Rebecca McCutcheon

Director theatre & site specific performance


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Til We Meet in England 2017

Til We Meet In England At Safe House, Peckham, 2017

‘Til We Meet In England was a site-specific performance in Peckham. Created in and for Safehouse, a tiny, semi-derelict Victorian house in the backstreets of Peckham, ‘Til We Meet in England is part-performance, part-installation, fusing text, movement, objects and song to create a potent, intimate experience.

The production took Elizabeth Inchbald’s rarely performed tragedy, The Massacre, as its starting point. A brilliantly successful writer of wryly observed sex-comedies, this was Inchbald’s only tragedy, using the lens of the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacres to comment on the Terror in France. Wrestling with her horrific, lurid content, Inchbald uses fragments of ‘testimony’, words she claims come from eyewitness accounts, a nascent foreshadowing of testimonial drama. Ultimately, she censored the play, advised that it was unlikely to please (the subtext of this advice being that her own radical liberal politics were the problem).

Newly recovered for a contemporary audience, the play was vibrantly re-imagined for its perspectives on cultural intolerance, refugee experience, and its long-view of England’s international role. It offers a valuable view of Britain’s long, notable and now threatened identity as a place of tolerance and humanism. Examining the play in this context shines a spotlight on a long-silenced woman’s voice, presenting England’s moderation, and a much-needed positive image of Britain’s European past and present.

Lost Text Found Space is director Rebecca McCutcheon (Dido, Queen of Carthage, Vincent River), designer Talulah Mason (Traces, London) and a talented company, in the tiny found space of Safe House are a rare opportunity to encounter this remarkable gem in an intense environment.

See images here:

https://www.losttextfoundspace.com/gallery-1

Press and Audience views:

‘In Inchbald’s The Massacre, the company prove there is a play for today’ – The Times

‘Most impressive is the seamless move between installation and linear narrative’ – The Stage

‘Lost Space/ Found Text’s approach is gentle and intimate, guiding the audience through the performance and inviting them to participate in small ways. The performers’ refrain ‘Can you help me?’ is an invitation, not a command.’ – Exeunt Magazine

Audience responses:

‘I felt part of the action at all times which was both nerve-wracking and exciting – two sensations I rarely feel in the theatre! I was with you all the way.’

‘An intimate exiting way to experience performance. Brilliant cast and space.’

 


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Til We Meet in England – Scratch

tricastinIn September 2016 I directed scratch performances of ‘Til We Meet in England’, at Safe House in Peckham as part of the Peckham Festival, merging text-based performance with site, movement and installation. Til We Meet in England’s starting point was the coming together of Elizabeth Inchbald’s tragedy, The Massacre, with the intimate domestic, near derelict site of Safe House.

map

The Massacre is a remarkable text written by Inchbald in response to sectarian intolerance in the French Revolution, which has much to offer today. This text, and its engagement with experiences of displacement across Europe, resonates with current experience, and also highlights a long view, in which such movement across the continent has been a familiar and recurring event. Inchbald depicts her persecuted family, the Tricastin’s, with great humanity and empathy, a valuable voice to hear today, and she is explicit in placing England as a place of humanitarian refuge.

 

 

Working in Safe House with this text, the themes of seeking ‘home’, of finding sanctuary, of the precariousness of life and of the value of sharing all became strongly present for audiences, as we share the same intimate space as performers, and make a journey exteriorwith them.

Safe House is a tiny, domestic house which has reached a point of near-total dereliction. Quoting Tadeusz Kantor’s landmark ‘Odysseus Returns’, this house as a setting interacts with the text of The Massacre, through performance, encounters with characters, with music, with fragments of installations and recorded audio from recent British political life.

The intimacy of the space, as a home which hgatheredas become unhomely, works compellingly with the plays’ themes. The piece gathered momentum as sections of Inchbald’s depiction of an emerging fascist leader were performed, at which point the audience members are put in role as fellow mob members in the claustrophobic space of the living room. Here audiences became physically involved with the action as they wish to be, and are (more significantly) all ‘active participants’ in that they are called on to consider both the moral questions in play, and at the same time to encounter with empathy the characters who are caught in the drama.

photos

It was thrilling to find all of the performances sold out and I’d like to thank Sydney and the whole Peckham Festival team for making the work happen. We plan to bring the performance back in a longer run, in 2017, and are seeking funding and partnerships to make that happen. If you would like to be involved or support the project, please see our Crowdfunder page to support this extraordinary project and find the kinds of rewards and events you can be part of as a supporter.


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A Testimony and a Silence at Dilston Grove

DVD label

May 2014 – a site-specific performance piece in Dilston Grove in Southwark Park. Dilston Grove is an arts space and former church in which the rarely-performed play, The Massacre by Elizabeth Inchbald, was explored. The play is extraordinary and prescient, a discussion of the tragedy of genocide, written by Inchbald during the French Revolution. It is a play whose tense relationship to terror and to violence, and to human values of respect and humanity, found rich ground in the association of meanings generated by Dilston’s craggy, evocative spaces.


