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Writer E.V. Crowe talks about her inspiration for VIRGIN

My first experience of going ‘online’ was going to a ‘cyber café’ with my older sister in about 1996. We paid what seemed like a lot of money, in this backroom down an alley, with a load of computers in it. I was about 14. We ‘sat’ on a ‘chatroom’ and talked to this grown up man, who it turned out lived in the US. After a while he started to rant at us about the Second World War and how we’d be ‘speaking German now’ if it wasn’t for them. He was angry and weird, but I’ve not forgotten what it felt like to be SHOUTED AT from beyond. It felt like a very small abuse. My sister and I felt ashamed. Like a line had been crossed that we didn’t know was there. A threshold. We didn’t want to be abused, but we wanted something to happen.

At school, I was prolific letter writer. I had multiple pen pals – Crystal in the States, I can’t remember how I ‘met’ her. A girl whose name I forget who I met at a caravan park, who would write and tell me about her conquests. Those letters were amazing. A boy, Sasha, in the Ukraine who had trouble with his ‘teknik lessons’, and I sensed was intending to propose. His first letter was addressed ‘a school in England’. It arrived at ours. The teacher wrote the address in Russian letters on the board. I was the only one bored enough to write it down, and then write back. For years. I wrote to my parents, later my sisters, my friends during the holidays, and then I just migrated easily onto email in 1999. I sent long journal style emails from Latin America. Hotmail was my best friend and my portal to home and other traveller friends. Email became my forte, until a boy once told me that I was better on email than in person, at which point I realised I must be a little too adept ‘on paper’, and disappointing in real life. I should be careful. 

Earlier this year, I read an article online, alerted to me by a feminist tweeter, written by the journalist Laurie Penny. It made a lot of sense to me: http://www.newstatesman.com/2013/08/laurie-penny/men-sexism. It’s about men who aren’t against women, but equally don’t acknowledge that they benefit from system that does oppress women.

I became a feminist while working in a job after university, inspired by a colleague who fought for me to progress, I feel, to her own detriment. She told me that being a feminist isn’t ‘anti men’, it just means ‘equality’ and women can be just as good or bad as men in this regard. Knowing this, enabled me to call myself a feminist. She has continued to be a voice of guidance and inspiration, through email.

These are some of the ingredients of the play VIRGIN, for Watford Palace and nabokov. Most of the play’s story, is ‘made up’, but I wanted to write it because I felt like all these things are connected and the play, in a way, joins the dots. I’ve made sense of it now for myself as a story, and I’m scared but hopeful in the act of sharing it first with a director and actors, which they will then share with an audience.  

After a play goes on, I always feel a burning sense of shame for having exposed myself too much, said too much, been too ‘loud’. The play is in some ways about that sense of shame, what it does. I already feel ashamed for having written a ‘blog’ about writing a play. There is something grotesque about my relationship with the internet, there’s a vanity implicit in my (our?) interaction with it. ‘Sorry, sorry’ that’s what I want to say. And disappear again, but I can’t. This will just sit there, like a question mark against my name. There’s a line in the play where the central character, Emily, says:

“Promise me you won’t make a fuss. You won’t tell them it was me who complained. Please. I shouldn’t have said anything. I should’ve kept my mouth shut about all of it. I can put up with anything really if I try. I don’t need to get promoted or to be able to sleep. I can handle it. Wherever I go I seem to stir things up. I really do… it’s a problem”.

I’m always surprised why people say they go to the theatre when I ask them (impertinently?). It’s never the same response, but always instinctive, and then maybe grasping for a higher register explanation. But perhaps it’s similar to asking why we log in, go online, open windows, new tab, search.  Because we’re looking for something in the darkness, and we’re calling out, and we don’t know what strange sound is going to answer us back, but we want to feel it, we’re waiting for some kind of threshold to be crossed.

E.V. Crowe


Speeding ahead with VIRGIN - week 2 rehearsal blog

Simon Darwen gives his take on last week's rehearsal room shenanigans

So into the fray we threw ourselves. E-mails had been sent with the latest draft of the script from Emma and we were now in a position to start poring over the play in more detail.

From last week's beginnings we were now getting down to the nitty gritty of the work with our director. Joe Murphy loves to get to the details of the scenes through a process called ‘Events’. This is where you work out the main event/action in the scene and then go through each event that led up to the main one exploring each one's consequences. The events in this process become as important as the lines. With such a short rehearsal process they proved very useful, in fact vital when breaking down each scene.

