Drama Project Blog

Well we did it! On Friday 24th June and Saturday 25th June 2022 Unscene Suffolk performed in front of a live audience for the first time in three years! The three shows took place at The Gallery Studio, Ipswich and were a great success.

Finding Ever After was a new offering from Unscene Suffolk, but it explored what the alternative lives could be of traditional fairy-tale and folklore character’s that we think we know. The setting is Bigman’s – a holiday camp in the Suffolk countryside run by Mr Bigman (the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk) and his wife Mrs Bigman. And he’s no longer angry and craving the blood of an Englishman, but rather he’s kind, generous and just wanting to live a quiet life. The wicked stepmother isn’t really wicked, she was just written that way to keep things interesting, so when she gets the chance to be herself she is a dancing queen, who just wants to support her daughters. Wolfie (The Big Bad Wolf) is now a staunch vegan and pen pals with the three little pigs who reside in Dubai where the building industry is booming. Jackie (Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk) is no longer lazy, but now works day and night as a chalet maid at the holiday camp.

These characters along with others help run Bigman’s, but something is amiss when Mr Bigman calls a staff meeting at the end of the summer season. The camp has to close as there’s no money left – probably because Mr Bigman just can’t help but be so generous to all his happy campers! So the workers decide to put on an end of season gala in order to raise the funds they need to open the next summer. However, it’s never going to run smooth when you have so many ego’s to accommodate and tensions rise as the characters begin to argue about the shows main act. The arrival of Rose, the Godmother, throws everything into chaos when she offers the easy way out to Jackie – magic! This has disastrous consequences as Rose wants something in return for helping the camp, she wants everyone back in their old stories so that she has something to do and people to help. The magic starts to take hold and everyone at the camp start to revert back to their old ways. But the characters don’t want to go back to the way things were, they like it here at Bigman’s! It’s up to them to save the day, they have to work as a team and not use magic to put things right. With the good old force of will power and teamwork they resist the magic and save Bigman’s, the place where they can just be themselves.

Peppered with songs throughout the action, this was the Unscene drama groups first collaboration with the Unscene Singers and it was wonderful to have everyone involved. With songs such as Sing Sing Sing, Yesterday, Mad World and Happy Together the show was a funny, feel-good musical play which explores the concept of being able to use that special power within us all and be the masters of own stories. A powerful message and one we think we can all relate to – whether magic is involved or not!

Unscene Suffolk is now taking a well deserved break over the summer, but we would like to take this opportunity to thank The Gallery Studio for such a warm welcome to their theatre and to everyone who helped us bring Finding Ever After to the stage. Thank you to our wonderful supporters and audience members that shared this experience with us. It really was magical.

(Image shows cast on stage in character. Left to right Ann as Zella, Amanda as Mrs Castle, Clare as Stasia, Andy as Princey, Paul as Wolfie and Rebecca as Red. Photos taken by Sally Parkinson)
Posted in Drama project blog | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drama Project Blog

It’s always exciting for any company of actors to sit down with a new script for the first time. And last Thursday Unscene Suffolk drama group did exactly that. The first part of the script for our summer production was distributed by workshop leader and writer, Caroline Roberts. Caroline has been busy writing for the series of characters that the group had been experimenting with and improvising on during our winter workshops.

These workshops allowed us to play around with fairy tale characters and put a different spin on their usually well known stories. What if the Big Bad Wolf really wasn’t all THAT bad? Maybe the ugly sisters aren’t ugly at all, just misunderstood? Perhaps Prince Charming just wants to kick off his riding boots and listen to some tunes, instead of traipsing all over town for a woman that rudely left him halfway through a party through no fault of his own?…Maybe? It was fun to play around and mix up these stories and as the weeks passed characters were formed, ideas were given and a script started to take shape.

