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Making 'Our Fathers'

When I was growing up, there was one thing that just about everyone I came into contact with already knew about me: that my dad was the local vicar. There is always a frisson of recognition whenever one clergy child meets another. This is because there are some things that are particular to being a clergy child: your weekends are always focused around your dad’s (or mum’s nowadays) work, people often assume you actually live in the church, people think you’re deeply religious as well, everyone knows who you are, and you exist in a strange world of genteel poverty because the clergy don’t get paid very much (I suppose on the basis that people don’t really go into it for the money).

A few years my dad asked me if I’d ever read a book called Father and Son by Edmund Gosse. When I said that I hadn’t, he replied - slightly cryptically, I felt – that I might find it ‘interesting’. I discovered that the book was about the relationship between Gosse and his preacher father and how Gosse junior gradually lost his faith in God. As my own lack of religious faith was a topic about which my dad and I never seemed to quite have a conversation, I assumed that he thought I might find some illumination in the book about our own relationship. After he’d gone home – my parents lived 400 miles away so we only saw each other a few times a year - I bought a copy and read it, waiting for the moment when I would think “Ah, that’s what he wanted me to see!”  I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was he’d wanted me to learn.

When he was next visiting, I told him that I’d read the book and he said, “Oh yes, I read that years ago – I can’t really remember anything about it.”

Which was a bit of an anti-climax.

But it planted a seed in my mind about adapting the book at some point, though I felt I needed someone else to work with me on it and didn’t know who that person was. A while later I saw Rob Drummond performing The Bullet Catch and, when he mentioned in the show that his father was a Church of Scotland minister, a light went on in my head. We talked about it and agreed to collaborate on it.

That was 4 years ago, and now we’re in the midst of creating Our Fathers, which will premiere this autumn. From the starting point of adapting the book, we’ve found ourselves making something that is as much about us and the strange political events of the last year or so as it is about Edmund Gosse and his father. The Gosses’ story is still at the heart of the play, but one of the central themes that has emerged is about how people talk to each other when they disagree strongly. Are there better ways than those currently modelled by ISIS or Donald Trump, for example?  Is it possible to do it respectfully, whilst still agreeing to disagree?

Also floating about in all this is the conversation I never properly had with my dad, and now can’t have because he died two years ago. What I did do, though, was record an interview with him about his relationship with his own father (who was a born-again evangelical Christian preacher), and this has been the setting off point for conversations that Rob and I are having with people who do and don’t believe in God. We’ve had some fascinating conversations, including with two Mormons who gamely agreed to be recorded talking to us about their beliefs after they stopped Rob in the street on his way to work with me on the project.

We’re now having a pause in the development process, because Rob and his wife are about to become parents for the first time. I know from personal experience how life-changing becoming this is, so will be fascinated to see what difference this event will have on Rob’s approach to the show. Especially if he has a son.

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Space/Time retreat Oct 2016

Space Time is a paid 5 day creative retreat for experienced artists from all disciplines that asks the question “How does an artist keep developing?”

It aims to refresh participants through a stimulating and provocative examination of creativity.

The residency combines facilitated dialogue - built around a series of provocations and questions - with time for individual reflection and work.  It is led by Nicholas Bone and Alice McGrath.

The next Space/Time retreat will run from 11 - 16 October 2016, presented in partnership with Cove Park.

We are delighted to announce that the artists taking part are:

Mamoru Iriguchi (theatre-maker)

Maria Oller (theatre-maker)

Kirsty Whiten (visual artist)

Flore Gardner (visual artist)

Anthony Green (composer)

The next Space/Time residency will be in Spring 2017; sign up to our Artist Development mailing list to be notified when more information is available.

To find out more, watch this short film which captures the reflections of the artists who took part in the 2015 retreat.

 

 

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Erewhon by Arthur Meek

Slide01New Zealand playwright Arthur Meek is currently writer in residence with Magnetic North. As part of the residency, we have commissioned Arthur to write a new play, Erewhon, based on Samuel Butler’s 1872 utopian satire. 

Please join us at the Traverse Theatre on Wednesday 14 September at 7pm for a sharing of work in progress followed by a Q&A with Arthur Meek and Nicholas Bone.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Arthur’s starting point is the illustrated talk that Butler’s narrator describes giving after his escape from the land of Erewhon.  In this 21st century version Powerpoint meets the magic lantern lecture in a solo performance piece with plenty to say about familiarity and difference across cultures. 

Arthur worked on Erewhon as one of the artists participating in our creative development residency, Rough Mix, earlier in the summer and has also spent a week at Cove Park working on the text before starting these 2 weeks of development at the Traverse.  He has been supported throughout by our artistic director Nicholas Bone. 

The commission is supported through a Playwright Residency and Exchange Programme led by Playmarket New Zealand and Playwrights’ Studio Scotland, funded by Creative New Zealand. Thanks also to the Traverse for their support of the development and sharing.  

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We look forward to seeing you there.

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Rough Mix in Aberdeen

This year's Rough Mix takes place at The Lemon Tree in Aberdeen, in partnership with Aberdeen Performing Arts.

The participating artists and our Artistic Director Nicholas Bone talk about their plans for the residency in this video:

Tickets for the free sharing of work in progress on Friday 15 July, 6pm, are available here. 

Rough Mix Aberdeen has been realised in partnership with Aberdeen Performing Arts and is supported by Creative Scotland, the David & June Gordon Memorial Trust and Aberdeen City Council creative funding.

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Writer in Residence

We are delighted to be hosting New Zealand playwright Arthur Meek as writer in residence with Magnetic North next summer.
Arthur joins us thanks to a joint initiative run by Playmarket New Zealand and Playwrights’ Studio Scotland: the development agencies for playwrights for their respective countries.

We will host Arthur for a 3 month residency from July-Sept 2016. He will participate in Rough Mix, spend a week at Cove Park, have the opportunity to see work and make contacts during the Edinburgh festivals in August as well as being commissioned to write a new play, Erewhon.

Based on Samuel Butler’s satirical utopian novel, Erewhon will be a solo show, performed by Arthur and taking the form of an illustrated theatrical lecture in which Arthur will attempt to amuse an audience of Erewhonians by contrasting his own society with their own. The experience of distance from New Zealand, and the mix of familiarity and difference that is a New Zealander’s experience of living in Scotland, will inform the writing and development of the piece.

Arthur will be supported throughout by our artistic director Nicholas Bone. There will be a work in progress sharing of Erewhon at the end of the residency.

Arthur Meek is an award-winning New Zealand writer for stage and screen. His two published plays, The Trees beneath the Lake and On the Upside Down of the World were both commissioned by the Auckland Theatre Company. His work has been shown in New Zealand, Australia, the UK and the US.

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Ann Thallon Lynda Radley - Rough Mix Experiences
14 March 2012
Rough Mix sounds intriguing. I'm part of an Artlink writing project, in collaboration with Dancebase - and I'm coming to your sharing on Friday. My ...