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Offbeat Plays in the pipeline and out

More Frog King Love

Barbara —  September 2, 2017 — Leave a comment

The review of The Frog King by Alfred Mann for the Bromyard Info Magazine (1st edition August 2017)

“Having seen Offbeat’s last production The Raven (“The Killing of Poe” – Ed), which was quite dark with lots of obscure literary references, I wondered just how Barbara Hockley would turn her wordsmith mastery to a show suitable for children of all ages.

I need not have worried for I still had a smile on my face as I walked and chatted to other happy members of the audience, making our way past the huge yellow skip and up the lane to the car park. Even the huge skip and the tree lined, narrow lane added themselves to the magic of Barbara’s immersive theatre, set within the walls of the soon to be converted St Richards school.

L-R: Hugh Farey, David Verrinder, Allan Flaxman and Mark Cox

Having been shown in to The Inn, marvelling at what a super job they had made of the ticket sales area and bar, we soon became willing participants in the play as the characters spun their story around us. Gold coins handed out with our tickets had to be paid to the storyteller before we were ushered through corridors transformed into a magical forest; our portal into the fertile imagination of the director and cast. Clues had been given for which we would need to be on the look out, with other fairy stories being woven together. Soon I was swept along with the fun and almost forgot that there wasn’t actually a fairy tale called the Frog King. Continue Reading…

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At the beginning of August, Offbeat Theatre had an absolute blast performing The Frog King in Bredenbury. Our unusual location required us to convert 4 rooms and a few corridors into a magical fairytale-land – which we did over the months preceding the show. The audience moved from room to room with the action – not quite ‘immersive’, but a blurring of the lines that usually separate audience from actors. A few thoughts from our lovely audience members, including notes we encouraged people to write on the walls of the ‘Frog Inn’. More posts featuring our main review and the amazing sets we created coming up soon.

The newly transformed Frog King revealed

“The Frog King – Well… I have never seen anything like it. Totally wacky and brilliantly written. The artwork is amazing and how they all remember their lines is as mysterious as the play, written by Barbara Hockley. Do go and see it. Miss it at your peril. The Cox Team and Boz are at their brilliant best.!!!” Continue Reading…

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The next Offbeat Theatre production has been a long time coming. After the darkness that was The Killing of Poe in February 2016 we had the promise of a lighter one act play courtesy of The Space in December 2016, which we cancelled for our own inexplicable reasons. But now … we have the emergence of THE FROG KING! Hooray! And here he is – the Frog King in construction! Early days for the play (and his head), but rehearsals and complex set building will commence soon.

The Frog King Offbeat Theatre

The location for the performances is a closely guarded, well kept secret that will only be revealed half an hour before the start (ok, it’s in Bredenbury). Audience numbers will be restricted as this production is even more unusual than the others we’ve performed at this particular location … More on that to come, but suffice to say it’s in more than one ‘room’. More than two even. Intrigued? We hope so.

Plot? Well, the script is being finalised (which is code for ‘written’) as I type. Or rather when I finish typing and get back to the far more important task of ‘finalising’ the script. Funny how, at times like this when you have a very important task to finish off, you suddenly realise you absolutely need to clean the windows – even though you have never noticed that your house actually has windows until the very moment when you caught yourself gazing out of one. I jest, I have no intention of cleaning windows, vacuuming carpets, washing up or anything else that might distract me from the joyous task that is finishing the script (serious face).

So, plot then? Well, have you ever noticed how the same fairy tale (The Frog Prince for example) is told in more or less the same way, with more or less the same outcome using more or less the same characters? Ever wondered what might happen if the plot was subject to quite a major change? No, I hadn’t either, until the Storyteller in my story changed something rather crucial – and you have no idea what that’s done to fairytale-land. To be honest, it’s all getting rather silly and it’s going to take something very magical to fix it. So, I can safely say, hand on heart (not the one the evil troll turned to stone, the other one), that this is a show full of magic, surreal daftness, puppets, beautiful sets, frogs and more royalty than is necessary in one castle. It’s for adults and small adults, but not tiny ones under the age of 7 (at a guess, I may be wrong). See you there?

THE FROG KING: Friday 4th, Saturday 5th (2 performances) and Sunday 6th AUGUST.