Casting for the play had already taken place before the script was available. So everyone knew what character they would be playing, but not what their story line would be. We had played around with these established stories so much in our previous workshops, no one knew how they would all fit together or what version of their characters story would be told. This is where Caroline steps in and expertly makes sense of it all. How can these characters all be together and still be taking a break from their usual storylines? Why a Holiday Camp of course! A fun lively setting, for a fun new play, keeping all of that fairy tale magic.

Now we don’t want to give too much away at this stage, but the initial read through of the first half of the script was a great success. So keep checking our blog to hear of our progress as we aim towards our first on stage performance in 2 years. It’s going to be magical.

Image shows mystery open book with shining pages. Fantasy book with magic light sparkles and stars. Vector illustration
Posted in Drama project blog | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drama Project Blog

Well what a year it’s been! Not just for Unscene Suffolk, but for everyone. So we thought we would have our final blog of the year as a round up of what Unscene Suffolk drama group have achieved this year.

We started 2021 with a hope and a dream of performing our play The Mystery of Syleham Manor on stage as it was originally intended, but as the pandemic endured we were forced to think of another way to perform and share our work. An audio play of The Mystery of Syleham Manor was born. As discussed in previous blogs, this was at times a challenging experience for some members of the group, but we all persevered under extreme circumstances, learning new skills along the way and created a piece of audio drama that we are all incredibly proud of.

As the year continued, restrictions were eased and we were all allowed to be ‘back in the room’ together once more from September. It was a new term, we welcomed new members to the group and the workshops were held in a new space – The Gallery Studio in St Georges Street, Ipswich. These workshops have been a great opportunity to discuss and share ideas for our next performance. Improvisation is a wonderful way of exploring characters and scenarios and sharpening acting skills. By being completely in the moment through improvisation, it brought up thoughts and reactions for the group that they otherwise would never have explored, because they were reacting in real time.

Although improvisation has played an important role in the workshops this term, we have also been working on our acting skills through quick fire games. Pass the clap, word association, even reciting the 12 days of Christmas! These exercises may sound simple, but its amazing how effective they can be in honing an actors listening and reacting skills. If you’re not listening, you can’t genuinely react to what has happened before. We practised these games in order to build pace and increase the groups confidence.

We love to see the group grow in confidence in all aspects of performance, so when Helen Baggett from world renowned theatre company Gecko offered to run a movement workshop for the group, we couldn’t say no! We spent the afternoon using our bodies to express words and emotions. It’s fair to say that we started off out of our comfort zones, but as we relaxed and stopped worrying what others were thinking or doing, the group began to free themselves up to the idea of movement as an expression. Actions were speaking louder than words and it was great to witness the group embrace this type of exercise.

Not only did we have Helen visit the group this term, we also had a very special visit from Unscene Suffolk founder Jenni Elbourne. It’s been 28 months since Jenni was last at an Unscene Suffolk workshop, so it was lovely to see her again, catch up and of course get her participating! Well, we couldn’t let her get away with just enjoying the gossip with the tea and biscuits could we!

As this year draws to a close, we are thankful that we were able to perform this year (albeit a little differently than originally planned), and that we got to meet in person once again and have fun at our weekly workshops. The next couple of weeks are full of uncertainty for all of us, but we have everything crossed that Unscene Suffolk will meet again (In person!) on 27th January 2022. Thank you to everyone who has supported Unscene Suffolk this year, either by donating, or tuning in to our audio drama and even liking us on social media – it is all much appreciated. From us all at Unscene Suffolk, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Take care.

Image shows 3 different polaroid pictures on a digital Merry Christmas card. Images are The Mystery of Syleham Manor Poster, the group members rehearsing and cast in a circle smiling at camera.

Posted in Drama project blog | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking for Volunteers and New Members

We’re so excited to announce that Unscene Suffolk have been awarded funding from The Arts Council, so workshops will resume this Autumn. What’s even more exciting is that they will take place in person! There will of course be various measures in place to keep everyone safe during these still uncertain times, but the group are excited to bring back some normality to our weekly sessions.

