From the beginning of 2009, we have been developing The Tempest as
our new production. Our main funders for this research and development
year are listed on our home page.
Over the next few months, the company will draw upon its extensive
experience of devising and running education programmes to produce
an engaging and accessible workshop package around The Tempest.
Faustus Education Pack
For our last production, Faustus, we developed a resource pack for
schools. This can be downloaded here: Download
Why we chose The Tempest
The Firebird style (as seen in previous classical text shows The
Caucasian Chalk Circle, The Boy with the Cart, Faustus) involves the
Company members interpreting a well-known story in their own unique
way. At the heart of this lies a process of members bringing their
own life experiences and issues to a well-known story and working
at it to create a completely new and fresh interpretation; often,
in the process, making the text more accessible for a wide range of
audiences. For Firebird Theatre actors, this process of researching,
devising, interpreting, adapting and rehearsing a classical text takes
up to a year and is an extraordinary and unique process. For The Tempest,
the company is proposing to work with a number of practitioners from
the initial research stages of the project in order to generate material
and ideas for devising. This is the first time Firebird has collaborated
with artists from the beginning of their process and it is an exciting
development for the company. Firebird also intends to document this
process to help it locate, define and develop its practice and, ultimately,
share it with other companies, practitioners, and interested people
(this documentation will also be used in the evaluation process and
will provide resources for the company’s education programme).
Firebird Theatre has chosen The Tempest as it gives the company huge
scope to further develop its interpretation skills of a classical
text, particularly the challenge of working on a Shakespeare play.
It is also hoped that the work will interest school audiences and
young people who are studying Shakespeare: Firebird wants young people
to see its work.
Firebird thinks it is important to work with young people and schools.
Find out why .
Importantly, company members believe that people do not expect a
company of disabled actors with learning difficulties to be able to
‘do’ Shakespeare. Additionally the members chose the play over
six other texts (including Shakespeare, Brecht) because:
Main areas of Firebird Theatre’s work on developing The Tempest are,
We have finished researching The Tempest, which involves us
getting to know and understand the story for ourselves; this
process includes devising, adapting and interpreting the text
in our own way. This period of work ended with five workshops
in May with John Nicholson, actor, director and writer with
John Nicholson leading workshops
We have now begun to cast, script and rehearse the work. At
the end of this process we will work with John Nicholson again
as guest director. We also hope to have some time with Kathryn
Hunter, our patron.
We have also recently started working with other professionals:
James Lake, Disabled Artist
James Lake if he would make us a piece of sculpture that could represent
Miranda as a young girl. James made us this puppet/doll for The Tempest.
James started making sculpture when he first became disabled. He
discovered a method of sculpting which allowed him to make large scale
work in a non-studio environment – largely using cardboard and paper
to make sculpture. The media of cardboard is readily available and
portable. When he is working with others the medium can be manipulated
to suit all abilities.
He seeks in the fine crafting of a fragile material to bring forward
the universal qualities of humanity, strength and vulnerability. These
qualities are inherent in the materials of cardboard. He sees the
non-disabled and disabled as equal within this humanity and strives
to break down the barriers that divide them.
Writing our own poetry helps us when we are looking at stories. It
helps us to:
• Understand the story we want to tell
• Discuss some of the big themes in the story, like power, relationships,
good and evil
• Talk about and find shared meanings, for example: what is the island
like? What do we know about being treated like a slave?
• The poetry enables an overview of the story and opportunities for
reflection. For us, it is an important part of the process of making
We can use our own words to describe what is happening in a scene,
what we understand about it. In this way, our words can become part
of the story, part of the action.
For the poetry that has been written so far around The Tempest, please
poets working with Claire Williamson
Firebird Theatre has its own visual artist, Carol Chilcott. Carol
is a member of the Company and comes to every rehearsal. Instead of
working on stage she works off-stage, making drawings of what is happening.
As work on a play progresses, Carol’s drawings become a record of
what we have done and are really helpful in terms of remembering what
we do from session to session. During initial stages of developing
work, however, Carol brings her own ideas to the play, which contribute
directly to Firebird’s choice of costume, props and set. Carol’s drawings
can also make us think of our actions and what we are doing on stage;
they can inspire and give the actors ideas about how to show a particular
bit of the story. Carol’s drawings can help us find another way of
looking at a story, some examples of Carol’s work.
About the drawing: this drawing shows Firebird’s early work on exploring
the story of The Tempest. We experimented with the idea of having
a sort of ‘Shakespeare person’, sitting at a desk on stage, writing
with a quill. In this way, we thought we could start telling the story
of The Tempest. People stood around the writer, whispering words into
the writer’s head: wind, rain, thunder, lightning….building up in
volume and a melee of words until the writer said: The Tempest! In
this way Carol has recorded the process of how Firebird experiments
with different ideas. It was decided that this idea will not be used
in the production of The Tempest.
About the drawing: this drawing is of sea shells. Shells have now
become an important symbol in Firebird’s interpretation of the story
of The Tempest. When Carol first began drawing shells and ‘beach scenes’
(before the poets started work on their poetry), it helped us to bring
all our ideas about the island together.
About the drawing: this is Carol’s drawing of the spirits in the
shape of hounds. We include this drawing as an example of Carol’s
imagination. When messing around or playing with this part of the
story, we used voice and sound only. It was an exciting thing to do,
to create the scene in this way but there was nothing visual about
it. Carol’s drawing will help us to look at this bit of the story
in a different way and make decisions about how we will tell and show
it on stage.
• Scripts: The Lying
Doctors , The
Clowns , Sharing
and Faustus )
We are working with Chrissie Godfrey from Visionjuice again to evaluate
our work on The Tempest. She helped us to evaluate the work we did
on the tour of Faustus. It has really helped us to work with Chrissie;
she uses action research to help us with our evaluation process.
What is Action Research?
Evaluation in the arts is often carried out by external people who
go to rehearsals and performances, interview audiences, promoters,
funders and other partners, and then create a report based on their
findings. In this approach, the group being evaluated can often feel
“observed” rather than “engaged” in the process.
Evaluation via Action Research takes the view that groups develop
best when they look at the whole of their work as a learning journey,
one on which they embark with a series of questions that will be explored
as they do the work. At intervals, they stop to check on what they
are discovering, and maybe adjust what they are doing to explore the
questions more effectively. At the end of the process, there are no
judgements about whether what they did was right or wrong. Instead,
there is really rich information about what has emerged from their
experiences which can guide their future work.
Download our Evaluation
Report of the Faustus Tour