In August 2020, as part of its biggest ever round of commissions, Camden People’s Theatre invited submissions to its big-hitting artists support scheme, Starting Blocks. Now, we’re proud to announce the six artists selected for SB 2021: Aminita Francis, Callum Berridge, Clumsy Bodies, Frankie Thompson, Nick Blakeley and Tom Ryalls.
With an extraordinary record of success that saw shows such as Queens of Sheba by Nouveau Riche and The Ex Boyfriend Yard Sale by Haley McGee take their first steps, Starting Blocks invites artists to create innovative new projects as part of a peer network encouraging engaged collaboration between participants. Over ten weeks, artists meet weekly to share practice, ideas and their developing works. They are given space to develop their project and practice, tailored mentoring, a materials budget, and – for the first time as of 2021 – a fee of £750 for their participation.
The scheme runs Jan-March 2021, allowing time for participants to develop works-in-progress to be shown in Spring 2021.
See below for more information about the selected artists & their projects.
Aminita Francis,’ I-Loop’
‘When life is a broken record, your only choice is to face the music’
Born out of the 2020 lockdowns and mental breakdowns, I-Loop is a gig-theatre piece which looks at the effects of living the same day on repeat. Performed on a loop station, ‘I-Loop’ is a raw reflection of my black, female experience and contemplates the new normal that will follow this year’s momentous worldwide shift ‘but I’m not sure things were even so great before all this…’
Aminita Francis is an actress, singer-songwriter and international theatre-maker from London. Her training includes the RSC Youth Ensemble, Battersea Arts Centre’s Homegrown programme & The Roundhouse Young Creatives. Since drama school, Aminita has collaborated on devised shows with The Old Vic, Complicite, Hot Brown Honey & The British Council. Notably, she co-wrote, co-composed and stars in the multi-award-winning gig-theatre piece Frankenstein – How To Make A Monster. Recently re-imagined for BBC television, Frankenstein is now available on iPlayer. The live show will tour the world following its sold-out run as the highest reviewed show at Edinburgh Fringe 2019 & Adelaide Fringe 2020.
Callum Berridge, ‘Ken Barlow’
Ken Barlow is a love letter to one of the greatest icons of British popular culture, a staple of television screens in millions of households across the country for 60 years. The show is a live recreation of the first-ever episode of Coronation Street, broadcast on 9th December 1960, exploring Ken’s first storyline, as he returns home from Manchester University, and pulling apart those themes still pertinent today – class and social mobility. Callum is collaborating with idontloveyouanymore on this show.
Callum is an East Midlands based working-class theatre-maker and director. He creates formally experimental, political storytelling work. In previous projects, he’s buried an electric guitar in coal, cooked a pot of stew with an audience while discussing the merits of anarcho-socialism in the UK, and he’s just embarked on a durational audio play that will be told in chapters over the next decade, titled The Next 10 Years. Through 2020-21, he’s a supported associate artist of New Perspectives in Nottingham.
Clumsy Bodies, ‘Clumsy Body Doubles’
“A critic told us that they enjoyed our personal stories about being trans, but didn’t like us as the performers of those stories. So (obviously) we hired cisgender doppelgängers to take over our lives – Scarlett Johansson style. But what happens when they take it too far? When they become better liked by our friends and family, and actually become successful in the arts?”
From Boys Don’t Cry to Danish Girl to Dallas Buyers Club, the majority of commercially successful stories about trans lives go to those with cis actors attached. Who legitimises trans stories, and do we ever get to author them ourselves?
Clumsy Bodies is Oli Isaac and Jess Rahman-González, a trans non-binary duo in a creative and romantic relationship. Most recently, we were commissioned by Raze Collective to develop Anatomy of a Panic, which then toured across the UK at Derby Theatre, Cambridge Junction, Oxford Old Fire Station, and Ovalhouse. We are currently working with the Live Art Development Agency and The Sick of the Fringe to create a workshop series for trans artists to challenge the representation of trans people in horror; re-imagining the genre as a potential site for liberation within trans storytelling.
Frankie Thompson, ‘The Sex Party’
“Just pat her on the bottom and send her on her way” – Boris Johnson.
In 2011, a German Insurance Company rewarded its ‘100 best salesmen’ with a riotous sex party in a Budapest spa. The event, costing €83,000, provided inflatable armbands which allowed the entirely white cis male guest-list to ‘float and fornicate’ at the same time.
Part manifesto, part clown show, part animal documentary, The Sex Party investigates how the sexual values of white cis men in positions of power affect our treatment of minorities, sex workers, gender identity, climate change, our own bodies and sex lives.
Frankie Thompson is a clown, artist and emerging idiot. Her one-woman advert break Forbruker had two sold-out runs at Camden People’s Theatre’s and Soho Theatre in 2019. Her live-streamed miniature circus SPACE had two sold-out work-in-progresses at The Place Theatre and Camden People’s Theatre. SPACE also undertook a live-streamed performance from her bedroom, transforming the space to hide tiny handmade miniature worlds on plugs, sockets and lamps in aid of BEAT: Eating Disorders, raising £777. *
Nick Blakeley, ‘Dead Dads Club’
Ever felt like you’re just not smashing it? Nick has. So when he found out his Dad had a terminal illness he did everything he could to get grief ‘right’… and still messed it up. Dead Dads Club will be an autobiographical theatre show that gets people talking and laughing at grief in a time where kicking the taboo feels more important than ever.
Nick is originally from the North East and trained as an actor at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Credits include: The Claim (Shoreditch Town Hall), I Heart Catherine Pistachio (Encounter), Brideshead Revisited (ETT) and 13 (National Theatre). This will be his first show as a writer-performer and he can’t wait to go on this journey with CPT and the other Starting Blocks artists.
Tom Ryalls, ‘Education, Education, Karaoke’
Education, Education, Karaoke is the story of the last 20 years of the British education system and the pop bangers that came to define it. From Tony Blair to Cher Lloyd, we take a romp through how one speech in 1997 lead to the British education system becoming one of the most unequal in the world, and how karaoke might be the answer to level the playing field. A combination of verbatim interviews and karaoke, we track the way working-class kids were told to aspire to something the establishment never wanted them to have.
Tom Ryalls is a theatre-maker and producer focusing on two strands of work. The Black Hole Project is a series of shows exploring the impact of childhood epilepsy and youth hospitalisations. Inbadtaste is an attempt to deconstruct the middle-class taste values which uphold capitalism. Basically he’s dreaming up a tacky revolution and Education, Education, Karaoke is the first show in this project. His practice focuses on using documentary techniques to look at the world in childish and camp ways.