27 May – 14 June. View the official trailer here. Book tickets online here.


Scott Graham, Artistic Director of Frantic Assembly on The Believers…

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 by Tricycle


 The Believers rehearsalsThe Believers rehearsals

Initially all that existed was a title, The Believers, and the briefest synopsis – it is about belief systems. Apart from that, I was starting from scratch.

The first research and development we did was driven by the book Religion Explained, a fascinating insight into belief and anthropology, I then decided to look at horror films, as they inspire us to believe in the absurd and I was interested in how far our belief systems might bend and alter when presented with different situations. That might be fear and terror, or it might be the promise of great reward.

These were early directions but many of them are still applicable in what became The Believers. When you set out to make a show, it can take at least two years and in that time you can change direction, take wrong turnings, get lost, or meet sudden inspiration – something that came to Eddie and I in the early hours of the morning after our first preview as it struck us that what we had all just watched was a beautiful painting. It was crafted to within an inch of its life but it remained two-dimensional. It was not leaping out and embracing or shaking us, which led us to spending the next day giving the production a bit more oomph. By 21:00 that night, it had become clear that our hard work was well worth it – it had leapt out at us, gripped us for 70 minutes and then released us feeling shaken and very proud.

I think The Believers illustrates why I cast actors and then get them to move. The four performers were cast on their acting ability and their potential to give their best physically. Eddie and I were confident we could introduce them to the physical world and get them strong and confident physically. When we had achieved that, we knew that their acting skills would then come to the fore – and, of course, they did. 

You can find out more about The Believers on our website here


Blog Takeover: OVER!

Thursday, April 10th, 2014 by Tricycle
Yolanda (right) performing in The Kilburn Passion

Yolanda (right) performing in The Kilburn Passion

We’re all still recovering from the mental week of theatre, film, music and workshops that was the first ever Tricycle Takeover Festival, which finished last week. What better way to round off an unbelievable festival than with one of our first Young Company bloggers, Yolanda, returning to give us her final outlook on the events…

I don’t have any children, and I’ve never been pregnant, but stepping off The Tricycle stage felt like I’d just given birth; that I had brought into the world this thing/being/creation that we have been working on and anticipating for months. It’s amazing because after a lot of blood, sweat and tears, I can definitely say hard work pays off. Our first night of The Kilburn Passion felt like a beautiful dream that I didn’t want to awake from. Everything seemed to go perfectly- there probably were minor mistakes, but I believe this helped us to solidify and depict the story that Suhayala wrote.

One of the best things about this experience has to be the cast.  It feels so weird to say, but I genuinely felt like I was on stage with a group of friends: telling a story, sharing a dance and other intimate moments from our characters’ journeys in front of an audience. As we did more shows, the FUN heightened and I felt like I could explore my character “Steph” more, and I discovered a variety of dimensions to her sassy yet emotional demeanour. I think that, as a whole, the cast all seemed to be exploring their characters during the shows and by the last show I felt that we had evolved as an ensemble and individuals, and really made The Kilburn Passion “HD”.

Being a part of The Kilburn Passion has been a remarkable experience, and I can’t wait to see where my Tricycle Young Company journey takes me.

You can find out more about the Tricycle Young Company on our website here.


Lyrical Fireworks Competition Winner

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 by Tricycle
Winner: Tom Gill

Winner: Tom Gill

To celebrate the London premiere of Kate Tempest’s newest play Hopelessly Devoted at the Tricycle Theatre, we recently launched a competition in collaboration with Paines Plough and Ideastap to scour the country for the freshest young spoken word artists.

The inspiration – Ted Hughes award-winning poet and critically acclaimed playwright and recording artist, Kate Tempest. The prize- the chance to perform the winning poem after a performance of Hopelessly Devoted, tickets to see the show and a signed Kate Tempest playscript.

The Tricycle Theatre endeavours to support emerging artists and we were seriously impressed with the level of lyrical talent displayed by all the young poets who entered – we had over 70 entries into the competition and the winners were picked by Hopelessly Devoted directors Stef O’Driscoll and James Grieve.

We are very pleased to announce the winner of Lyrical Fireworks is… (drum roll please!)…

Tom Gill!

Tom is a spoken word artist and actor who lives in London and won the competition with his recording of 4 Minute Fix. This poem had us cracking up as well as marveling at Tom’s way with words and his bang on social commentary. Click the link below to view Tom’s winning poem (please note this poem contains swearing):

Lyrical Fireworks winning poem: 4 Minute Fix by Tom Gill

Also massive congrats to the two runners up in the competition- Mia Antonia with her poem The Mirror and Paddy Hughes with his poem Nokia. Both Mia and Paddy will be receiving signed Kate Tempest playscripts and Hopelessly Devoted posters.

