Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of the Staff/Student Newsletter!
We’ve got it all in this issue: the latest news, views and sharp-edged reviews from across the Performance community.
There’s an interview with Niki Woods, Artistic Director of the New Adelphi Theatre and Senior Lecturer in Performance, reflecting on her own days at university and offering pro tips on how to get the best out of your time here at Salford. We’ve also got the amazing Young Minds Matter project, led by Michelle Morris, Lecturer in MaP and CWaP and Clinical Solution Focused Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapist. Young Minds Matter combines wellbeing workshops, and mental health training with TV industry masterclasses, boosting students’ employability whilst also equipping them with the skills that could potentially save lives.
If that’s not enough for you, Lucy Wrigley gives us an insider’s view of what it was like to take part in TaPP Fest, there are details of an exciting project that took place at the Halle in December, plus reviews of the TV shows and films that have been turning our students’ heads, and much, much more!
This issue is also the one where we introduce our brand-new Student Editors. Newshounds Emi Frith and Lucy Booth are on the hunt for all your success stories, reviews, jokes, calls for contributors, and more. So, if there’s something that you’d like to shout about, let them know!
2020/21 has been rough for everyone but, time and again, our Performance community has proven itself to be innovative, resilient, creative, and inspiring. Let’s celebrate the wins. Contacts for the Editors are given below.
Abby, Bron, Emi, and Lucy 😊
Abby Bentham: A.A.Bentham@salford.ac.uk Brainne Edge: B.Edge@salford.ac.uk Emily Frith: E.M.Frith@edu.salford.ac.uk Lucy Booth: L.C.Booth@edu.salford.ac.uk
Introducing our new Student Editors!
Emily Frith (second year, Media and Performance) and Lucy Booth (second year, Comedy Writing and Performance) will be on the hunt for newsworthy content, so do let them know if you have a project, call, joke, review or story that you’d like to be featured in the newsletter.
My friends call me Emi and I am very passionate about film and the magic behind moviemaking, and I often write film reviews online. My interests include fashion, baking, rollerblading, hula hooping, and pole fitness.
Hello! My name is Lucy (she/her), I am a second-year comedy student. I love to write scripts, sketches and newsletters! My hobbies currently include baking, taking care of my houseplants and learning sign language. I am looking forward to being part of the newsletter team! (:
YOUNG MINDS MATTER
The Young Minds Matter project embeds wellbeing, mental health awareness and employability into the curriculum. Now in its second incarnation, it has been redesigned for online delivery. The project aims to equip students of Media & Performance and Comedy Writing & Performance with tools for self-care, experiences which promote good group dynamics and bonding. The project attracts high profile media industry professionals, including TV Directors and our award-winning Writer In Residence, Esther Wilson.
The project works with third sector Mental Health Organisations and, via Papyrus, we have trained over seventy students in Suicide Prevention. The students receive certificates to bolster their employability.
On the curriculum side, students will work in teams with our Writer in Residence to develop treatments to turn into scripts to film on their Video Project module in May 2021.
The project has the support of The University of Salford Wellbeing Team and the technical side is facilitated by Studio Salford.
Michelle Morris DSFH, Clinical Solution Focused Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapist, Project Leader, Young Minds Matter firstname.lastname@example.org
STAFF HINTS AND TIPS ON THE BIZ!
In this edition we chat with Niki Woods to hear about her days as a student and her top tips!
Niki has been teaching and inspiring our students since 2001, when she joined as a part-time lecturer. In 2018 she took on the role as Artistic Director for the New Adelphi Theatre and Studio, shortly afterwards being promoted to Senior Lecturer. Since then, and with the help of the New Adelphi Theatre team, Niki has turned New Adelphi into a professional touring venue that brings a whole host of learning and work experience opportunities for our students.
What did you study at uni and where?
In 1993 I headed off to Leicester Poly to do a BA (Hons) in Performance. I loved it. We worked with guest artists (Blast Theory, Reckless Sleepers, Forced Entertainment, DV8’s Wendy Houstoun, Station House Opera and more). Working with theatre companies and artists gave me a thirst to make new work and the course allowed us to do that. We took every available opportunity, outside of our usual timetable, to see theatre, talk about theatre and make theatre. I learned through doing, watching, talking, reading and making mistakes!
