by Griffyn Gillian, from Tread Lightly a Ponyboy Curtis zine
Maddy Costa has made some beautiful Ponyboy Curtis zines that are free at every performance of vs.
He is tall. As tall as he wants to be. And thin. Not Thin. Just. thin, in the ankles. Or thin in his smile, when he’s been standing a little longer than he knows what to do with. Fingertips on your neck that change. Rough in the spring and fall, soft in the summer. He shaves when you least expect it. A slit in the eyebrow. A streak on one side of the head. A beard, the chest, just plain head hair you watched him grow for months and months and months and he never tried to explain why.
He’s lean. Too lean to catch you slowly, sometimes. The kind of muscle that challenges you to a push-up contest and somehow he wins or you win but you don’t get close to finishing. Maybe he’s quick to lose a fight he promised you wouldn’t happen. But that’s just teenage stuff you can put in the past.
He’s looking at your back, wondering about your spine. His eyes are softer than you remember. And he’s wearing a fresh coat. Familiar, same harsh zipper, subtle phase shift on the angles of his shoulders and turn of his wrist, alien skeleton and colour.
So it’s a whisper, and it’s one that you don’t hear; no one hears anything, and they all imagine something different. And you think he probably asks you to take a walk. Or offers you a fag. It’s cacophonous between you. His sunglasses are welding goggles are tight pants are a breath just off-field. Are shedding in abandon.
And his bed isn’t very far away. No one probably sleeps in it that night, not even him. But it’s that space between the bonfire and the mattress they all imagine; settle into all the multitudinous spaces in the half-conscious grasping of hands before the sunrise begins to seep in.
These two pilot projects are designed to create space for bold ideas from young people living in Hackney. They will be at the core of The Yard’s local programme, which works to engage local people in radical arts projects.
“At a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult for young people to have a voice in our culture, we want to provide a platform for them to tell us what they think theatre should be. This is what The Committee is for.
You, Me, The World and Hackney challenges the increasing empathy deficit in our society, with a genuinely fresh approach to bringing people together through sharing stories.
We believe that through these projects we can reach deep into Hackney Wick and beyond, connecting people and reflecting our local neighbourhood through what we host in our theatre and in Hub67.“
Jay Miller, The Yard Theatre Artistic Director
These projects are part of Discover Young Hackney and supported by Hackney Council, London Legacy Development Corporation and The Wick Award.
What does your local area mean to you?
What does it mean to other people?
What does it mean to exist on this planet, at this time and in this place?
It’s big questions like these that we want 15-19 year olds to tackle this July. Through storytelling and theatre workshops, led by exciting artists Nick Cassenbaum and Olly Hawes, you will share thoughts and develop ideas, leading to an original performance in front of a live audience.
Want to run the show? Now’s your chance. The Yard Theatre is looking for ten people, aged 15 – 19, to take creative control of the theatre.
Through practical theatre workshops and weekly meetings, you’ll develop a new Creative Committee, influencing the theatre’s future and getting to watch our shows too. At the end of the project, The Committee will present their new manifesto on The Yard stage to a live audience.
11 July – 3 August
Ideas first seen here will go on to form our programme over the next three years. If you’re looking for the future of theatre, The Yard is where you’ll find it.
Artistic Director, The Yard Theatre
For six years, The Yard’s mission has been to invest in brave and bold new ideas from the writing and performance world. First Drafts will see over twenty artists perform new ideas in front of an audience for the first time.
The festival is a space to test new ideas from artists, combining the worlds of performance and script-based practices. It’s a festival of untested ideas. It’s a risk. And frankly, it could go either way. But it’s our job to take these risks. It’s also our job to invite you to take these risks with us.
11 July The Lady and The Unicorn, Emma Stirling
12 July Forge, Rachel Mars
13 July Give It Up, Joe Wild
14 July Call it a Day, Greg Wohead
17/19 July Human Suit, Sarah Kosar and Deirdre McLaughlin
19/20 July Cove, Laura Burns
21/22 July The Act, Company Three
21/22 July You, Joe Harbot and Cheryl Gallacher
To be in love is to feel unstoppable. Even in a strange and scary world.
For Elodie and Otto, a French schoolgirl and teenage German soldier in 1944 Occupied France, this situation is all too real.
Cruelty is everywhere. Despair is endemic. The rules of living have been turned on their heads. What is goodness in a world at war?
Elodie and Otto are living in a time of extremes.
