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WELCOME TO OUR NEWS PAGE…

Find out what’s going on at Theatre Ad Infinitum – rehearsals, news, photos, videos, discussion – the lot. It’s all here.

Wednesday 11 May | Deb Pugh tells us about “the rare privilege of being able to make work I care about”

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Tell us about your own theatre-making practice.

I am a performer, director & practitioner, trained at the Lecoq school in Paris. My approach to theatre making is invariably a physical one, even if the end result is standing still and delivering a soliloquy the process is always physical, finding the shape/dynamic/material of the character, of the space, of the spoken word and how they all inform one another.

Tell us about your work with Theatre Ad Infinitum? 

I’ve been making work with Ad Inf since 2007. It all started off with ‘Behind The Mirror’, a bizarre love triangle between a man, his fiancée and his evil mirror reflection. It was a straight-outta-drama-school, throw-everything-you’ve-got-at-it, sweaty slapstick-a-thon, rehearsed in any space we could find and played out in a portacabin in Edinburgh through perhaps the rainiest August in memory. But in spite of the weather and the flyers, which quickly turned to papier-mâché people came, and people liked it so we carried on….

In the next show, ‘Translunar Paradise’, I was promoted from fiancée to wife but then promptly killed off within the first 15 minutes of each performance. Undeterred, I returned as the ghost of my wifely self to dance, mask and mime my way through this gorgeous, wordless piece for the best part of three years, touring throughout Europe and North & South America.

After so long in the warm, tender cuddle that was Translunar the only thing to do next was make Ballad of the Burning Star- an explosive, ferocious, dragged-up, sexy-scary tank ride through the Middle East which let me flex my high-octane mourning muscles along with every other fibre in my body. I have never been so fit in my life, which was a good job, given the skimpiness of the costumes. Then, just as we were getting used to the Middle Eastern heat, along came the icy, dystopian vision of the future that is ‘Light’, the graphic novel inspired, self-lit sci-fi in which I played genius scientist (naturally) turned rebel leader, Cassandra, on a mission to save the world from the nightmare she created.

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How do you connect with the company and it’s (way of) theatre-making?

I love making work with Ad Inf. It offers me the rare privilege of being able to make work I care about with the most talented human beings I know who also happen to be some of my closest friends. Having two artistic directors with such different approaches keeps at bay any risk of stagnation- each new project is so different you have to keep inventing, keep learning, keep developing your craft.

How would you describe your experience in the creation of Bucket List so far?

Like having a big, stern word with myself. I can’t exempt myself from my culpability in the suffering of others if I buy shampoo/clothes/ chocolate from corporations who willingly exploit human beings, even when those human beings are really far away, and those products are so cheap, and even if those companies hide behind clever branding or package things in green and call them organic. I can no longer kid myself that I’m conscientious just because I recycle and I’ve never punched a dolphin, time to get smart.

What advice would you offer theatre makers at the beginning of their careers?

DON’T DO IT! Don’t do it. Don’t do it. You live out of a suitcase, 50% of your diet comes from motorway service stations, you’ve either no time or no money, whenever you go to parties people with proper jobs ask you too many questions and expect you to be entertaining. It’s not too late! You can still become a dentist!

…But if you still want to do it, be brilliant, the world doesn’t need crap theatre.

-Deb Pugh, actor, director & practitioner

Thursday 10th March | An Interview with Amy Nostbakken…

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Tell us about your work with Theatre Ad Infinitum? 

During my time with Ad infinitum I co-created, composed and performed the one-woman show The Big Smoke, was part of the ensemble in Ballad of the Burning Star and am part of the ensemble and musical director for Bucket List. The productions seem to get bigger and more ambitious as the years roll on, which makes sense. As you mature you realise what’s really important, what is worth fighting for…why do I make theatre? Because there is a story that needs to be told, a voice that is being silenced and I have the tools, I have the privilege, I have the platform from which to deliver it to a wider audience. We’re so lucky to be able to do what we do; I take it on as a real responsibility. Bucket List is a great example – Theatre Ad infinitum wants to fly a big whack of women from all over the globe to London, and we do not hesitate to jump on a plane, why? Because we have got to get this story out. It’s got to get out.

