Meet members of the talented Bingo! creative team as they tell you more about their work, working on the show, and what you can expect from a night with us at the Bingo!
Book 6 tickets and get the 7th Free by quoting LUCKY at the Assembly Box Office, 0131 623 30 30.
Bingo! previews at Assembly Hall as part of the venue’s new year round programme, on 6th and 7th March, premiering on International Women’s Day the 8th March before heading off on a Scottish tour until the 21st April.
In the run up to the BAFTAS 190 British and Irish actors – including Emma Watson, Carey Mulligan, Kate Winslet, Claire Foy, Noma Dumezweni, Emma Thompson, Jodie Whittaker, Sophie Okonedo and Saoirse Ronan – have signed an open letter of intent, published in the Observer calling Time with their American sisters in solidarity with the Time’s Up group, formed in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations.
The Letter (in full below) describes
“that it is possible to create a different world; one that is equal and just. We believe that it is possible for us to have freedom and safety wherever we are, from our homes to our workplaces. So today we come together with sisters in the entertainment industry to call Time’s UP on sexual abuse, and other forms of abuse, harassment and victimisation”.
It urges readers to
“join us in this movement and support our work. Organisations and groups working to create systemic and long-term change in the UK are in desperate need of resourcing. A 2013 survey of European charitable foundations showed less than 5% of funds were targeted towards women”
and donate to the to Rosa’s justice and equality fund.
We write today as activists, organisers, advocates and campaigners working to end violence against women and girls. We work in rape crisis centres, specialist black and minority ethnic women’s organisations, disabled women’s organisations, refuges, helplines, advice services, women’s infrastructure organisations, community organisations, women’s campaigning groups, universities, trade unions, women’s networks and more.
We write to you as a diverse group of women, speaking to other women, about the world that we live in, and the one that we know it is possible to create.
In the last few months we have heard a number of women speak out about their experiences of being harassed, assaulted, abused and victimised in the entertainment industry. Over and over again, we have heard stories of powerful individuals, primarily men, who have abused their positions to control women, to violate their bodies, to cause emotional harm and to threaten their livelihoods. We know that many women have also been silenced in a myriad of ways, which include being threatened with further abuse, public shaming, not being able to work and not being believed.
For those of us who do this work, these stories are all too familiar. We bear witness each day to the ways that adult women, young women and girls are subjected to violence in every sphere, from the home to the workplace. We know that many women are subjected to abuse, which is not only about sex and gender, but also about factors such as race, ethnicity, sexuality, class, disability, age and more; and we know that this compounds the marginalisation that women have to face. We recognise that the ways in which women in the entertainment industry have been silenced mirror the ways that women are silenced by individual perpetrators, by companies, by families, by institutions, by communities and by the state. For each woman in the entertainment industry who has spoken out, there are thousands of women whose stories go unheard.
One in 10 women in the European Union report having experienced cyber-harassment since the age of 15 and close to one in three 16-18 year-old girls say they have experienced unwanted sexual touching at school. One in five women in England and Wales have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16. The number of rapes recorded by police in England and Wales is the highest in the EU, according to official 2017 figures.
On average two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week in England and Wales.
This needs to end.
These are not isolated incidents. This is about power and inequality; and it is systemic.
We know that as we write about our experiences some will ask us: “But what about the men?” While our work is focused on women and girls, we acknowledge all survivors of abuse. We recognise their experiences as part of a wider system of patriarchal power which disproportionately impacts women and girls and also harms men and boys. We join with all survivors to demand change.
If this change is to happen, we need a major shift across our societies. This shift needs to be intersectional and it needs to attend to all structural inequality and oppressions.
As activists, we welcome the call from our entertainment industry sisters to unite to call TIME on harassment and abuse. We recognise that every woman, everywhere, who has ever spoken out has been part of creating change, even when she has not been believed. We know that these conversations are not new, and that these stories are not exceptional, but the women in the entertainment industry that have spoken out have helped to push issues such as sexual harassment and rape into the public consciousness in an unprecedented way. We believe that this is a moment in time when we can harness our collective energies to dismantle the wall of silence that surrounds violence against women and girls.
To every woman afraid to walk down the streets, or take public transport, we see you. To every woman scared to go home or who is trapped at home, we hear you. To every girl and every young woman who is terrified of going to school, we are with you. To every woman who has been detained, while seeking safety, we believe you. To each and every one of you, who has been subjected to any form of harassment, abuse and/or victimisation, we say this: we hear you. We see you. We believe you. We are with you.
We believe that it is possible to create a different world; one that is equal and just. We believe that it is possible for us to have freedom and safety wherever we are, from our homes to our workplaces. So today we come together with sisters in the entertainment industry to call Time’s UP on sexual abuse, and other forms of abuse, harassment and victimisation.
We call on you to join us in this movement and support our work. Organisations and groups working to create systemic and long-term change in the UK are in desperate need of resourcing. A 2013 survey of European charitable foundations showed less than 5% of funds were targeted towards women. It should therefore come as no surprise that many of the organisations that have been fighting for justice and equality are chronically underfunded.
As government cuts and austerity measures take their grip on our sector, many of the services that are supporting survivors are struggling to stay open.
