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 to 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.
The Yard Theatre is proud to announce a new season of work, including the return of Chris Goode’s Ponyboy Curtis and First Drafts, a collection of bold new ideas that will shape the future of theatre.
Directed by Chris Goode (Men in the Cities), Ponyboy Curtis return to The Yard Theatre with their new show vs.
Having originally formed as part of NOW 15, vs. will be the ensemble’s most ambitious show to date taking place over two weeks in June.
“The Yard is our spiritual home! Right from the start it’s been uniquely open to the challenges presented by our work – it’s valued, supported and celebrated us and our strange erotic mayhem when other venues have fainted away. We couldn’t be more overjoyed to be opening our third major show in three years in the loved-up company of our Yard friends and fuckbuddies.”
Director, Ponyboy Curtis
The Yard is also thrilled to announce the return of First Drafts, a festival giving the first lease of life to bold new work in development.
Taking place over a month in July, the festival will see over twenty artists perform new ideas in front of an audience for the first time. The festival will be a space to test new ideas from artists, combining the worlds of performance and script based practices.
Previous work to come out of First Drafts includes Made Visible by Deborah Pearson and Removal Men by M.J. Harding. Two shows that we then produced as four-week runs in 2016.
With around twenty artists to be announced, The Yard can confirm that the lineup will include Company Three, Greg Wohead and Rachael Young.
With public readings and sharings over 1 or 2 performances, audiences will have the opportunity to be the first to see brand new ideas brought to life.
“Over the six years that I have been Artistic Director of The Yard, I have seen hundreds of bright young artists create work that I have been proud to be a part of.
This season sees The Yard open its doors once again to artists who are making exciting, bold and inventive theatre. Theatre that we can’t wait to share with you.
I am excited to see the return of Ponyboy Curtis. An ensemble that are reimagining what theatre might be using their bodies, their minds, and above all, a restless and relentless energy that is as infectious as it is revolutionary.
It is also the second time we have been able to produce First Drafts, an explosion of new ideas by artists tested in front of an audience for the very first time. Ideas which, 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
The Yard Theatre is pleased to welcome Hannah Millward (Broadchurch, ITV) and Bradley Hall (Goodnight Mister Tom, West End) as they begin rehearsals for This Beautiful Future. Alwyne Taylor (Flowers in the Forest, Jermyn Street Theatre) and Paul Haley (The One Day of the Year, Finborough) will complete the cast.
Following a ★★★★★ sellout U.K. debut at the Soho Theatre with First Love is the Revolution, Rita Kalnejais’ This Beautiful Future is a show about love in the extreme, set in occupied France during World War II.
With karaoke reworks of classic love songs, This Beautiful Future will be The Yard Theatre’s first play about an historical topic. It will see Artistic Director Jay Miller take another look at the theme of love in extreme contexts, a recurring thread in his growing repertoire.
“Our brilliant cast are helping us make This Beautiful Future right now, and so I don’t really know what it is about, but it might be a show about going back, in order to go forward. About tenderness in a time of violence. About love and war, times in which reality is so heightened it feels unreal. About two vulnerable people looking for safety. People who are falling in love, and falling through time.
I hope that in making This Beautiful Future, Rita and I will create a beautiful world which speaks of real feelings in unreal, dreamy worlds.”
At once tender, heartbreaking and viscerally moving This Beautiful Future has one eye on exploring the past with another on changing the present.
Written by Rita Kalnejais (First Love is the Revolution, Soho Theatre), it will be Jay Miller’s fourth directing credit as Artistic Director of The Yard Theatre following The Mikvah Project, Lines and Removal Men.
THIS BEAUTIFUL FUTURE
Written by Rita Kalnejais
Directed by Jay Miller
Designed by Cécile Trémolières
Composed by Jonah Brody
Sound by Josh Anio Grigg
Lighting by Christopher Nairne
Video by Sarah Readman
Casting by Sophie Parrott CDG
Tuesday 25 April – Saturday 20 May 2017, 8pm
Please click here to see the full press release.
When we watch Nina Segal’s brilliant script for Big Guns, realised on The Yard stage by Dan Hutton and his team, the main thing that gets us is a feeling. It’s a feeling that feels pretty essential to modern life, but we’re not sure people talk about it that much. Maybe we don’t know how to. How could we describe it?
How about this. You’re stuck, awake from a cocktail of caffeine and anxiety at 2am on a Tuesday, face lit by the blue-grey glare of a computer screen, scrolling through the annals of the internet – not the dark web or anything, just the ordinary internet, but that’s bad enough. Looking. Watching. Seeing – all too much. Seeing the images of death and cellulite and terrorist attacks and creampies and environmental collapse and vegan brownies which are anywhere and everywhere, which fill you with a kind of sick dread and flood your dreams.
And each morning, eyes stung by the light that pours into your bedroom, do you also think – why did I look at all that shit last night? That’s not normal. Not natural. I already know that civil war is bloody. I already know that girl from school has lost 4 stone on the paleo diet. I already know how much there is in the world to be afraid of, and angry about, and paralysed by. Today, I’ll embrace the light, get on with work, turn over a new leaf, stop eating refined sugar. But maybe the feeling follows you around. Maybe your train stops for too long between Liverpool Street and Bank, and, as the announcer mentions an ‘incident’, your eyes meet a stranger’s and you mutually acknowledge: yes, today we’ll be harmed here, hurt here, die here, in this packed central line hell hole, and I guess that’s what I always suspected somehow. Or maybe you pass two young men on the canal at twilight and think to yourself: yes, these men will probably take my expensive things, hold me at knifepoint, hold me down, stamp on my face. Just as I somehow always thought would happen. That violence that I see on screens, that torments my city, that I dream of – it’s here. It’s everywhere.
And what does it feel like, to be in that moment just before the imagined-unimaginable happens? That moment Big Guns creates and conveys. Your heart races, you feel sick, your palms sweat. You want to know what will happen and at the same time you fear it coming. Your limbs weaken, your head lightens. Maybe it sometimes feels good, even. To feel this alive. Anything but bored and numb. Maybe we almost want these terrible acts to happen. Or to nearly happen. Or happen to someone who isn’t us. Sometimes there is a strange and awful relief when these things happen – as we knew they would – and we were ok, this time at least.
Big Guns is a show about this feeling. And about this sometimes exceptionally dark world we’ve found ourselves in. Two people, who could be us, tell us stories about violence. They consume these stories, and spit them back out at us. And sometimes it’s bitterly funny. Other times it’s terrifyingly moving. Throughout the show, it makes our heart pound and our mind race. We feel scared. Excited.
But the show nudges us to be wary of those feelings – to be wary of the place where fear and desire merge into one. Because Big Guns looks at where these feelings have got us. It looks at all the things we watch, consume, condone, do.
Dan – (director of Big Guns) – and I wanted to create a set that felt playful and risky. We both felt that the text had a claustrophobic quality and that the two characters (named only One and Two) should be trapped, with their movement being restricted in some way.
I looked at images of game shows where contestants put themselves in real, physical danger in order to get a prize – be that money or a moment on telly. An image of contestants looking very unstable on beams that retracted in to a wall felt particularly horrific and therefore relevant to this show, as did stills from a Japanese game show called Solitary where people were kept in solitary confinement in candy coloured rooms.
The set we have made is not a direct replica of any of these TV shows but we hope it has something of the risk and excitement of these images.