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Jack McNamara Talks Other Ways of Seeing festival

27 June 18 words: Kieran Spiers

Kieran Spiers spoke to Jack McNamara about the up coming pop up theatre festival Other Ways of Seeing, happening at Neale’s Auction House.

I get off the train to Nottingham in the new-June heat and I call Jack. He’s been in rehearsals with New Perspectives, a theatre company specialising in rural touring based in Nottingham. We talk about the heat and then we get straight to talking about the festival. 

Jack informs me that he was asked by Quarry Lab, an organisation within Nottingham made to support artists, to curate a mini festival of theatrical work for a pop-up venue. He tells me that he wanted the festival to be for theatre art that has a dialogue with the visual arts, enabling the audience to have a multi-sensory experience.

We talk about the shows, on Friday evening is A Fortunate Man – the story of a country doctor. This piece is made by New Perspectives in collaboration with esteemed theatre-maker Michael Pinchbeck. A Fortunate Man is a show based off John Berger and Jean Mohrs book of the same title and charters a conversation of GP practice within the NHS; a fitting piece of theatre because this year marks the 70th anniversary of the NHS. The performance is a multi-medial show which merges text, dialogue along with projected visual imagery. It is a performance which has been in development for some time, initially starting of as part of New Perspectives’ Emerging Perspectives scheme. It has since been in development and has toured to Camden Peoples Theatre in London and will make its way to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This is a pay what you decide performance which makes it very accessible for a budding audience member.

On the Saturday there are more events. A Storytelling Workshop led by Danny Braverman kick-starts the day. The three-hour workshop with this award-winning storyteller will enable participants to learn how to structure stories and interact with audiences. His show, Wot? No Fish!! features later in the evening. The show is a blend of audible and visual storytelling, a biographical exploration of the life of Braverman’s uncle who, chronicled his life through a long series of sketches.

In the middle of these two exciting events is Still Life: an audience with Henrietta Maraes. When I was speaking to Jack, this was the show I was most intrigued by. It is a show which will enable the audience to not just become a spectator but also an artist themselves. They will watch and listen to Henrietta’s performance as well as being invited to engage in life-drawing, with the performer as the subject. Still Life does contain strong language and nudity and so would only be applicable to those aged 16+. It is a show that is both intimate and beautiful and does not shy away from being uniquely theatrical in form.

After working our way through the shows, we talk about the link between them. Jack informs me that his decision-making in programming these shows for the festival was ‘not about watching theatre behind a curtain. It’s about watching it right in front of you.’ The theatrical performance then, becomes a live extension of what is being projected on the screen or painted on the canvas. As I mentioned before, these performances will create a multi-sensory experience.

I ask Jack how important he finds festivals in pop up spaces are and, if they should be more of them? Jack tells me that the beauty of the pop-up experiences as a theatrical space, is their ability to empower artists into taking art into their own hands. New Perspectives is a rural touring theatre company and so the nature of that work is to bring theatre to places and spaces that might not receive much artistic growth. We agree that the nature of the pop-up space is one that makes art happen, without the restriction and the over-shadowing of theatre venues. It is also about accessibility. With the nature of rural touring and certainly the context of this mini festival, it is important that theatre is seen by a wider community and is therefore accessible. It is great to see the emergence of this type of theatrical work being presented by Jack McNamara, New Perspectives and the artists involved.

Jack informs me that the title of the festival, Other Ways Of Seeing, is in reference to another John Berger book, Ways of Seeing. This clarifies the festival for me. A mini festival of theatrical performance, which engages with visual art and blends it into creative, beautiful, theatre-making. The narratives that feature in these works are ones that champion the outsider, and which ultimately would provide a wholly unique experience for an audience.

Other Ways of Seeing is on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 June 2018 at Neale’s Auction House on Mansfield Road, Nottingham.

Other Ways of Seeing ticket website