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SPY SCHOOL is a one act musical – runs 50-60 minutes. Just right for the end of year production for your 10 – 13 year olds (ok, I know a few bigger kids who would love spy school as well!). It was written for a Year 6 Leaver’s Gala originally, but don’t let that stop you performing it whenever you wish!
Our favourite comment from a teacher? “Wow! Our big problem now is how to follow it!”
It’s funny, clever, silly, amazingly good fun, has many wonderful parts – mostly with silly names and the music is fantastic (even if we say so ourselves). From the big Bondesque opening number ‘Spies’, to the heartbreakingly beautiful ‘In Too Deep’ it just rocks. We supply backing tracks and practise tracks with guide vocals.
You can read more about it, listen to demos of the songs, download a preview of the first part and get more info on the SPY SCHOOL PAGE!

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May Contain Nuts!

Barbara —  April 25, 2016 — Leave a comment

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The very very silly ‘May Contain Nuts!’ gets another outing on Saturday 30th April (see poster)
This is what it says about Nuts on our Offbeat Plays site

Involves: An awful lot of silliness, dressing up as pirates, mysterious old ladies, a few characters from Romeo & Juliet, sword fighting, walking the plank, vampires, talking statues …. and on ….. Originally written for outdoor festival performances, but can be performed anywhere you like. Requires lots of crazy imagination to add to the innate daftness of the story.
Plot: What plot? Oh, ok … our hero, Henry, is trying to write a story. Actually, he has a rather fertile mind. It’s just that despite his best efforts to stay with safe, mundane story-lines, where he can save reasonably attractive girls from domestic crises, he has absolutely no control over it at all. In fact Henry’s imagination runs away with him. Together, and in the company of a few friendly pirates, they go on a perilous mission to find treasure. And then there is Jane, who refuses to be enslaved in the kitchen of Henry’s mind any longer, and Doris, eager to be chased by more runaway wheelie bins. As I said, what plot?
Set: Anything really. Needs to be versatile. Lots of props, hats, big noses & fake facial hair is good.

We had so much fun when we originally created this piece. In fact we had so much fun we did it all over again with a new cast a few years back. Pirates, poets with big noses, sword fights, spiffing adventures, vampires, creepy forests, mysterious old ladies, moving statues … but mostly pirates. So .. much .. fun.

GOOD LUCK LUTA!

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Dark, Depressing, Dripping with Symbolism and Ultimately Uplifting….
The Killing of Poe – Offbeat Theatre at St. Richard’s School, Wednesday 17th February.

Mark Cox and Hugh Farey. This must be one of those 'dark bits'.

Mark Cox and Hugh Farey. This must be one of those ‘dark bits’.


Extraordinarily apposite for the BBC’s ‘In the Mind’ week, ‘The Killing of Poe’, conceived, written, designed and directed by Barbara Hockley is a dark, neo-gothic tale about the power of the mind. The Actor (Mark Cox) is fading and ‘coming to the end of his time’ – only his mental faculties are keeping him alive. Reason, Survival instinct, Cunning, Emotion and Self-perception (in equal measure with Vanity) are all he has left. These faculties are assailed by the Narrator, (played with characteristic gusto by Hugh Farey) who threatens to attack and destroy the Actor’s mind. Ironically, it is the Actor’s own powers of persuasion that give the Narrator a ‘voice’, thus allowing him to adumbrate his particularly twisted and dark notions of death into the deepest reaches of the Actor’s mind and into the individual and collective psyche of the audience. Utilising tales from the macabre imagination of Edgar Allan Poe the Narrator figuratively, and in some cases literally, disarms his opponents. Continue Reading…

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Last night SPYS (Sodbury Players Youth Section) won the Best Youth award for their production of Rob Hockley’s “Darkness in the night” at the Bristol One-act drama festival!!!!
Congratulations from all at OffbeatTheatre – especially a delighted playwright. We’re proud and delighted to have been a part of what must have been a fab production!
Roll on the next round ….

SPYS WINNING with DARKNESS IN THE NIGHT!

SPYS WINNING with DARKNESS IN THE NIGHT!

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Sounds fun doesn’t it!
The Killing of Poe, Offbeat’s latest show, is playing a few venues locally and (if we’re honest) we’d quite like a few more. But, that aside, this has been quite a journey. When I start to write a play I never really know where it might lead. I begin (usually with some idea of the destination), but it always twists and turns and goes to places I didn’t realise were there. So, some of the play emerges as we rehearse, gradually revealing hidden layers and my trusting cast indulge the inevitable changes until we reach the conclusion (always a surprise). It’s a fascinating process, but it requires a certain amount of faith in the process. We always get there. Last year we created ‘The Ghost Hunters’, this year it’s ‘The Killing of Poe’. What is it with me and death, darkness and creepy stuff….