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Mariam in Peckham – The Cary Cycles

August 13th 2013 – Mariam Pop Up event – The “Gretchen Day” Gallery, Peckham

Last night was the first of our two pop up performances in the fictionalised Gretchen Day Gallery, on Copeland Park, Peckham.  My talented research group worked so hard to develop the performance-as-art-exhibition, which managed to be beautiful, funny and moving. The ‘frame’ of the high-profile retrospective, complete with conflicting curators, performance installations, giving way to Mariam’s post-Herod power-vacuum, was lucid, absorbing and visually arresting. Our intrepid audience moved and challenged us to explore their presence in relation to our site, performance and text. Well done to the whole team for taking the ideas to new and interesting places, and thanks so much to our generous audience whose feedback has been extremely insightful and positive.

Here are some bits of feedback which give a flavour of the performance:

“I liked the realisation that somehow one version of the story (the play) seemed to slip through a wormhole into another version (the installations).”

“I didn’t expect the gallery to be a kind of lens to see the play through. I was so impressed by how ‘present’ the words sounded.”

“The piece was generously providing me with surprises in terms of its nature, its presentation, its plots.”

Jack Davies and Jamie Smith both documented the performance and process with the following images.

Kayleigh Hawkins; photo Jamie Smith

Kayleigh Hawkins; photo Jamie Smith

Kate Russell Smith; photo Jamie Smith

Kate Russell Smith; photo Jamie Smith

Kayleigh Hawkins, Photo Jack Davies

Kayleigh Hawkins, Photo Jack Davies

Sarah Vevers, Kate-Russell Smtih and audience; photo Jack Davies

Sarah Vevers, Kate-Russell Smtih and audience; photo Jack Davies

Flora Wellelsey-Wesley; photo Jack Davies

Flora Wellelsey-Wesley; photo Jack Davies

Flora Wellesley-Wesley; photo Jack Davies

Flora Wellesley-Wesley; photo Jack Davies


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Mariam at Burford

Kayleigh Hawkins as Mariam

Kayleigh Hawkins as Mariam

In June 2013, Liz Schafer invited me to develop the site specific research around the text of Mariam for a performance at the Burford Festival, the town of Cary’s birth. This performance formed the launch of the Mariam Project which Liz is producing across academic and performance disciplines.

The Mariam Project seeks to celebrate and research Elizabeth Cary’s Tragedie of Mariam by creating a range of performances in different settings to explore the play and bring Cary’s work to a wider audience.

Mariam at Burford: Youth and young girlhood
Weds 12th June at 4.30pm, St John the Baptist
Part performance, part installation, this 70 minute performance inhabited the church where Elizabeth would have worshipped as a girl, married, and where her family, the Tanfield’s, are ostentatiously entombed. This performance sought to explore Elizabeth’s play in the town she lived in as a child and young woman.  The research centred on resonances between Elizabeth’s life and work, offering a unique opportunity to hear and experience the voice of this remarkable woman, in a contemporary working.

Flora Wellesley-Wesley as Mariam

Flora Wellesley-Wesley as Mariam

Mariam at Burford: Encountering Elizabeth
During the Festival, the Mariam Project we also developed specially crafted and composed audio experience and map, tracing and mapping Elizabeth Tanfield Cary’s life and experiences onto her home town of Burford. The audience could follow the map to 6 locations, where fragments of Elizabeth’s life and work was collaged  with sounds, atmospheres and compositions by Lucy Harrison. I’m thrilled that Encountering Elizabeth will become a permanent offer in Burford shortly.

Here are some audience comments on the performance, followed by some images:
“Wonderful music – beautifully fluid use of the space and movement of the audience. A fascinating glimpse of the play that leaves us all wanting a little more.”
“Looking forward to the complete performance after such a tantalizing glimpse of the play”
“Thank you so much for bringing this wonderful piece to the Burford Festival. A great introduction to “Mariam””
Salome at the altar, Burford 12th june 2013. Sarah Vevers. Image copyright Jamies Smith

Salome at the altar, Burford 12th june 2013. Sarah Vevers. Image copyright Jamies Smith

“Terrific performance and inspired use of the church”

Conor Short as Constabaras; image copyright Jamie Smith

Conor Short as Constabaras; image copyright Jamie Smith

Sarah Vevers as Salome and Flora Wellesley-Wesley as Mariam. Image copyright Jamie Smith

Sarah Vevers as Salome and Flora Wellesley-Wesley as Mariam. Image copyright Jamie Smith