But somehow, amongst all this, they find each other in the darkness. Caught in the middle of a war, two teenagers take shelter from the world outside. They muck around. They talk. They touch. They fall in love. And it’s a little bit of a miracle. A new life.
Elodie and Otto are at the heart of This Beautiful Future. Two young people locked in a moment in time, clutching each other beneath bedcovers as they unknowingly approach the end of war and life as they know it. Their innocence is that of children, who will be judged as adults come morning. Their hope is of the hopeless. It’s joyful, beautiful, and painful.
Why are we making a love story in our own time of extremes? And why this story in particular?
2016 left us divided and scared. Sometimes it is right to reflect these feelings back, to make shows that have hard edges and hard-nosed politics. But not always. Sometimes what we need is to look for the humanity amongst the rubble. To speak about how we long to be better. To laugh. To hope. To love.
This Beautiful Future encourages us to look back in order to look forward; to draw a connection between 1944, a time in which the world was exploding into violence, and today.
But more than this, This Beautiful Future is a show that reminds us to look for tenderness amongst the chaos. To imagine a beautiful future. To seek it out.
Even if it’s futile. Even if we’re scared. Even if it’s just for one night.
We’re in the final stretch in rehearsals for This Beautiful Future this week, and fast approaching tech. This wonderful team of creatives are drawing together the unique components of first love, history, dreams, karaoke and chicks that make up this heart-wrenching production written by Rita Kalnejais and directed by Jay Miller. In keeping with the shows exploration of time, I want to take a moment to pause and look back to share some fragments from the research and rehearsal process with you…
Eating friend chicken with teenagers
A real highlight was chatting about the future over fried chicken and cream soda with a fantastic bunch of teenagers. The group are a part of the Company Three ensemble, an incredible theatre company who make work with young people about the teenage experience for adult audiences. Jay and Rita felt it would be useful to connect with some teens to help with character development for our 17 year old Elodie and 15 year old Otto, and to find out more about teenage attitudes towards the future at the moment, to hear about their ideas, hopes and aspirations.
I tagged along with them, and 2 of our incredible actors Hannah Millward and Bradley Hall. As well as some cracking fried chicken, it was super inspiring to be reminded of the positivity and energy of young people right now. But chatting about the need to get more sleep, to stop worrying about work and to stop going on our phones all the time, I did wonder if growing up actually changes anything at all.
Running the opening for the first time
Without any spoilers, Jay’s created a sort of delicate but energetic spark of an opening to our story, combining Jonah Brody’s joyous and epic karaoke music (sung beautifully by actors Alwyne Taylor and Paul Haley) and Rita’s uplifting text. The first time we put it all together it was such a thrill. It makes me smile and my heart beat a little faster every time I see it.
Big Booty everyday
Every afternoon in rehearsals we play Big Booty. Everyone in the rehearsal room at the time has to join in. It involves a lot of dancing.
Researching a new past
Before rehearsals began I spent a week in the Imperial War Museum’s Research rooms (fab free archives and reading rooms should you ever need it http://www.iwm.org.uk/research/research-facilitiesreading) delving into World War 2 and life in Occupied France. I thought I knew this topic pretty well through AS History, but examining my understanding of the war from a French perspective was a fascinating experience. The German invasion of France happened in the a mere 6 weeks. This whirlwind was traumatic, humiliating and deeply confusing for civilians, and left many without a clear sense of whose side they should be on. It fractured France for a generation and that the stories told in France from the period are often conflicting.
Although full of horror and tragedy, the British understanding of the most momentous period in our living memory is pretty clear cut – isn’t it? It’s easy to teach in schools, as we were on the right side of history. Our grandparents were heroes, civilians made of steel who never surrendered against the most unimaginable evil. Not to discredit their bravery and sacrifice, I’ve come to see how the sentimental story of honour could be dangerous. Perhaps it’s blindsided us to other atrocities we’ve committed in recent history, and allowed an arrogance to emerge that leaves us incapable of spotting the pattern of events that a dangerously fractured Europe can lead to.
Part of the genius of Rita’s story is in it’s offering of a fresh outlook, a view which shakes up our historical understanding of good and evil, as well as reminding us of the lessons of the past.
It’s a useful tool for young people right now as it can be hard for to understand the extremes of current world events. But what this play does offer is an injection of hope within an examination of trauma. It looks at the positive energy of youth and love to overcome the barriers to paint a beautiful future. (seamless right?… now go book a ticket!!)
