Lian Bell

Sometimes we break (again)

by Lian on June 18, 2015, no comments

In March this year I got to work with junk ensemble again for the first time since Drinking Dust. Another manky disused space transformed into something a little magical, if I do say so myself.

They were reprising Sometimes We Break, a performance they had originally made for the (much cleaner) Tate Britain in 2012. The original version had been designed by Jo Timmins, and made for family audiences – they asked me to take elements of her design and work with them to re-construct the piece in a (literally and figuratively) darker space. We had the use of two connected warehouses on Barrow Street in Dublin, and the performance was part of Mind Your Step, a walking tour-type season of Irish contemporary dance.

Some before and afters:

We had two days to clear the warehouses, install all technical and design elements, and to tech the 20 minute performance. Sarah Jane Shiels managed to light the place beautifully. But all thanks are due to the stalwart Mags Mulvey (our stage manager) and her team, who spent a full day moving all the disgusting junk from the two warehouses into one corner in a bid to make something aesthetically pleasing/not harmful.

Most of my work focused on the set up of five doll house in diorama-type environments:

IETM Bergamo 2015

by Lian on June 6, 2015, no comments

Thanks to a Travel and Training grant from the Arts Council, I was able to get to the Spring Plenary of the IETM network in the Italian hilltop city of Bergamo earlier this year. Surprisingly beautiful, seeing as it’s the Ryanair Beauvais of Milan.

A room with a view

A room with a view

This was a very active meeting for me, and not just on the cheese-eating front. Firstly – the small cobbled streets of the old town were great for networking. As well as catching up with lots of old faces, I met lots of new ones too. Great cheese-based meals were had lovely new contacts including Christian Barry of 2b theatre (Nova Scotia), Ravi Jain of Why Not Theatre (Toronto), Kate Denborough of Kage (Melbourne), Riccardo Fazi of MutoImago (Rome), Linda Di Pietro of Terni Festival, and Tim Stitz of Chamber Made Opera (Melbourne) among others.

I was asked to work with Grzegorz Reske, a Polish cultural manager and curator, to facilitate a discussion he’d proposed on retiring – why, when and how to step away from a project or organisation, particularly one that you have built up around yourself. This turned out to be a much more live topic than I’d appreciated, with lots of insightful and honest contributions from Judith Knight of ArtsAdmin, Gavin Quinn of Pan Pan, Fabio Feretti of Association Etre, Chrissie Poulter of TCD and many more.

Two things that still stick in my mind from this session: Massimo Mancini of Teatro Stabile in Cagliari, Sardinia saying that his working rule is to stay 4 years for something that already exists and 7 years for something he’s created himself. And Liz Pugh of Walk The Plank in Salford talking about the need for a funeral at the end of a project – thinking about whether the body is present or not, whether the mourner have a furious wake or whether everyone slips away home after the ceremony without making eye-contact.

I was also asked to be a participant in the Mentor Room session, where you’re paired with a second mentor and talk for a couple of hours with someone who has a question about their practice. In reality it’s more along the lines of coaching than mentoring, and was an exercise in listening and asking questions, rather than giving advice or opinion. It was great to talk to a young Italian woman about her struggles in deciding how to be both an artist herself (a dancer) and a producer for other people’s. Familiar territory.

Finally, I did a 3 minute presentation as part of the Newsround session to talk about the website I’ve been working on for Irish Theatre Institute highlighting Irish designers for stage and screen. You can see details of everyone who presented at that session here. Thankfully there’s a long-standing IETM tradition of giving newsround participants a shot of the local strong alcohol (grappa in this case) after their 3 minutes are up, because I was bricking it.

My favourite non-art thing that happened was being semi-kidnapped for 20 minutes by a local Bergamasco man who I could barely understand, and being force marched with Gavin Quinn & Aoife White to walk around and photograph the town’s cathedral from every possible angle.

Not true. My favourite non-art thing was the cheese.

2015-04-26 19.24.11

A nice wall. Not the cathedral.

 

A Girl and Star of the Sea on tour

by Lian on June 6, 2015, no comments

Very happy that the two shows I designed last year, Star of the Sea for Moonfish Theatre and A Girl is a Half-formed Thing for The Corn Exchange, are both off on tour this year.

A Girl has already been remounted in the MAC Belfast and at Norfolk and Norwich Festival this year, and next up is the Traverse for the Edinburgh Fringe – where we’ll be in the company of lovely people all round: Sonya Kelly with How To Keep An Alien, Tim Crouch with An Oak Tree and Bryony Kimmings with Fake It Til You Make It, among others. More dates and venues for 2016 are in the pipeline.