Kate Russel-Smith as Doris with an audience member. Image copyright Jamie Smith

Kate Russel-Smith as Doris with an audience member. Image copyright Jamie Smith

Kayleigh Hawkins as Mariam. Image copyright Jamie Smith

Kayleigh Hawkins as Mariam. Image copyright Jamie Smith

Elizabeth Cary and the Mariam Project, by Liz Schafer

2013 sees the 400th anniversary of the publication of The Tragedy of Mariam, Fair Queen of Jewry by the astonishing pioneer playwright Elizabeth Tanfield Cary (1585-1639). The Tragedy of Mariam is the first known play in English written by a woman, and it is a play full of women characters declaring independence, demanding freedom in marriage, and arguing for the right to divorce. At a time when women were expected to dedicate themselves to marriage and children, Cary’s play asked the question ‘Why should such privilege to man be given?’
Born and brought up in Burford Priory, Cary was probably married in St John the Baptist Church, Burford, where she would have attended church. Many years after she had written Mariam, a play about marital conflict, Cary’s own marriage broke down. Cary converted to Catholicism; she was disinherited by her father, Sir Lawrence Tanfield; she separated from her career politician husband, Sir Henry Cary (1st Viscount Falkland); and she was placed under house arrest by Charles I, after a custody battle resulted in Cary kidnapping her own children. During the 1620s, Cary was reduced to such poverty that she frequently ate friends’ leftover meals. But, like her heroine, Mariam, she would not compromise her principles.
Elizabeth Cary is remembered in St John the Baptist Church, Burford, as she is represented kneeling at her parents’ tomb in the church. It is therefore fitting to explore a part of her play in the Church as part of ‘The Mariam Project’ during the Burford Festival.

The Mariam Project is being led by Elizabeth Schafer, Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London.


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Still Life

Sarah Toogood

Sarah Toogood

In 2003 I directed angels in the architecture’s first full-scale production, a staging of Still Life by Noal Coward in the disused Aldwych tube station on the Strand in central London.

The station is a beautiful, ghostly 30s station close to the Aldwych, unused since the 80s, which had the feeling, as I entered, of still holding the threads of the lives which had passed through their over the years.

Coward’s Still Life is a gorgeously understated portrait of love and duty in pre-war home counties England. Its the play which inspired Brief Encounter, and contains the core of that filmic work. The play version also contains a rich seam of characters drawn across society, and lends itself to ensemble playing.

Press Comments:

…the sanest reason imaginable to sit in a disused tube station

Time Out

A model of what fringe theatre can be, and a delightful option for the theatre-lover looking beyond the West End…unlike the film, you’re more likely to come away from this Still Life laughing than crying…well worth the very slight detour to this unfamiliar and unlikely venue”

Gerald Berkowitz, Theatre Guide, London

…a vivid pre-war experience…the promenade element, lively writing, supporting turns and rattle of trains make this unusually rewarding for an hour spent waiting in a tube station…!

The Metro

..an inspired design…angels in the architecture has discovered that Aldwych Tube Station has more than enough atmosphere for reigniting ardent impulses among theBath Buns…

The Evening Standard

Dickon Edwardes, Helen Laing, Sarah Thom, Robert Goodale

Dickon Edwardes, Helen Laing, Sarah Thom, Robert Goodale


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The Round Dance at the Roundhouse

Ryan Ellsworth and Martha Prideaux

Ryan Ellsworth and Martha Prideaux

In 2004, I directed angels in the architecture’s  revival of Arthur Schnitzler’s “The Round Dance”, the Viennese fin de siecle play which provided the inspiration for La Ronde and for The Blue Room.

Transposed to 19th century Victorian London, the production was layered through with the aesthetics, history and social mores of Camden’s rich local history – from gin palaces to marble halls. The undercroft of the Roundhouse with its monumental, maze like circular structure, was a central element in the design and rehearsal process, influencing performance structure, design and audience reception.

Press comments:

Excellent use of this unconventional space throughout, and the direction by Rebecca McCutcheon, is remarkably innovative. Jocelyn Barker as the Prostitute is the pick of the female parts, while Scott Frazer acts everyone else off the stage

Camden New Journal, 26 February 2004

If Schnitzler only wanted to expose our venality, ten scenes making roughly the same point would wear thin. But Rebecca McCutcheon’s production gradually brings out the idea of promiscuity as a marker of human longing. The six performers blend the merciless and the light with enough verve to make this a pleasure fit to chill the heart.

Metro 25th February 2004; (****)

Strips bare the differing agendas and misunderstanding between classes and sexes… packed with pared-down dialogue which seems to come straight from the horses mouth. Ryan Ellsworth’s pompous moralising husband is at first hilarious then sinister

Ham & High 27th Februay 2004 (****)

staged with a wonderful vibrancy and physicality due in no small part to the work of Movement Director, Sarah Thom

What’s On, London, March 2004

Witty, economical and entertaining. Nicholas Prideaux provides an especially striking contrast as both a poor man’s Byron and an etiolated wimp.

Sunday Times 29th February 2004

A strong sense of an entire seething city connected by a chain of sexual encounters

The Guardian 28th February 2004