When you were a student, what do you think your strengths and weaknesses were?
It’s a long time ago so I can’t quite remember. I know I took every chance to get involved in all opportunities. This served me well because I got my first professional gig with Blast Theory after working with them at Uni. I worked on the project Kidnap (1998). I think on the whole my strengths were to go above and beyond what was asked of us and weakness, well we all have them and sometimes can’t admit to them. I’m not sure I think of learning in this way. If you’re not fully engaged you miss things; small things like the day to day participation in your learning and development, but the big things too, opportunities, conversations – all these allow you to take risks.
Give us your top five organisation tips!
- Take risks.
- Even if you think an aspect of learning ‘isn’t your thing’, do it anyway. You never know what will come in useful.
- Learn through doing – get up on your feet, talk and walk something (an idea) through. Try it, test it and evaluate it.
- Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Staying where you feel comfortable means you’re not expanding your knowledge and experience. Step beyond what you already know.
- Don’t get too caught up on grades. Focus on the work/assessment brief. Focusing on the grade takes you away from the DOING. Don’t let this cloud your imagination.
FILMING OF THE HALLE CHRISTMAS CONCERT
As the country geared up for a Christmas overshadowed by COVID restrictions, staff, students and alumni from the School of Arts, Media and Creative Technology were busy spreading festive cheer. In collaboration with Low Four, a film production company run by Dan Parrott, Programme Leader of BA(Hons) Music Management & Creative Enterprise, and Dr Brendan Williams, Programme Leader of BA Creative Music Technology, some of our shining stars were contracted to film the Halle’s prestigious annual Christmas Concert.
The Halle Christmas Concert was filmed in December 2020 by a crew made up of current and former Salford staff and students. Georgiana Ghetiu, Academic Fellow in Media Production and Technical Demonstrator, was one of six camera operators who covered the concert, and she was joined by alumni Jon Brady and Chris Moorcroft (BA Television and Radio) and current student Marc Rooney (first year, Creative Writing). The project is a wonderful example of the incredible creative and interdisciplinary collaboration opportunities that our staff, students and graduates are involved in outside of the University.
The concert, which was available to view online for free for one month after the performance, brightened the days of classical music lovers who were yearning for live orchestral experiences. It was well worth a watch for those interested in film too – multiple camera angles, huge amounts of high-quality footage and a fast-turnaround to produce the edit! The full performance is no longer available online but you can watch the trailer below, and can find it on YouTube here!
TAPP FEST LIKE YOU’VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE!
With lockdown ruling out in-person gatherings and live performance, the hotly anticipated TaPP Fest was unable to go ahead. But, in the words of Queen, the show must go on, so last month T@PP Fest Online was launched to uproarious success. The festival consisted of five digital performances by five groups of second year students, each led by a guest artistic director. Each show took a unique form, rising to the challenge of performing in online spaces. The Festival was breath-taking and it’s clear that not only students learned from this experience – staff and audience members alike were introduced to brand new forms of performance, and whole new ways to platform them.
The first show of T@PP Fest was Attempts on Our Lives (directed by Josh Cannon), a re-imagining of the famous play Attempts on Her Life by Martin Crimp. This adaptation projected the themes of the play into the modern age (if Anne existed in 2020/21, what would her Instagram look like?), with the performance livestreamed onto YouTube.
The second show, Shoot Me! (directed by James Monaghan) looked at themes of fame, success and storytelling, set inside a Zoom room. The performers had their stories, cues and directions, however audience members could interact and ask questions of the ensemble, so improvisation and experimentation lay thick in the air.
0161 Gone (directed by Andrew Crofts) asked audience members on Zoom to help solve a mystery. A missing woman, a mysterious blog and a lot of online clues. The audience were encouraged to discuss the case with the performers and identify suspects. The show, using graphic programming software called Isadora, also used special effects that were fed live into the performer’s webcam, giving 0161 Gone many frightful twists and turns…
The penultimate show of T@PP Fest was Just Walk (directed by Carran Waterfield), an anthology-like performance which looked at our relationship with nature and walking in lockdown. Each performer filmed their own pieces on walking and told personal accounts of the memories, experiences and senses of identity formed in these times. The videos were collated into one film, which was streamed into a Zoom room for audiences to enjoy live.
