I have been observing Filament Theatre devise their latest production of Momo, based on the children’s novel by German writer Michael Ende. Momo is the story of a little girl who listens, who has time for anyone and everyone, but very soon the mysterious Men in Grey (MIG’s) appear, they are creeping up on the inhabitants of a small town and stealing away their precious time.
Sabina Netherclift (director) and Osnat Schmool (composer) are co-directors, they fuse original multi part vocal music with devised physical performance. The company is an associate artist of Greenwich Theatre.
When I arrived the first morning the company were just warming up, very soon we are singing African, Spanish and Ladino songs. Osnat Schmool has written this beautiful new score to be performed for children and families 8 years+, this is polyphonic eight part harmonies, and it sounds heavenly.
I am here on the first part of my 'Creative Wales Award' (bursary from Arts Council Wales) journey, exploring a new theatrical language that of physical theatre. I am particularly interested in Sabina’s work as she studied under Jacques Lecoq in Paris. I am keen to see how she will physically imagine this story on stage.
Whilst the cast are learning new songs, Sabina and I take an opportunity to rummage around in the basement of Reading’s South Street Arts Centre looking for ‘stuff’ we find a mass of pots, pans and kitchen implements, as well as the strong cardboard boxes already in the rehearsal room, these few items are rapidly transformed into the walls and buildings of a town.
As an actor/director working in small-scale theatre for the past 25 years, I have learned to be creative working in a small space but how do you avoid the ‘literal’, especially when creating journey on stage?
As part of the exploration Sabina begins with a visualisation exercise, the company walk through their individual character’s day. This progresses into discovering their own environment in the space, Figaro’s barbers shop and Nina’s restaurant appear through transformation. Guido the guide leads us round the stones of the ancient amphitheatre. Whilst the local children are playing, Beppo happily sweeps. The acting company as chorus re- create the quality of smoke drifting through space and our MIG’s have suddenly appeared.
Our heroine Momo has a heart as big as the world and it is up to her to save the townspeople, she is pursued by the MIG’s, when they discover her unique quality. Streets and alleyways are created, boxes are being walked over and passed around the space and as if by magic each character is transported scale wise into two fingers walking through their worlds. Fantastic- journey without being too literal!
I feel like a child enjoying these magical moments of transformation, set alongside heart-warming and sometimes heart-wrenching songs. This is true theatre of the imagination and as far as I am concerned this is the best theatre there is.
My bursary application entitled ‘The Sound of the Heart’ project is on the one hand about exploring new rehearsal techniques but I am also keen to discover the best tools and exercises directors can offer actors, that will not only release the actors imagination but also opens their hearts. What works on the somatic level, rather than the intellectual?
It occurs to me to collect just some of the moments that connect to my own heart from each of my experiences.
Filament Theatre are continuing to develop their work and hope to have their show created by 2013.
With thanks to Sabina Netherclift and Osnat Schmool for sharing their working practice and actors David Cumming, Charlie Folorunsho, Luisa Guerreiro, Danny Kennedy, Stuart King, Jane Nash and Rebecca Thorn.
You can watch a teaser of two of the development periods of Momo and listen to Filament Theatre’s Sound Cloud on www.filament-theatre.com
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