How do you connect with the company and it’s (way of) theatre-making?

The plays that Theatre Ad Infinitum creates can only be achieved through the devising process. They are collective creations. Even if it is a one-person show, it is written as a team, shaped as a team. The performers think like writers and directors, there is very little ego; all the energy is focussed on the work – the story we need to tell. We are all here in service of the story (so it had better be a really urgent, important story or else we’re all working our butts off and tearing our hair out for nothing). I do not know any other way of working. Well no, I know other ways, we’ve met, but I don’t’ much care for them. Creating within the confines of an inflexible script written by someone who is long dead, and then directed by someone who doesn’t have any interest in my opinions during the rehearsal process…is not for me. Devising is mad, it’s insane and horribly frustrating sometimes, but it’s also incredible, and hilarious and makes magic.

What are the important issues / What have you learnt during the research for the show?

Working on this show reminds me that we need to be brave theatre makers. Some of the issues we are tackling in Bucket List are terrifying because the stories we are telling are describing the lives of real people, living under horrific circumstances and we – you and me and every audience member who will see this show are directly connected to them. Admitting hypocrisy is scary. Naming names is risky. Taking responsibility is absolutely necessary.

This isn’t a fairy tale or a myth or an adaptation, this is a true story about how the rich take advantage of the poor, right now, today. And if you think you are exempt from this truism ask yourself who made the shirt you’re wearing or the car you are driving or the chocolate bar you bought yesterday because the odds are, if you didn’t research before purchasing, it was made by a child or an abused factory worker being paid slave wages in a sweat shop by a western corporation which was made possible by a treaty like Nafta or the new Trans-Pacific Partnership so that we can buy more crap that we don’t need at cheaper prices.

During this process I am constantly catching myself in my own daily hypocrisy. It requires a bit of re-wiring, to not only empathise with those who have it bad in a distant country, but to admit that I am contributing to their misery and declare that I will actively do something about it.

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What advice would you offer theatre makers at the beginning of their careers?

The same advice I was given when I left theatre school – only do good work.

What is your greatest achievement as an artist?

Winning the Oscar the Tony and the Grammy. Oh wait that wasn’t me. Next Question.

What do you like to do when you are not making theatre?

Be in bed. With snacks.

-Amy Nostbakken, actor/musician, composer, musical director

Monday 29th Feb | Lauren Cameron’s blog entry – Lauren is our Stage Manager…

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I first met Theatre Ad Infinitum 4 years ago when I was a venue technician at Tara Arts Theatre in Earlsfield. They were bringing their production of Ballad of the Burning Star at an early work-in-progress stage. I connected to the powerful story that the company were telling and enjoyed the challenge of helping them bring it to life- I was lucky that they remembered me for later productions.

I stage managed Juana in a Million for its London run which Nir directed and starred Vicky, and then started working with Ad Infinitum on the 2nd national tour of Ballad. Following this I’ve been involved with the national Light tours; the R&D of Town Hall Cherubs; the Canadian tour of Ballad; and the Kristin Lavransdatter Project at The North Wall, Oxford.

Before my stage management career, I studied theatre academically at university – this gives me an appreciation of the company’s devising creation process; the important issues it attempts to tackle in its work, and the choice of very different styles/genres used in service of the storytelling from production to production. Their technique of theatre-making means that my experience as the Stage Manager, particularly in the rehearsal room, can be much more varied than it might be working for a company who is text-based.

This is an amazing group of women (and one man) who I very much enjoy spending time with, and it’s inspiring to watch them create together. Every day has different challenges as the show emerges. It is truly a collaborative process and everyone is committed and invested in seeing that the story at the heart of Bucket List is told well.

One of my roles in the rehearsal room is to research the topics and issues we’re covering in the piece, and this has been a very interesting, eye-opening experience. I’ve learnt that the situation in Mexico is worse than you can ever imagine- the depth of corruption and exploitation, the level of poverty and the intensity of violence there is mind-boggling. Despite the fact that famous global companies who provide many of the products in our homes are the ones who exploit Mexican workers, I think it’s a situation that in general, those in Europe and America know little about.

