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Brit School students star in BiDiNG TiME

Thu, 26/01/2012

 I'd seen the poster -  'It’s a love story set in London, about ambition, how we measure success, time and change'. I admit it now, I was nervous. I turned up on this cold rainy winters night to see what 65 young people led by Emma Baggott, Susannah Gould and Will Rennison, had done with the story and unfinished BiDiNG TiME text in a physical theatre version of the show. I had been to early rehearsals and seen some abstract physical responses but still didn't know quite what to expect. The project as been staggering towards 2012 for a long time, charged with the idea that by sharing a story and allowing people room to interpret it, remarkable things could happen. This was the first show of the year and I was not disappointed.


Before the show started a group of lads milled on stage, waiting. The audience moving among them, between the two banks of seats and across the traverse stage, to find their places. Once the lights went down, girls flooded in and the show began with a game of scissors, paper, rock - with hands at first then extending to the whole body. This production combined physical performance with snatches of text and carefully chosen scenes to create a very interesting form. It was clearly structured but with an irrepressible freedom and quirky creativity that formal plays seldom offer. Four characters had been picked from the text to highlight particular issues led by the heroine Thyme, her love interest Nick, eco warrior Jake and agent Mina. They led us through the story and remained true to its heart, sometimes speaking song lyrics, sometimes repeating lines and phrases. There were few scenes with dialogue which suited the physical style. It never stopped, energy never dropped and the social commentary kept on coming. The leading performers shone in their roles, well supported by a talented ensemble. Groups of women were used to great affect to highlight the bitchy competitive world of keeping up appearances and struggling to be seen in the industry of entertainment. The club, supermarket, audition and protest scenes particularly stood out with bold staging and stylised physicality. This production posed a stark contrast between a world of fame and fortune with the challenges of climate change. Despite the fact Thyme's love is lost and the acting part she is offered is rejected, the final moments of the show were triumphant and rang true, as a young woman finds her resolve and sense of self.  

On seeing the early work I had been immensely impressed that these students had not been distracted by the love story and focused on the bigger questions that the project is asking.    To be honest I knew this but had not articulated it adequately until I saw their work. The joy of this process for me, is through each development as different people explore the material and I understand more about what I am trying to achieve. I learn and am confronoted by different people's reactions. Although the Brit School production did not have an intergenerational component, as suggested in the script, it did show a stage full of the next generation of young people battling with the problems of today. The lure of fame and pursuing individual dreams against the need to connect to the natural environment and each other will shape their future.

One of the most satisfying elements of the show was the sense of collaboration, between me and the staff and students. We have barely met through this process and the show is theirs, undoubtedly theirs; yet it's also mine and my original collaborators. Twenty five years on and they would have recognised it - changed though it is. I was curious about the credits - directors, performers and then an explanation of the project but no direct credit or acknowledgement of the years of work and thinking that has led me to construct a project in this way. I was thanked, so not forgotten but confronted by my own ego and desire for recognition. It passed. I take responsibility for not dictating the terms, this project is playing with notions of authorship beyond the usual constraints of roles, responibilities and credits. These structures need to change - that is what BiDiNG TiME is all about. Perhaps this story doesn't actually belong to any of us and we are simply custodians, participating in a big chain letter, passing it on. I was strangely moved as my 19 year old self was rumbled in my heart, identifying with these teens. I certainly hope that sense of shared ownership increases over the course of the year as more people play with this text and these ideas.   

I found the Brit School production utterly inspiring, am grateful to Emma and Imogen for their willingness to take a risk and hope the rest of the audience got something from it. There was plenty of foot tapping, laughter and big cheers at the end. My companion said he didn't generally understand 'pyhsical theatre' and really got into this. That's a major achievement and what the project is for. Congratulations to the staff and students at Brit School for taking it on with Big Thanks to Imogen, Emma, Will, Susannah and all the young performers...Hannah, Corey, Ben, Ashleigh, Joseph, Ijeoma, Nathaniel, Lucy, Rozeena, Tammi, Orla, Chontelle, Alexandra, Harley, Sam, Chezzney, Benjamin, Haydn, Rebecca, Andrew, Eloise, Christina, Robyn, Toby, Isla, Lauren, Paige, Isharni, Adrian, Jesse, Cqimere,Emma, Talicia, Alice, Amarah, Eleanor, Benjamin, Peter, Rachel, Nina-Rose, Georgia, Candassaie, Louis, Kira-Marie, George, Mollie, Wilma, Lily, Charles, Catherine, Thomas, Christopher, Ibrahim-Farouk, Alice, Rebecca, James, Sharika, Harriet, Charles, Sarah, Alfie, Bebe, Joshua, Daisy, Chantelle.