Adeola Iluyomade, Rape Crisis, Adwoa Kwateng-Kluvitse, Forward, Akeela Ahmed, activist, Alison Hill, Rape Crisis, Amna Abdullatif, Amrit Wilson, author and activist, Anber Raz, Imkaan Andrea Simon, End Violence Against Women Coalition, Angela Maruli, Forward, Angelina Rodriques, End Violence Against Women Coalition, Arabella Gayle, student and activist, Aviah Sarah, Sisters Uncut, Baljit Banga, London Black Women’s Project, Beverley Williams, Amadudu Camille Kumar, Women and Girls Network, Caroline Burton, Rape Crisis, Caroline Vaux, Rape Crisis, Carys Afoko, Level Up Cas Heron, Rape Crisis, Ceri Hayes, Gender Matters, Charlotte Kneer, Women’s Aid survivor ambassador, Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid, Chlo Winfield, Women’s Aid survivor ambassador, Cimone Hilton, Safer London, Claire Throssell, Women’s Aid child first campaigner and survivor ambassador, Clare Hyde, Astraea Project, Cris McCurley, solicitor, Darlene Corry, researcher and activist, Dawn Redshaw, Salford Women’s Aid, Dawn Thomas, Rape Crisis, Diana Nammi, Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO), Dianne Whitfield, Rape Crisis, Dion Spence, Imkaan Dionne Nelson, Women’s Resource Centre, Dorett Jones, Imkaan, Dr Akima Thomas, Women and Girls Network, Dr Ava Kanyeredzi, University of East London, Dr Carlene Firmin MBE, University of Bedfordshire, Dr Fiona Vera Gray, Durham University, Dr Kate Cook, Manchester Metropolitan University, Dr Lisa W Kelly, University of Glasgow, Dr Maria Garner, Dr Marianna Tortell, Domestic Violence Intervention Project (DVIP), Dr Marsha Scott, Scottish Women’s Aid, Dr Nancy Lombard, Glasgow Caledonian University, Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, London Metropolitan University, Dr Ravi K Thiara, University of Warwick, Dr Sue Robson, Women’s Rights advocate, Dr Susan Berridge, University of Stirling, Dr Rebecca Johnson, Women in Black, Ehinor Otaigbe, Wonderfully Made Woman, Elaine Peaker, Rape Crisis, Eleanor Lisney, Sisters of Frida, Elizabeth Ackerley, activist, Emma Ritch, Engender, Estelle Du Boulay, Rights of Women, Esua Goldsmith, writer and activist, Fiona Davidson, journalist and trade unionist, Firoza Mohmed, Humraaz Foloshade Alonge, The Butterflies Francesca Jarvis, Rape Crisis, Garima Jhamb, Women’s Aid, Georgina Robb, Women and Girls Network, Guddy Helevuo-Burnet, Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA), Gurpreet Virdee, Women and Girls Network, Hannana Siddiqui, Helen Cylwik, consultant, Hilary McCollum, writer and campaigner, Huda Jawad, Standing Together Against Domestic Violence, Ikamara Larasi, activist, Ila Patel, Asha Projects, Illary Valenzuela Oblitas, Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS), Indira Purushothaman, Imkaan, Jackie Hancox, Rape Crisis Jan Melia, Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland, Janet McDermott, Women’s Aid, Jashmin Patel, Imkaan, Jayne Bullough, Rape Crisis Jennifer Edmunds, Sisters Uncut, Jo Costello, Every Day Victim Blaming, Jo Sutcliffe, Rape Crisis, Jo Todd, Respect, Jocelyn Watson, activist and writer, Jodie Woodward, Rape Crisis, Kafayat Okanlawon, Imkaan, Karen Boyle, University of Strathclyde, Karen Moore, Astraea Project, Kathleen Moss, ACMA, Katie Ghose, Women’s Aid, Katie Russell, Rape Crisis, Kim Donahue, consultant Laura Bates, Everyday Sexism Project, Leah Cowan, Imkaan, Lee Eggleston, Rape Crisis, Lesley Painter, Rape Crisis, Lia Latchford, Imkaan, Lisa Johnson, Women’s Aid, Lisa-Marie Taylor, FiLiA, Louise Harcourt, Women and Girls Network, Louise Whitfield, public law specialist, Lynne Wham, Rape Crisis, Maggie Parks, Womens Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, Cornwall, Mandy Thomas, Women’s Aid Survivor ambassador, Marai Larasi MBE, Imkaan, Marchu Girma, Women for Refugee Women, Marie-Claire Faray, Common Cause Platform for Congolese Women, Mary Mason, Solace Women’s Aid, Mary Otuko, Forward, Michelle Springer Benjamin, Women and Girls Network, Molly Ackhurst, Rape Crisis Tebussum Rashid, Sukoon Ltd, Naana Otoo-Oyortey, Forward, Nahir de la Silva, Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS), Natalia Dawkins MBE, Natasha Walter, Women for Refugee Women, Neha Kagal, Imkaan, Nicki Norman, Women’s Aid, Nicole Jacobs, Standing Together, Nina George, Nina Kelly, activist and consultant, Olu Amokeodo, Rape Crisis, Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, UK.Black Pride, Pragna Patel, Southall Black Sisters, Professor Aisha Gill, University of Roehampton, Professor Clare McGlynn, Durham University, Professor Liz Kelly, London Metropolitan University, Professor Nicole Westmarland, Durham University, Quinn, Rape Crisis, Rachel Krys, End Violence Against Women Coalition, Raggi Kotak, 1 Pump Court, Rahni Binjie, Imkaan, Ranjit Kaur, campaigner, Rebecca Hitchen, Rape Crisis, Rosa Knight, Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre, Rose Ssali, Support and Action Women’s Network (SAWN), Roz Hardie, Lewisham Disability Coalition, Rupa Sarkar, Women’s Resource Centre, Ruth Atkinson, Imkaan, Sabrina Qureshi, Million Women Rise, Sadi Khan, Women’s Aid Survivor ambassador, Sally Jackson, Standing Together Against Domestic Violence, Sandie Barton, Rape Crisis, Scotland, Sandy Brindley, Rape Crisis, Scotland, Sara Kirkpatrick, Respect, Sarah Green, End Violence Against Women Coalition, Shaista Aziz, Shaista Gohir OBE, Muslim Women’s Network, UK, Shamshia Ali, Sheila Coates, Rape Crisis, Shelley Johnson, Rape Crisis, Sumanta Roy, Imkaan, Susan Berridge, University of Stirling, Susie McDonald, Tender, Taranjit Chana, London Black Women’s Project, Toks Okeniyi, Forward, Tracey Ford, JAGS Foundation, Umme Imam, Angelou Centre, Verity Meeson, Women and Girls Network, Vivienne Hayes MBE, Women’s Resource Centre, Yenny Aude, Latin American Women’s Aid, Zahra Rasouli, Women and Girls Network, Zlahka Ahmed, Apna Haq Zoe Gray, Women and Girls Network
image: Composite from top left: Emilia Clarke, Emma Watson, Naomie Harris, Poppy Delevigne, Noma Dumezweni, Gemma Arterton, Nicola Walker, Noomi Rapace, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Emma Thompson, Thandie Newton, Ophelia Lovibond, Saoirse Ronan, Samantha Morton, Carey Mulligan Composite: Getty Images, Rex Features. From Guardian article.
