Manningtree International Festival of Street Theatre


A project produced by Zap Art. The plan is for the Grand Theatre of Lemmings, to present a new European street arts festival on Manningtree High Street on Saturday 4th September 2010 from 1pm -4pm.

Phase 1 of this project took place in 2009, and aimed to look at the development of Grand Theatre of Lemmings as a European street arts company and prepare them for a part in ZEPA. Phase 2 aims to build on this initial work and deliver training/mentoring through the development and delivery of a small ZEPA funded transnational street arts event in Manningtree. This will involve 2 small scale French companies performing alongside the Grand Theatre of Lemmings, who will present their new show ‘Cinemagination'(currently in development). The selected French Companies will also be engaged in outreach activities with local schools or community groups, or a professional development programme involving talks or meetings with local artists.

Zap Art will work with the Lemmings to help develop the vision of this event looking at other partnerships and funding to develop a legacy for the event, and opportunities for The Lemmings work to be presented at French partners' events and festivals in 2011.

About the Grand Theatre of Lemmings

The Lemmings are an artist led company run by Dave Danzig and Mandy Medlicott, with a pool or regular performers. Up till a year ago they toured indoors on the Rural Arts Circuit and outdoors on the festival circuit. For twenty-two years they have pioneered street arts and rural touring, carving out an international reputation with outdoor performances in twenty-five countries on five continents. Both the British Council and Tourist Authority use them to promote British Culture abroad. The Lemmings also have extensive experience of working in Japan (for six summers plus other visits) after being spotted working at the Australian World Expo in 1988.

Until last year they produced a new Rural Arts show every two years that sold out on the basis of one circular email. In 2006 they took a sabbatical from this touring to apply for Arts Council funding which they now have, to produce a new outdoor show based on giant “Talking Book”. In addition to this they have received a commission from the Northern Rural Touring Consortium to produce a new indoor touring show to open in March 2009. This commission is for an international collaborative production and they will be working with French based composer.

Over the last two years the Lemmings have been diversifying and sharing their creative skills in the form of workshops and event organisation. They have helped visual artists to create performance pieces at the Pulse Festival and run successful arts projects with Surestart, Ipswich Carnival and Mersea Island camp for the physically challenged. The Lemmings are currently working with Creative Partnerships in the role of Creative Producers running projects in two separate schools. This September they also organised a large outdoor festival in their home town Manningtree. After initiating a youth steering group they raised funds and ran the event which was deemed to be “the best thing to happen in Manningtree in years”.

The Lemmings are based in the heart of Tendring, a region that has been described as a “cultural desert” and part of the Haven Gateway initiative. In the heart of this region they are developing the Manningtree Creative Studios as their base and are restoring the medieval building using traditional methods. This mini “creation centre” has already become a focal point for artists in the area: used for a book launch, and art exhibition featuring the work of an award winning silversmith, a sculptor and two visual artists. This process will be accelerated by “Wordsmiths”, which will involve more local artists in work at the studio.

Over the years they have worked on some large-scale productions in collaboration with other companies. They include; “Boxes” for Glasgow City of Culture festivities (with seven performers) and a section of the “Tell Tale Heart” at the Purcell Rooms, “Hyromaniacs” with the Avanti Display for Aurillac Festival (five performers and complicated technology) and appeared with Mugon Geki company in the Honda Theatre, Tokyo. Prior to that we produced a large scale Guy Fawkes celebration in White City London and produced a large-scale automata circus in Fulham Park with a large team of artists.

About the ‘cin'imagination' show

In this piece of multi-media theatre the performers appear to be making a movie in real time and real life. However having gone to great lengths to establish this principle the lines between film and reality will quickly become blurred taking the audience into a world of “Augmented reality” where anything is possible. The lives of the characters making the movie will then parallel the lives of the characters in the film that they are creating, which will be the story of King Kong and the dangerously obsessive film director that sets out to capture him.

During the show they will be attempting to manipulate the audience's perception of reality as the real life performers move between stage and film. “Augmented reality” is rapidly becoming a major new concept and this show will break new ground in the arena of outdoor theatre. In addition they will be using cutting edge video technology in the form of laser ring and grey screen techniques.

The Grand Theatre of Lemmings have already demonstrated their mastery of the multi-media and theatrical skills necessary to make this project work in their indoor Rural Touring show “the Descent of Man” .

Imagine a giant book standing in front of the audience. A story teller opens the book and we see words and illustrations on the open pages. The performance begins and then the illustrations start to move and flicker into life. We realise that the illustration is in fact an animated film, then the animated film merges into real film and we are watching an actor screened on the page of the book. Even stranger; when the actor points, his hand emerges from the page of the book and we now see film merge with reality. Soon the characters from the story step seamlessly in and out of the illustration on the books pages to tell the story in truly spectacular fashion using on-stage performance, film and animation. Three actors will play the characters and the context will be created with animation and film. The creative task is to make the pages of a giant book spring to life by “crossing the celluloid divide”; a technique where performers step in and out of film sequences; in this case projected as illustrations on the book's pages.

The early pioneers of “crossing the celluloid divide” Forkbeard Fantasy are also willing to mentor the Lemmings whenever necessary. In addition they are lucky to have an established film producer and a talented film technician to help.

The Grand Theatre of Lemmings are currently developing these skills to produce outdoor work.

[“Augmented reality”; term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are merged with (or augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery.]