Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Flighting and writing

Season 6 is of Takalani Sesame is flighting.  And we have recently began writing seasons 8 & 9... Quite a journey so far.  I thought I'd jot a few points down about what I have learnt about writing during this process... as writing for kids is tricky... as is sketch comedy. Put them together and... well it is tough.  And writing for a South African audience is not easy.  The programme is translated from English into four other languages.  Therefore verbal jokes don't work - as they more than likely won't translate.  We are asked by production for a number of things... Like... 
  • Minimise locations to one location per sketch.  
  • Use a maximum of 3 Muppets per sketch - and only if absolutely necessary - otherwise two.
  • Use minimal props.  
  • Be aware of the limitations of shooting green screen - and there are many!
But as we know with constraint comes creativity. So...

1.  Keep it simple. Simple simple simple.  If you have to say 'because' when describing your sketch then already it is too complicated.
2.  Get to the point quickly - Nick always says that more often than not you can delete the first paragraph / page.
3. Having one character who doesn't quite 'get it' or has outrageous solutions helps with dialogue... conflict, drama... and of course comedy.
4.  Never 'teach' in your dialogue... learning is revealed - is a consequence - and is not 'the point' as it were.  If you are too on the nose - it's probably boring and patronising.
5.  If someone is a bit off or 'wrong'... it is - mostly - the adult and not the child Monster Muppet.
6.  There has to be a build and a twist at the end... a punch line. In a four minute sketch, that can be rough.  Something surprising has to happen. If the end surprises you - that's good!
7.  Don't have two twists - turn the story twice as it were - it creates a false ending and loses momentum.
8.  Write everything today and edit it tomorrow - it's amazing what a nights sleep can do. 
9.  Just start writing.  Sometimes I sit for ages and ages and ages... writing and rewriting the title for the sketch... and the truth is, even if you don't know exactly where you are going, just start.  More often than not the story will tell you what should or what could happen.  Who cares about the title!
10.  Have fun.  If you are having fun - and if it is shot properly and performed well and edited with good timing - then the audience should have fun too!

And a special one just for me...  Do a spell check :)

I'm sure there's loads more - but that's all for now.

These are some background stills from the new season look... I think they are fabulous.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Desert Trailer

We are very pleased to publish the trailer for our clown show 'A Day in the Desert' ...Ah.  Clown.  Such a wonderful art form.

Day in the Desert from Jenine Collocott on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Love. Of film.

This... made me swoon.  Cinema.  Transposed.  What a beautiful thing.  These people are very clever.  I would also like to be a Dancing Ghosts.

Dancing ghosts from dunun on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Flowers for her hair

Even though today is freezing cold... Spring is in the air. The first blossoms are sprouting... little dashes of pink in the garden poping out to say 'Hi!' ...The pool is getting warmer. The cats are staying out in the evening. In celebration of flowers I found a few clips filmed in Italy when we were given little yellow flowers by the school for womans day. Ah. So... Hello spring. Welcome.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Snow Goose

The Snow Goose.  The novella by Paul Gallico... Was not my childhood love... but it certainly has become my adulthood love.  On the other side of the first run of our stage adaptation of the 1940's classic - I have discovered the haunting beauty and gentle poetry of this story. But to be honest.  When Simon and Helen Cooper first asked me if I would like to be involved in the adaptation - i'd never read it. I was still studying in Florence and I rushed out, bright red gum boots splashing along wet cobbled roads to the only English book store and I ordered a copy. I read it in what felt like a few minutes in my favourite cafe over a latte... I put it down and thought... Gosh. Okay. It's simple, it's sentimental, it's sparse... there is really a lot of space in this story... all beautifully described. But theatre is not the written word and we cannot simply do a transcription for the stage and hope it will fly... but rather to be inspired by the story to find the story within it that will work for us... the creators (James Cairns, Taryn Bennett and myself)... To find out why we like the story and then tell that story. Find places to expand and extend and discover something new... both in terms of stage craft, characters and event narrative.