The Quines are supporting ERA 50:50 – the organisation campaigning for Equal Representation for Actresses.
This is a movement of actresses that have been actively campaigning for the last 2 years in the UK for 50:50 gender balance on our stages and screens.
On 28th February 2018 ERA 50:50 will be inviting 200 key decision-makers from the world of film, television and theatre to a landmark industry event at BAFTA to stand up for A New ERA.
Donate £20 and you will become an ERA Legend, receive a badge (as worn by Claire Foy at the Golden Globes and Suranne Jones at the NTAs) AND be entered into a lottery to win a ticket to the event. There has been a lot of vocal support from across the industry already and ERA are ready to convert this enthusiasm into positive change.
We’re supporting this and we’d love you to join us.
You can donate here
See who is in their band of ERA Warriors
I was delighted to attend the YWCA/YPeople merger event at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 1st February as part of the Young Women Lead programme. A large number of the programme members managed to attend (even battling cancelled ferries and adverse weather to attend!) and it was wonderful to see the Parliament building packed full of excited young women.
What made the event particularly exciting was the fact that earlier that day, Scottish Parliament had passed a momentous new law offering more protection to domestic abuse victims, many of whom are vulnerable young women. Gail Martin, Gail Ross and numerous other MSPs who had voted for the legislation gave speeches at the reception, encouraging both the YWCA and YPeople to step out and help build a country they are proud of.
Rounding out the evening, there was a fantastic performance from Beldina Odenyo (she performs under the name Heir of the Cursed and is well worth looking out for online and at live performances). As one of YWCA’s 30 Under 30, it was great to see her performing in such a famous building – here’s hoping that we hear lots more from the rest of the 30 Under 30 ladies in 2018. For me, it was a real privilege to be in the same room as all of these inspiring young people, and I can’t wait for the rest of the Young Women Lead programme to kick off!
We would like to thank you all so much for your words of support for Stellar Quines over recent weeks.
We are happy to let you know that as a result of Creative Scotland’s Board meeting to take stock of its decisions on Regular Funding, they have confirmed today that our Regular Funding has been returned to standstill level 2018-21.
This is wonderful and welcome news, and gives us the stability we were hoping for over the coming years.
We share this good news with five organisations re-instated to RFO funding: Birds of Paradise, Catherine Wheels, Dunedin Consort, Lung Ha and Visible Fictions, whilst sharing condolences with those whose news was not what they had hoped. Creative Scotland have released a public statement with further information.
We look forward to sharing the plans we have for the coming years with you, and continuing to celebrate women and girls on Scottish stages.
The Stellar Quines team
Edinburgh based theatre company Stellar Quines, that have for over 25 years celebrated the value and diversity of women and girls, has secured their position as one of Creative Scotland’s Regular Funding Organisation Portfolio 2018 – 2021.
The 3 year award of £409,333 represents a 22% cut to the company’s regular funding level, and has been awarded to support ‘the advocacy and sector support work of Stellar Quines’ but does not extend to support the company’s long term professional theatre productions.
As an award-winning company whose mission is to be Scotland’s leading theatre company, inspiring excellent in women in girls, the reduction in Core resource in order to produce professional theatre and provide theatre opportunities for women is a disappointing outcome. The company will receive transition funding for the year 18/19 and it is understood that Stellar Quines will be able to apply to the new strategic touring fund from 2019.
As the only theatre company dedicated to women and girls we are committed to advocating for female creatives, artists, practitioners and crew and this funding is an essential and welcome resource. However, funding at this level and with these conditions will require a serious review of the company’s artistic programme. Stellar Quines Board and team are currently in negotiation with Creative Scotland to determine how we will move forward in light of these changes.
We appreciate the RFO funding was over-subscribed and difficult decisions have been made. We congratulate our colleagues and peers who have been successful in securing RFO funding, and hope to nurture relationships with them. Equally we are aggrieved to hear of the loses to fellow companies in our sector.
Jemima Levick, Stellar Quines’ joint Artistic Director | CEO had this to say of the news:
“In the light of the funding announcements across the sector we welcome Regular Funding. The reduction and conditions of the funding does however have an impact on the artistic ambition of the company, particularly in relation to our touring theatre production and professional opportunities for women in the sector. As a company we remain committed to advocating and supporting gender parity, particularly in the political climate we find ourselves in. We have some time of review and reflection ahead of us.”
Jane Hogg, Stellar Quines’ Board Chair had this to say of the news:
“The Stellar Quines team and Board worked hard on a Business Plan and application which reflected the artistic ambitions of the company’s Artistic Director, Jemima Levick, and the needs of the sector and the company’s audience. We welcome Regular Funding support but recognise this is not a level the company anticipated, or fully reflects its mission. We are working to support the Stellar Quines team at this time, and with Creative Scotland to seek an outcome.”
I love literature, work in theatre and am a feminist. It didn’t take me long to find Stellar Quines.
The first Stellar Quines performance I attended was at the National Portrait Gallery. It was a gorgeous production that joined together fine art, beautiful writing and the lives and voices of women. Since then I’ve followed the work of Stellar Quines closely: seeing as many of their plays as time and money would allow.
