252AM (After Man) was born out of multiple thoughts and interests. Firstly, from participating in movements and discussions that are currently leaning towards a definition of Fourth Wave Feminism; a seemingly angry, frustrated new wave that has largely been expressed and defined by the wide reach of the internet. Amongst Global Feminist discussions, the question of including men in discourse and in educating men to empower themselves and women has provoked controversy, debate and in part exposed a still binary society that we tend to ignore under the belief that equality may have actually been achieved.
The dialectics in the play seem to be responding directly to these provocations. Two women from 2015 have been asleep in space on and off for nearly 250 years. When the play opens, 252 years in the future, they meet a young female collective who have been living on an Earth where no men have existed since our own time. The complex emotions, uncomfortable truths and tremendous sadness that emanates out of their conflict, we believe, is a direct reflection of what is currently being navigated within Feminist discourse.
Secondly, came the form. Sci-Fi has long interested me and it was only when I started to read the complex and sophisticated novels of writers such as Ursula Le Guin and Margaret Atwood in my early 20s that I fully began to understand how exciting “other worlds” could be for addressing issues of gender, sexuality and race. As soon as you take something off your planet and consequently, out of our social conventions, suddenly anything seems possible…naturally then, space becomes a fascinating area to set a Fourth Wave Feminist play (alongside my preoccupation with Sigourney Weaver of course). And yes, this is a Feminist play. Stridently, aggressively, joyfully Feminist.
The Shady Dolls has always prioritised the ensemble; the strength of the collective and how that can empower the performer was a fundamental part of our training and has remained with us throughout our journey together. In relation to all this then, it made perfect sense that we would workshop 252AM (After Man) at Rose Bruford College where I still work (on the course we graduated from) and where we have a long lasting and deeply felt connection to colleagues, students and the space.
In April 2015, the Company, along with a cast of American Theatre Arts students and graduates collaborated with Rachel Nicholson and Katie Blacker from the Creative Lighting Control Degree to platform the play at the annual Rose Bruford College symposium. The process was quick – even by our standards. By the time of the evening performance, we still hadn’t run it the whole way through. Lighting (Katie Blacker and Rachel Nicholson) and sound design (Tom Brennan – the Wardrobe Ensemble) was produced organically and responsively; styles and a soundscape were played with but not really put into being until the actual performance where both designers responded to what was happening on stage to bring the space ship these women occupy beautifully, epically and vitally to “life”. In this precarious and exciting way of working, the Company took their ideas of the collective to a new level and since then have become extremely interested in empowering the role of the creative designer through this equality of design and practice.
Interestingly, despite the panic that should have overwhelmed us on that day, when at 4pm we realised we wouldn’t get a run through of what is a pretty enormous play, it didn’t. There was an innate trust amongst performers, designers and technicians that only served to convince us further of the wonderful power of this play that facilitates and enables the collective in such a way.
It is this confidence that led us to take on the challenge of performing the show at VAULT Festival 2016. A show with a cast of 13, an original score played live, immersive lighting, organic, responsive performer musicality, two cryogenic sleep pods and a whole lot of lycra. As I understand it, we have 30 minutes to get in and out…
Ah well, to boldly go huh?
Earlier in the year Shady Dolls announced our return after a few years hiatus, with a scratch performance of a new piece of writing we had been working on. 'The Space Play - a work in progress' proved a huge success at Rose Bruford's 2015 symposium and this led to further development of the script.
It was with great excitement that we followed this flurry of activity with the news that we shall be performing our new play, now entitled 252AM (AFTER MAN) at London's VAULT Festival 2016. You can find all you need to know about the show here. Tickets are not on sale until January but please sign up for priority booking and news here.
We really look forward to this new chapter for the company, and are very grateful to all the support and love we have been shown since we've returned. We hope you will join us on this new venture. You can keep up to date with Shady Dolls news by following us on Twitter and Facebook.
Laura, Rebecca & Polly
the SHADY DOLLS
The Shady Dolls are BACK! We hope you enjoy taking a peek around our new look website, it's been a joy to revisit our past as we've put together the new site, and very exciting to add a new production page for our forthcoming show The Space Play, details of which will be added imminently. In the meantime take some time to look around and add your comments, we'd love to hear your memories of past shows.
We can't wait to share new adventures.
Laura, Polly & Rebecca
the SHADY DOLLS
After a prolonged sabbatical where a number of wonderful events occurred, including the births of two Shady babies, tremendous work adventures and a couple of relocations, the Company are currently in the process of creating some new work.
You should be too.
Hello lovely people.
We hope you have been enjoying the erratic, glorious British summer. The Shady Dolls have been on a well earned break of late, but there are things brewing in the camp, and we're not talking tea! Keep your eyes peeled for the latest goings-on and exciting things to come from your favourite shady ladies.