So we began... one hot summers day in January 2013... with a warm up.  Like all good theatre rehearsals should start.  Stretch. Resonate. Get ready to play.  And we did play. We told the story from the perspective of everyone in the story... from the postmistress to the hunters, the soldiers to the recruitment officer, the snow goose to the lighthouse... everyone except the to lead characters.  This way we learned so much about them and found connections that were perhaps not in the original story. It was on this first day of rehearsals - when I saw the hunters - that I decided to try half masks.  There was something so right about their contradicting dynamics - their sense of fun and their small minded meanness... that cried out for a primary mask...  So I got to work.

(Here are James and Taryn in our reheasal room in Brixton)

I have never made a primary mask before - I had only played Matteo Destro's primary masks - so it was all rather scary. And of course I have made masks and learnt quite a bit about how to do it from Matteo... but now I didn't have him there to call on for 'HELP!' I made a hundred mistakes. Some could be fixed and others are still there... waiting to be corrected. Righted. Redone. 

Taryn Bennett... and her extraordinarily petit face mould
So whilst I was making them, the whole time I had Matteo's voice in my head... 'Find the plain.' 'Find the volume.' 'What's the consequence?' 'Take a risk... even to the point of destroying it.' ...And I destroyed many. I am proud to say.  So here we have The Hunters... ta-daa...

Mr Cartwright.

With these masks I pay homage to my teacher Matteo Destro.  Whilst they are nothing like the brilliance of his work... they did play. And the actors had a tremendous amount of fun. And I love them. And now that the show is neatly packed away in crates waiting for 'next time' ... I really miss them. Thank you Matteo. Again.

James Cairns as Frank and Taryn Bennett as Mr Cartwright... in action.
photo by Sam Lowe

Initially both lead characters were not going to be masked but once we started working it became so clearly and plainly obvious that Rhayader needed to be masked... a hunchback living alone in a lighthouse. Mask. For sure. But certainly not a primary mask - so now we were combining mask styles - which I knew we would do right from the beginning and I just hoped it would work.... 

The moment James put on the mask ... and we found the right voice... he instantly moved both Taryn and I. Taryn said she could see why Frith kept going back to the lighthouse... he's so lovely! And kind. And he was so lovely. So tremendously moving. Mask. Amplification. Subtly. Sentiment. What a wonderful thing. 

Taryn Bennet as Frith and James Cairns as Rhayader
photo by Bazil Raubach
It was also clear that Frith should not be masked. Somehow she is the innocent. Juliet... or Beauty and Rhayader, the Beast. She is the one who grows and learns and changes. The emotional crescendo is with her... When studying melodrama Giovanni Fusetti would often ask us where do you want to break the audiences heart... Name it, and go for it. And with us it there was no question that it was with Frith. And her being unmasked gave depth to that decision. I believe. For us perhaps Frith is the lead character and not Rhayader as it is in the original story. The challenge was how to play a mask without physically wearing one - so that Frith is not playing in a different style to the rest of the play.  With 'naturalistic' performance the rules of action/reaction and articulation do not need to so incredibly rigid.  But with mask... this is the difference between clarity and porridge.  So it was a challenge... An exciting one. Taryn played in red nose - the smallest mask - until a few days before the end of our rehearsals. And in my opinion it happened. It worked.

James Cairns as Frank and Taryn Bennett as Val
photo by Dani Bischoff (as well as all photo's below)

Then there was the postmistress... Val. Who we took a little while to find. Until one rehearsal I asked Taryn to do something different until she had fun. Really had fun. Taryn was bit frustrated and a bit exhausted... but she went with it and after a little while of trying different things she suddenly burst into song... La Vie en Rose... And Val arrived on the rehearsal room floor!  It was so exciting. La Vie en Rose was only released after the end of the war - but it was right for the mask and for Taryn's play... So I went with the mask - which is true... and not history - which is real. Truth triumphs over reality! Yay. From then on Taryn could play Val for hours and hours and loved her more and more... as we all did. Looking at life through rose tinted glasses.

Val was also a humane-half-mask.  So she was in the same 'world' as Rhayader which was also right. She has a big scene with Frank and the different masks on stage worked. What works, works.