The world of the design for This Beautiful Future needed to have the heightened quality that life takes when you first fall in love and/or when you’re hit by the war. The play has a very specific context but we wanted to make sure that it did not feel remote, from another time. We explored our relationship to the past, and to memory, and how it is sometimes idealized, but how things are still resonating and should never be forgotten. We wanted the set to be able to blur the references to an explicit time and place in order to make the story more dreamy, and more universal.
We looked at artwork representing ideal french landscapes like the ones from the Barbizon’s school of painters (1830’s), specific images of France occupied by the Germans and how women who had relationship with Wehrmacht soldiers got punished by their community in 1944. We also looked at karaoke lights, catholic confessional booth design, chickens hatching youtube videos, old people dancing and self aware make-believe art.
This Beautiful Future tells the story of two teenagers, Elodie and Otto, falling in love for the very first time. Elodie is a French schoolgirl, Otto is a Nazi soldier, it’s 1944 and the war is coming to an end.
Despite the extreme circumstances, at it’s heart This Beautiful Future is a story of first love in all it’s tenderness, innocence and awkwardness.
Reflecting on experiences of first love, we asked the team to share (anonymously) their stories about the first time they thought they had fallen in love.
I met him in playgroup. I was besotted. With his blonde hair and blue eyes. Moving onto primary school together, I was convinced he was the one. I tried all methods possible to get him to fall in love with me, including pulling him to kiss me by the coat pegs as everyone came into the classroom – surely this public display of affection would mean he had to love me? The day came when I was cast as snow white and him prince charming. I was over the moon. I still remember where he kissed my hand to wake me from my “deep sleep”. It’s all on film. I watched it back repeatedly to look for the sincerity in his actions. In year 6 we took a trip to the Isle of Wight. Surely by now he would ask me out? We went to a candle making workshop. He bought a beautiful candle at vast expense (£5). This must be for me? At dinner my ‘best friend’ Leanne came over with a big grin on her face – Oliver Mencarini had asked her out and given her a candle. She said she didn’t like him but she’d go out with him anyway, “coz he bought me a candle”. Needless to say, I was devastated.
When I was in year 6, in what was surely the height of my popularity (never to be repeated again), I was going out with the fittest boy in year 6: Tyler. I was drunk on the fame, on feeling so special. He was so beautiful. Big brown eyes I’d chase after for the next 15 years or so. But having a position of power and influence was a dangerous place aged 11. The fates were cruel. Tyler could be going out with you one minute and the next minute be holding your friend Cathryn’s hand on the playing field, watching her do handstands of a quality you’d never reach.
So when Tyler – lovely, cheeky Tyler – gave me an ultimatum: get off with me or you’re dumped (delivered by his charming but hapless friend Marc), I did what every twenty first century gal does and buckled helplessly under the pressure. Me and my mate Louise met the boys after school one afternoon and we walked to the railway arches, the edges of our known world. Everyone stood in a circle around us while we snogged, with tongues and everything. It was horrible, obviously. I ended up with the nickname ‘100 miles an hour’ because of the speed with which my mouth moved. Cringe. And I think he dumped me for Cathryn in the end anyway. Learning early on that moulding yourself for love doesn’t get you anywhere. And that snogs are way better in private.
When I was in Year 1 I dated three girls, all called Emma.
When I was in Year 5 I dated Mallorie. She enticed me over with Nintendo 64 then pushed me onto her bed and dry-humped me. While Anna watched.
In Year 6 I dated Katy. She chased me around the playground and on Valentine’s Day gave me a little miniature of Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male. It was a little male torso which I found deeply fascinating.
In Year 9 I spent so long planning how and where I was going to kiss Laura that I never did.
In Year 12 I was staying in a camper van with my mates and was sleeping next to Josh. We ended up spooning and I was intoxicated by the smell of his hair and neck. He turned over to face me and, with our friends inches away, we started to kiss and embrace. We had to be so quiet so we didn’t wake our friends and so, the next day, decided to excuse ourselves to sleep in the storage tent alongside the camper van because “we were sick and didn’t want to spread it to the others”. There we were able to discover each other in more privacy and we didn’t sleep a wink. Everything was just brilliant with him those days and nights and they extended into 2 years of love in the closet.
I fell in ‘love’ with a musician from my favourite band as a teenager. We ended up flirting whilst he was playing on stage. I didn’t stick around after the gig; instead I tracked him down on MySpace and he invited me to join them on tour, so I flew out to Austria. Then a few months later, I flew to Toronto for a week…but it all fell apart in a haze of dope smoke.