As I was learning about the Quines, I was also working professionally in the theatre industry – as Administration and Communications Co-ordinator at Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland and then in the Development Team at The Lyceum. Both of these companies have been important to my professional development and have shown me how organisations of different kinds operate. I am ambitious, and keen to be continually developing my skills and learning. Joining a board seemed like the next step that I could realistically aspire to. I felt strongly that being a board member would increase my ability to think strategically and improve my understanding of the governance of organisations. I was also hopeful that I could find a company whose work I was passionate about: a company that I could wholeheartedly advocate for. Then the Board Pioneer role at Stellar Quines was advertised. The opportunity to join a board before the age of thirty is quite rare and, frankly, I jumped at the chance.
As I write this, The Lover is rehearsing down the corridor from my office in The Lyceum. In the room, there is an early-career, female sound designer called Zakia Fawcett who is shadowing the production’s sound designer in order to gain experience and to develop her skills. From the creative team on their productions to the board that governs their company, Stellar Quines are embodying their vision to inspire excellence in women and girls. I am delighted to be on their board.
It’s Fleur Darkin’s job as a choreographer to let her dancers’ bodies speak for themselves. That’s why one phrase leapt out when she re-read one of her favourite books, The Lover by Marguerite Duras: “When you let the body alone to seek and find and take what it likes… then everything is right.”
Letting the body take what it likes feels right to Darkin. “To me it feels so real, that we do exist with drives, hungers and libido,” she says. “Not many writers name it so powerfully.”
And by naming it, Duras seemed to be giving Darkin permission to trust her instincts. Working in close collaboration with theatre director Jemima Levick, Darkin is creating not simply a straight adaptation of the semi-autobiographical 1984 novel – and its companion piece, The North China Lover – for Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum – but a dance-theatre hybrid. Together, they are thinking as much about the language of movement as the language of speech.
“You look at Duras’ catalogue of work and it’s novels, films, plays,” says Levick. “She’s so bold as an artist. She’s open to other artforms exploring an idea. I like to think she’s smiling down saying, ‘Yeah, give it your best shot, ladies.’”
A novel that is at once experimental and passionate, daring and heartfelt, struck them as perfect for a show that would draw on their respective talents. “As a choreographer, I wouldn’t normally stage a book, but The Lover is fragmentary and open,” says Darkin.
Levick adds: “Her sensibility is not to be straight-down-the-line linear narrative. It weaves in and out. She creates texture and atmosphere. That is one of the reasons it felt like it had the space to become a collaboration as opposed to a straight play.”
Set in French colonial Vietnam in 1929, The Lover is about a 15-year-old girl’s illicit sexual awakening in the company of a 27-year-old son of a Chinese millionaire. Recalled 50 years later, the affair seems as passionate, confused and intense as it ever was, not least because of the era’s divisive colonial culture and the girl’s dysfunctional family. Writer Deborah Levy called it “exhilarating, sexy, melancholy, truthful, modern and female”.
Darkin agrees: “There’s this real contradiction at the heart of Duras’ writing, because she’s keen for everyone to know she’s not sentimental, yet it has this undertow of affect and feeling. It’s a really emotional story even though she employs a lot of breaking techniques to keep you guessing.”
The choreographer read The Lover as a teenager (“the right age”) and was captivated. The two had identified it as a dream project even before they worked alongside each other in Dundee – Darkin running Scottish Dance Theatre, Levick at the helm of Dundee Rep. Only now Levick has moved to Stellar Quines have the pieces fallen into place.
Taking joint responsibility for the script and the staging, Darkin and Levick have cast both dancers and actors. Narrating the story, for example, is Susan Vidler, known for her compelling work for the National Theatre of Scotland and on screen in Trainspotting, while playing her younger self is Amy Hollinshead, a Rambert graduate who joined Scottish Dance Theatre in 2013. What mattered to the two directors were performers who were happy to cross the line between disciplines and who wouldn’t be fazed by the chopping and changing of the devising process.
“I see a lot of similarity between actors and dancers,” says Darkin. “If they’re given time, their virtuosity explodes and gives you the answers. They’re loving the exchange. And when you ask the dancers to do text, they’re phenomenal. They only dance if things feel authentic and so they speak from the same place as an actor.”
“Susan Vidler is bold, she’ll do anything,” says Levick. “She’s interested in dancing and dancers, she joins in with class and gives learning what they’re learning a go. It’s great seeing them learning from each other.” Darkin adds: “The dancers are virtuosic because they listen and they work. They’re not diva-ish. And guess what: Susan is the same. She wears her talent lightly, but when it’s in full force, she changes the air in the room.”
For their own part, splitting the work in the rehearsal room has come naturally. “We both want to tell the story,” says Darkin. “If I was to stand up for anything in terms of a dance sensibility, it would be that we don’t over-tell it. We under-tell it so that the audience have something to play with themselves. We’re always on a spectrum between everything being super clear at one end and wild imagery at the other, and we both play with that dial.”
“It’s so exciting having that other way of working in the room,” says Levick. “It’s a great way of having a look at yourself.”
The Lover is at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, from 20 January until 3 February.
To conjure the sensual heat of Saigon in the depths of a Scottish winter is ambitious; to do so when dosed with the flu is little short of heroic.
For Susan Vidler, a small corner of the stage of the Lyceum in Edinburgh became a quarantine bay last week. While fellow performers rehearsed lines and dance moves, Vidler — the lead in The Lover, which opens on Saturday — could only watch, having returned from two days in her sick bed, where she saw off her illness in splendid isolation.
As choreographer Fleur Darkin, co-director with Jemima Levick of the sensual new production, says: “It has been a bit of a nightmare.”
Anyone familiar with the autobiographical novel by Marguerite Duras, on which the new play is based, will be aware that these theatrical directors already do not have their troubles to seek. A slim literary masterpiece, The Lover was first published in 1984, when Duras was 70, and tells the story of an old woman gazing down through the decades to her schooldays in French colonial Saigon and her love affair with an older, wealthy Vietnamese man.