It's a bit of a 'spot the Poe story / poem' throughout, but Act II is littered with 'Poe deaths'.

It’s a bit of a ‘spot the Poe story / poem’ throughout, but Act II is littered with ‘Poe deaths’.


So .. it’s dark. Dark, macabre, intriguing (I picked that up from the reviews) and with a certain amount of humour. I’m glad the audience laugh, otherwise my tragicomedy description on the flyer would look rather silly. I’ve used lots of black paint, a wonderful raven was created by Alison Stobart (company raven maker) and Hugh Farey created a ‘radio thing that looks like a coffin’. Why on earth I imagined this thing on the stage I may never know, but it worked. I liked it. It’s HUGE and commanding and jolly useful for all sorts of Poe-ish moments. Costumes are, well, interesting. You’d laugh if you saw us trying to get the ‘shroud’ dresses sorted in the interval. It’s like some bizarre maypole event with metres of muslin (bit of a spoiler there, sorry).

Anyway .. This is what the reviews have said so far ….

The Killing of Poe brings The Raven back to life!
It’s taken seeing someone else’s creative work to prompt me to post here after too long an absence… Last night I went to The Falcon Mews in Bromyard and saw ‘The Killing of Poe’ written by Barbara Hockley and performed by Offbeat Theatre.
From the moment I read the programme masquerading as ‘Helpful Notes’ I knew we were in for a witty treat. Despite only having a tiny performing space to work in, we were taken inside the vast space of the protagonist’s head – he’s a failing actor – and entertained while the voices within it assumed Shakespearean roles in order to keep the failing actor sane, and alive…
I recognise some of these stories in my own head, but you’ll have to book and see the show to discover them, or I’ll be in danger of sharing spoilers.
Armed with gloom and a raven, Hugh Farey, as a devilish Poe, is both beguiling and macabre. Mark Cox as the actor in whose head we find ourselves is utterly convincing and Ann Smith provides some delicious tongue lashings to anyone who crosses her.
There’s still a chance to see this brave and thought-provoking new play at St Richard’s School, Bromyard, on 16th and 17th February.
‘The Killing of Poe’ has many layers, unflinchingly looks at death and draws on rich metaphors. It has action, pace and its dialogue will have all lovers of ‘the bard’ rifling their brains to match phrases with different plays. Its potential for a professional company on a large thrust stage are endless and exciting… I can see it being a ‘must see’ at The National or the RSC’s Swan Theatre.
As a lover of metaphors it was always going to be a winner with me. Thanks Barbara and team for bringing it to life – or should that be to death?

Liz Darcy Jones from her blog lovingmetaphors.org

The famous 'balloon moment' -  but is it Shakespeare or Poe?

The famous ‘balloon moment’ – but is it Shakespeare or Poe?

Definitely go and see this play!
Voices inside the deteriorating mind of an actor parry words and swords as his career disintegrates into vaudeville.
Serious stuff.
But this work by Barbara Hockley has humour too, plus great quotes from Shakespeare and Poe, clever costume changes and a wild raven caw.
Original and thought-provoking. Our audience was intrigued.
Acting and directing reached Barbara’s usual high standard, so thanks cast and crew – we enjoyed ‘Poe’ and we’re sure your next audiences at St Richard’s will love it.
(Linda Swinford)

“While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.”
Well, I didn’t take a nap as I was absorbed by the intriguing drama before me. Dark, complex, flashes of humour and professionally played. Boz commanding as ever and Mark Cox completely in character.
Go see – Embrace the darkness…..
(David Evans)

Well done, Barbara Hockley – a really interesting piece of new work. Congratulations, cast and crew – intriguing and absorbing. Worth going to St Richard’s to see it, people!
(Chris Barltrop)

A great night, brilliant actors, great script, receptive audience….. if you missed it still a chance to catch up at St Dix
(Jane Merry)

I told you it was dark

I told you it was dark

If you thought a spot of darkness-with-comedy-shakespeare-and-poe might do well in your venue, we really would love to hear from you.