As the drama and singing workshops start up again, we would like to invite volunteers to get in touch. Volunteers are needed to assist visually impaired participants to attend their drama and singing workshops which take place on Monday (singing) or Thursday (drama) afternoons at the New Wolsey theatre and Gallery Studio in central Ipswich. The singing workshops are very keen to hear from drivers who are based in the Stowmarket/Bury/Sudbury areas.

Duties will include: Walking with participants to and from public transport before and after workshops. Assisting participants to find their way around the space during workshops. Reading scripts or lyrics, and finding props etc. Joining in with activities in order to encourage participants and, in singing workshops, helping them to learn lyrics.

Our volunteer Anne said:

Volunteering with Unscene Suffolk has opened a whole new world for me. The group are friendly and fun people who have always made me welcome.  I had no experience of theatre work and it has been so interesting learning what goes into creating and staging a play. I’m so glad that I got involved.

Unscene Suffolk’s Workshop Leader, Caroline Roberts said:

This is a great opportunity to learn about how to support visually impaired people and promote independence and inclusion, and Sighted Guide training can also be arranged. Volunteers don’t need to be available for both singing and drama workshops, but should be able to commit to one of the sessions on a fairly regular basis.

The beginning of a new term is also a great time for new members to join us. The workshops are lots of fun and very sociable. They are led by professional creatives and are fully accessible. But don’t take our word for it, come along for a taster session or two to experience it for yourself.

Anyone interested in finding out more about volunteering, or participating, can call 07919 282266, or email email@unscenesuffolk.co.uk

Image shows the drama cast and guide dogs outside The Hold, where we recorded our audio play The Mystery of Syleham Manor.

Posted in Drama project blog | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drama Project Blog

It’s been a long road for the Unscene Suffolk drama group to get to this point, but after a year of hard work we were finally able to share our audio drama, The Mystery of Syleham Manor, written for us by the brilliant Pat Whymark, with an online audience last week. We finally decided to use the website Eventbrite, which is an event management and ticketing website, to host our event. The tickets were made to be Pay What You Can and all donations received will be used to help Unscene Suffolk run more workshops for visually impaired adults in the future.

Once the event was set up and ‘on sale’ it was down to Director Caroline and Workshop Assistant Rebecca to advertise and spread the word. After many (many!) emails, phone calls, tweets and Facebook posts later, The Mystery of Syleham Manor was featured in local and national news outlets. These included interviews with cast members and director on Felixstowe Radio, BBC Radio Suffolk and RNIB Connect Radio. Not to mention local newspapers and we were even featured on ACB Radio which is America’s Council for the Blind! Having an audio drama meant we were able to reach out further than ever before. On the night of the launch we had audience members attend from as far away as Manchester, UK and Maine, USA!

As the launch date loomed closer, we were highly anticipating the arrival of the mastered version of the play and after weeks of hard work putting it all together Amy, our sound recorder and editor, delivered the final edit. Bearing in mind no one involved had any experience of facilitating an online event, the learning curve had to happen quickly! With only days to go until launch, and with ticket sales continuing to grow, Caroline and Rebecca were able to facilitate a couple of test runs of the event on Zoom. After a couple of tweaks and late nights, and brilliant support from our own IT guru Clare Burman, we were good to go and just hoped that on the night technology wouldn’t let us down.

On Friday 9th July at 7:30pm, Unscene Suffolk took to the airwaves and shared our audio drama The Mystery of Syleham Manor. The launch event on Zoom began with a short introduction from members Wayne Witney and Julie Bennet, who talked about the process of rehearsals over Zoom and the consequent recording days in June.

The cast, along with audience members, then got to listen to The Mystery of Syleham Manor for the first time. I may be biased, but it was wonderful. The play was professional and engaging from start to finish. Feedback has been that audience members were transported to Syleham Manor – which is exactly what you want an audio play to do.