We Asked Lauren: What advice would you offer stage managers at the beginning of their careers?

For stage managers at the start of their careers, I would suggest saying yes to everything at the start, to find the type and scale of theatre which best suits your working method. I enjoy the intimacy and independence of this scale of devised physical theatre, for instance. If you believe in and enjoy the work you’re involved with, this will see you through any difficulty or stress you may encounter in the role. Enthusiasm, friendliness and commitment will see you through- companies are more likely to hire and re-hire those stage managers they enjoy being around.

-Lauren Cameron, Stage Manager

Tuesday 23rd Feb | Charlotte Dubery’s blog entry – Charlie is an actress and devisor…

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I first worked with Theatre Ad Infinitum in 2014 on an R&D at the BAC. After that, I joined the cast of Light as Dr.Nelson and The Overseer for a run at The Barbican as part of the London International Mime Festival, a UK tour in Spring 2015 and a run at the BAC this January. Bucket List is the first show I have created with the company. It feels both exciting and important to be part of an all-female ensemble and I think it will be a very powerful piece. I’m looking forward to seeing how people will respond to Bucket List.

A big part of my connection with the company is having also trained at École Jacques Lecoq in Paris. One of the most incredible tools this particular school gives you, is a shared language in theatre making. Any students who have trained there are able to quickly and efficiently make work together whether they trained fifty years ago or have just graduated – which is something very special.

Before working on Bucket List, I knew very little about the North American Fair Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the relationship between the USA and Mexico. The more research I did, the more enraged, shocked and helpless I felt. I could not believe the situation. I could not believe the level of political corruption between these two countries, and the unimaginable effect this is having on innocent people simply trying to live their lives. It is not fair, but justice seems completely unattainable because of the deep-rooted corruption.

I hope the show will provoke audiences to read more around the issues we raise in the show and ultimately, inspire change.

-Charlie Dubery, actress/devisor

Wednesday 17th Feb | Bucket List Rehearsals

It’s wonderful to have all these talented women in the rehearsal room again after a break in the creation of Bucket List. With the combination of their unique energies, we are creating something really exciting.

We have hit the ground running and started working through the piece from the beginning, adapting previously-created content in combination with newly devised material. Coming to the work that was created in the first research and development period with fresh eyes, we are rediscovering what is at the heart of the story. It is becoming clearer what needs to be edited out and what needs to be emphasised.

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New music has been composed by our musician Haruna and our musical director Amy, bringing in more influences from both American and Mexican sources.

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There’s a lot to tell you -but I’ll leave at that for now. Over the coming weeks we’ll do our best to let you in on the rehearsal process and the people behind Bucket List. See you soon. 

-Nir, co-artistic director

 


Tuesday 16th Feb | Bucket List Rehearsals

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Since our work on the play began last year the story for Bucket List and how we want to tell the story is gradually becoming clearer – but how do we describe a play that isn’t finished yet? Well, that’s always a challenge for a devising company – because we are opening this play in August at the Edinburgh Festival, and we’re excited about it, but how do we inspire someone else about this show? We have to start telling people about Bucket List now – even though it’s not finished.

We’re at the start of stage two, and there’s still stage three to go in July, a total of nine weeks, so we’ve no doubt things will advance and change and develop -evolve. But because we want to share it with as many people as possible, we need to be able to tell you all what on earth we’re doing in the rehearsal room. And in fact – in having to do that, we find ourselves -crucially- asking important and necessary questions: What is Bucket List? How do we describe the story. It becomes part of the creative process – forcing us to articulate our ideas for story, character, and so on. So for now, we have managed to do that in the following way… see what you think:

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Bucket List

Theatre Ad Infinitum bring to life an adventurous exploration of life and death in Mexico’s border towns. Bucket List is being created following conversations with close collaborator Vicky Araico Casas, it is a story told from the point of view of Milagros, a Mexican orphan girl. When a British PHD student arrives in the neighbourhood of Ciudad Acuña, a Mexican town bordering the USA, Milagros shows an unusual talent for chess. Persuaded to leave her life in Mexico plagued by violence and injustice, she moves to the USA to pursue a new life at Harvard.