James Cairns as the General and Taryn Bennett as Frith

And then there was The General.  A character where James really tapped into performance flow... it was wonderful.  His short sharp scene lit up the stage.  Here we used the mask I only know as Doctore in Commedia... it follows the T shape of the face.  Initially I thought I would use them for the news readers... but in the end the news readers were masked by hats, a little microphone and a spot light...

The device of using the news readers was wonderful for time and place... we found real BBC news broadcasts and transcribed them... 'This is London.'

Making them live and not pre-recorded was exciting, at times creating split second choreography on stage... where often I thought... oh dear he's not going to make it. But he did.  Every time.

What was very interesting about using mask to tell this story is it brought to the stage all the elements that make the novella so wonderful... Beauty without being self conscious. Sparsity without being boring. Sentiment without becoming sentimental.  I feel so very lucky to have been a part of this process.

At the end of third year at Helikos the students were each given a 'Command' - a personal sentence - as a provocation to create their final piece of work. As I did not finish my final year at Helikos due to work opportunities at home - one of which was The Snow Goose - for me this piece is my command. And in some ways all my teachers were there with me all the time.  Making the masks and in the rehearsal room.  I cannot say enough about the brilliance of that school.

In the moments before we opened the doors for our premiere performance in Grahamstown.  I was shaking like a leaf.  After a very messy technical rehearsal the night before, getting to bed at 2am, not being able to sleep, I honestly thought... We're not ready... What have I done...  I have wasted Simon's money... I have let the actors down... I have forced these brilliant performers into wearing masks and shook to a degree the foundations of their training... taking away much of what they would normally rely on.  Oh my word. There was not enough time. I need more time.


The doors opened. The Andrew Sisters sung merrily as the audience poured in. A full house. 200 people. 200 people who grew up with The Snow Goose as their childhood love. I am so sorry Paul Gallico! We get clearance from front of house... and we're on. As I was running sound and calling lights I honestly don't remember anything else until there was a thunderous applause and an audience leaping to their feet. My eyes filled with tears and relief and I thought. I love theatre. It is so scary. All theatre by its very nature is experimental. Who knows anything. 

Dance some more.
Dance dance dance...

So thank you... Simon and Helen Cooper. Taryn Bennett and James Cairns. Nick Warren. Barbara Draeger. Duncan Gibbon. Alida van Deventer. Peter Connell.

I cannot wait for the next run.  Aah.

A few sound bites:

Ow. My poor poor heart.  I was giddy with admiration, gratitude and honestly, love, when I left the Drill Hall after watching The Snow Goose. This play is proof of that elusive magic made between actor and audience in well-made theatre; an energy with the ability to get you buzzing. ~ Kei-Ella Loewe, Artsblog

This play is a must-see. It will make you cry but it will shift your parameters as to how good theatre in this country can actually be. Don't miss it. ~ Robyn Sassen, Artslink 

With the significant talents of James Cairns and Taryn Bennett, masterfully swapping faces (literally) to play all the story's characters, the story of the unlikely friendship between two people over and injured snow goose thrown off course over pre-war England is brought vividly to life. ~ Gayle Edmunds, City Press

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Perfect Week

It is fabulous to be back on set in Dobsonville ... Back at the first tavern we ever shot at ... and where we launched our style all that time ago. Super talented actors. Fab crew. And a spa across the road for when it all gets too much :) 

Show: 'The Perfect Week' live-to-video
Event company: Mann Made Media
Corporate client: SAB

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The skin of an Elephant

Grahamstown is done.  National Schools Festival is over.  969 Festival is finished.  Life is quietly returning to normal.  So yes.  All that happened.  We did our clown show... 'A Day in the Desert'...  Barbara Draeger came all the way to South Africa... we hired a harp.  And worked for hours and hours in our - brand new - studio.  It was wonderful.  And intense.  And a whole load of fun... discovering new things.  Making necessary links...  All the while remaining true to the work - and the clowns.  The show was met with wildly mixed responses.  As red nose theatre clown is bound to do.  But because it so vulnerable - and honest - it is quite difficult - for us - and perhaps for some audience members too.  I don't know.  What I do know is I don't have a thick skin.  Sadly.  Or happily.  I'm not sure...  One thing is for sure - It was worth it.

