Drama Project Blog

Welcome to Unscene Suffolk’s new project blog!

Denise, Wayne, Andy and Dave explore staging possibilities. Each stands behind the other in a line holding a rope attached to a central post, like a maypole, which Jenni and Steph are holding.

Denise, Wayne, Andy and Dave explore creative staging possibilities in the rehearsal room.

No sooner has the dust settled on our 2018 production than we’re back in the swing, and this time we thought it would be a great idea to give you an inside view on what actually happens in our Thursday afternoon drama workshops. As Unscene Suffolk’s Workshop Assistant I get to watch all aspects of the production evolve, from initial ideas to the final show, so I thought I’d share my perspective from the first few workshops of the project.

After a couple of weeks off to recover, and a lovely session of reflection and feedback, ideas for the next production are already flowing. With the last show very much based in the world of theatre and a ‘play within a play’ (very meta!) (see our Greatest Show pics), Jenni, Unscene Suffolk’s director, suggested a more pastoral theme for the next production.

Throwing out some key words, such as nature, animals and enchantment provoked an enthusiastic response and lots of reminiscences about stories remembered from childhood. These ranged from The Enchanted Wood and the Faraway Tree, The Insect Play and Wind in the Willows, to The Minpins, Captain Beaky and James and the Giant Peach. Some of these were known to everyone but some were new to others, including myself. There was some discussion about whether an existing work could be adapted, so the group set Jenni a research task to find out more about them, even Captain Beaky, which if I remember right was a pop song!

The group also explored the possibilities for incorporating mythical or magical beasts or those that are now extinct; a great idea for traditional ‘moral’ storytelling. Bats were thrown into the mix (not literally) and this led on to talk about echo-location – something which some of the group participated in previously.

Jenni talked about where the group might perform the show, and the idea of taking the work out to an audience for as many people to see as possible. The group had some fantastic ideas: community halls and groups, schools, country fairs, festivals, Latitude even got mentioned. So many possibilities to consider, even while the show is still being devised, not to mention considerations around staging, accessibility and how to create a visually engaging set design. Venues have to be booked way in advance so the challenge is often to find the right space which will accommodate our set, even before we know what it’s going to look like.

The group then focused on storytelling and creating animal characters; participating in some games that promoted animal characterisation (and lots of laughs!). They then had a go at being a character but telling their story in the third person, which is actually a lot harder than you think! They then tried to feed this in to the semi-improvised sharing of some of Kipling’s ‘Just So’ stories, which they had been workshopping. It was really interesting to see how one group had used simple sound effects and movements to portray certain animals so distinctly.

The following week the members of Unscene Suffolk welcomed a new participant to the group; offering great insights about the workshops and some reassurance that even though many of them were daunted at first, they all enjoyed performing on stage and being part of a great bunch. Myself and the helpers reassured that there are always tea and biscuits on hand! We then shared a short comedy script which one member of the group had written: a comedy dialogue between three sheep. Thus the idea of farm animals entered the frame and got a positive response – another option to consider.

Something Jenni wanted to explore was the potential staging of the piece with a central focal point and multi-purpose ropes, or strands. So, I dutifully raided the garage for my children’s swing ball set (you know, one of those things with a base and a post and a ball attached so you can bat it around to each other). A set of ropes were attached to the top of the post and the group explored the movement, interaction and accessibility which the ropes allowed them. Through improvisation the post and ropes became a maypole, a flagpole, or tree with branches or jungle vines. Using sound effects and movement the branches shook, the wind blew and torrents of water flowed down from the tree. Working in pairs, the group imagined a spider’s web, a washing line, a kite or sailboat. The ropes became an emergency cord, a measuring device, a snake and even hair extensions! One person became a puppeteer using the ropes as his strings.

The swing ball survived (just), but we all agreed that if we go ahead with the idea, a pole will need to be safely and securely weighted to the ground! Tons of great ideas came out of the exercise and got everyone, especially Jenni, thinking. It also helped us to consider the challenges the group faces in terms of accessibility and freedom of movement around a performance space, something the group is always trying to develop and improve with each production.