Two of my biggest scenes are with the Queen of Sunderland Laura Elphinstone. We get to work reading the scene, before eventing it, and before you know it we’re up and it's on its feet.

Other dynamics of the cast also began to come to light as the second week progressed:

- We realised that the 3 bags of sweets for £1 from the corner shop over the road was going to aid us hugely in the coming weeks. However, we knew that any consumption of sweets before 11 could prove massively detrimental and induce ‘crashing’.

- On the above subject, we discovered that Michael Shelford's peak hours are between midnight and 2am. This means that he will struggle to speak let alone act in the mornings. Once a much needed lunch has been consumed (he starts to cry for it around 1pm), Shelford will demonstrate huge Lethargy in the rehearsal room till the final stretch (or ‘witching hour’) begins around 5pm. The witching hour gives actor and director alike a licence to speak in tongues and start quoting the god particle.

- I seem to have established a penchant for cockney rhetoric and insist upon righting all the wrongs in the world of theatre with huge volume and aggression.

- ‘Secret Theatre’ at the Lyric  dominates conversation as does Edward II at the National and Fleabag at the Soho.

- Three of the four of us are now talking in ‘Sheffield’ accents!

Towards the end of the week we do our first stagger-through run. It is genuinely amazing how we were able to do that after 9 days. Elphinstone has more lines than anyone and her performance is already being described as the female Hamlet.

I love this play and this crew and have forgotten how much I missed a small company. We have to work hard and fast to get there but get there we shall. My first professional job was with nabokov back in 2003 and I’m genuinely thrilled to be back working with them. As Rosie touched upon last week, there is simply no bigger thrill than knowing you are the first actor to work on a piece of new writing and developing that character for the first time.

Lets Ave it Watford...

Simon Darwen


Week One of rehearsals for VIRGIN

Saturday 7th Sept

Rosie Wyatt shares news hot from the Watford rehearsal room for E.V. Crowe's VIRGIN

So today is the Saturday of our first week of rehearsals and we were due to be in the Barn in Watford rehearsing all day but we’re not and that’s a great thing. Not because it means we get a weekend off, but because it means we actually got ahead of ourselves, schedule-wise and have reached a really exciting point in the rehearsal process. It also gives me a moment to look back at the week that was and share with you a bit of the experience…

I say ‘week’… Rehearsals for Virgin didn’t actually kick off until Wednesday because one of our awesome cast members, Laura Elphinstone, is so in demand that we had to wait until we could steal her away from another project before we could get going.  Fortunately she was absolutely worth the wait and as it happened she was the only member of the cast that I did have to wait to meet. Having already worked with actor Simon Darwen and already knowing actor Michael Shelford, I was feeling pretty confident as I hopped on the 9.24 Euston – Watford train. Add to that that I had previously worked with director Joe Murphy on two other plays, had been a long time admirer of writer EV Crowe’s work and had heard nothing but wonderful things about the aforementioned Ms Elphinstone, I wasn’t feeling those first day butterflies that you could normally expect to be a-flutter in your stomach – but they showed up eventually.

Virgin is part of the Watford Palace’s Ideal World Season and we weren’t rocking up just to put our own play together but to join in an on-going project, so of course there was a whole host of brand new people to meet. There was even a whole other company of actors to meet and size up. They were the cast of the first play in the season, Perfect Match, and the verdict was that they were ruddy lovely. Once we’d stood in a circle and loudly and clearly declared our names and our job titles (a few of us definitely nearly stumbled over this simplest of tasks… as my turn to speak edged ever closer around the circle I could see the fear in Michael, Laura and Simon’s eyes and knew that we were all thinking the same thing: "What’s my character called? What’s my character called??") and viewed our model box, it was time for the read-through (there was another brief moment here where we bonded over our collective first day fear, as our wide-eyed stares to one another said… "They’re not ALL going to stay to listen to the read–through, are they??") The room emptied slightly (we then gave each other ‘phew’ eyebrow raises… not because we didn’t like the look of the fantastic team we’d just met but because whatever group you’re in, first reads are nerve-wracking) and we got reading. It was bloody exhilarating actually. It was a brand new draft that none of us actors had seen before so we weren’t just hearing the other characters come to life for the first time, we were discovering brand new things about the play together. woo yeah…

And the week carried on in much the same exciting vein! I love working on new writing.  It’s such a privilege to have such a complex and intelligent script to pore over and such wonderful sparky colleagues to bounce ideas around with. It is so satisfying to have our writer Emma in the room with us for our script work and then see the play shift and change as each morning Emma brings in a tweaked version of the script (resulting in a lot of printing for our DSM Neil). We’ve quibbled over ellipses, delved in to the worlds of our characters, shared a few good anecdotes and just really started getting to grips with the play.