Barbara and I as Fiona and Andromeda...
Pictures taken by Dean Hutton

The first obstacle - for me - was performing for Nick.  Ah.  Terrifying.  Nick was our outside eye... guiding us in the process of turning two 10 minute disjointed pieces into a cohesive 40 minutes.  These initial two scenes were developed while Barbara and I were studying together in Italy at the theatre school Helikos - and these scenes were the reason why we wanted to develop this work further.  But we needed help.  So Nick came on board to help.  Which was brilliant.  And he was brilliant.  He totally came with us into our world and helped us.  At the end of Grahamstown he said to Barbara that he's realised that you cannot watch Clown with you head... you have to watch it with your heart.  Gr.  That was moving.  Giovanni says that all the time when creating new work with clown.  The head can get in the way and spoil it...  You have to be very careful.

But yes...  Back to performing.  Wow.  That was hard.  Really hard.  But in this time I made a small - but perhaps important - realisation...

Giovanni Fusetti (Director of Helikos) often talks about the fact that the clown is already dead... so when you are on stage, just go for it... because, what with being dead already, you can't actually die... so you have nothing to lose.  And during this time of performing for Nick (who has never seen me perform - and clown is a bit of baptism by fire)...  I thought about this alot  'the clown is already dead... so just go for it.'  A mantra going over and over in my head.  What does it actually mean!?  But somehow thinking about it helped me 'to just go for it.'

And then one day I thought...  It means that naïvety is dead.  Once you have looked through the window and seen the world for all that it is, innocence is gone.  Naïvety is dead.  So the clown, who is necessarily naïve, is dead.  So go for it.  And people will either come with you.  Or they won't.  Perhaps this is what Giovanni means... perhaps not.  But either way it helped me just go for it... firstly for Nick and then the audience...

Because the most important thing about clown (and perhaps all theatre) is to 'play'...  As there is not much else.  There is no set... no cleverly written script and so on.  The key theatrical principles of clown - there are many i'm sure, but i'll name four here...

1.  Stay in the 'state of play' (rhythm, body shape, resonance)...
A clown is not a character, but a persona... there is a certain frequency at which the clown vibrates and if you hit that... play follows.  If you don't and you start acting.  It's over.

2.  Maintain contact with the audience always...
The audience is actually there.  And clown lives simultaneously right in front of the audience and in the imagined world.  So look for the ones who are are laughing or who are watching with their eyebrows up... and perform for them.

3.  The space matters the most...
Where are we?  Is the audience with us in the desert or amongst the starts?  That comes from intention... how you treat the theatrical space.

4.  The story is bigger than you...
It has to be.  You are in service of the story.  And if this is true you can hold your centre and play.

So when you 'go for it' these are the principals / disciplines that can help... 1, 2, 3, 4 little things I had to remind myself of often...

...even when you can see the odd audience member is clearly thinking 'What are they doing!?'  ...with their eyebrows down.  The line between the sublime and the ridiculous is sometimes incredibly thin.  And it is this that makes the work so risky.  And perhaps it is this that also makes it worth while.  So you have to try and focus on the audience members who you can see are thinking 'What are they doing!?' ...with their eyebrow up... their eyes a little wider... their mouths slightly open... with the look of a childs delight... Because for a brief moment they are remembering their own naïvety.  For it too is dead.  And that can be moving for some people.

So yes.  Here are a few lovely responses to the show...

We won an award.  Yay.  A Standard Bank Encore Ovation Award.  So that was nice.  We are now an 'award winning show!'

A few people saw the show twice in Grahamstown and in Joburg at the 969 Festival.  And that was delightful.  And encouraging.

We received a wonderful email from an audience member who was touched deeply by the work and wanted to understand how we 'developed the characters' and asked about our 'research process'... which is totally interesting that somehow she knew that these were not just characters from a bank of characters.  Discovering 'your clown' is to discover what is uniquely you - and uniquely funny about you.  And this can come from - and often does come from - our deepest wounds.  Our most hidden insecurities.  It is a most fascinating, fun, and often quite traumatic, process.  I wrote about it while I was in Helikos.  And then I wrote a bit more about 'Clowns in Life' (which is what this show is...)