We’re on a break now until January, but I know that everyone’s minds will be whirring away on ideas and possibilities over Christmas. I can’t wait to come back in the New Year to find out where the project is headed next and how it will develop. I will keep you posted!

Caroline Roberts
Workshop Assistant

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Integrated Access: Is it working? (2018)

In January 2018 Unscene Suffolk members took part in a Focus Group as part of a research project conducted by Extant, Britain’s leading professional performing arts company of visually impaired people. We were asked about our experiences of Audio Description as audiences, performers and describers. The Focus Group was referenced in the final report by researchers Louise Fryer and Amelia Cavallo, and at a special event at University College London where the results were presented.

Below are links to the presentation video and report documents.

Presentation event 

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The Greatest Show… that Never Happened (2018)

Unscene Suffolk presents: The Greatest Show… that Never Happened

Production photos by Lucy Taylor Photography

The show took place at Ipswich Town Hall on Saturday 13th Sunday 14th October 2018

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Welcome to the Cornhill Music Hall, where a dazzling spectacle of music,
movement, magic and melodrama is billed for your entertainment, but
unexpected events threaten to derail the show!

Will disaster be averted…? Will Sue get sawn in half? Why didn’t the
psychic predict all of this?

Prepare to be amused, astonished and a little bit miffed as Unscene
Suffolk’s company of visually impaired actors celebrates old-time variety
in this light-hearted musical play for blind and sighted audiences.

Book online
or call 01473 433100

Tickets £12.00 /  Concessions £6.00
Concession rate includes disabled people/carers and students/under 18’s
(A booking fee of £1.00 per ticket is included in these prices)

All performances audio described, with touch tours beginning 15 minutes
before the show. Please inform the box office when booking if you would
like to use Audio Description or attend a touch tour. Guide dogs are welcome in the auditorium.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO PRE-SHOW AUDIO DESCRIPTION NOTES

BSL interpreted performance 3pm 13 Oct

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: If you have purchased tickets in advance, your tickets will be available from the Town Hall main entrance. To purchase tickets on the day, you can buy them from the Corn Exchange box office before meeting at the Town Hall main entrance to enjoy the show

An amateur production funded by The Big Lottery and Suffolk Community
Foundation through Joy Abbott Fund, David and Jill Simpson Fund and Suffolk
Giving Fund.

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Time Hackers (2017)

Our first ever tour was a huge success. Time Hackers was performed at three primary schools followed by two public shows in the HEG. Photographs by Mike Kwasniak.

Four cousins ignore their Grandma’s warning about the old games console in the spare room, and find themselves sucked into a virtual world full of curious characters and perplexing problems. Suitable for ages 7+.

Primary Schools tour 12-14 July 2017

Public performances:
15 July at 1.30 and 3.30pm,
High Street Exhibition Gallery,
Ipswich, IP1 3QH

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All performances audio described, with touch tours beginning 15 minutes before the show.

We are grateful to have received funding from Arts Council England and Suffolk Community Foundation through David and Jill Simpson Fund and De La Rue Family Fund towards this project. An amateur production as part of The New Wolsey Theatre’s Open Season.

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A Zimmer of Hope (2016)

Click here to download our project report.

Production photos by Mike Kwasniak – click to enlarge.

This year the cast were involved in writing and performing our video and audio trailers which can be found below.

Funded by Arts Council England, Suffolk Community Foundation and the Henry Smith Charity. Supported by the New Wolsey Theatre and Sensing Change.


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Through the Magnifying Glass (2015)

Cast documentary, behind the scenes of Through the Magnifying Glass

Our third production, Through the Magnifying Glass, took place in the New Wolsey Theatre’s HEG Space in July 2015.

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A full report on the project can be downloaded here.. (Please contact us if you require this in another format).

Through the Magnifying Glass was our first co-production with the New Wolsey Theatre, and part of the Moving Stories Project, which examined notions of belonging as a Deaf or disabled person within the wider community. We were delighted to be involved alongside the other partners, DanceEast and Pacitti Company.

