Start of a new adventure…

originally written for and posted on the West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Furnace ‘microsite’

So. Here we are, at the start of a new adventure. I’m going to begin at the end…

…for June 2012 we’ve been commissioned by imove (Yorkshire’s cultural programme for London 2012) to create a new show for families that will happen in and around the Quarry Hill area of Leeds – The Giant & The Bear. We’re working with circus artist Layla Rosa of Shunt and game design agency Hide&Seek to make “a spectacular adventure for players of all ages, experience and levels of daring”. There will be rollerskating bears, flying ballerinas and a baddy giant. There will be epic battles, secret missions and a Big Top. There will be mass hula hooping frenzies, death defying acrobatics and a giant indoor sandpit.

That’s the idea, at least. Sounds GREAT, doesn’t it?! And it WILL be. We’re going to work really hard to make this the most exciting, brilliant thing that’s happened at Quarry Hill since Batman built his mansion there*. But that’s all still 9 months away. Right now, The Giant & The Bear is only a wee bit more than a glint in our eyes. It’s an idea full of limitless potential that will only be fulfilled if we and our partners really look after it – give it all the care and nutrition it needs to come to a healthy, bouncing full term. Basically, there’s a massive process we need to go through involving masses of partners and people before we can turn this great idea into reality. Some of those people are you, we hope…

This week, the first week of our pregnancy with The Giant & The Bear, we’re working with one of our most brilliant partners, The West Yorkshire Playhouse, to kickstart this process. Yesterday Layla, the technical stage management team at the Playhouse and a specialist “rigger” (a highly skilled trapeze artist who can tie ropes to things that mean we won’t die when we swing on them) set 11 different ways for us to fly two brilliant and highly skilled performers off lines and hoops and trapezes. We have some rollerskates, a top hat and a ball that doesn’t really bounce as much as we’d like. We have a bear costume, a guitar, two microphones and a megaphone. We have a (rough) plan and some ideas. But mostly this week, we’re going to be making a lot of stuff up as we go along. We’ll be making up stories, games, songs and other… stuff. And we’d really like you to help us make some stuff up with us. If you’d like? Or try out some of the stuff we’ve started making and help make that stuff even better. Playtesting.

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 530pm we’ll be playtesting the stuff we’ve made up that day. If you can come (whatever your age, experience, level of daring) we’d love to play with you.

Welcome to the very start of a new show. We hope we can make it with you.

JON

Layla flying like a bear...

*that’s a joke for anyone who knows Quarry Hill and has ever looked at the NHS Building and wondered (like me) that it looks pretty unreal. There are stories that it was modelled on Ceausescu’s Palace. And that Hitler’s plans, had he been successful in his invasion of Britain, were to build a new Reich building there. But Chris told me those stories so they’re probably not true. The *facts* are that Quarry Hill is opposite Leeds bus station and the markets. Once upon a time it was the site of a brilliantly ambitious social housing project. But that didn’t work out and the once-state-of-the-art flats were demolished. Now it’s home to a new set of state-of-the-art buildings including Yorkshire Dance, Northern Ballet, BBC Leeds, the headquarters of the NHS (Batman’s home), the newly transformed Munro House and our soon-to-be new home the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

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