Then Barbara was in a coffee shop buying tea when a young girl who saw the show at the Schools Festival said... 'Thank you for making this show.'  That was moving for Barbara - as she didn't swoon or say it was the best thing she'd ever seen... she simply said thank you.

And finally Robyn Sassen wrote a wonderful review for us... "...Suddenly, sitting in the audience, you are four or five years old, and the matter of giving a creature in distress your most precious possession to show him that you love him is perfectly acceptable. Suddenly the interplay between harp, space ship and a pot of tea is so profound that nothing else really matters."

Barbara has returned home.  A new show is in the world.  And this marks the beginning of what will hopefully be a very long journey.  x Thank you Barbara Draeger.  Thank you Nick Warren.  Thank you Giovanni Fusetti.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ready steady...

In a few minutes we begin our journey to Grahamstown... The National Arts Festival is one long drive away... it is cold and dark and the cats know something is going on!  'Can I come?' said the cat to the harp.

(see full image)

Friday, June 14, 2013

WAM... bam in the heart of Jo'burg

Last month we did this pro bono video for the Wits Art Museum... that tells the wonderful story about how this most exciting art gallery found its place in the heart of Johannesburg... such fantastic art... such a lovely story...

My roles:  Director & Producer

Saturday, June 8, 2013

What was that Mr Cartwright?

A snap from a rehearsal of The Snow Goose... it is tremendously fun discovering with James and Taryn the physical 'state' of their masks and consequently the sense of 'play' that neccessarily comes with it.  The seething and cowardly Mr Cartwright... The slow and measured Frank.  Suddenly they find themselves almost blind - and for James even partially deaf - negotiating our wonderful little stage - made by Duncan Gibbon. Theatre listening becomes about much more than being able to see your co-actor... and in James' case even hearing his co-actor properly!  ...What was that Mr Cartwright? Scary. But fun.  (see full image)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Pinch and a Punch

A pinch and a punch it's the first of the Grahamstown Festival month!  ... and Barbara with Andromeda Andromeda's helmet and Fiona's fluffy purple hat arrives in 11 day's time... jetting in from Munich to Joburg to Grahamstown to Joburg and back...  And in that time the National Arts Festival, the National Schools Festival, and the 969 Festival... with 'A Day in the Desert'  ...waaa!  A very BIG thank you to Giovanni Fusetti and Matteo Destro of Helikos International School of Theatre Creation for very kindly lending Fiona her precious hat - without which she is quite naked.

(see full image)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hello Frank

James Cairns as Frank

The Snow Goose mask performance explorations and rehearsals continue... This is Frank. We are now in a sunny little rehearsal room in Brixton with wooden floors... Today in our break we sat eating lunch and drinking tea in the single streak of sunshine streaming in... A happy winters creation space.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Luggage tag with which to travel

It is nearly time to start getting things printed for the Grahamstown festival... and here is our flyer for 'A Day in the Desert.'  Isn't it cute!  A luggage tag - with which to travel to the imagined world. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Agency Drive

Event Client:  Mann Made Media
Corporate Client:  Standard Bank
Event:  Agency Drive (external audience), 2011
My Role:  Executive Producer

I am posting this because as part of this event we produced a hard cover coffee table book detailing some of the major deals Standard Bank has done... And it was a huge task and in the end it was very pretty.  Here are some pictures that went into the book... as well as some from the event.  Pretty.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Something to remember

There are as many clowns as there are human beings.  There is one way to stand, and infinite ways to fall.  Intelligence is limited.  Stupidity is infinite.  ~ Giovanni Fusetti

Something to remember as we ready ourselves for 'A Day in the Desert.'

(see full image)

A proppet...

A 'proppet'... a cross between a puppet and prop... as coined by the gracious and talented Alida van Deventer.  The beginnings of the Snow Goose which the young girl finds in the marshes...  The inciting incident.

(see full image)

A mask to play in

It has been a long time since i've done a quick bite-sized blog... so here it is.  We are about start full on rehearsals for The Snow Goose with James Cairns and Taryn Bennett produced by KBT Productions (the fab Simon & Helen Cooper)... we have had a number of weeks of research and development... script writing, costume shopping, set building, prop making... and yes... mask making.  And it has been rather challenging.  Not having Matteo (mask maker extraordinaire) there to point out mistakes i'm about to make... has made this process very interesting.  And quite exciting.   We open at the Grahamstown fest in June!