The first time I fell in love was with my best friend.
I told him twice. He said he didn’t feel the same way.
We are still best friends.
I was Rosalind, he was Orlando, the dramatics were amateur. He asked me what I did and when I responded “GCSEs” he went “Jesus”. He was six years older and it felt like a lifetime. He wrote me a song and I snogged him with tongues in the play. He had all the limited edition Radiohead CDs and used the word soulmate. I bought him The Thrills and felt like a goon. He texted me the lyrics to a new song that “wasn’t strictly about me”, just some totally fictitious unreliable indecisive girl. I think he married his childhood sweetheart in the end.
My first and second time of (thinking I was) falling in love was with the same person. The first time I was seven. He was very blonde & the fastest boy in school, we went out briefly in year 4 and went on a date to watch Maid in Manhattan in the cinema. He broke up with me and left school to be home-schooled. The second time I was sixteen. Our paths crossed again through mutual friends. We’d get together at camp outs and parties at ‘free-houses’, one time behind a doctors surgery in the middle of the day. I was pretty besotted and called him every time I was drunk but he was a stoner and wasn’t interested in much else. So I went out with his best friend instead. For a year and a half.
Fell in love with nanny. Think my dad shacked up with her instead. It’s complicated
As featured in Broadway World
In This Beautiful Future, our new show about love in extreme in occupied France during World War II, different worlds meet: the past and the present, the real world and a dream world. We hope that the music will create the space in which this can happen.
Theatre is primarily a way of telling a story, and music is primarily a way of expressing emotions. Of course the best theatre moves you and great songs tell stories, but at their core, that’s what they’re built for. The music in This Beautiful Future, if we manage it, will be a lift into the archetypal. Where the story expands. Where it feels personal, but also beyond any sense of coherent self.
I often don’t like music in theatre because the story on stage is so human and personal, and then the music comes in and it feels transpersonal. It just conveys broader emotions – ‘sad’ music or ‘funny’ music – but a play is not usually on that level, so it makes me cringe and disconnect from the play.
It’s very hard to make that step from personal to transpersonal, but that’s what the music is trying to do here. Well, it’s what the staging is trying to do really: take the intimate story on stage upwards to the gods, where everyone’s singing karaoke in their Sunday best.
The design will also have a major role in creating this space; I think it’s going to be amazing. It could feel like a heavenly daydream that breaks your heart. I really want to see the two older actors drinking Champagne in a karaoke booth singing Bing Crosby. I like that the actors aren’t pinned down as Elodie and Otto – they are much more fluid, and I’m excited to find out what age means when we see it in that context.
Initially, I think I got into music because it made me explode. My favourite musicians channel the zeitgeist without realising it. They explode from a personal experience, which happens to be deeply relevant to the culture around them. I find that so magical about music – all music really, apart from the most cynical pop.
Theatre has always felt more applied. It’s speaking to specific issues and moments in cultural time. It’s more considered, much more exposed, and I think it’s more powerful for that.
So, when writing the music for a theatre show, I can’t just explode and hope it matches up with the moment the play is exploring. I have to work really hard to listen and listen and listen to what’s being said by the writer and director and the whole team, and then very carefully explode in service to that project. Whenever what I make is self-indulgent it generally turns out not to work with the piece. So that’s been the big one: listen, listen, listen.
I come with the belief that music isn’t needed. That’s always my hunch with film and theatre – that there shouldn’t be any music at all and the script and actors should be enough. I like being proved wrong.
We’re launching a new scheme offering £5 tickets of any unsold seats to under 25 year olds
“Young people are at the heart of what we do at The Yard Theatre.
By creating a space in which young people feel welcome and by bringing down the barriers that they face, we hope to safeguard the future of theatre.
I am pleased to announce that, starting today, we will be offering any unsold seats at a discounted rate of just £5 for under 25s.
In doing this, our theatre can offer seats to any young person regardless of how much disposable income they might have.”
Jay Miller, Artistic Director
How it works:
Starting with This Beautiful Future, under 25s can nab any unsold tickets for a mere £5.
It’s simple… if you’re under 25, all you have to do is turn up at the theatre and register your name with the box office at least 45 minutes before the show.
If there are tickets left, you can buy one for just £5. Remember you’ll need to bring ID for proof of age.