Duras describes how, at 15, she was wearing a sleeveless, low-cut red silk dress, her older brother’s leather belt, a pair of gold lamé shoes and a fedora, when she caught the eye of her suitor as both rode the ferry across the Mekong River. In the novel, both characters are crossing invisible boundaries: she is poor, he is rich; she is white and he is Vietnamese.
When he offers her a cigarette by way of an introduction, his hand shakes: “There’s the difference of race; he’s not white, he has to get the better of it, that’s why he’s trembling.”
Explicit and erotic, The Lover has sold more than 1m copies in 43 languages. Yet Duras had a complicated relationship with her most popular book; she later reworked it as The North China Lover to emphasise the pressure she had been under from her impoverished family and abusive brothers to indulge an affair that was to the family’s financial benefit.
When the French film director Jean-Jacques Annaud collaborated with her on the 1992 film, starring the British actress Jane March, Duras was dismissive: “The Lover is a load of shit. It’s an airport novel. I wrote it when I was drunk.” Yet the novel’s evocative prose and insights into the complexities of a girl on the cusp of womanhood, rebelling against a mother she both loves and despises and discovering the power of her own sexuality, continues to cast a spell over each new generation of readers.
“I read the book when I was 14, the age of the girl in the book, so it was profoundly strong for me and still is strong,” says Darkin, of Scottish Dance Theatre, during a break in rehearsals. Keen to collaborate with Levick, the artistic director of Stellar Quines, she gave her the book seven years ago and Levick was equally smitten.
“There are extraordinary things that define you as a person that you go through in those years,” adds Levick. “Particularly when you are 15 and up, particularly to do with your sexuality and your sense of self, but it is also to do with family and understanding what your position is within the family. The magic of this book is you have the joy of retrospection — a woman has had the chance to look back on that aspect of her life.”
The theatrical adaptation is a mixture of drama, dance and spoken word and conveying the book’s sex scenes has not been without it’s unique challenges. The Christmas break permitted Darkin to indulge in a few long, dark nights of the soul as she wrestled with the staging: “I produce dance a lot and people come up to me at the end of the show and say, ‘That was really sexy — I’m going to go home now and make love to my wife.’ It does get people’s hearts beating and they are in touch with their sensuality. But it is also a secondary by-product of something that is happening, that is an inquiry. This is the first time I’ve ever made a show where sex is the subject.
“During the Christmas break I was waking up in the middle of the night and thinking, ‘What the f***! What am I doing?’ It is so on the nose and so literal. We have had to find a language of intimacy which is iconic, and while you do know what is happening, it is also poetic and has emotion. It’s abstract — they are not having intercourse obviously, but they are on a bed, the bed’s on a platform in the centre of the stage. We were all anticipating the final scene of the virginity and the union and we have harnessed that in the show; there is the feel of the clock ticking as they inch towards it.”
I ask about the cultural prism through which the play could be viewed, in light of the revelations about Harvey Weinstein and the spotlight on abusive relationships. While accepting the culture appears to be changing, Levick insists that at the heart of the novel is an obsessive, though complicated, love story. “Obviously that is in the ether and we are living and breathing it, but the truth is this stuff has been around for ever and just because Hollywood has turned round and said, ‘We don’t like this’, we are all supposed to go, ‘Oh the stars don’t like it so we must listen’.
“Abuse and abusers have been happening for a really long time and the key to remember is that this story is not about abuse: she makes a concerted decision to become involved. The by-product of that — potential prostitution, the way her family behaves, and the cultural difference — is where the control begins to get lost. But in terms of her decision, that is not an abusive situation. I know some people will be worried about that because she is 15.”
Darkin interjects: “And a half.”
Levick continues: “Fifteen and a half — I’m not trying to brush it aside at all, but it’s been a novel, a play and film and now a dance and spoken work, so it is more complex than a 27-year-old man and a 15-year-old girl. To break it down to something as singular as that does not feel right. The story is timeless, but let’s hope [Weinstein] excites change because it’s important we understand what respect is.”
Both directors are full of praise for their leading lady. After the movie of The Lover was released, March was dismissed in The Sun as “the Sinner from Pinner”, a reference to her home town. They have no such fears for Susan Vidler. “She is unbelievable,” says Darkin enthusiastically, “a true star.”
Levick concurs: “She is brilliant, you can clear a space for her and let her do her thing. It’s going to be powerful.”
The Lover is at the Lyceum, Edinburgh, from February 3
IT WAS seven years ago that Fleur Darkin and Jemima Levick first talked about putting Marguerite Duras’ novel, The Lover, onstage. They had both become captivated by the French novelist’s semi-autobiographical best-seller set in 1920s French Indochina concerning an affair between a 15-year-old French girl and a wealthy Chinese man 15 years her senior.
With Darkin now artist director of Scottish Dance Theatre and Levick in charge of the Stellar Quines theatre company, when the pair’s unique adaptation opens at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh next week, this collaboration between the three companies will highlight their own labour of love.
“We’ve been living with it intently for the last three months,” says Darkin of a book written by Duras when she was 70, and narrated by an older woman looking back at her younger self. “Adapting the book has been quite a dance. We’ve kind of honed it down to the bare bones of the story, which feels a bit non-Duras in a way, but I think we’re relying on the fact that because we’re doing it cross-form, and we’re coming at it musically as well as textually, that it will tip a nod to her spirit.”
As Levick points out, “It’s not like we’ve ironed it out and made it into a literal narrative play, because it’s very definitely not a play, but it felt like it needed something relatively straightforward to hang it off of without the people who don’t know Duras’ work feeling like they’re totally at sea.”
The result combines spoken-word, dance and music to cut through to the story’s physical and sensual heart. With actress Susan Vidler taking on what amounts to an extended internal monologue as The Woman, both her character’s younger self and her lover himself are played by dancers. Two others take on all other roles. Such an impressionistic approach is in keeping with a story which Duras returned to repeatedly throughout her life, and taps into the book’s poetic essence of personal transformation.