Lucy Wrigley, a second year Theatre and Performance Practice student, was part of the fifth group, who performed Alpha Testing, the final show of T@PP Fest Online. We asked Lucy to tell us about the devising process for T@PP Fest Online, and what useful experiences she gained along the way!
By Lucy Wrigley
Alpha Testing was an online project between Salford students and David Crowley, a professional artist. As our director, the one thing that David really wanted us to achieve was to leave the audience with lots of questions. Even once the show had ended, we wanted the audience to be discussing, wondering and coming up with their own ideas about the real truth and meaning of the production. We really hope that we achieved that and that even now, audiences are discussing and questioning our performance!
Working on the production of a performance for an online platform has been difficult; there’s no sugar coating to it, especially when almost all rehearsals are online as well. There are lots of issues to work around and overcome. Devising an entire show from scratch and creating a script is easier when you have the ability to get it onto its feet together in a room. But with the use of breakout rooms and using every combined brain cell we have… we’ve somehow achieved it! The ensemble has worked excellently to overcome each and every issue, producing something we’re really proud of. We hope that it shows in our work just how much effort was put into its creation.
Audiences can’t directly interact with our show in the way that they can in some other online shows. However, our hope was to have them just as invested as they would be with a live theatre piece by taking inspiration from some reality TV shows they may recognise.
Working with David Crowley has given us skills that we wouldn’t have otherwise had at such an early stage in our careers. David, and T@PP Fest in general, have shown us a lot about professional practice and the way professional work develops. This includes the hitting of roadblocks and feeling deflated some weeks, to the weeks where it’s full steam ahead. Every aspect has taught us so much. We’d like to think we’ve helped David learn and develop too, given this was his first time producing work for an online format.
Being given the opportunity to take on various production roles has proved really important in the learning experience, and in the devising experience as a whole. Not only has it given us key skills to take into the industry, but it has also taught us a lot about working as an ensemble and how important communication and deadlines are for an entire production to run smoothly. This includes having three technicians working closely with us on the show and communicating with them at all points throughout devising, making sure they can do their jobs and that the group works cohesively like a well-oiled machine. There’s a lot more responsibility on our technicians with this show due to it being online but they’ve been great every step of the way and taken every challenge in their stride. They’ve continuously worked to figure out how we can include all of our different ideas within Covid guidelines, whilst still making it look incredible!
This truly has been a team effort from day one. We hope we’ll eventually all gather together in person once again, to celebrate our achievement.
SHOW ME THE FUNNY!
“Whenever my brother would annoy me, instead of being violent, I’d go into his bedroom and rub my nuts on his pillowcase. You should have seen him when he found out the next morning; shaking, red in the face, jabbing himself with that epipen.”
-James Miles, First year Comedy Writing and Performance
Got your own firecracker of a joke for the next edition? Email the editorial team and let us know!
THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT – REVIEW
Chess! Who could have predicted that a show all about a game that’s been around for centuries could spark interest in millions all around the world?
Masterfully written and directed by Scott Frank and Allen Scott, this historical drama showcases a perfect balance of realistic developments and struggles ordinary people face, whilst giving a new lease of life to one of the oldest games in history. Following the story of Beth Harmon (portrayed by Anya Taylor Joy), we meet a young girl sent to an orphanage shortly after her mother’s death in 1957. Beautifully paced, we watch Beth’s fascination for the game develop after being introduced to the craft by the orphanage janitor, Mr Shaibel. We are invited to follow Beth’s life and watch her talent for chess grow, alongside her addiction to the tranquilizer pills administered by the orphanage. Following this, we watch Beth’s relationship with her adoptive mother Elma (Marielle Heller) grow from strength to strength as they soon realise the rewards that come with Beth’s talent.
The show covers topics such as addiction, equality, female empowerment and friendship whilst also encouraging people to embrace their talents. Anya Taylor Joy’s elegant performance of Beth showcases a beautiful transition: from a lonely young girl with an interest in the chess into the graceful monarch of game. Alongside Thomas Brodie Sangster as Benny Watts and Harry Melling as Harry Beltik, the storyline follows exciting tournaments and tense cliff hangers with sparks of romance throughout. Spectacular cinematography and incredible directing mark out The Queen’s Gambit as an excellent lockdown watch!
