We’re delighted to announce the 2023 Starting Blocks artists: a gorgeous mixture of disciplines, backgrounds and ideas - from sudoku-meets-theatre to clowning, and from road dwelling to the complete destruction/expansion of theatrical form.
Starting Blocks is THE programme for artists making solo work or work in small groups; it invites artists to create innovative new projects as part of a peer network and encourages collaboration between them. Over the ten weeks, these six artists and companies will meet weekly to share their practice, ideas and developing works.
As well as mentoring and a cash commission, these artists will share work-in-progress pieces as part of our Spring festival in March 2023. So keep your eyes peeled.
Artist: Victoria Chen
Vic (she/they) is a theatre-maker who seeks intersectional, interdisciplinary and international collaborations. Regardless of subject matter, situation or company, Vic grounds her work in the essential desire to spread love, investigate the truth, and offer meaningful experiences.
In 2020, Vic won Best Emerging Artist at the Melbourne Fringe for their 1-on-1 interactive experience, Charlie, which was nominated for Best Theatre Production. In 2021, Vic made her professional directorial debut with the Singapore premiere of Mike Bartlett’s award-winning play, Bull. This year, Vic released a mini audio drama series, Jade: The Quarterlife Crisis.
Twitter & Insta: @vhickles
Commissioned project: 9 x 9
Zee is losing control. The world has fallen apart and nobody talks to them anymore. So, they immerse themselves in a world of numbers, grids, patterns, logic and certainty. Where the answers are clear and the solutions surely exist. Where human interaction isn't necessary, and it doesn't matter if Zee forgot to send that email or got distracted once again. Bringing solace and comfort, Sudoku becomes Zee's sidekick as they go on a mission to save the world... or so they think.
9x9 takes you into an off-kilter world of social isolation and its impact on mental wellbeing and neurodivergence, presented through a game of logic and patterns.
Artist: Laurie Stevens
Laurie is a writer, performer and improviser. She has worked with theatres including the Lyric Hammersmith, Leicester Square Theatre and UCB LA. A recent graduate of École Philippe Gaulier, Laurie also has a not-so-recent music degree. At Gaulier, and later the Soho Theatre Drag Lab, Laurie began performing as David, a fourteen-year-old boy who dreams of being a rock star. She is excited to develop David on Starting Blocks, working towards her first full-length solo performance with music.
Commissioned project: David
Fourteen-year-old David has just been punched in the face by his best friend. He didn’t punch back, because violence solves nothing (and also because, thanks to puberty taking its sweet time, he’s not exactly ready for a fight). A solo character/clown piece with live music exploring teenage boys’ friendship, anger and attitudes to conflict.
Artist: Héctor Manchego and Faizal Abdullah
Héctor Manchego is a Venezuelan photographer/videographer and writer based in London. His work interrogates themes of the Latin American diaspora, social and cultural identities, and experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community. His work has been performed at Theatre Royal Plymouth's Open lab, The Actor's Centre's Latin American season, and The Royal Court Theatre as part of the political theatre program No Borders 2022.
Insta: @hectormanchego Twitter: @manchegohector
Faizal Abdullah is a Muslim-Malay theatre maker, director and performer who was born and raised in Singapore. Faizal graduated with an MA in Performance Making from Goldsmiths and has directed and performed at the Brisbane Festival in Australia, Japan and his native Singapore. In London, Faizal performed in Deciphering by curious directive and We Never Get Off at Sloane Square by Project Sloane. He will be staging his solo show, Siapa Yang Bawa Melayu Aku Pergi? at the 2023 Vault Festival.
Insta: @mdfaizal.abdullah Twitter: @MdFaizalAbd
Faizal and Héctor were both part of NO BORDERS 2022, an international artist programme by The Royal Court Theatre that explored different approaches to creating politically-engaged theatre.
Commissioned project: A Couple of Strangers
How often has our perception of others been formed by the information we received on social media, news channels, and political campaigns – our interpretation based only on the information we are allowed to see? How often do we see the accurate and complete person, the other, the foreigner, and their journey, beyond the numbers and algorithms?
A Couple of Strangers explores the meaning of belonging and the differences in class, privileges, and opportunities among immigrants in the UK. It tells the story of two roommates with different cultural backgrounds and migration statuses who meet in a shared house in London and embark on a journey of discovery and camaraderie as they move forward to the next appointment with the Home Office.
Artist: Maddie Wakeling
Maddie is a performer and theatre maker who has also worked extensively within communities across Manchester and London. She is drawn to theatre that can hold messy and complicated ideas without trying to force them into unity. She makes physical, political work.
Commissioned project: RoadSide
Roadside uses physical theatre and draws on interviews with roadside dwellers and the music of roadside musicians to explore the diverse reasons people choose to live in vans, caravans and wagons. Looking at the history and culture of the roadside community, the making of homes in public and the dislocation of being forcibly moved on.
RoadSide asks questions about what home means when it's not made of bricks and mortar and celebrates a vibrant community of people, who are often forced to live discreetly.
Artist: Dan Egg
Dan Egg (he/him) doesn’t usually speak about himself in the third person. He studied theatre and performance a very long time ago, subsequently performing at a number of fringe festivals with a graduate theatre company he was part of. He later volunteered abroad, failed to find himself in SE Asia (like everyone else) and eventually pursued a career in Social Work. He has since been working in Child Protection and, more recently, within a domestic violence setting.
Dan is proudly queer and even more proudly a huge fan of EastEnders, so it seems only right that his only creative project in recent years was a combination of these two things- namely a drag/cabaret show called EastBenders. He hosted this as ‘Eggy Mitchell’ , which is a pun he’s overly proud of. Starting Blocks marks the beginning of Dan’s development as a solo artist- something he is very excited for.
Commissioned project: MAN BOX
Dan Egg is technically a man. Before that, he was definitely a boy. He went to an all boys catholic school (which was an absolute nightmare) and also shared a tricky relationship with his biological father, which is probably why he was scared of men for so long. Since then, Dan has worked extensively with men who perpetrate abuse. He believes our society has a problem with men – yes, all men - and so is creating his first solo show to explore this. MAN BOX is a show about masculinity, queerness and how the patriarchy is failing all of us.
Artist: Hannah Calascione
Hannah is a director, dramaturg & ecological educator. She is here to trouble the waters of our relationship with the planet. Her work interrogates the world's systems, and is usually interdisciplinary, sensory and comes from a place of curiosity. Hannah recently graduated with an MFA in theatre directing at Birkbeck, has a degree in anthropology & politics, and a diploma in horticulture. In 2020, she won an OffWestEnd Award for All the Little Lights at the Camden Fringe, and she is currently developing a verbatim play Next of Kin exploring kinship models. She often works with the Barbican Centre delivering learning programmes for young people around the climate crisis.
Twitter & Insta: @hcalas1
Commissioned project: green satanic thrills
This is a kaleidoscopic hurtling through, fields, allotments, streets and time to uncover the meaning of property in an ecological crisis. What happens if we melt, rot and decay the structures upholding the literal and imaginary maps of England, and think like a microbe. What would be left? What does it mean to worship the commons? Can we love something that isn’t ours?