Thanks to a touring grant from the Arts Council, Moonfish’s Star of the Sea will be heading off on an Irish tour in September and October, starting back in the Taibhdhearc. As I write I’m back on the Galway GoBus with my sketchbook from last year for a meeting with the team to see how to put it all back together again.

Star of the Sea sketchbook

Star of the Sea sketchbook

The Theatre of War Symposium & Project Ariadne

by Lian on February 12, 2015, no comments

The Theatre of War Symposium, Abbey Theatre, 22-24 Jan 2015
PDF of schedule here

After slowing down to comatose this Christmas, my brain needed a good jolt to get going again. And what a jolt this was.

I hadn’t been able to attend the previous Abbey Theatre symposium on Theatre of Memory in January 2014, but had heard good things. A symposium on war, though? That was a harder sell for me. However when the ever-inspiring Dominic Campbell said he was on the programming committee, the decision was made for me. Dominic has a fantastic way of connecting people and creative ideas and often comes at topics from a direction I can’t predict. Conversations with him always leave me with a list of things to go home and google.

The programming of the symposium was excellent – both in terms of the spectrum of speakers and the scheduling of the three days. Nobody had quite enough time to speak, which meant they filled every second they were on stage with energy, so as an audience we rattled from one new thought, artistic practice or viewpoint to another. Also, thankfully, the few sessions I was less interested in flew by too.

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 12.49.21As part of the symposium, the Abbey were able to bring together the extraordinary women involved in the recently established Project Ariadne which is a network of female theatremakers working in conflict affected areas. Securing visas alone was an administrative feat – the women traveled from Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Palestine and Burundi via Belgium to speak at the event. Having them all in the one place for the first time, Ariadne‘s organisers Suzannah Tresillian and Georgie Wheedon were able to see the scale of the potential that the network has – I’m pretty sure a few stiff drinks were downed to help cope with the enormity of the situation. I was very lucky to have dinner with the network – I’ve never sat at a table so full of inspirational women.

Thankfully, the Abbey has much of the Symposium online, day by day.
DAY 1
DAY 2
DAY 3 (still to come)

I’ve listed my own highlights of the event here, with added links:

  • Ariadne Project’s website and Twitter. The network members spoke on various panels during the symposium, and more information on each of them can be found here
  • David Cotterrell‘s talk on the experience of being a war artist in Afghanistan
  • Playwright Stacey Gregg’s piece on the “peace walls” in Belfast, as part of the Barriers panel on day 2
  • A presentation by Ray Dolphin of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on the fragmentation of Palestine
  • Dr Anne Dolan of TCD’s paper looking anew at the Irish Civil War
  • Extracts of songs from Helen Chadwick‘s performance War Correspondents
  • Vladimir Shcherban on how Belarus Free Theatre keeps operations going

Prototype Festival box bunting

by Lian on November 11, 2014, no comments

The fastest decor design & make ever.

Just over 48 hours from first thoughts to doors opening to create a playground space for Prototype Festival, Hilary O’Shaughnessy’s 2-day festival of play and interactive games. Featuring pallets from the Fruit & Veg market and cardboard boxes supplied by arts organisations across Temple Bar. And thanks to the hard work of a dedicated volunteer helper with red/green colour blindness coerced into painting the 50-odd boxes varying shades of green, it all worked out.

Performing Space symposium – DTF 2014

by Lian on October 11, 2014, no comments

Thanks to Noelia Ruiz and Siobhán O’Gorman for asking me to speak on a panel as part of this event – a day-long symposium on scenography in Trinity College Dublin. It really was a great day, and felt like there was a lot still to say by the end of it.

While I missed some of the papers, I did get to hear some great presentations by:

Rachel Hann on the terminology around scenography (I hope to be able to repost some of what she said soon – it was really useful to hear her own definitions around stage design / scenic design / scenography / set design)

Sarah-Jane Scaife
, talking about her beautiful Beckett in the City series

Cathy Leeney and Elaine Sisson both presenting very interesting papers about the documentation of design

Aoife Monks talking about magic/mundane lives of costumes and props (who also came out with the great line that “theatre is just made out of stuff and work”)

Sodja Lotker, Director of the Prague Quadrennial, talking about their upcoming event in 2015

Abstracts of all these paper and more can be found here.