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news forge actors end of first term

It’s difficult to believe that we are already at the end of the first third of the Programme.

In the first three weeks they met the wonderful Max Cormac, a movement teacher par excellence. Despite driving them almost beyond human physical endurance, they still all love him. And they’re considerably fitter than when they arrived.

Their first project saw them writing a total of 90 (that’s Ninety, 10 x 9, 10 < 100!) stories, all about 1000 words long in the first nine days, driven by Brian Astbury. They then democratically selected 10 of these (one each from the nine they had written), and, in the next nine days working them up to be staged. This was either very simply presenting the story as a form of Stand-up Storytelling, or realising the story with the help of the rest of the group. Few who saw them will forget the tragic tale of Hefty, the Unicorn with an Identity Problem, or the heart-rending story of the little girl whose father was leaving her forever (takes out tissue and sniffles into it…)

Then Shane Dempsey landed in the middle of the group like a tornado. Despite a fraught rehearsal period – the first week was bedevilled by illness– he managed to extract from them a rumbustious piece of devised physical theatre, set on the Bakerloo Line, in which they told myriads of stories of all the strange and wonderful beings you will find there.

The much gentler Jessica Beck then took them on a literary archaeological ‘dig’ during which they discovered – to everyone’s amazement – that Guildford is far from the boring place immortalised by Douglas Adams. They even appropriated Ford Prefect from him to lead us through The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Guildford. Here we met a range of the most extraordinary and powerful women. The amazing Fanny Burney, a writer who inspired Jane Austen (‘Fun Fact’ – as Ford P would say: Jane got the title of Pride and Prejudice from one of Burney’s novels). What most will remember, however, is her harrowing story of having a mastectomy – at the age of 80 – back in the 18th Century, with only a glass of red wine and a cambric handkerchief over her eyes for ‘anaesthetic’. Also the first woman to get a pilot’s license in Britain; the marvellous Ellen Smyth, writer of the anthem of the Suffragists – The March of the Women; Alan Turing’s Mum; Mrs Beeton – a sadder story than I had been led to believe; one of the innocent Guildford Four, jailed wrongly, apologised to by Tony Blair; and Brenda, Guildford’s famous Bearded Lady. Along the way there were numerous appearances by Agatha Christie and her weird, moustachioed creation, Hercule Poirot.

All-in-all, a term full of wonderful creativity. I look forward to the next.

This article originally appeared on the APT website.