Our audience joined us for tea and cabaret. Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece, Through the Magnifying Glass weaved together the serious, surreal and downright silly, as our journeys and experience inspired a powerful multi-sensory performance. The show was audio described within the script and one performance was BSL-interpreted.

Jenni, Denise and Justin were interviewed by Archant Suffolk for a newspaper feature, and Archant also made this great mini-documentary, featuring clips of the cast in rehearsal:

This project was funded by Esmee Fairbairn and Arts Council England. Supported by the New Wolsey Theatre and Sensing Change.

Production photos by Mike Kwasniak – click to enlarge:073079
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Fossils (2014)

Fossils cast photoUnscene Suffolk’s second production, Fossils, was performed in July 2014 at Ipswich Museum. An audio described documentary video about the project can be found below. This film begins with an audio-only introduction of 1 minute 40 seconds. To view the video without audio description click here.

For more information download our evaluation report here: Unscene Suffolk Evaluation report 2014

Audience feedback:

 “Brilliant – I really enjoyed it. Gave us something to think about.”

 “Excellent. Fascinating story and a very professional production.”

 “Fantastic setting! Very clear idea, well performed. Unusual and quite inspirational.”

 “Absolutely brilliant – what a great organisation. Thank you.”

 “Brilliant beyond my expectations”

 “Fantastic show, very inventive and really clever use of an unusual and interesting setting – wonderful and unique!”

 “I always thought theatre was on a stage in front of an audience. I’ve never been to anything that’s been so inclusive.”

Production photos by Mike Kwasniak – click on a picture to enlarge:

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Participant feedback on the project:

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with you all – thank you for making me feel so welcome in the group.”

 “I am [now] more likely to give input in a group situation, and happier to start a conversation in public.”

 “Having audio description in the show gave me an awareness of what was going on the whole time and helped me to follow the show.”

 “I liked the different ways we all had of learning our lines. The whole thing felt better and I felt more included”

 “I had never been in the museum before. Now I have visited with my partner, son and grandson”

 “The thing I will take away from this process is that I learnt to trust people to help me.”

 “[At first] I thought it wasn’t for me but it’s just so overwhelming how it all slotted in and the outcome…. I’m glad I made myself come back because I very nearly ditched out. I didn’t expect it to be such teamwork. It never entered my head that acting was such a big team effort …It’s brilliant. Bring on the next one!”


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The Cave (2013)

Unscene Suffolk’s first production, The Cave, took place in July 2013 at the New Wolsey Studio, Ipswich. An audio described documentary video about the project can be found below. This film begins with a two minute audio-only introduction. To view the video without audio description click here.

To view the video in full screen mode click ‘Vimeo’ in the bottom right corner.

Production photos by Mike Kwasniak (click on an image to enlarge):

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For more information download our evaluation report here:

Unscene Suffolk Evaluation report Feb – July. 2013

Some participants’ comments about their experiences:

“ I have been honoured and amazed by everybody’s abilities and would cherish the opportunity to do it again”

“Before we started I always thought that theatre was a very very visual medium. The workshops taught me that that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case”

 “I absolutely adored the whole thing. I never would have thought I could find so much energy”

“I just wanted to overcome my fears about public speaking and do something that I was actually interested in… I think it definitely has increased my confidence”

“not only have I found myself suddenly become blind but suddenly bereft of workmates and friends… I feel so much better having known [this group]… because we’re here sharing the same thing. It’s been very valuable”

And here’s what the audience said about the show:

“I thought it was very beautifully performed I loved the music and thought the design with the drapes /projection was excellent.”

“Brilliant, would love to take part in future and really enjoyed the performance.”

 “Fantastic performance, very creative and a wonderfully unique experience, enjoyable and thought provoking and very cleverly done. I’d recommend it to others.”

 “Very accessible and so cleverly dark I found the performance very powerful and moving.”

 “Very clever way of highlighting the physical and emotional difficulties of blind/partially sighted, quite moving in parts an unusual story.”

 “Very moving and surprisingly amusing, Very impressed by production.”

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