P & B & L
x x x
The Shady Dolls are excited to announce the latest development in the evolution of The Spoils, and the premiere of a radical new version of the play as a simultaneous live and on-line performance at the Annual International Theatre Symposium at Rose Bruford College on Tuesday 13 April at 6pm.
This one-off “proof of concept” presentation is funded by the prestigious ‘Knowledge East’ (KE) - the business-focused network of the nine major universities in East and South East London. Its projects draw on the skills and enterprise of the faculty, graduates and visiting professionals of these institutions, whose practice in digital media and mediated performance reaches across the region’s network and beyond.
The Spoils ‘Simultaneous Performance’ Project was initiated by KE in 2009 as a practical means of testing how the theatre can respond to the digital age and embrace the challenges posed by new channels for cultural ‘performance’. This is the fruition of that initiative.
The genesis of the project lies in the musical stage play The Spoils written by playwright-director Steven Dykes and composer Paul Englishby. Commissioned by Shady Dolls in 2007, it was first staged at the Edinburgh Festival and revived last summer for a short tour to Spain and for the ‘Grimeborn Festival’ at the Arcola Theatre, London.
The Spoils story of occupation, interrogation and surveillance lends itself perfectly to further investigation and dramatization through the application of new interactive media. Our aim is the creation of a multi-perspective installation drawing on the diverse talents of our regular collaborators at NXT (New Cross Theatre) and our new KE partners, most significantly Liam Hayter and his RaveMedia team at Ravensbourne, who'll be designing and supplying the vital interactive/broadcast aspects of the project.
Some of you may have caught the live streaming of our performance of The Spoils at the Sala El Granero Theatre in Cuenca, Spain last July. This re-imagining of the play takes things a step further. We have adapted the scenic design of the original play into an Installation Piece for a Promenade Audience, utilizing the wonderfully atmospheric old Manor House at Rose Bruford. The linear narrative of the play is now fragmented and each audience navigates its own route through the action. On-line viewers will be able to access each of the performance spaces and conduct their own intimate surveillance.
We hope you will join us for this unique - and frankly terrifying - experiment!
To watch this special performance of The Spoils on Tuesday 13 April, click HERE at 6pm and follow the link.
Thank you to all who came to our sold out show The Spoils at the Arcola Theatre on 3 September. The GRIMEBORN Festival 2009 has been nominated for a 'Peter Brook Empty Space Award’ and the Arcola will find out in November whether they have won.
The Shady Dolls are currently planning our next production and will keep you updated on upcoming events.
We have been invited to perform at the Arcola Theatre's Grimeborn Festival on Thursday 3 September. In keeping with Grimeborn’s wonderfully eclectic mix of the Contemporary and the Classical - the Mainstream and Leftfield – The Spoils promises to be that rare treat: a richly entertaining ‘problem play’.
Tickets are selling fast and there is no booking fee so please make sure you book early to avoid disappointment!
The Spoils by Steven Dykes & Paul Englishby
Date: Thursday 3 September
Time: 8.15pm (duration approx 1hr 15mins)
Venue: Arcola Theatre / 27 Arcola Street / London / E8 2DJ
Click here for map to the venue
We look forward to welcoming you on the night!
The Shady Dolls have landed safely in Spain and shall be performing The Spoils tonight at Sala El Granero in the beautiful town of Villanueva de la Jara. Our technical whiz Marc Wilson has managed to set up the live streaming of the show, despite limited internet accessibility so you may experience slight buffering but should you wish to watch us from the comfort of your home please visit the site below and enter the password.
The show starts at 10pm GMT.
Buenos Noches x
Following on from our experimental process on An Ornery Tale - where digital projection was integral to the play’s grotesque beauty - we are delighted to unveil our plans to not only revive The Spoils (first produced in Edinburgh Festival in 2007), but to further its development in a major Knowledge Transfer Research Project in partnership with Rose Bruford College and our long-time associates at NXT (New Cross Theatre) – all part of our ongoing exploration of the technological advances in theatre practice and ‘simultaneous performance’.
The first stage of this year-long project will be a series of special one-off performances of the play over the summer – this time with Paul Englishby’s wonderful music played live.
We have been invited to perform at a short European festival hosted by a fabulous new venue in the heart of Spain - the Sala El Granero (Granary Theatre) in Villanueva de la Jara, Cuenca.
This will prove an exciting prelude to The Spoils (or El Botín – as our Spanish hosts would say) finally reaching London in September to participate in Arcola Opera’s “Grimeborn” Festival at the Arcola Theatre, London.
We also have a sneak preview for the curious among you at Rose Bruford in a few short weeks.
And for those who cannot join us at any of these venues, we hope to have some exciting news about the ‘live streaming’ of these events very soon.
And, of course, we’ll keep you regularly updated over the next months on the progress of our most ambitious venture so far …