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The Killing of Poe

Barbara —  January 16, 2016 — Leave a comment

The latest Offbeat show – in Bromyard & Bredenbury (Herefordshire) in Feb.
It’s been a long time in the pipeline (as has a blog post), but everything comes to fruition eventually. The strange play that I started in the summer of last year has emerged and is almost ready to be seen.
This is a brief synopsis ..

A fading actor, reduced to bit parts in variety shows, can only relive his glory days of performing Shakespeare inside his own head, albeit aided by a troupe of talented voices from the past. But even in these private theatrical moments, he finds himself lacking, forgetting and losing interest. The Voices inside his head are losing him and the situation is getting worse. On a chance hearing of an Edgar Allan Poe story being narrated, the Actor is seduced into the gloomy, gothic, macabre and ultimately tragic world that Poe characters inhabit. If the ‘Voices of Shakespeare’ want to survive, they must get rid of Poe and his grey, gloomy, bleak horror stories . But the Narrator of Poe fights back .. and his material is good.
Plus, he has a raven.
Surreal, dark and funny (ish)

I’ll write more soon. Honest I will.
I have a lot to write and ‘Poe’ is a strange beast indeed.
But we all hear voices .. don’t we?

Embrace the darkness .. before it sneaks up on you

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Dates:
Saturday Feb 6th, The Falcon Hotel, Bromyard, 7.30pm
Tuesday 16th & Wednesday 17th Feb, St Richard’s School, Bredenbury, 7.30pm.

TICKETS from our POE PAGE on the website.

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Spies and Cool Music

Barbara —  July 18, 2015 — Leave a comment

This week, among many other things, we have been going a little bit crazy about SPY SCHOOL our fab musical for 9-11 year olds. We’ve been getting songs on Soundcloud and plays on Treepress (see link below). Artwork has been pouring in from Emma and our Bugsy hire business has gone into orbit. All of this makes for a super busy week and many excellent excuses (sorry, ‘reasons’) not to finish of the end of year accounts (yuck).

SPY SCHOOL – THE MUSIC
Click on the Soundcloud thing and you can listen to music whilst reading…. what more could you want? Words by me and music by Greg Swinford. If you lisen to the tracks on soundcloud you’ll hear the voice of Greg pretending to be a host of 10 year old spies! More info on our Offbeat Plays site soon – or on Treepress (link below).

SPY SCHOOL – THE PLOT
Spy School is a comedy musical for children. So far, so good. Orginally written for a Year 6 (age 10-11) Leavers Gala, but great for slightly younger or older groups. It has heaps of larger-than-life parts (mostly spies) and four BIG musical numbers as well as a rap number for a solo character.
The plot concerns three Rookie Spies arriving at Spy School on their first day of training. For absolutely no good reason at all, one of them spontaneously announces to the assembled Spies, and worse, Head of Spy School, that they are ready to show their worth by completing a mission on their first day. After a brief (and fairly silly) training session they are absolutely totally unprepared to discover the whereabouts of the mysterious ‘Seventh Department’ (their assigned ‘mission’) by noon. From this point on it really does get a little bonkers. The kids absolutely loved it – even the ones that had to perform the parts of ‘Agent Prowls-like-a-pigeon’, or Agent Lurks-like-a-Lizard’ from the Department of ‘Sneaking-like-a-sheep’. Actually, I know they had heaps of fun, I was there. The gadget prizes went to the Agents in the ‘Department of Geeky Gadgets’ and Agents ‘The Jelly Has Set’ and ‘The Toast Has Landed’ were a couple of my favourites (from the ‘Department of The Cookie Crumbles at Noon’). Most of the characters had names like that! If I’m honest, making up the names of the characters was almost my favourite bit of the whole process.

TREEPRESS

A screenshot of the new Treepress showing the SPY SCHOOL page!

A screenshot of the new Treepress showing the SPY SCHOOL page!


TREEPRESS is a brand new initiative and we love them. Currently they are setting up a really great website to market plays to schools and youth groups. I have been regularly searching the UK for a publisher of youth/schoolplays without luck for ages! Treepress don’t act as ‘publishers’ exactly, but they are acting as a dedicated marketplace and that’s the next best thing I reckon. So do whizz over there and have a look!
You’ll find a few Offbeat plays on there (and more to come) – including the musical for 9 – 11 year olds – SPY SCHOOL.
TAKE ME TO TREEPRESSLAND

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