You’d be forgiven for thinking there were a whole cluster of Stephanie Kempsons working and creating in Bristol. Stephanie appears in various guises as if by magic at Bristol Old Vic, The Wardrobe, all over Mayfest and beyond. We met officially after a series of bumping into each other in various theatres.
For this interview we met to discuss the process of directing Score recently at The Wardrobe. The show is heading down to London on Friday get tickets while you still can. Score – written by Lucy Bell, is a bravely authentic ‘in your face’ piece of theatre, inspired by real-life accounts of parents using Bournemouth’s drug treatment service. Lucy, Stephanie and the actresses (Lara and Kathleen) were brought together by Bristol Old Vic and worked together as a team to develop the script.
Photo credit – Photo from Score by Kitty Wheeler Shaw
The team originally worked together on a project for the ‘Open Sessions’ at Bristol Old Vic. Sharon Clarke brought them together to work on Lucy’s script ‘The Full Term’ and they discovered magic in their relationship. The perfect mix of love and tension that produces real gems.
As part of the process for gathering material for Score the company went to meet women who had real life experiences of drug and alcohol addiction. They were inspired by the resilience of the amazing women they met. The women were talented, courageous and hidden in a system that was failing to meet their needs. Lucy Bell came away from the experience and wrote three plays, she went on to invite Stephanie to choose one of them to direct and the beginning of Score was born. As a director Stephanie told me, ‘The points of the play that were most exciting to work on were the transitions between time and characters. Indeed those points were skilfully handled in the stage show.
Developing Score has been an ongoing process, it kept changing right up until October and started touring in Jan 16. It was performed to social workers at conferences and for a lot of people with lived experience. There was so much amazing feedback from the early performances – the company were able to gain confidence in their decisions and know that audiences genuinely connected to the show. Throughout the early performances character development and improvisation techniques fed into back story and the script. Lucy kept a tight hold on the script overall but there was an open dialogue between director and performers about what needed to be developed and changed. Everyone felt they had shared ownership of the piece.’
Stephanie is well versed in the process of writing and devising and is ‘used to that kind of process. I would find it hard to simply work on a finished script where there was no room for play or development.’
Look out for Stephanie’s latest projects – in true spirit, reflecting her passion, drive and lust for life – she is in multiple places at once! Her writing is featured as part of the Mayfest radio programme, Sharp Teeth stories at The Wardrobe theatre and of course the truly impressive Score heading down to London this week.
Powerhouse of energy Sharon Clark met with me at Bristol Old Vic to discuss script development opportunities in Bristol. Sharon is literary producer at Bristol Old Vic, lecturer at Bath Spa University and playwright. Straight to the point and dedicated to her work, Sharon outlined what is available in the literary programme at the moment.
The spoken word programme at BOV is growing in popularity, how did it start? Do you see it growing?
Tom Morris instigated the programme, he did it at Battersea Arts Centre and it worked. He asked me to include it here as part of the literary programme; there isn’t anywhere else in the South West that there has been a consistently successful programme of Spoken Word. I set it up with Byron Vincent and now I am running it with Anna Freeman. We have just done our first ‘Blah, Blah Blah’ weekend which was a success. I have gone back to the Arts Council to talk about doing a young ‘Blah’, so we can work with young spoken word artists, get some teenagers in. I also dramaturg the spoken word artists so they can learn how to use the stage.
Creator of the invaluable resource for playwrights ‘Lane’s List’, David Lane has inspired me with his creative energy and insights. David Lane is a playwright and dramaturg currently an associate artist with The Egg Theatre. ‘Stalin’s daughter’, David’s latest script, has just finished touring, receiving four stars from The Times ‘Vivid, disturbing and utterly fascinating… Lane’s writing has a hurtling power’.
David went freelance in 2004 and has been working since in a wide variety of contexts as dramaturg, playwright and associate tutor to various universities, to familiarise yourself with his impressive list of achievements and to sign up for ‘Lane’s List’ go here.
Paul Dodgson is a talented writer, radio producer, composer and teacher who has written and produced extensively for the BBC in the UK. He has written fourteen radio plays for BBC radio, the latest two ‘Home’ and ‘You drive Me Crazy’ have been radio memoirs. Paul has directed and produced more than 400 programmes for all BBC radio networks.
Do you have an underlying theme to your writing? Do you write across genres?
In the last few years I have been writing radio plays based on personal experience in which I feature as a narrator, reflecting an interest I have in memoir, but over the years I have written across different genres. I also write for theatre and in the last twelve months have written a large cast adaptation of Robin Hood, two plays for young people about the First World War and a children’s show devised with the performer Kid Carpet.
Many worlds live inside the mind of Kris Pearn, his talent to embody the story making process and facilitate a protective web of positive energy around the characters he knows so well, is impressive. Kris has worked across the entertainment industry from television to feature film as an animator, designer, story artist, writer and director, including such films as Surf’s Up, Open Season, Arthur Christmas, and Pirates! Band of Misfits. Recent roles include director and head of story for feature film Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 and the Ted Talk – ‘The optimistic opportunities of failure’.
I first met Kris when he moved to Bristol from Los Angeles as part of his contract with Sony, he worked at the artist led studios, Aardman. Kris is without doubt an artist, that is how he expresses himself and his identity through from child to adult, has been very solidly an artist. I asked if I could interview Kris, as to me not only is he a magician with a pen but also a story weaver and a genius of the imagination.