(see full image)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Woman Online...

Woman Online interviewed me...  Here it is with the link... yay.

Woman Online interviewed Jenine Collocott, Creative Director and an extremely talented woman.

Please introduce yourself and tell us about the path that led you to where you are today.

My name is Jenine Collocott and I am the Creative Director of my theatre and creative consultancy company Hello Elephant.  My work includes commercial theatre, corporate theatre and video, writing, directing and producing as well as television writing.  Most recently I was appointed as a senior writer on two new seasons of Takalani Sesame.
My latest play Sunday Morning, which I directed and produced, was selected by the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown as part of their Solo Season on their Main Programme in 2012 (along with theatre icons such as Pieter Dirk-Uys and Janice Honeyman). The development of Sunday Morning was commissioned by the Goethe Institut as part of their GoetheonMain initiative.  The play has traveled to a number of theatres and festivals in South Africa to high critical acclaim.  In 2013, we were nominated for five Naledi Theatre Awards three of which were for Best Director,  Best Lighting Design and Best Play.  It has been earmarked for an international tour in 2014.
In 2000 after I had returned from traveling for two years in Europe I moved to Johannesburg where I landed my first job in the event company VWV Productions as a corporate theatre producer.  I soon realised that whilst I loved the work – it was dynamic and exciting – I needed something more creative.  I went to study film at the film school, AFDA, in Milpark Johannesburg where I graduated in 2005 with a BA Hons (cum laude) in Live Performance.  All the while putting myself through film school by freelancing for VWV Productions and learning much about the industry.   As a new graduate I immediately began working for various corporate theatre companies as a theatre writer and director as well as making my own plays.  But it still wasn’t enough.   In 2010 (as a newly wed) I decided to further my studies once again but this time in Florence Italy, under the internationally celebrated pedagog Giovanni Fusetti as his theatre school Helikos (much to my husbands dismay!).  
Tell us about your business.
I have produced a number of commercial theatre plays to date, including Willy’s Ark, with the iconic James Borthwick.  Weekend Special, which was selected for ‘the return’ of the Windybrow Theatre Festival in 2011; High Diving, with Toni Morkel and James Cairns.  High Diving won a 2010 Ovation Award and was nominated for 2010 Handspring Puppet Company Award for Best Design; Dirt, with James Cairns and written by my husband and creative cohort, the international award winning author, Nick Warren. Dirt has recently returned from Australia where it was invited to the 2013 Fringe World Festival and was nominated for an Artrage Award. Dirt has recently been invited for a run at Theatre on the Square from the 28 May – 9 June. Sunday Morning with the critically acclaimed James Cuningham and written by Nick Warren.  Sunday Morning has been nominated for a number awards and detailed above.
Currently I am working on a number of new projects – Making Mandela, for which I received a writing grant from the National Arts Council. The Snow Goose with James Cairns and Taryn Bennett and produced by Kalk Bay Theatre Productions.  And finally A Day in the Desert with German clown and concert harpist Barbara Draeger.  Both The Snow Goose and A Day in the Desert will premiere at the 2013 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.
In between all of my many commercial theatre endeavors, I also inject a real passion and professional rigor into the often abused and mediocre world of corporate theatre and video production. I do this by calling on my experience – as well as the many contacts and colleagues – that I have acquired as a result of my tenure in the professional industry.
In 2012 I broke some ground with two specific projects, Out of the Blue for Standard Bank and The Responsible Trader Roadshow for SAB – both of which I was creative head, writer and director.  The event production company Mann Made Media, who I regularly freelance for, submitted these two projects as part of their 2012 Loeries Submissions.  The Responsible Trader  Roadshow was nominated for an Ubuntu Loerie award.
What obstacles did you have to overcome to get where you are today?
The largest obstacle facing our industry is the lack of theatre audiences.  South Africans don’t really go to the theatre.  To overcome this I tour a number of plays extensively to schools and festivals – taking theatre to the audience – thus keeping these shows technically simple and theatrically vibrant.
On the corporate theatre front I treat this work as I would my own plays – A corporate audience like any audience deserves respect and it is not often that one gets to entertain at times 1000 ‘s of people.  And I think that this ethos keeps me regularly commissioned by various clients.
In our industry it is very hard to only do one thing – If you are only an actor or only a director the scope of work available to you is lessened.  I have honed my expertise in various areas of directing, writing, producing… and sometimes performing.
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Still making great theatre with artistic integrity to full audiences… that and a few more rands in the bank!
Who would you say has been your greatest role model and why?
I have had a number of wonderful teachers in my life and I am inspired by all of them for different reasons.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Well my work is so all-consuming that in my spare time I am generally making theatre masks – which takes time and is therapeutic.  Other than that I am still threatening to start yoga!
What advice do you have for other aspiring business people?
If you love it… Do it…  Then share it.
Twitter – @jeninecollocott