And that brings us to where we are now. LOCK DOWN. Or awaiting it… We’ve reached a point in the process where all the talking about the play is done and we need to start doing it.  So to proceed with the final two weeks of rehearsals (Two Weeks, AH!) we need a locked down version of the script so that we can begin to make firm decisions about our characters and about the staging and so we can begin to learn lines. So today whilst I’ve gone to the gym and watched the X Factor, Emma has been hard at work and tomorrow evening we will get the definitive version of our rehearsal script ready to begin work again on Monday morning… Can’t. Wait!

Rosie Wyatt


Trainee Assistant Producer opportunity

Our producer Paul Jellis is looking for a trainee assistant producer to work with him across a range of projects in the second half of 2013.

As well as producing for nabokov, Paul is also producer for interactive, immersive and site specific company Bad Physics, and also works across a range of freelance projects and associate positions.

The role will consist of a mixture of working on specific projects and general assistance in the ongoing running of the companies he works for.

This will be a part time, flexible position, with negotiable hours. The ideal start time would be June 2013 and run through to the end of the year, with a possible extension into 2014. Although there will not be a fixed salary offered for the role, some fees will be offered on a project basis.

Known projects to include:

  • A brand new nabokov production with Watford Palace and on tour
  • The return of nabokov’s hit show BLINK in India, at Soho Theatre and on tour
  • The development of a nabokov production with the MC and rapper Dizraeli
  • THE ADVENTURE - An interactive mystery story for children at the Edinburgh Fringe, Royal Exchange and on tour (Bad Physics)
  • An interactive storytelling show for the Royal Horticultural Society (Bad Physics)
  • The independent development of a new multi-disciplinary production

Suitable candidates should have at least a year of producing experience and two relevant references. Although fees will be discussed on a project basis, this is primarily intended as a trainee position and remuneration will reflect this.

Please send a covering letter and CV to [email protected] by Friday 10th May. Interviews will take place between 13th- 15th May. 



Our final blog from last week, courtesy of Harry Napier

It's Friday, that'll be showday then,..AAAAARRRGH! Looking back over the weeks blog it's amazing to think where we started from and all the stuff we've covered by talking, devising, jamming, rapping, riffing,etc(but mainly it's amazing that we found hot Vietnamese food outdoors in the middle of winter. Lifesaver!). I know that we've still got a lot to get through before we perform and as we are led by Rowan through beat boxing in 7's and 8's, juggling instruments, song and text, I'm confident of staying with the flow second by second. It's remembering what we did one minute ago that proves to be a problem. The scenes we are working on start to take shape. The top of the show is a great burst of energy, a booze cruise set to Rowan's rap moving seamlessly to some cheesy folk(I thought it was beautiful actually, what am I like?) which is cut back to reality by some punchy verse. Awesome. There's a few touches of genius on the way, Ben turning an upturned bin in to a Bodhran by the subtle use of some aboriginal clapping sticks, a fire-extinguisher becomes a tolling bouy, Josie and Remy act drunk getting down and dirty on the dance floor and Rachel's beautiful singing, oh yeah, and the rapper wasn't bad too. Our audience was small but perfectly formed as some folk couldn't make it, so Jellis and Murphy elected to film our highly polished performance for immediate cinema release, thanks lads! It's like a recipe for instant memory loss, but we get through it pretty well in the end. What a week. Over-stimulated I'm thinking, mmm, maybe it would be ok to work with this crazy bunch of creatives again, mainly because Paul and Joe got the drinks in. Nice one. At least at the end of it all I can claim a new proficiency: rapping in futuristic Bristolian, mental.