Once the final credits finished, the audience applauded. A Question and Answer session followed and the cast talked about being part of the production. It was nice to hear how each person had viewed the experience. The overriding feeling being that, although the rehearsals and recording were challenging, everyone enjoyed it and got to learn new skills that we hope will be carried over to our live performances in the not so distant future.

We will be sharing the audio play with people soon. Updates on how to access it will be given in our newsletter. To sign up to our newsletter please CLICK HERE

Image shows the cast and guide dogs outside recording venue The Hold and all raising their hands in the air in celebration.

Posted in Drama project blog | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drama Project Blog

11th and 12th June were much anticipated days for the Unscene Suffolk Drama group.   Not only did we get to meet up in person for the first time in over a year, but we also spent the two days recording our script of The Mystery of Syleham Manor.  A script written for us by brilliant playwright, Pat Whymark, we’ve had in our possession since January 2020!

We were made to feel very welcome at our recording space at The Hold, which is part of the University of Suffolk and Suffolk Archives, where we had a dedicated space to use for the two days.  Outside the recording studio was a breakout room where seats were arranged at a distance and in certain ‘bubbles’ so that we limited the amount of movement and contact made within the room.  Whilst a necessary precaution in order to keep everyone safe and of course comply with government guidelines, it wasn’t easy to ‘keep the noise down’ when recording when you haven’t seen one another in 15 months and the seats were at a distance across the room!  I would like to say that after some early hushes the cast cottoned on quickly and saved the catch ups for breaks and lunch. 

Image shows small group of participants seated in the breakout area

The most tricky task was the recording itself.  Only 6 people were allowed in the studio at one time.  One had to be the sound engineer Amy and the other our director Caroline, so that left just four available spaces for the cast.  Some scenes involved 7 characters.  So the way round this was to record 4 of the characters lines in one scene, whilst Amy or Caroline read in for those characters who were not in the room.  Once this was done we had to do a swap to the remaining characters.  So the mics, tables and chairs would be disinfected, the windows opened for an airing and then the remaining cast members for that scene would then come in, take their seats and the scene would be recorded again.  It may seem complicated and it was, but it was the only way we could keep everyone safe and record the play under the current circumstances.  It’s safe to say we were all very much out of our comfort zones.  Even if some had stepped up to the mic before, none of us were experienced in recording in this way.  After some initial uncertainty from the cast, they all quickly got into the swing of it and recording went smoothly.  This is mainly due to the dedication of those who learned their lines and also all the character work they were encouraged to do in zoom rehearsals by director Caroline. Having this background knowledge and confidence in their characters, meant the cast could overcome the unknown and deliver stellar performances.  

Image shows cast members seated at tables in the recording studio, with microphones in front of them and clear screens between each table

Although they were both long days we owe credit to Amy, our sound engineer, who devised the recording schedule.  This not only meant that we got to record mainly in chronological order, which is always handy for telling a story, but it also meant we were able to finish at a reasonable time on Saturday and everyone was then able to head off to enjoy the last of the days sunshine – and a gin and tonic for most I would imagine!

Amy’s job is not done yet, as now the editing process begins.  The group are excited to hear the final result and share it with you. More details to follow.

Image shows the cast and guide dogs standing outside the entrance to The Hold and smiling

Don’t miss out on hearing when The Mystery of Syleham will be released, sign up to our newsletter today

Posted in Drama project blog | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drama Project Blog

Rehearsals for Unscene Suffolk’s latest project, The Mystery of Syleham Manor, written for us by Pat Whymark, began in January 2020.  We were meeting up in person and having a blast getting to grips with our new set of characters.  All of that stopped in March 2020 when the UK went into lockdown.   Rehearsals for the project ceased, but we were determined that would not to stop us meeting up as a group, so Unscene Suffolk went virtual.  With weekly workshops through the power of Zoom, participants were able to socialise, play drama games and develop improvisation and memory skills.  Plus it was a lot of fun!   