“That space of girlhood Duras writes about is so under-articulated,” says Darkin. “I think a lot of girlhood is private, and its nature is quite concealed. When I first read The Lover I was at quite a formative age, and I just loved that world. I loved hearing the language, and I wanted to know more about that energy, and try and put the audience in her lap.”
Levick too recognises the inherent physicality that drives the story.
“When Duras talks about the relationship between the lover and the girl, she says that you just give up and let the body do what it needs to do. That’s what dance does. Dance is instinct, and when I read the book, it had a real profound effect, because it all feels like it comes from the inside.”
Darkin goes further.
“I think when you deal with The Lover, you’re really dealing with intimacy,” she says. “It’s a whole inquiry into what intimacy is, how it feels and trying to get it. That’s what we’re struggling with now in the rehearsal room, because intimacy is private, and it’s hard to do if you don’t know people. One of the lovely things I read recently that helped me was when Duras talks about this primal act that happens at the back of the bachelor’s quarters, and the shutters are hiding them from the people walking outside, and it’s both public and private at the same time. She said that created her as a writer. Being private in public, that’s the same act as writing, and I feel with what I do that I’m always creating intimacy which hopefully someone in the back row is part of, and can connect to from the darkness and safety of their seat.
“That public/private thing seems to be something that’s so powerful with Duras, and she was able to realise what the lover gave her. He didn’t save her life, he didn’t protect her from her family, but he did give her this space where she was able to reflect on her family, and she credited that with being able to find her voice.”
The Lover was first published in French as L’Amant in 1984, and was translated into English by Duras’ regular translator, Barbara Bray. For a writer whose vast output of novels, plays and screenplays were more readily associated with the post-Second World War French avant-garde, the book was a surprise mainstream hit. Up until that point, Duras was probably best known for her Oscar nominated script for the Alan Resnais directed 1959 film, Hiroshima Mon Amour. As with The Lover, it’s depiction of a conversation between a French-Japanese couple used extensive flashbacks to highlight how memory can play tricks.
While The Lover went on to be translated into 43 languages, it was Jean-Jacques Annaud’s 1992 big screen version that took Duras’ creation – or a version of it – into the tabloids. With the then 18-year-old Jane Marsh making her big-screen debut as the Young Girl (Jeanne Moreau provided the older woman’s off-screen narration), despite the film’s seriousness, much was made of the film’s sexual content, with the English-born March inspiring nudge-nudge headlines that dubbed her “the Sinner from Pinner”.
“That’s actually how I knew about the book, after knowing all that tabloid stuff,” says Levick. “I guess that was what really flipped it into the public consciousness. That poor actor, I don’t know if she’s ever recovered. She’s really good in the film, but basically was just tainted for being sexual, like she wasn’t allowed.”
The Lover is the latest female rites of passage story to grace the Lyceum stage in recent times, and its timing is particularly pertinent in this era of heightened anxiety over sexual behaviour. The production follows similarly audacious versions of Picnic at Hanging Rock and Tipping the Velvet, as well as the late Linda Griffiths’ play, Age of Arousal, which was also seen in co-production with Stellar Quines. As with the first two shows, anyone expecting attempted imitations of the film and TV versions should think again
“If they’re coming for a cheap thrill they should go back to the book and double-check what it was really about,” says Levick. “It’s the greatest lesson in how a film is not the book that it was based on.”
Darkin and Levick are clear too that the girl in The Lover is in no way a victim.
“The crucial thing about this story is that she’s in control,” says Levick. “She’s not swept away and kidnapped by this older man. She makes a choice, she feels desire and she pursues it. She survives it, and she becomes a writer because of it, maybe. It inspires her, and it gives her a future. This is a story about empowerment, and making choices, and about ditching your childhood, becoming a woman and discovering yourself.”
As Darkin points out, “Her sexuality is some kind of passport out of there, and some kind of step into an imagination that’s her own.”
Like the story, the show itself sounds like a liberating force for good.
“In the world we’re living in now, it’s refreshing to be telling that story,” says Levick. “The fact that we’ve been talking about this for seven years and it’s never died, it’s timeless. We’re all fascinated by the story, and that’s because it’s about matters of the heart. Whether that’s a relationship or a familial thing, the characters who inhabit this world in the story are so present, and they’re present in all of us. It won’t go away, and finally we’ve found our moment to do it.”
Thank you and merry Christmas to all our Stellar Quines friends!!
This year has been a bumper year for Stellar Quines. In January we welcomed Jemima Back from maternity leave (and little Ivy as our newest Quine).
In March we celebrated International Women’s Day with Glasgow Women’s library and thanks to your contributions of over 200 Books established a new Play section in the Library.
In the Spring Jemima directed her first Stellar Quines play as Artistic Director and CEO The 306: Day written by Oliver Emanuel, composed by Gareth Williams, which we co-produced with The National Theatre of Scotland and Perth Theatre, in association with Red Note Ensemble. The play toured to 14 venues from Glasgow to Arrochar and was seen by over 1900 enthusiastic audience members, receiving a clutch of 4 star reviews.
In the Summer Jemima continued achieving firsts, directing her first Stellar Quines Edinburgh Festival Fringe Production The Last Queen of Scotland that was commissioned and supported by the National Theatre of Scotland and Dundee Rep. After two jumping previews in Dundee the show completed a Fringe run of 21 performances, including two with an integrated BSL interpreter, playing to over 1800 people.
October saw further celebrations for International Day of the Girl with Village Pub Theatre. Many thanks to the 44 who submitted play scripts, 9 were selected for sharing at the full to bursting Village Pub on the 11th October.
Throughout the year we have continued to support campaigns such as Parents in Performing Arts contributing to Best Practice Charter that was published this year. Thanks to those of you who joined us at our Edinburgh Fringe PiPA coffee morning.