Remy B on day 4 of development

Hiya, Remy here. So, first sesh daahhn sarff today as we all headed to Pimlico for session 4 of this crazy ole' rap/folk/hip-hop project. It's cold, and Joe's late as per so most of us head in to the rehearsal room and begin the day with a bit of stretching and generally getting those joints up and running. Rowan aka Dizraeli spent the first chunk of the morning getting pen to paper in St Gabriel's cosy cottage kitchen, as the rest of us motley crew were split into groups to do some more devising. Rachel, Harry, Josie, and Ben got stuck into a new song, which from the other side of the room sounded like a rousing folky sea shanty, super lush. That left Paul, Joe and I to get stuck into some scribing filling in some hole's that were yet to be imagined in our Selkie story. Obviously this led to a bit of a show and tell before lunch, and once again there were some really lovely, magic moments firing off in the room. Some spine tingling harmonies and cello lines, and some rousing bits of writing took us up to lunch, where Joe (ye, he finally swagged in) took us to a lovely little Italian deli. Olives and Cannelloni galore. Pigs'r'Us. After din-dins, a bit of a a hip-hop warm up session with Rowan, and shock horror, I think we're getting better, even Ben. Compared to Monday we're all looking like true rap veterans watch out Jay Z babes. Back to the grind and more devising. This time smaller groups with different bits of our Selkie text to work on. Harry and I had collaborated earlier in the day on a monologue which he beautifully underscored with some bad-ass cello, and we were then paired off again to explore this relationship a little further. We found that pairing the verse and the cello together really seemed to bring the text to life and (hopefully) we were able to create an emotionally fueled, character led exploration of the scene. The other guys offered some awesome realisations of other scene sections. With Josie and Ben getting a good bit of bin-drum action involved and Rachel and Rowan getting experimental with a coat and keeping up the fun vibes with some high-energy verse spitting. A really, super productive day, which ended with a great big chat about what we're trying to achieve with the picece. This brought up questions about form and structure of story and how do we make this into a successful piece of theatre with character and emotional journey. The day finished with us trying to put the bones together of one of the scenes that we'll be showing off tomorrow for our eager audience. Still lots to do, but some golden moments still happening at 5.30 pm, not bad for a full day of devising. Public apology goes out to Rachel after I completely annihilated her notebook with a cup of tea. SORRY LOVE! Anyways, thats enough for you to get your teeth into. Loadsa laughs and faffs we're having. Onwards to day 5, SHOW DAY!! Peace.


Josie Dunn explains where we're going on day 3

12/12/12 and the world hasn't ended! We're still here. Just a few cancelled trains this morning. With the freezing temperatures outside, we started today with a much needed warm up. Remy's 'plank' marathon should've soon warmed us up, but we discovered we were blasting our rehearsal room with air conditioning in our efforts to make it warmer. After we regained feeling in our hands and realised it was a good job that we were creatives and not heating engineers, we continued with physical and vocal rhythms (and even some basic beatboxing) lead by Rowan. I think - dare I say it - we're getting slightly better...
We all shared our inspiration from the ideas of a modern Selkie story that excited us yesterday. All contributions fueled our development of what we wanted to create. Rowan shared his Selkie creation, which brilliantly fused song and narrative, giving a great basis for us to work on different sections in two groups. Both showings saw a certain style emerging - it seems to be one of exciting, fast-paced storytelling crammed with musical, lyrical and physical possibilities. 
Our folklore goddess, Sophia, joined us for the final part of the day when we developed one of the songs. Everyone seems to be very instinctive with what's going to work and very musically talented, so we reach something that we refine quite quickly.
Two days to go. I'm super excited.


Rachel Rose Reid discusses our second day in development

Today began with an easier round of free-styling.   Practicing pulling down barriers between mind and mouth seems to be the best way forward.
Then we warmed up over music, words and whatever came out, which, it seemed, involved the sea, P&O Cruises, channel swimmers and pebbly beaches. This reminded us of selkie stories.  What do you mean you don't know selkie stories? Selkies are the seal people.  In the Scottish islands and coastways it was the story people told each other. Can you imagine, if you depend on the sea for your living, if you are forced to sail out in it, and fish in it, in the worst of weather? Imagine how many lives were lost. Imagine how many children would have to have absent brothers and fathers explained to them.  The seals give a way out, a story to tell, to explain that things are not as bad as they seem. Often in the stories there is a breach of trust. A fisherman will meet a selkie woman and steal her skin or hide it. He will promise to take care of her, but sometimes he will break his promise. Or she finds the skin. Or their child does, and it's not long before she's back in the water and never seen again.  So that is the kind of story we found ourselves most taken with. But not to be told straight. We started picking up modern pieces and places, references to the way other-worldiness is sometimes just cast aside as madness. But who's to say. How do we know? 