As the lockdown continued, hope for performing The Mystery of Syleham Manor on stage began to fade.  Following months of uncertainty as to when the restrictions on theatres would be lifted, one of our trustees came up with a solution – The Mystery of Syleham Manor would become an audio play.  The Zoom sessions in 2020 had been a success and the group were ready and willing for a new challenge.  So in January 2021 rehearsals resumed, but this time virtually. 

Our rehearsals consist of energy games, professional vocal warm ups, character development and of course read throughs of each scene so that we are word perfect for when we come to record.  Using Zooms break out rooms has been a great help in order to maximise our time and the ability to get through as many scenes as possible in one session.  All being well, and with lockdown easing as it is, we are on track to record The Mystery of Syleham Manor IN PERSON in June!  There is a lot to organise to make sure it is safe and secure for all who attend, but we have an amazing venue on board and of course the staff and volunteers at Unscene Suffolk are doing all they can to ensure the safety of everyone involved.  Exciting times ahead and we look forward to sharing more of this with you soon.

Image shows spooky looking mansion covered in a thick mist. The mansion sits behind black iron gates.

Keep up to date with all of Unscene Suffolks news by joining our mailing list

Posted in Drama project blog | Leave a comment

Bid Writer and Fund Raising Lead Sought

We are looking for someone to take the lead in seeking funding for our next project. Could it be you? If you have a track record in seeking out, applying for and successfully gaining funds in the arts world we want to hear from you. You can find out more here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Founder Member’s Fundraiser for Unscene Suffolk

One of our fabulous founder members, Clare Burman, has taken on the challenge of travelling the USA’s iconic Route 66, virtually; to raise much needed funds for Unscene Suffolk.

Clare will be indoor cycling and walking with her guide dog Saffron to rack up the 2280.3 miles from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles California, and has until July 4th to complete the distance.

Clare explains here why she decided to raise funds for Unscene Suffolk:

During the last year I’m not sure how I would have coped without Unscene Suffolk.

I, like several members of the Unscene group, live alone (many of them have also been shielding) and having weekly online singing and drama sessions, run by Unscene Suffolk, have helped so much to combat the isolation.

Unscene recognised how much more lockdown and social distancing was going to affect the visually-impaired community that they worked quickly to move our regular sessions online and teach us all how to connect in the virtual world. Having that support and maintaining an element of pre-COVID routine was the thing that got me through the first lockdown and has kept me going ever since. We are like a family – always there for one another.

I know that it’s going to be much more challenging to get funding for our drama and singing sessions now, as so many charities and organisations are bidding for such a limited pot, and the usual fundraising events have not been able to take place.

I honestly don’t know what I would do without Unscene Suffolk, so if I can contribute in a small way to keep sessions going by completing this challenge, that would make it all worthwhile – I am after all a bona fide couch potato, so this is going to hurt!”

If you’d like to donate to Clare’s fundraiser and support Unscene Suffolk’s vital work you can do it here. Thank you!

Good luck Clare and thank you so much! You are amazing!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Unscene Suffolk’s Unheard Christmas Tales

Unscene Suffolk’s first virtual lockdown project was Unheard Christmas Tales, created jointly (for the first time) by our drama and singing groups. We present a compilation of sketches and songs that take the listener behind the scenes at Christmas!

Spoken sketches were created and recorded at our Zoom drama sessions, then edited by Clare Burman and Paul Nugent. Songs were rehearsed during our Zoom singing sessions, but as recording singing together is not possible online, members made individual recordings that were then mixed together by Emma Bishton. The whole track was then mixed together (complete with sound effects!) by Clare Burman.

Grab a cuppa and some cake, sit back and enjoy! You can listen to the audio recording here.

This version of Unheard Christmas Tales does not include the singers’ performance of A Winter’s Tale, for copyright reasons.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment