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The Commentators at Moseley Folk

Saturday, September 4th, 2021

It’s the time of year again that last year we weren’t able to have but the beautiful late summer gathering, that is Moseley Folk and Arts Festival is on for real this year. Understanding that not everyone can be there The Commentators have again been invited to broadcast live coverage from the weekend. If you can’t attend in person you can listen at home and still enjoy all the action – picnic unpacking, backstage folk style antics, camping chair politics, the occasional heron – it promises to be a wonderful weekend.

The Commentators will be broadcasting from 10.45 until around 6.00pm on Saturday and Sunday. You can listen online via the player here or by clinking the link to take you to their Mixlr page …

The Commentators from Stan’s Cafe is on Mixlr

Make a micro-production with us

Tuesday, August 10th, 2021

We are delighted to have been awarded a Project Grant by Arts Council England to fund a number of training and development opportunities for West Midlands artists in autumn 2021.

Over 30 years we have learned that the best training for making art is to make art. Therefore in autumn 2021 we are creating three “micro-productions”, which take performers and assistant directors through a full, genuine making process in a condensed form. The production team for each production will be different, and will consist of an experienced Stan’s Cafe Associate Artist working alongside our Artistic Director James Yarker, with performers and assistant directors who are keen to start or extend their devising practice as part of this training and development opportunity.

We are looking for:

6 x Theatre Performers who do not have professional devising experience but have a strong interest in extending their professional practice into this area.

6 x Theatre Performers who have 2 – 5 years of devising experience (at any point in their career) who believe it would be useful for their professional development to work with Stan’s Cafe in this context

3 x Assistant Directors who feel their devising practice would benefit from working on one of these projects as an Assistant Director alongside Stan’s Cafe’s Artistic Director.

Fee:

Performers: £515 + holiday pay
Assistant Directors: £1,030 + holiday pay (includes a preparation week)

Dates: Performances and rehearsals are in November 2021.

For more information and how to apply, please download the project outline here.

Deadline for applications: 10am on Tuesday 31st August

Staging Macbeth for school

Monday, August 9th, 2021
Graeme, James, Jack, Elexi & Carys rehearse – Mabeth

We don’t normally do Shakespeare, we’re not that kind of theatre company, but for our friends at Saltley Academy all kinds of exceptions are made. Since 2016 we have helped successive Year 8s stage The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant Of Venice and Othello. Macbeth was postponed from 2020 to this summer and with social distancing measures still in force it was decided that rather than the students performing the play we should. What fun we had!

Craig had already compressed the original text to a Year 8 friendly length so the next step was to divide this so a cast of four could perform it without tragedy degenerating into farce.

Anxious to maximise the students’ connection to the play, our production and us we worked on new ways for them to collaborate with us. On Day 2 and Day 3 of rehearsals we went into school and each of the nine English classes took it in turns to direct us in a different scene. Students made props and drew or painted elements of scenery. Two different students played MacDuff’s son and we gained a particularly excellent second murderer to save Jack from having to do the deed. For one of the three performances we also gained three extra Thanes in banquet scene. From Day 4 onwards we posted brief video diary entries summarising rehearsals for students to watch in their English lessons.

Normally we take the students to perform at Shakespeare’s New Place in Stratford-Upon-Avon after which they explore the town, but as New Place was off-limits this year all the fun had to be school based. On the two performance days a slush machine was installed in the school hall and students worked up their own four minute long versions of the play. During the interval of our 90 minute long production EVERYONE got an ice-cream.

It was fantastic to be back in a rehearsal room working together. When compressed to 90 minutes Macbeth rockets past at an exhilarating lick, characters absorb turns of fortune in a line or two and move on a line or two later. With so much cut out famous speeches and phrases come at an astonishing rate. We revelled in the story, language and allusions, but with just ten days rehearsal there was barely any time for chin stroking so there was a great sense of drive every day.

For five days, with Graeme self-isolating, we got onto more familiarly experimental territory. Graeme’s performance was streamed into the rehearsal room via a laptop, he voiced a body-double (often me) and watched the results from where I usual sit. Maybe this is a technique to be returned to at some point…

Graeme was released for the first day of performance, having missed the get in and tech set up. I went into self-isolation for the second day of performance, so Dave stepped in to operate Luke & Chrissie’s bespoke sound cues and Graeme’s penance for missing so much manual labour was to take my place putting everything back into storage with Craig.

Commentary live from Kinder Exeter

Saturday, June 19th, 2021

Join The Commentators 10:00 – 16:00 today (Saturday 19 June) as they bring you exclusive, live and uninterrupted coverage of all the actions and relaxed inaction from the first Kinder Exeter festival.

Compassion Radio KinderExeter is on Mixlr

Kinder Exeter

Wednesday, June 16th, 2021

The Commentators started playfully, as a joke. Our theatre company, Stan’s Cafe, were hosting a 24 Scalextric race for audiences to participate in and we thought it would be fun to webcast a commentary so people could follow the race at home. What followed surprised us; people loved the commentators. We thought people would find them irritating after a short while but instead they listened for hours. Such was the popularity of The Commentators that they started to get invitations to commentate on events even less sporting than slot car racing: a gallery opening, The World Gurning Championships, the foyer of a public library, a music festival, a city centre street through the night. The joke had turned back on us.

Now I don’t see The Commentators as so much of a joke and their participation in Kinder Exeter with its strap line ‘Compassion Through Play’ makes total sense to me. Of course the idea of The Commentators remains ridiculous and listeners still find their skewed observation of everyday life funny, but this playful idea has compassion at its heart.

Like many Stan’s Cafe productions The Commentators give detailed attention to people who are often ignored or who one’s gaze normally slides over. The Commentators invest time, attention and care in observing quotidian moments in everyday lives, indeed the ‘joke’ at the very heart of their endeavour is that they invest too much in what for the rest of the world is considered insignificant. Despite being neutral observers they care too much in what others value much less. They are inherently and unerringly credulous take the whole world exactly as they find it. On Saturday they will find a Kinder Exeter and share it with avid listeners around the world.

The Commentators will be streaming live from Kinder Exeter 10:00 – 16:00 on Saturday 19 June 2021. Listen online via the Kinder Exeter website.

So many artists in the world 2

Wednesday, May 19th, 2021

With The Royal Birmingham Conservertoire we advertised for a composer/PhD candidate and liked some of them. As a result today I was talking to a composer who asked what we’ve got coming up. I told him about the textile artist collaboration and that prompted him to send me a link to this video. This piece is rather restrained and formal. If you want something more mainstream you should check this out…

I fear I’m a bit late climbing aboard the Phil Minton train, but then there are so many artists in the world.

So many artists in the world

Tuesday, May 18th, 2021

We advertised for textile artists and liked them all – what skill and imagination there is in the world. Some we shortlisted, some we regretfully rejected and some we talked to about other things. In some of this other talking I mentioned a show we’d made on moving walkways and as a result I was sent a link to Krzysztof Wodiczko and his wonderful Vehicle 1. From there to this slightly odd short documentary which leaves his work more hinted at than explained – which is probably as it should be. There are so many artists in the world, we can’t possibly every know them all.

Life a Sport/Art

Wednesday, May 5th, 2021

Last year they missed the postponement message and turned up to commentate on an empty Moseley Private Park. This year The Commentators got the ‘It’s On!’ message and will be at the same venue on 3rd & 4th September to bring live commentary of the Moseley Folk and Arts Festival to people attending the Moseley Folk and Arts Festival, plus people around the world tuned into the live stream.

For those new to their peculiarities – The Commentators were once regulars on Match Of The Day. Now, as sheepskin has been replaced by goretex, so The Commentators have been replaced by less natural fibres. With no glamour sporting gigs coming in they have been forced to deploy thier niche skills on non-sporting gigs, such as Folk & Arts Festivals. Unfortunately they struggle to see life as anything other than sport, so they bring a peculiar perspective to a relaxing day in a field listening to great music.

There is a full essay setting out the origins and art behind The Commentators here:

http://www.stanscafe.co.uk/helpfulthings/essays-the-commentators.html

Wanted: Textile Artist

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021
Photo credit: Graeme Braidwood

Opportunity for a Textile Artist: Upstream of Tomorrow
Stan’s Cafe theatre company is looking to collaborate with a Textile Artist on the research and development phase of a new theatre show, for indoors and outdoors performance.

Central to the performance will be fabric ribbon maps. The Textile Artist will work in dialogue with the show’s writing and directing team to develop design ideas for how geographic features and story elements are represented on each map, and will source the materials and make the completed fabric maps.


Please see the job pack for further information and how to apply.

Fee: £2,000

Deadline for applications: Monday 19 April at midday 

Stan’s Cafe’s objective to produce excellent work rests on working with company members who are representative of the full diversity of contemporary UK, and we are committed to equal opportunities for all staff and applicants.

Some of my best friends are Storytellers

Friday, March 19th, 2021
just another old geyser letting off steam

Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are storytellers, but there is nothing in the world (apart from quite a lot of things) that I hate more than a smug celebrity at an awards ceremony on stage telling the assembled masses how special they are because they are all ‘storytellers’.

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