This binge-worthy drama is a limited mini-series (seven 1 hour long episodes) available to watch on Netflix, which will certainly leave you grasping for more at the end of every episode.
-Olivia Dixon, first year Media and Performance student
THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON – REVIEW
The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019) was relished by audiences and became the highest grossing independent film of the year, and it’s easy to see why. It follows three adults as they embark on an intrepid journey, redolent of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn; we watch as they hide from assailants along overgrown marshlands, battle the turbulent waves of the ocean on a raft, and scrounge for food that the natural environment can offer, all for the sake of fulfilling Zak’s dream to be tutored in the art of wrestling by his lifelong inspiration ‘The Saltwater Redneck’.
“I love my family, and I hope we will share it together, for the rest of our lives.” This sentence, remarked by Zak as three recently acquainted travellers float along the ocean on their makeshift raft, encapsulates the themes of happiness and unity within The Peanut Butter Falcon to perfection. In the midst of all the adventure, the grievances and the danger, this movie shows how family is not only formed by blood or time, but trust and love. The Peanut Butter Falcon profits greatly from its chemistry between the two main characters Zak (Zachary Gottsagen) and Tyler (Shia LaBeouf). Shia Labeouf is renowned for his early work on Hollywood hits such as Transformers, and even in this relatively lower budget film, he does not disappoint. He evokes a certain debonair feel to his performance, and even with his questionable motives for wanting to escape his past life, we can’t help but empathise over his desire to assist his new counterpart Zak. This passionate acting is duly supported by Michael Schwartz’ and Tyler Nilson’s writing and directing. The rich and colourful naturalism of each line is faultless, and when delivered with the raw emotion that the actors provide, it leaves one totally engaged within the film’s narrative. Furthermore, the directing and cinematography is masterfully constructed, aided by the natural beauty of southern America. The rural yellows and ocean blues create an enlightening colour scheme, symbolic of the movies unspoken messages of emancipation and happiness.
Lastly, the movies subliminal message that people of disability being able to act with the clarity and quality to that of someone without cannot go without being highlighted. This marks an important step towards an equality within the movie industry, that hopefully will influence other major film production companies in the future.
-Evan Dottridge, second year Media and Performance student
CORR BLIMEY, CORI!
Cori Conlon, a third year Technical Theatre student, recently won a prestigious award – she tells us all about it here.
I recently received an Aisling Award. The Aisling awards are for students who live, or are from, West Belfast. They aim to support young people, like myself, who are from areas of high deprivation. It is basically an award to support students from this area to achieve their full potential and to encourage them towards helping in the rejuvenation of West Belfast.
The award I received is called the Pamela Brighton Memorial Award, sponsored by Brassneck theatre company. I was so pleased to receive the award this year as this is the second time I have applied for it and only two people receive the ‘drama’ awards. Pamela Brighton was a very well-known female director in Belfast who I actually had the pleasure to work with as a young person and I really looked up to her. That made it even more special and the aim of the regeneration of West Belfast is something I will pursue in my future career. This is the reason why I chose to study technical theatre at Salford, so that I could get the best training available and bring it home to Belfast as there is a need for tech training here. I will also have a particular focus on young women in my area.
TECH THEATRE ROUND-UP
Compiled by Luke Harrison
This year has seen many challenges for all of us, and Technical Theatre is no exception! As with all theatre, practical work is at the heart. With that in mind, even with the challenges we’ve all been facing, this year has seen some real achievements and events for our technical students.
Employment & Entrepreneurship
Matthew Alty (third year) has already impressed us all by managing to get a full-time job before he graduates. His new role allows flexibility for him to finish a degree and is centred around technical theatre work. Well done, Matt! One of our other third years, Cori Conlon, has also done well; Cori recently received a prize from her local town for her technical theatre work.
Rebecca Haycock (second year) has been raising funds for charity by making theatre themed scrunchies (pictured left)! I am still waiting for my Blasted themed crevette, but I will let Rebecca’s entrepreneurial spirit and design skills work on that when she is good and ready. Check them out here!
Just before lockdown happened, two of our third years, Aodhan Ford and Alex Rose spent two weeks working on Back to the Future: The Musical. This opportunity gave them invaluable insight into the industry and their subsequent work shows its influence. Sarah Johnson, also in third year, was involved in the HOME-Makers festival over the summer and contributed technical support to a 24-hour durational performance via Zoom.
