Arts Council funds Derby theatre company’s new project

12003320_887471164639427_1352313811406074454_nDerby’s 1623 Theatre Company has been granted nearly £50,000 by Arts Council England for a pilot production of Lear/Cordelia.

The production will be a double-bill that combines Shakespeare, new writing and digital projection-mapping while drawing on the findings of participatory research into King Lear and dementia two years ago.

Ben Spiller, 1623 artistic director, said: “This is brilliant news, a significant milestone for 1623 in our tenth year.

“The Arts Council funding will give us the opportunity to try out a brand-new piece of work with audiences in studio theatres before planning a national tour for 2017.  Having the funding makes it possible for us to work with a fantastic team of artists including a playwright, a director, a designer and a digital artist. This is our most ambitious project to date.

“We’re excited to be able to develop audiences for Shakespeare and new writing by working with the staff, residents and families at the dementia care homes that we visited two years ago, as well as new ones in both Derby and Leicester, where we will test out the pilot production. There will also be accompanying workshops for people living with dementia and their families, as well as students and members of the public.”

Lear/Cordelia will be a double-bill: a radical new adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear set in a care home followed by a new play that explores the impact of dementia on family life today. The new play will be written from the perspective of Lear’s youngest daughter Cordelia, who is silent for most of Shakespeare’s play. 1623 wants to give this marginalised female character a strong voice to tell her untold story while taking into account the findings of the company’s participatory research from 2013.

Ben Spiller will adapt and direct Lear, while Birmingham REP Foundry playwright Farrah Chaudhry will write Cordelia, which will be directed by Theatre de Complicite associate artist Kirsty Housley.

Digital artist Darius Powell, who worked with 1623 on Let Me Not Be Mad in 2013, will design artwork – based on Let Me Not Be Mad – that will be projected onto the set, designed by Eleanor Field – who will also design costumes – to explore dementia visually.

Christopher Lydon, 1623 creative producer, said: “Derby Theatre is also supporting the production, as well as Derby City Council, QUAD and Attenborough Arts Centre in Leicester. While we’ve toured nationally to non-traditional theatre spaces ever since we started back in 2005, we’ve not developed a new piece of work out of participatory research in this way before and we’re thrilled at the prospect of touring studio theatres in a more strategic way.

“Derby Theatre and Attenborough Arts have been very supportive towards the development of the project. We will premiere Lear/Cordelia at Derby Theatre Studio in Autumn 2016 before taking it to Attenborough Arts Studio in Leicester, where Pilot Theatre will live-stream one of the performances online.  The production will also have dementia-friendly and BSL-interpreted performances at both venues.”