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Remembering our Wedding

Today three years ago this was us... Newly weds walking under the massive weeping willow that lay witness to our vows.  Three years and so much has happened from then till now.  How lucky we are xx

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

DIRT goes to Theatre on the Square

Very exciting news... we are going to be at Theatre on the Square with DIRT from the 28 May to 8 June.  We have recently revisited it for its fabulous run at the Fringe World Festival in Perth (where it was nominated for an Artrage Award) and now we hit Joburg... right before the National Arts Festival It's all happening.  Come see.

'Three estranged friends get back together for the funeral of a fourth.  Their friend might be dead, but their friendship is still kicking.'

The performance of the festival. ~ Western Australian, World Fringe, Perth
Thrilling lines, ringing ironies, hilarious gags... it changed my life. ~ Zane henry, The Argus
One of the funniest actors in the country. ~ Sunday Times
I thought I was having an asthma attack I was laughing so hard. ~ Megan's Head
Nothing short of a triumph. ~ Peter Tromp, Another 48 Hours
It is phenomenal!!  ~ yoursoapbox.co.za
A masterclass in solo stagecraft. ~ Karen Rutter, Cape Times
...in 'n klas van sy eie. ~ Deborah Steinmair, Die Burger
Cairns is almost so good at what he does it's almost ridiculous. ~ artsblog.co.za

Having gone their separate ways, the poker club are back together to bury their mutual friend. On a journey from Johannesburt to Cape Town the trio trade insinuations, insults, and injuries as they try to dig up the past and bury the present.  Grant is nervous about giving the eulogy for a man he admired greatly but could never live up to.  Sam is still angry about the last time they saw each other and can't see the point in having male friends anyway.  Wayne is sad that their friend is dead but can't help thinking that this is his best change to finally get rid of the dog with the embarrassing habit.  Driving high-speed through some painful, poignant and often hilarious territory, they arrive at the graveside with some serious injuries and some surprising insights about the nature of male friendship.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Theatre is mask

A few weeks ago I received an email from Matteo Destro requesting a testimonial for the new Helikos Website about the MaMa's (Mask & Material) course which is to run in tandem with the theatre course at the school.  I was only to happy to do this.  As the school is simply wonderful.  Here are my thoughts on Mask and Material in theatre....

There was a moment during my studies at Helikos that I realized what ‘Mask & Material’ mean in theatre – this idea that theatre is mask and mask is theatre. Like a fast moving train it hit me smack bang in the face.  It has changed how I see theatre and how I work irreversibly.

Mould of The Snow Goose Hunter... based on character work
with James Cairns

‘Mask’ in theatre extends far beyond physically wearing a mask on stage – and can be taken into all aspects of script writing, staging, costume, performance, lighting, props, voice, music and so on.  In my understanding ‘mask’ is essentially the idea that there is a distance between the theatre maker and the work.  In this distance there is room to play.  And in this play there is a whole world of poetic potential.  Bringing to life, and to the stage, this idea that there is ‘a whole universe inside a single drop of rain.’  And in so doing ones work becomes so much more.  More theatrical.  More poignant.  More funny.  More engaging.  More complex.  More simple.  More.

When I first heard the idea that ‘all theatre should be masked.’  It was a very abstract concept until we began the MaMa’s (Mask & Material) process at Helikos.  I will try to describe it briefly. 