Our first daily blog from inside the Dizraeli development week

I arrive in the morning at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith with my guitar and trumpet, not having a clue what I’m about to be taking part in but it’s something like…a workshop for a week for nabokov who want to do something about storytelling and folklore and music. To someone who doesn’t know any of the people they’re about to meet and comes armed only with the above information this could potentially be a memorable experience for all the wrong reasons and as I journey in I begin to have excruciating thoughts about the day as it could unfold.; “OK everyone thanks for coming, now what we like to do on the first day is pretend we’re tree elves who make fruity yoghurts so if we could all take our clothes off….”

This however was not the case. (In fact, as I write, I remember that I was the only person on the first day, who offered to go naked but having seen the utter lack of interest on the faces of the others I surmised this was not a winning suggestion and relented.)

Instead I found myself sitting around a table with a group of lovely people, interested and interesting, who have all been brought in to offer something different to whatever “thing” we might have to offer by the end of the week. There’s Joe and Paul, the director and producer from nabokov. There’s Rachel who is a storyteller/poet and - though she doesn’t say - a pretty fine singer. There’s Rowan, aka Dizraeli, a rap artist whose words and rhythms are influenced a great deal by folk. There’s Sophia who has written and researched a number of books relating to folklore and a couple are on the table - impressive for their size and the reviews on the back! And then there’s me (Ben), Harry, Remy and Josie, all of us describing ourselves as actor/musicians or something similar and who’s gonna argue given the small arsenal of instruments we’ve each brought with us? 
I won’t detail the days events but the sessions went something like this:-
1) A little jamming led by Harry and his beautiful cello (plus FX box!)
2) Once everyone had convened - late arrivals due to US Embassy visits, family shenanigans and bad Bristol busses - we chatted around the subject of fairytales, folklore, meanings and memories, films and theatre, modern versus old, pitfalls and pratfalls and…..LOADS
3) Lunch (lovely noodle soup from the Vietnamese market stall outside the theatre.) then another jamming session with all of us putting in a bit so we’ve got glockenspiel, guitar, cello, accordion, a chorus of voices and a bin as a drum. 
4) In a circle, now, to do a sort of “Rap Class” led by the mighty Rowan where we all set up a beat then a line of ‘stream of conscious‘ verse would be thrown out by one of us and then the next person in line would have to follow - on the beat - with their own attempt at a rhyme. It might sound simple and it should be but….!(“Cipher” is the word used in the world of Rap for such a group, Rowan tells me. Why? Because a cipher is a zero in it’s original meaning ie a circle. Everyday’s a school day) 
5) By the end of the day I’m exhausted, my head is full as an egg, I’ve laughed and been laughed at (chiefly the latter) , riffed and rapped about everything - yes, EVERYTHING - from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Bruce Lee’s 1-inch punch. I’ve been taken outside my comfort zone and then I’ve taken the scenic route back and it’s good to be reminded that’s often the best way to travel.
Can’t wait to see where we get to by Friday.


Dizraeli Development Week

Internationally acclaimed new writing company nabokov are working with award winning MC and folk artist Dizraeli to develop a brand new production for 2013. Over the course of this development week we will be exploring how to make a piece of theatre which experiments with traditional folk stories, how to tell them in a contemporary and relevant way, and how to incorporate music and spoken word in a way which not only enhances the performance but also the narrative.

What we want:

We’re looking for performers of every type who are able to add something unique to the mix. We want to work with people who are passionate about what they do, have interesting ideas and different ways of working. You might be an actor, musician, dancer or spoken word artist, a mix of several of these or something else entirely. You’ll probably be required to do at least some acting, and musical skills are a big advantage.

You’ll need to be available for a workshop audition on the afternoon of Thursday 6th December (location TBC, but in London).

What we can offer you:

This is a paid development week at a rate of £400. We’re looking for a total of 5 performers. We hope that the piece will be developed into a full production in 2013, with major co-producers and multiple performance opportunities, however acceptance onto the development week is not a guarantee of involvement in the final production.

The auditions:

There will be two audition groups, 2pm-3.30pm and 4pm-5.30pm, on the afternoon of Thursday 6th December. To apply, please email a CV and any supporting material (reviews, video, photos etc) to  [email protected]  before Wednedsay 5th December. We’ll try to get back to everyone who applies but this may not be possible if the volume of applicants is high. If you’re successful we’ll send you details of what to prepare and your audition slot.


Good luck!

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