Guest Workshops & Masterclasses
This year we have seen many industry specialists offer their time and expertise to our students. They include: Gareth Owen (Internationally renowned sound designer); Rory Beaton (Lighting Designer); David Holmes (Lighting Designer); Fridthjofur Thorsteinsson (Set & Lighting Designer); Mark Wright (USA based technical director); Simon Curtis (Production Manager); Mark Shields (Actor); Sean Pritchard (Technical Director – HOME); Mark Shayle (Production Manager); Jack Wills & Ben Linwood (Association of Lighting Designers Student Reps). We are extremely grateful that all of these people gave up their time and we have plenty more planned for the new year, some of which have happened in January.
The Technical Theatre Staff are all extremely proud of the achievements of the students and staff this year. As we approach our first graduation ceremony this summer, we know our students will live up to expectations and start changing the world, one Fresnel lamp/XLR/Risk Assessment/White Card Model at a time.
Greater Manchester Theatre Round-Up
COMPILED BY STEPHEN M. HORNBY
During 2020, some venues have programmed socially-distanced live work, some have developed interesting approaches to “liveness” with on-line synchronous delivery and some have done almost nothing. Most venues hope for a return to normal programming for the winter 2021/22 season and have some on-line offerings in the meantime. Some are more optimistic…
GREATER MANCHESTER FRINGE
Usually a huge season of vibrant work every July. The Fringe will be back in July 2021 and it is a great initial showcase for emerging talent.
A varied programme of local and touring work is usually on offer here. At the moment, live programming returns in the spring with children’s theatre and comedy. The 2019 Edinburgh Festival smash-hit Friendsical is an original and unique new parody musical programmed for July.
HOME is a city centre arts venue with a main house, a studio, five screens of independent cinema and an art gallery. They hope to be back at the start of 2021 as soon as the restrictions allow and, in the meantime, have a strong, varied programme of online work by theatre makers.
The Lowry is the major arts complex in Salford, with a large main stage (The Lyric), a second theatre (The Quays, which somewhat bizarrely is currently operating as a court) and a studio and art gallery. The building hopes to re-open for live performances the autumn. Currently scheduled are some digital and street performances, notably C-O-N-T-A-C-T (Central Manchester) from 2 March-11 April.
Hope Mill Theatre
The most successful fringe site in Manchester, often mentioned in The Stage. They specialise in musicals, but currently have nothing scheduled. Their recent production of Martin Sherman’s Rose, with Maureen Lipman in the titular role, was screened on Sky Arts (now free from subscription and worth a look for other plays, musicals and documentaries) on 27th January to mark World Holocaust Memorial Day.
Salford Arts Theatre
A place for local emerging talent. Currently that have a limited schedule and hope to return on 21st April with the one woman tribute show to Victoria Wood Victorious, winner of Best Show in the Funny Women Awards 2019.
The Octagon is emerging from a massive rebuilding programme and has nothing scheduled for live performance for this semester. There are some interesting online writing workshops though and they hope to be back with live performance from 17 June with One Man, Two Guvnors.
Contact is completing a refurbishment and is not fully operational yet, but it is a centre for under 30 talent development. It usually has a good online programme of work and commissions, but nothing is currently programmed.
Manchester’s leading producing house has nothing scheduled in terms of performance but is offering workshops on Zoom for people aged 14-21 who join its Young Collective (£10 fee).
CHECK OUT THE NEW UNIVERSITY OF SALFORD PERFORMANCE INSTAGRAM
UoS Performance has a new campaign running on Instagram – and our students are the story! We’re creating a creative community collage. If you’d like to be a part of it, you can check out the Instagram here.
TUNE INTO THE BREAKFAST CLUB ON SHOCK RADIO!
Every Tuesday, 10am – 11am tune into Shock Radio!
Join Lewis Magee for “THE BREAKFAST CLUB”.
Serving up your morning music mix, all
the latest news, gossip and anything else
worthy of the airwaves. Getting you going,
whether you’re getting your daily exercise,
writing an essay or still eating your brekkie.
Get your requests in via twitter @Breakfastclub.
And don’t forget: if you ever miss a show on Shock you can listen back via the Shock Radio Mixcloud!