an illustration of a girl in sailing gear, holding a rope, looking over her shoulder towards blue curling waves

Carbon Theatre set sails towards their residency

| Thu 22 Nov 2018

Carbon Theatre is a brand-new company. Among other places, their maiden voyage brings them to artsdepot for their residency. We chatted to founder and creative producer Courtenay Johnson.

Can you tell us a bit about Carbon Theatre?

I started realising a need to curate my work and to allow myself to ‘create’; beginning projects from scratch. Part of my role as a producer is to develop artists and champion new work – both of which are difficult to do if you are brought in to support an artist ‘to produce their show’, often the developing and ‘creative’ stage has long gone at that point. Understanding the nature of when artists secure funding and how they work with producers, it became really clear that I needed to work on being able to facilitate and support artists from day zero without wasting valuable time or resource. Therefore, Carbon was born.

As a producer, and as Carbon, I focus on developing and producing female-led work that is political, humanist and/or scientific. As a new mum, I am also drawn to work centred around pregnancy, motherhood and children. And as an ex-Londoner, I am keen to pull work out of London from the fringe and early-career artists that aren’t supported by the ‘big boys’.

How would you describe the work that you create?

Having based myself in the realm of performance studies whilst studying, I am passionate about theatre being experience driven and not restricted to buildings or formal ‘sit here and watch’ set ups. Therefore, I aim to open up audiences’ experiences of form, creating free-form theatre experiences but also developing the idea of process being performative in itself. I’m keen to explore how to ‘perform’ the process of making work – because is a piece of theatre ever really finished? Isn’t it all just process?

What will you be working on during your residency at artsdepot?

I will be working on a developing a new theatre experience for younger audiences that focusses on women that have sailed around the world, including Dame Ellen McArthur, Dame Naomi James, Laura Dekker and Jeanne Socrates.

The piece will focus on the remarkable achievements of these women with education themes of geography (places & cultures) and sailing using; an interactive map, soundscapes, generating different smells and crafts; the piece will also cover social themes. At this age, children are more self-aware and attune to societal norms and we’d like to provide an alternative narratives and role models.

I have assembled a fantastic team to join Carbon on this project: Fay Lomas will be directing the piece. Alongside directing work at venues including Royal & Dernagte, Arcola, Finborough Theatre and Theatre503, Fay has worked as a creative learning practitioner the Royal and Derngate and the National Theatre. She also directed the show The Selfish Tortoise at the Royal and Derngate, a schools participation project working with primary school children. She was also Young Company Director on Grapes of Wrath there.

Amy Yardley will be our designer. Amy trained at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and is London based, working across the spectrum of theatre practice, designing large- and small-scale productions, creative learning projects, tours, site-specific and open-air theatre.

And finally, Natalya Martin will be devising and performing the role of Laura. Natalya graduated East 15 Acting school and is Executive Director and Artistic Director of FEEL Theatre. She is an actor and theatre-maker with a passion for working with young people with SEND and PMLD.

What elements of the project will you be developing while you’re here?

Our main aim to research and develop ways in which to represent Laura’s experience of sailing around the world as a low-tech but hugely engaging and participatory piece of theatre. How do we recreate a storm? A beach? That feeling of homesickness? The rain? The different foods?

What’s the most useful thing to have with you in the rehearsal space?

Bits and bobs! Really, I think it’s going to look like my daughter’s idea of paradise (she’s 10 months old). The best things for us to play with are craft items – fabrics, string, different paper, rice, salt, sand, food colouring - as well as polaroids, postcards, letters, cameras, compasses, maps etc. Finding our multi-sensory path is key!

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