In the aftermath of the reports and allegations that swept across the media in the wake of #MeToo we invited you to join our #Respectis campaign and creatively respond through Answers on a Postcard. Thank you for all your responses with over 50 #Respectis words of hope and inspiration shared, which continues to grow, and 12 more in depth provocations to Answers on a Postcard. As well as continuing to share your words over the coming months we will be working with colleagues at the Federation of Scottish Theatre to develop a toolkit to combat abuse.
We’ve continued to prove our own commitment to celebrate the value and diversity of women and girls by supporting 73 women in cast, creative and crew roles in the last year, that’s 73% of all the roles available a figure we’re proud of and will strive to maintain and increase.
As well as welcoming these women and men to our extended Quine family through our productions and projects the company has welcomed new people to SQHQ. In October we welcomed our new Company Administrator Hannah Forsyth, relocating to Edinburgh from York, and Catherine Grosvenor in a new role as Creative Learning Associate. We’ve also benefited from Adela Martinez’ contribution to the team whilst on placement with us from Belgium, and two dynamic Social Media interns Tomiwa Folorunso and Rosie Bans (who is with us until the beginning of next year).
After recruitment in the Summer that included a new Board Pioneer opportunity which received over 50 applicants, we have welcomed Lisa Kapur, Kris Bryce, Jackie Crichton and Shilpa T-Hyland to our Board. In response to the Board Pioneer interest we hosted a Board Pioneer Day at the beginning of December which introduced 15 young women to Governance and being a Board member, with many more following our live twitter feed.
We’ve also sadly said goodbye to our previous company Administrator Gillian Shaw after 7 years, and we wish her well in her new role as Executive Assistant (maternity cover) with Museums and Galleries Scotland.
As the year draws to a close the company is in rehearsals in the Lyceum for our co-production with The Royal Lyceum Theatre and Scottish Dance Theatre of Marguerite Duras’ The Lover, which will bring sensual heat to the stage when the show opens on January the 20th.
Following that we’re delighted to be bringing a new musical comedy Bingo! by Anita Vettesse and Johnny McKnight to the stage with Grid Iron in February and March.
As the final days of December dwindle don’t forget to check our who our last few 12 Quines of Christmas are.
The Stellar Quines office will be closed from the 22nd December till the 3rd January so until then all the Quines wish you a wonderful Christmas and new year and thank you again for all support in 2017!
Board Pioneer Event
A few months ago Stellar Quines put a call out for applications to become a Board Pioneer and sit on our Board for a year to gain experience and see how a Board operates. We received a tremendous response with over 50 applications – all of which were extremely good and it was a hard decision. So hard that instead of one Board Pioneer we appointed two!
Shilpa T-Hyland and Jackie Crichton are our Board Pioneers and we are delighted to welcome them to Stellar Quines.
But what about the rest of the applicants? Jemima Levick decided that she would like to give the other applicants the opportunity to come along to an event hosted by Stellar Quines to learn more about being on a Board.
We hosted the event in The Lyceum rehearsal room with around 25 young women attending. The opening session was presented by Miles Harrison and was a very informative session on what a Board does and the relationship it has with the Artistic Director/CEO of the organisation.
Mary Paulson-Ellis, author & Stellar Quines Board Member, who tackled the subject of pulling together a Business Plan/Strategy to present to a Board, led the second session. She had two willing volunteers in Jenny Gilvear and Shilpa T-Hyland (our Board Pioneer) to discuss the process of pulling together their own business plan for their company Modest Predicament
The third and final session was a group sharing when Jemima and Miles were joined by a fantastic line-up of Artistic Directors, CEO’s and Board Members including Julie Ellen (Macroberts Arts Centre), Jude Doherty (Grid Iron), Lisa Sangster (Designer/The Envelope Room & Stellar Quines Board member) and Claire Dow (Creative Theatre & Events Producer).
They shared invaluable experiences of working with Boards and also being part of a Board and making difficult decisions but also the rewards of being part of the successes of an organisation.
The event was also attended by representatives from Arts & Business Scotland and Changing the Chemistry and we have been approached by other arts organisations that are interested in introducing the Board Pioneer Scheme. Watch this space.
My behind the scenes view of audition day.
During the last 2 weeks, I had the opportunity to go back to Glasgow for the Stellar Quines/Grid Iron auditions for Bingo!
Bingo! Is a new comedy musical that has been written by Johnny McKnight and Anita Vettese. It’s very funny – so I’m looking forward to the auditions and meeting the actors.
I arrived on the first Monday morning at the UK theatre school in Glasgow. My role was to wait for the actors and take them to the studio. It was lovely to see again some of the actors I met in the first rehearsal. I knew which character some of them were auditioning for but not everyone.
I enjoyed being the first point of contact for the actors. It’s interesting to see how they all get ready. Some of them run over their lines, others warm up their voice. It’s easy to see how stressed they are and that’s normal, I’m pretty sure they’ve all been working a lot to be ready for this audition. But it’s part of the profession.
What I also enjoyed was to see them after their performance because they all looked really happy with what they’d done (or perhaps just happy to be done?).
The next Monday was a bit different, this was when the recalled actors came for a second audition. The day had an unexpected start as due to travel issues there was a delay so I had arrived 2 hours early but I used this time to play some piano, a blessing in disguise. People started arriving at 11 and I knew all of them so it was nice to see who had been recalled. Now, I’m excited to know who has been chosen.
I really hope to be able to come back and see the Bingo! next year.
In early 2017 we approached leading audience development agency Culture Republic to commission them to produce a survey of their audience that could then inform our future audience development and business strategies.
As a touring theatre company the challenges we face to access reliable audience data is difficult but is crucial to inform future planning. Culture Republic worked with us to speak to our audiences with the help of the venues the company had toured to and using their own wealth of data research. The results were interesting, surprising and revealing and shows why you can’t be complacent and that you should speak to your audience – they want to talk to you!
Stellar Quines: Using Data to Monitor Success highlights the main findings of the research.
