Archives For Ideas

Ideas and inspiration – maybe ….

Get a good game going to loosen up the the 'comfort barriers'

Get a good game going to loosen up the the ‘comfort barriers’

Also in this series:
Offbeat Directing 1: The Vision Quest
Offbeat Directing 2: Understanding the Script
Offbeat Directing 3: Dreaming and Planning
Offbeat Directing 4: What Does the Director Do?
Offbeat Directing 5: Trial by Audition
Offbeat Directing 6: The First Awkward Read Through
Offbeat Directing 7a: Who Does What?
Offbeat Directing 7b: Early Rehearsals and Cunning Plans
Offbeat Directing 7c: Your Design Team
Offbeat Directing 7d: Infrastructure!

Ah .. the comfort zone. The place where most actors will stay unless pressed to break out. It’s that safe place where you walk in a way that feels ok, talk in your own voice or one you’re familiar with, interact with other actors in a non-threatening manner. It’s a safe, comfortable place to be. But it isn’t ever enough. Whenever you start to feel slightly embarrassed, uncomfortable, vulnerable or just plain scared, that’s when you’re breaking the comfort barrier. And this is good!

Analogy: Your body is remarkable. Your brain has a memory of every muscle you possess and knows exactly how far that muscle can stretch. When it reaches the stretch barrier your brain says ‘no, that’s quite enough stretching, thank you, this is where I’m staying.’ Pretty clever, keeps you safe. It bases this limitation on factors like how much you use the muscle and physical and emotional truama that have affected the area. You have a ‘range’ of movement that becomes normal for you. If you want to go beyond it, you’ll have to practise and reset the brain/muscle controlled barrier. So when you decide to take up yoga (for example) or any other stretching exercise, you have to repeatedly work on stretching your ‘normal’ range of movement until it is gradually increased. If you only do this once a week your progress will be very slow. The more you practise, the more you change.

Now think of theatre. Continue Reading…

Many people believe that to exercise your mind you need to read. Read by all means, but then you need to THINK about what you’ve read. Otherwise it’s like standing on the treadmill at the gym without turning it on….

Get into the Mind Gym!

Director sitting nicely, brain engaged and keeping quiet (for now)

Director sitting nicely, brain engaged and keeping quiet (for now)

Listening and watching (in a positive way) are very underrated. In a previous ‘life’ I was a therapist (remedial massage mostly) and I spent many years teaching others how to assess the varying conditions of their clients. Listen, watch and, in the case of a physical therapy, get your hands on (but even then you are listening with your hands). In theatre, observation is everything – but not just in theatre. The same applies if you just want to help a friend. Watch .. listen. Where are they? Continue Reading…

Unleash your Creativity!

Barbara —  May 28, 2013 — 26 Comments
flowers by Barbara Hockley

A survivor from a painting frenzy many years ago!

When I was in my 20s I had a sudden urge to paint. I had emerged from a difficult time and found myself in a relatively peaceful place and was drawn back to theatre, to creativity and expression. But, totally at odds with what I thought I could and couldn’t do, I started to paint. I had no knowledge of anything to do with painting, of techniques or types of paint (I had been declared ‘hopeless’ by my art teacher many years back when I couldn’t draw a face). I naturally found myself using paints that I liked the look of (I used enamel paints – very shiny and bright), brushes that suited detailed work and I painted on hardboard because it was cheap and I was broke. I bought offcuts from a local hardware store and I painted and painted. I had no idea ever what I was going to paint, I just sat down and ideas flowed from the brush without my head intervening. I painted all night in a little attic room (how romantic is that!) and stacked them up over many months. I sprayed the finished products with varnish and had them framed as cheaply as I could. Unsophisticated and lacking technique undeniably, but painted from deep down inside with passion and commitment. Continue Reading…


The set for Beauty & the Beast used 3 revolves!

Confession: I HATE scene changes. That moment when everything comes to a standstill, the magic disappears, the lights go dim and people in black clothes start whoosing around the stage moving bits of the set on and off. I hate it even more if the tabs (curtains) are closed to disguise the event, cutting the audience out altogther (as if we don’t know what’s going on). Then, after the scene change break, it starts up again and we try to pick up the thread. I will do almost anything to avoid that scenario – I will not have scene changes if I’m directing. I will not have people in black infiltrating the production…. Continue Reading…


It’s all been a bit bonkers round here and … horrors … blogging went out the window last week! Back on track this week – more on Offbeat Directing coming up and tomorrow I’m running a Games Workshop – I’m thinking ‘Twisted Games’ here … will write it up!!

