The theatrical tradition of initiating your own opportunities to develop and showcase work is so firmly instilled in the ethos of our Performing Arts courses that yet another new company, Two Little Birds, has been formed by Emily Thornton and Jodie Lowe, who both completed the National Diploma in Performing Arts in July 2008. Their debut production, James Johnson’s The Audition, played to appreciative audiences at College from 5th to 7th May. The play was directed by another former student and Paper Zoo member, Ben Eagle.
Emily explained “Inspired by Paper Zoo, Jodie and I decided to do something from scratch in our gap year. There are not many plays out there for two females and it took quite a lot of searching before we found The Audition. We knew it was right as we could relate to it from personal experience of auditions. It is quite a challenge doing a two hander and it kept us constantly on our toes. We were lucky to have such support from Ben as Director. It was a learning curve for all of us but we know such much for next time. We may take another gap year as we want to build on this and also, doing performing arts we think we should have as much theatre experience as we possibly can. We would also like to bring others in as associates to help them enhance their experience.”
Ben continued, “ What a play!. The Audition is full to the brim of loneliness, claustrophobia, fear, insecurity, nervous energy and has strong themes of sexual tension, which makes the audience, uncomfortable and uneasy at times. It is in essence a conversation between two women. The thought of directing a conversation which lasts the better part of two hours is daunting. Why? Well, because plays with such a small cast can easily become dull and I’ve definitely been guilty of ‘switching off’ during one-man plays. So, my challenge as a first-time director was to make it work – to ensure that this ‘conversation’ was riveting and interesting enough to keep the audience wanting more. However, this wasn’t just a challenge for me. When Jodie and Emily chose this piece for Two Little Birds’ debut, they obviously didn’t want an easy starter! For two actors of any age or experience level, this play is never going to be easy. There's a rather scary amount of lines to learn and the characters of Stella and Lauren are not without depth. Both actors have really had to ‘dig deep’ and I am so proud of their commitment and enthusiasm. Since this was my directorial debut, they ’ve also had to cope with my learning ‘on the job’ - initially being a little too picky with exactly how to say certain lines, to forgetting the fact that there are things like lights and props to consider! It has been without doubt a new adventure for me, but overall lots of fun. .”
The purpose and confidence with which Emily, Jodie and Ben have met this challenge is testament to the flourishing creative culture fostered by our Performing Arts Department. Damien O'Keeffe, Curriculum Team Leader for Media, Music and Performing Arts revealed, “I was delighted when Jodie and Emily asked if their first production could be performed in our studio. It is very gratifying to know that we can inspire people to go out and create their own work. It was also quite moving to watch this production come together. It was clear that they had taken on board the advice and guidance given to them during their time on the course. I don’t think people quite realise what it takes to put on a theatrical production in terms of organisation and time. ‘Let’s put the show on right here!’ But it does require a lot of effort; the girls were rehearsing after work and at the weekends on top of their regular work commitments. Ben Eagle deserves a mention here too because he not only works full-time at the National Media Museum but was in the thick of rehearsals for a couple of other shows too. It was definitely an inspiration for our current students too, to see recent graduates of the department producing such strong work. Several of them have said that they would like to do something similar. It’s great that Bradford College and Paper Zoo have been part of that enthusiasm.
The play is a challenging one; the two actors are never off stage and the plot requires some emotional and physical bravery. It is most people’s nightmare to be in front of a group of strangers in your underwear, but that is what was required! Emily and Jodie gave strong, committed, confident performances and really showed how they are maturing as performers. The production was tautly directed by Ben in his debut as director, with moments of genuine tension and menace. All three have learned a great deal in the process of staging The Audition. I hope that they continue to work together and that they will come back to showcase more of their work. Two Little Birds are a company to watch out for. No longer a fledgling company; this one could have wings!”