Mould for the second hunter in The Snow Goose based on character work
with Taryn Bennett
When you are physically moulding a mask out of clay a form starts to appear.  If you allow that form to take you on a journey, you will make a mask that you were perhaps not aware you were going to make.  And similarly so it is with theatre.  When you start on the rehearsal floor… be it with physical masks or not… be it with a written script or only the beginnings of an idea… The work sometimes presents an unexpected ‘volume,’ meaning, an unexpected turn that takes you on an unexpected journey.  And it is here that real poetry can be found and brought to the light of the stage… If you are brave enough go deeper into this ‘unexpected volume,’ and if you are able to see it! 

It was in the MaMa’s classes at Helikos with Matteo Destro and Giovanni Fusetti that this horizontal poetic landscape was opened up for me in a very practical, real and honest way.  So much so that I now think it impossible to make theatre, and in fact any kind of art, without asking these seemingly questions:  What is the material?  What is the mask?  And how far can I go? 

If you have ever for a moment silently asked of your work ‘could there be more?’ The answer is yes.  And it is studying ‘Mask & Material’ with Matteo Destro and Giovanni Fusetti. 

Matteo and I on my last day at Helikos and in Florence

If theatre is to not only survive but to thrive, I believe it is through the ancient tools and understanding of ‘Mask & Material’ that it shall do so. 

Go and see for yourself.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Day in the Desert

I went to Florence and met a German clown who can play the harp, and now that harp-playing-clown, Barbara Draeger, is about to to come to Johannesburg to make a brand spanking new show called 'A Day in the Desert' with me. How exciting? Yay. We will be performing it at this years Grahamstown Festival. How totally scary.

I have spent so much time thinking about how to 'sell' the show. Selling... grr. How I wish people would just buy it without us having to sell it. Selling theatre. Rough. But the biggest question or obstacle is the theatrical style. You say clown and people think circus, balloon animals, tripping tricks and bad children's theatre. You say physical theatre and people ask.. so do you talk?  

So... it is clown a show - But there are no balloons involved. It is physical theatre because we change space - But we do also talk. Quite a lot. About what we think is quite important. I tried calling it magical realism... which is also true. But in the end honesty is the best option. And those who come to see our madness will come and see our madness... and possibly - hopefully - be a little changed - a little effected - because of it. Or not. Who knows. Take a risk. Eee. 

So there you have it. A brand new clown show will be born in a cold June 2013 in what will be our brand new studio. Here's to red noses and a harp in an epic adventure with Andromeda Andromeda and Fiona van der Walt. 

This is our poster designed by Barbara's very talented sister Kathrin. So lovely. 

How scared am I? Very. But looking oh so forward to hosing you - Barbara Draeger - in our home and in our country. 

I take tremendous comfort in these writing rules below to turn our 'little show' to be a 'bigger little show' ...without loosing why we love it and why we want to tell the story in the first place. Especially no 4. Writing rules by Emma Coates, Pixar’s Story Artist...
  1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
  2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
  3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
  8. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
  9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
  10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
  11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
  12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
  14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
  15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
  17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
  18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
  22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Starting Sesame...

We are in full swing of writing a new season of Takalani Sesame... The South African version of Sesame Street. And it is so exciting. A new programme design. A new guest Muppet. And for me, a new experience. To fully get into the mind of your inner 4-year-old and write write write. There is so much that is similar to clown. Except that clowns talk with the naiveté of the child and the knowledge of the adult at the same time (well this has been my experience). And with Sesame you have to use the naiveté of the child and keep the adult in the distant background to ensure there is follow through - that you don't talk down to them - 'them' being the audience of kids between the ages of 4 and 7 - that you don't 'educate' them - that you are funny - that your language is appropriate. The difference is subtle but important. 

Zikwe... who may just be my favourite Muppet

Kerry (New York Producer) and I working hard on our word of the day 'Angry'

Surrounded by Muppets and Primary Colours x

Sunday, March 31, 2013

A newspaper brought to life

I like this video i was involved in so thought I'd post it...

Client: Avusa Media
Production Company: Mann Made Media
My Role: Concept Development
Written by Nick Warren