As arts organisations across Scotland, that receive Regular Funding from Creative Scotland, await the news of what funding they will receive for the 3 years between 2018 – 2021, an article in The Herald reports on the concern shared by leading arts organisations.
Art cuts would “devastate” culture north of the border, leading arts organisations warn
Phil Miller – The Herald (Nov 21 2017)
CUTS to cultural funding in the upcoming Government budget would “devastate” the arts north of the border and cause “irreversible” damage, leading arts figures have claimed.
A new letter published today, signed by several cultural organisations including the Scottish Contemporary Art Network (SCAN), says that arts support is now at a “tipping point.”
They are concerned that a cut in funding to Creative Scotland from the Scottish Government, in the looming budget, would add to funding woes already felt by declining Lottery funds.
The letter comes as Creative Scotland, the national arts funding body, has reiterated that it expects the amount of arts companies it supports with its crucial regular funding pot to decline.
Creative Scotland has said that decisions on future funding for regularly funded organisations will now not be known until the end of January.
The letter from a group of arts bodies says that the cultural sector is awaiting the looming Budget with “trepidation”.
It adds: “We have now arrived at a tipping point where even a small cut to Creative Scotland’s Grant-In-Aid, alongside reductions in Lottery and local authorities, will devastate Scotland’s cultural infrastructure.
“Damage to this infrastructure, developed with the aid of public investment over the last fifty years, will be irreversible.
“This cannot be overstated.
“Conversely, a very small increase in funding would allow the core infrastructure of arts and culture in Scotland to survive and to thrive.”
It adds: “We welcome the positive public statements made by the Scottish Government in acknowledging the central role culture plays across our society, and we applaud the major new investments in film and the Edinburgh Festivals, The Burrell Collection and The V&A in Dundee. Clearly, the will to support arts and culture exists at the highest level.
“However, big flagship investments cannot substitute for the basic funding that our everyday, small-to-medium sized cultural groups need to exist.
“If these disappear, which many will if predictions about cuts to Regular Funding Organisations (RFOs) are correct, how will we nurture and sustain the highly skilled but low-paid artists who deliver arts, culture and creative experiences to audiences across every community in Scotland?”
The Creative Scotland bulletin says: “We are committed to doing everything we can to announce these decisions as soon as possible after this but it is now clear that this will not be before Christmas.
“With this in mind, our planning now means we will announce decisions by the end of January 2018.”
The body said because the lateness of this decision, in the financial year, will be mitigated by extending regularly funded organisations contracts until May 2018.
It will also offer “transitional funding support” for existing companies which have been unsuccessful in their application for Regular Funding 2018-21.
We are so excited that our Company Administrator, Hannah Forsyth has been selected to join the Young Women Lead leadership group. Initiated by Young Women’s Movement Scotland this inspiring group of young women will come together to discuss current issues and empower young women to encourage change.
Here is the first of what will be a regular series of articles from Hannah on her experience as part of the group:
When you hear the words “Parliamentary Committee”, what do you think of? My mind immediately runs to lots of people in suits and the word “honourable” being thrown around a lot. It’s fair to say that even in Scotland, politics has some work to do in terms of connecting with young people. And this is exactly what the YWCA are aiming to improve with their new leadership scheme. Young Women Lead is a brand new project aimed at connecting young women in Scotland with their political representatives.
I was lucky enough to be accepted onto the scheme, and spent a fascinating day in the Scottish Parliament and Meadowbank meeting my fellow participants and learning more about the scheme. One of the first things we did was take a tour of the Scottish Parliament Building in Holyrood, which is packed full of contributions from inspirational women such as Shauna McMullan’s Travelling the Distance mural (see image). The entire building has been designed to emphasize openness and honesty in politics, and members of the public are encouraged to follow Parliamentary events in person and online.
After a hearty lunch, we all convened in St Margaret’s House, HQ of YWCA at Meadowbank, to decide what we wanted to gain from this scheme. It was really exciting to hear from other women from all across Scotland (there was an entire Highlands and Islands contingent) and by the end of the afternoon we had produced plans for how we would like the ideal committee to run, what it would look like and what sort of things it would discuss. Encouraging young people to participate in politics is more important than ever, and I’m very excited to see where Young Women Lead will take us in 2018.
All that remained after that was to take part in some glow in the dark yoga (I cannot recommend it enough) and make sure we were all signed up for updates on the scheme.
If you want to see what we got up to or where we’re headed next, use #ScotWomenRise or follow @youngwomenscot
Our ANSWERS ON A POSTCARD project invites you to IMAGINE what theatre might look like – on stage, backstage and in the office – if we all felt able to call out unacceptable behaviour.
Last week Hannah, our Company Administrator, became our Green Champion and attended her first Creative Carbon Scotland Conference. Read on to find out the latest updates on becoming an environmentally friendly theatre world.
As I’m still fairly new to Stellar Quines, I didn’t really know what to expect from this particular conference but I was amazed by the breadth of sustainable activity in our sector. There were talks on everything from how to meet international standards of environmental compliance to how homemade knitted props have reduced the carbon impact of a production. One particular highlight was seeing how enthusiastic everyone was at the prospect of adopting local theatre bees – the Lyceum bee hive project may have started off a viral trend of bee adoption across Scotland!
One of the most important parts of the day was a reminder from Adaptation Scotland about the consequences of climate change and how our environment stands to change. It was a helpful reminder that committing to sustainability is more than simply checking boxes, it’s making sure that how we operate doesn’t damage our environment for future generations. I certainly went home with a new network of sustainable companies and exciting plans to make Stellar Quines even more sustainable in the future.
Useful Reading: Green Arts Initiative
- Behind the scenes with the Bingo! Creative team
- Group ticket offer for Bingo! in Edinburgh
- 190 British and Irish actors sign open letter and launch Justice And Equality Fund
- Your chance to support ERA 50:50 and make a difference
- Hannah Forsyth attends YWCA/YPeople merger event at Scottish Parliament