Yep, 'fraid our 'witches scene' was rather silly

Yep, ‘fraid our ‘witches scene’ was rather silly

Whilst I was running a youth theatre a few years back I was asked if we could do something for ‘Shakespeare Day’…. Well yes, but no time to get a full length play together. People were doing things in and around the town on the day in question. Sonnets in the teashop, that sort of thing.
Scenes from Shakespeare? Well, possibly I thought…
But then … why not have all the classic bits that lots of people would know on a menu and place the menu on tables in the local theatre foyer when it was open on Saturday morning (shakespeare Day in fact). Along with coffee and cake the customers can choose a short scene, famous soliloquy or adapted or related extract (could be a song related to Shakespeare, a comedy sketch etc). Get a band of suitably robust players together, a few different hats and props and they can spend 2 hours (or so) going from table to table performing requests and raising some funds at the same time (take the hat round). Our trusty band of players were kept fully occupied for 2 hours and we had to get an order system going! Great fun and (of course) you can do it with any sort of material at all. Favourite bits? Macbeth’s witches went down rather well…
Make up your own menu to suit the occasion and get your travelling players going from table to table!

Introduction: This week we have a Guest Blogger. Tom Flathers is a fantastic photographer with an essential skill for your theatre production – he takes great photographs! We all know how important it is to have photographs that ‘capture the moment’ on stage. Not only good for publicity, but a wonderful addition to your archives and memories. Barbara

Afrovibes performing 'Thirst' at the Drum Theatre

Afrovibes performing ‘Thirst’ at the Drum Theatre

I have been photographing theatre since September 2012 and have now worked on a number of productions. My favorite without a shadow of a doubt is the 5 months I spent documenting the rehearsals of Beauty and the Beast which was performed at the Conquest Theatre in February. I have also worked on numerous productions for the Drum Theatre in Birmingham.

Theatre has always been really prevalent in my life as I regularly go and see plays. However, my photographic career began in sports rather than theatre. I worked as a sports photographer from the age of 17 and photographed some amazing events such as the Barclays Premier League and Wimbledon.

I used to shoot sport 5 times a week and I was mentored by some incredible photographers. This strong background in photography is the reason I have moved across to theatre photography very smoothly. I have learnt to be very disciplined as a sports photographer and it’s this approach that I bring to theatre and it seems to be serving me well. Continue Reading…

Art and Inspiration ..

Barbara —  March 26, 2013 — 4 Comments
Art Installation at Croft Castle by Rebecca Farkas

Rather cool Art Installation at Croft Castle by Rebecca Farkas

Inspiration is a funny thing. It arrives without warning, disappears without trace when you think you’re on a roll and just occasionally it really surprises you by jumping out of a dark corner and shouting ‘here I am come and get me’ before running off into a cupboard and locking the door. At least .. I think that’s inspiration. Equally it may also apply to many other things, including bottles of expensive champagne. However, one Tuesday afternoon we threw caution and computers to one side and wandered off to have a bit of a jolly at Croft Castle in Herefordshire (very close to where we live in fact). We were reliably informed that there was a contemporary art exhibition created by various artists-in-residence at the castle over the past year, so we went to be amazed and inspired by a combination of old (castle), history (all the things in it, around it and of it) and art.

If inspiration is a funny thing then art is completely hysterical. It seems that anything passes for ‘art’ and it’s all up to the individual to connect with it and be amazed, inspired, amused, impressed – or however it takes you. If you find yourself staring blankly at something that just bypasses all your available processes for comprehension and appreciation, then just move on. No doubt to someone else it will be wonderful. We did a fair bit of moving on to be honest. I think I like the idea that whatever I’m engaging with will transport me to another place and allow me, just for a moment, to get a glimpse of something I’ve never seen before. Theatre, of course, can be brilliant at that because it works with so many senses at once.

Rebecca Farkas again .. in the slate store

Now we’re finding keys .. this is good

In the graveyard next to the Castle Chapel they had made metal frames to represent gravestones that weren’t there anymore. I stared blankly wondering why they had chosen to mark out old graves in that way. Continue Reading…

This is the final part of Bugsy Malone – the bit where they kids get really messy! We put this show on in 2009 and afterwards we ended up with a whole heap of costumes and splurge guns. So .. we decided to hire them out to a local school to use in their production soon after ours. Now, a few years on, we have 3 sets of costumes and 3 sets of guns and we hire them out to schools and groups all over the UK & Europe. We do get enquiries from as faraway as the US & Australia, but sadly the time and cost of transporting everything makes it a tad expensive!