Theatre & Performance: Muckers

Continuing our commitment to bringing together artists and cultural organisations with schools we were joined on Wednesday 13th November by Theatr Iolo, Wales’s leading children’s theatre company at the iconic Blackwood Miners Institute to consider how to lead performance based classroom activity in response to Iolo’s forthcoming play, Muckers.

Muckers is a contemporary play for children created by award-winning theatre maker Caroline Horton, who’s work is fun, stupid and profound, often personal and sometimes political. Muckers, an exploration of contemporary feminism, can help learners understand gender related issues involving liberty and tolerance, during the play it’s characters develop self-knowledge and courage, and it’s dual-lingual presentation helps learners learn to respect other cultures.

Jon Dafydd-Kidd breaks the ice by asking each of us to create our name in sign language, which we use to greet the group and introduce ourselves. This leads on to Jon introducing several games that we played throughout the day.

One person leaves the room while the group think up a simple action to be performed, for example walking into the centre of the room and taking a bow. Re-entering as the person behind to perform, when correct the group claps, stopping when incorrect, the performer uses their applause to figure out what the action must be performed.

A large pile of dressing-up clothes is spread out in the middle of the room, one person stands at one end of the room facing the wall, everyone else lines up along the opposite wall. Everyone begins sneaking slowly forward, when the person facing the wall turns around everyone freezes, anyone caught moving must return to the back. During our journey we dress up in three items of clothing as we try get close enough to touch the person facing the wall.

Tracy Harris introduced us to two well known artists working today, who’s work relates to Muckers and who we used to inspire artistic activity throughout the day.

Bryony Kimmings is a performance artist who makes highly personal projects. The project we looked at is That Catherine Bennet Show, for which Bryony worked with her 9 year-old niece to restyled herself as the “dinosaur-loving, bike-riding, tuna pasta-eating, alternative pop star Catherine Bennett.” In a world dominated by plastic pop-stars and reality TV celebrities, the work questions who are our children’s role models.

Cindy Sherman is a photographer, but she can be thought of as the ‘original selfie queen’. Her work is closer to performance as she a styles herself in a range of costumes and situations to create highly realistic and thought-provoking images. We use her work as the inspiration to dress ourselves up and go off to take a series of selfies in different situations.

Taking as inspiration a theatre development workshop that Tracy had attended with Bryony Kimmings, we go through the steps that Bryony uses to develop her work. The process involves asking ourselves a series of questions which we answer as quickly as possible without thinking. Eventually in two groups we come up with a title that we the use to make a short performance.

In a round-up of the days activities Jon asked everyone to say what sucked and what rocked about the day. For me what sucked was that more people didn’t come to experience this great course, but what rocked is that the smaller group inspired everyone to share their personal experiences and gave everyone the chance to join the conversation, leading to a great comradely in the group.

Muckers is showing at theatres across Wales through February and March. For financial help bringing your school to see the show apply for a Go & See grant from the Arts Council of Wales, contact us or Theatr Iolo if you would like help making an application.

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