The 8th UK Playback Theatre Gathering

The 8th UK Playback Theatre Gathering in Sheringham, Norfolk December 8-11 2016

A hearty thank you to Ben Steventon and Imen Lassadi from Cambridge Playback for organising and hosting the UK Playback Gathering at Sheringham on the east coast of England.

Report by Brian Tasker and others.

A full programme with home groups on Friday and Saturday morning led by Tig Land and Sarah Pritchard, workshops on multi-lingual Playback with Veronica Needa; The Art of Conducting with Tig Land, who also led the opening and closing events. Two workshops with Anastasia Vorobyeva from Russia: Physical Embodiment and the Social Dimension through the Looking Glass (using paint), Singing and Voice with Steve Nash and Dave Scott and my Zen-inspired Peer Supervision in Playback Theatre, plus a Saturday night dance party with DJ Baba Ganoush aka moi.   There was also a late-night visit to the beach on Friday night to toast marshmallows around an illegal fire!

mdeSara performing the Strange Ritual of The Mesmerising Marshmallows 

What a rich event it was overall, characterised by a warm emotional connection and supportive collegial learning!  We had the Youth Hostel to ourselves and the twenty participants made it a really special event. Some personal reflections, a poem and a song and even a YouTube video follow:

Sarah Pritchard of Manchester Playback writes:  I was at a Breathing Fire workshop/gig with two other Playback Manchester members, when asked if we were going to the UK Gathering in Norfolk? NORFOLK? I squealed! How did I not know about this? Not only am I an avid follower of playback on social media, but I come from Norfolk! How did that slip past me? So, readers, I cleared my desk, and drove HOME! PLUS, as my dear friend and sister Playbacker Di Adderley was ill, within 24 hours, I was invited to take over her home group and it was for me an extra special few days. Imagine UK Playback coming to your home town? Within minutes of arrival the fun began. Head chef Barbara Fernandez had 3 of us trailing the local grocery store for supplies. 4 trolleys later & a very long till bill, we filled the Sheringham hostel kitchen we had taken over with food glorious food. Not long after that, as the hostel filled with playbackers from Hungary, Lebanon, Russia, Turkey, the UK & more, we gathered to do playback conducted by Tig Land-who was a one-woman home group around the home groups!

My own Home group wonderfully facilitated my facilitating- a truly collaborative couple of creative mornings. Thank you! Then there was beetroot puree, conducting magic; midnight on Sheringham shingle beach round a marshmallow fire; the sexy melting wax & marshmallow dances with Nastya & troupe; dancing in the chapel of love to dancing DJ Baba Ganoush; two butterflies fluttering in the chapel, cupped & taken back to life; the sultana saga and other sculpted stories of love, loss, dreams, meetings & greetings; the storm that has been 2016.  I chased the sunset back to Manchester and returned to earth t’other side of The Pennines. But in my head I have been re-playing the UK Playback Gathering ever since.

Anastasya Vorobyova from Russia says: I took a part at Veronica’s workshop. It was such an interesting challenge to create together using different languages. And I was impressed how easy we can cooperate and play together even with different languages. We were sharing cross cultural stories, listen the music of our languages and exchange the precious of our culture. I enjoyed being together so much!Keren Banning from Newcastle writes: I took part in Nastya’s ‘Embodiment’ workshop. She’s a truly professional physical theatre teacher. With succinct instructions, and a clear through line of short activities, she gifted us a new form of storytelling, using only our bodies. I love to see genius at work.

Barbara Fernandez aka The Rocking Raw Chef:  I got to participate in a conducting workshop which I was really excited about. Previously I’d put conducting on a kind of pedestal of sorts, in the sense that I felt you needed lots of practice to be able to do it at all well, but actually I came away feeling that it’s more accessible than I’d thought. I enjoyed having a go – I was nervous about doing it, particularly as I so love the style of the facilitator Tig so the bar felt high – but one of the realizations I had was that I could apply the same process to conducting as I do to acting or being the musician: I just have to open myself up and leave my ego out of the picture, so that I can listen and be guided. I came away feeling that if your intention is in the right place, well odds are that you’ll do OK.

My favourite bit though was seeing the different styles of the other participants. I know there is definitely a ‘next level’ to conducting in order to make it great, but I was struck by how good everyone else was. It was a lot of fun, and I was grateful to have had the opportunity to try it out in such a supportive environment. Tig gave us lots of practical tips too, and she had us try to figure things out for ourselves first rather than just stepping in with an answer, which not only made for some funny moments, but also I think boosted everyone’s confidence. Perfect!” In her role as Chef, Barbara with her rotating team, made sure that we were well-nourished and well-looked after we were indeed!

On Saturday evening, Agi Orban conducted an open-jam performance.

Agi in action, modeling calmness and inviting a moment…
Steve, Ben, Thelma and Imen in response

The Chapel was also used for workshops. Lama El Amine (from Lebanon, studying in London) offers a poem from her experience:

The Chapel \ the Freedom

In the chapel there were two butterflies sitting next to each other

I felt curious so I started to observe them

Today the music of the chapel was louder than usually

Both butterflies started to dance without limits

In a beautiful manner they lost themselves to the nature

Nothing in the world can stop them

They fly to the rhythm of the vibes that the music creates in the window glass

Outside the weather is crazy

Their movement expanded out of their limits and beyond the room

The room is hotter

Warm and crazy

They became one person

Heart to heart, chest to chest, wings to wings

Holding palms with passion.

For a moment, they hold their breath, looking to the audience.

The people in the room have become their audience.

They attracted them.

The looked at them interrogating.

They even forgot they were dancing in that room.

Suddenly the room became a mannequin challenge.

The chapel is still warm.

Then the gate has opened to them.

I don’t know if it’s the reason to have their freedom?

They flew, going out through the gate; they look to each other and take different directions

While that hope to meet again, any time, at any other chapel.

And finally, Karen Durham (new to Playback) with Steve Nash and David Scott, two guitars and a ukulele: 

Here’s my Fable, Verse and Song

Click the link to sing along:

“There’s only one Match in the Box”, said my uncle to Me,

After I’d booked my place at the Gathering by the Sea.

On the back of a performance just two weeks before,

I turned the key of my Curiosity Door.

By train, to Gaze, to Smile, to Sleep,

A journey not so far, yet Deep.

Home group séance to weep and laugh,

A safe, supportive, warming bath.

Stories told. No right or wrong,

Reflected Moves, Words and Song.

Collective Pledge assured with a Feather,

Spinning yarns ~ Interwoven together.

Sewn at meal times – the seeded thread

More than food that we were fed.

Toxic Fire, Marshmallow drama,

To conjure the Werewolfess Sultana.

Winter walks ~ crisp as an apple,

UnHoly dance moves inside the chapel

Secret handshakes, Pool table dancing,

Sing~songs, jamming and cockney prancing.

An altered wind has curved my sail,

This is my Little Match Girl’s Tale

We said goodbye on Sunday morning with hugs, smiles and a wish for the Gathering to be repeated in 2017!   

Now you can watch the video for a taste of the event:

Bay-Ay-Ace by Karen and the Pool Losers


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