Hopelessly Devoted by Kate Tempest is playing until 19 April- click here for more info and to book.


Blog Takeover: Toy Kangaroos, Group Birthing & Opening Night Nerves

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 by Tricycle
KP2 small

The Kilburn Passion in rehearsal

Today we have a blog from Tricycle Young Company Member Luke, who is acting in The Kilburn Passion which is opening tonight as part of the Takeover Festival! We’re really rooting for all the Young Company actors gearing up to open to a packed house of Kilburn locals and theatre lovers. As the age old saying goes, break a leg guys!

It seems any blog about my experiences working on The Kilburn Passion would need to start with a bit of background first. Starting anything with “at last week’s rehearsals, after introducing ourselves to a toy kangaroo called Kennedy, we began to plot out the chorus’ baby birthing scene and the cream doughnut fight” definitely needs a bit of context and explanation.
My journey with the Tricycle’s Young Company starts back in Summer 2013 when Mark Londesborough, the Creative Learning Director at the Tricycle Theatre, came to do a talk for a youth project I was involved with about the Tricycle’s plans for the Takeover Festival. I left that Q&A with one note: “Tricycle Theatre Young Company – SIGN UP”. A few weeks later, with an audition booked in, I made my way to Kilburn and sat nervously on the tube, wondering what to expect. And so ensued one of the most relaxed and enjoyable auditions I’ve ever had. I was put in a room with 20 other young people with a passion for theatre and we were allowed to simply play, explore, and have fun with our own interpretations of various scenes and situations that we were given. I left that audition even more resolved that this project at this theatre was something that I just had to be involved with in whatever way I could.
Luckily, two weeks later I received ‘The Email’. As any actor will know the first step to opening such emails involves desperately scanning with fingers over the eyes for the words ‘unfortunately’, ‘however’ or ‘the standard was particularly high’. Thankfully, it included neither and it was inviting me to join the Young Company for 2013/14. Needless to say I was ecstatic; primarily because, based on my audition, the standard was indeed very high. From my short time spent amongst them, The Tricycle seems to draw in tirelessly passionate, driven and talented people that make it a genuinely enjoyable place to just hang out; whether you are working there or not and that was certainly reflected in the people who came to audition for the Young Company.
And of course, that is not more palpable than in the young people who made up the final company and those working with us. Not only are we led by the wonderful Emily Lim, who is one of the most dynamic and endlessly energetic people I have ever had the pleasure to be around, let alone be directed by. We are also enormously blessed to be working alongside playwright Suhayla El-Bushra.  Suhayla’s insights into us as individuals, as a company and into society at large have resulted in a truly original and unique play that not only expresses what we as a young company have to say but that feels uniquely ‘of us’.

The Kilburn Passion in rehearsals

The Kilburn Passion in rehearsals

The ‘us’ in question of course being the collection of 18 young people that form the Young Company. One rehearsal spent with this company and it becomes evidently clear why a theatre piece is called a play. And at first glance you could be forgiven for assuming that is all we do. However, if anything I have written previously feels like sentimental cheese then prepare for the overripe, matured stilton of it all because this has to be one of the most united, talented and determined bunches of people I’ve ever worked with. Determined in their passion for theatre making; determined in their demand for a ‘voice’ and determined to have fun. Tuesday evenings have come to be one of my most looked forward to times of the week.
And the culmination of all of this hard work, passion and determination? A new play, written beautifully by Suhayla; directed effortedly (or whatever the opposite of effortlessly is, because it has sure as hell involved one hell of a lot of effort) by Emily Lim and staged spectacularly by the technical and design team, Elena Peña, Chris Gylee, Jack Knowles, Shannon Foster and Georgina Brazier. Now, as we inch ever terrifyingly close to opening night, the camaraderie and group dynamics come into full effect as we come to terms with the set (all 9 raised platforms of it) and the furiously relentless transitions, choral scenes and prop-journey madnesses! And amidst all this madness, introducing ourselves to toy kangaroos, group birthing scenes and cream doughnuts have well and truly cemented themselves into the norm… and that is slightly worrying, and beautiful at the same time!
The Kilburn Passion opens on the 3rd of April as part of the Tricycle’s young people Takeover Festival and I’d like to finally thank Mark Londesborough, Anna Myers and all the other wonderful people behind the scenes at the Tricycle for whom youth engagement in their theatre work is clearly at the heart of what they do. This is not just a youth project, it is a Youth Takeover and I am immensely proud to be even a small part of it.

Tickets are still available for Friday and Saturday performances of The Kilburn Passion- click here to book. And there’s still loads of workshops and events you can take part in until 5 April- click here for more info and to see what’s on.