When Milagros discovers she is suffering from terminal cancer, she is forced to return to Mexico where a devastating discovery fuels an impassioned desire to seek revenge. With their characteristic style of physical storytelling, Theatre Ad Infinitum’s all female cast tell the story of Milagros’s life in light of turbulent US-Mexican relations and the global capitalist system.

Rehearsals continue -we cannot WAIT to share this with you…

-George, co-artistic director

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Monday 15th Feb | Bucket List Rehearsals 

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Today the cast and crew of Bucket List arrived at Redbridge Drama Centre (RDC) in London to start rehearsals. We have five weeks in total, and the first three are in London at RDC. It marks the start of stage two of our creative process; there are three stages in total: the final stage is in July before we world premiere the piece at the Edinburgh Festival in August 2016. Last year, in the first stage, we spent five weeks creating 50mins of material and in July 2015 we shared an excerpt of Bucket List with audiences – a tradition at Ad Infinitum, in which we ask for feedback to help with the development of the piece and bring our audience into the creative process. 

The day began with a read-through of the text that Nir Paldi – our co-artistic director, and director/writer of Bucket List – has been working on over the last few months. It’s still not finished – we’re a devising theatre company – so the work of staging and making something on the page become theatre on the stage, starts now, devised with the cast in the room. In the afternoon they began putting everything back on its feet starting with the work we made last year…

The cast are a mighty bunch of talent – and we’re really excited to be working with them all. Bucket List will be performed by an all-female ensemble made up of Deb Pugh, Amy Nostbakken, Stefanie Sourial, Charlie Dubery, Orian Michaeli and Vicky Araico Casas – Vicky a performer-writer that has worked with Nir before. In fact, it was Vicky who pitched the idea for Bucket List to Nir two years ago. Nir and Vicky collaborated on a piece together called Juana in a Million that won a Fringe First at the Edinburgh Festival back in 2012 – they’ve been wanting to work together since, and now they’ve found the right project. We’re working with Amy not only as a performer but also as a musical director/composer – she’s writing some wonderful music for the piece. For those who know the company’s work -Amy performs and co-wrote Ad Infinitum’s one-woman aria, The Big Smoke, as well as performing in Ballad of the Burning Star. Amy is working with live musician and multi-instrumentalist, Haruna Komatsu, to support the cast live during the performance. 

Many of the artists we’re working with have come from abroad to be with us. Vicky has come from Mexico City, Mexico, Stefanie (Ballad of the Burning Star) has come from Vienna, Austria, Amy has come from Toronto, Canada, Orian (Ballad of the Burning Star) has come from Tel-Aviv, Israel, and Haruna is from Tokyo, Japan – though she is now based in London. And of course we also work with artists in the UK, Charlie Dubery – who is also in Light, and Deb Pugh -a long term member of Ad Infinitum, Deb started working with us in 2007 and has been in Behind the Mirror, Translunar Paradise, Ballad of the Burning Star, Town Hall Cherubs and Light

Bucket is supported by a brilliant team of creatives: Peter Harrison is returning to do lighting design, Peter designed The Big Smoke, Translunar Paradise and Ballad of the Burning Star, so we’re thrilled he can work on Bucket List. Emma Cains (who worked with me designing on Pink Mist, a play I co-directed with John Retallack in my part-time role at Bristol Old Vic as associate director) will design set and costume and we’re delighted she can work with us on this show. 

And last but by no means least – our stage manager Lauren Cameron, who worked on Ballad of the Burning Star and mastered the 400-odd cues for the technical feat that is Light, is working her magic on Bucket List to keep everything ship-shape and get it ready for the work-in-progress sharings coming in March 2016…

So watch this space – we’ll be updating it everyday – see you tomorrow!

-George, co-artistic director

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