Hazel is the creator of The Attic, and performs the role of Lucy in the show as she did during its first tour in 2011/12. Now, as the company work towards the opening shows on Wednesday at Carnegie Hall in Fife, Hazel shares some of the discoveries they’ve made as a team so far.
If ever there was a show to pack carefully away into storage for several years and then rediscover it’s this one. I love the real-life-poetry of how we knew this show was precious; something we wanted to hang on to and share with new audiences in years to come. So, like childhood toys or photos stored in the Attic because you can’t bear to part with them, it was saved.
As years go by, director Heather Fulton is still one of my absolute favourite people to work with, and Starcatchers one of my favourite companies. But we have all changed over time, and grown. It was interesting to find so many things about the show that still feel really exciting to me as a theatre maker (some themes I continue to be fascinated with) and also to discover the aspects of it that needed to be updated.
Those things that have stood the test of time and continue to fascinate me:
- Grandparents. This time round ‘Granny’ looks after my wee boy while I rehearse. (Last time we made the show she was just my mum, not yet a Granny.) She and my son have the most amazing relationship, full of love and playfulness and all the time in the world for each other. A bit like in the show. She knitted so many props for us (with a little help from her friends.) Grannies rock!
- Beautiful live music. For the soul (thank you David Paul Jones).
- Theatricality. This show was made at the Byre and is a kind of love letter to theatre. It reminds me why I will always campaign to protect these precious, intimate experiences of lovingly crafted live performance. We’re so lucky to have always enjoyed both the performances and company of amazing actresses as the granny, and Gowan Calder (our latest Gran) has been a total treat to work with.
- Magic in the child’s imagination. There are alternative readings of the show. If you like, everything can be explained. If you like, there is some magic in there. I like the magic. But both are right.
- The audience are present. I like that the audience become a part of the show and every time we perform it, it will be different. The participation is not an ‘add-on’ at the end- it is integral.
And some things that made me think
“cringe- did I really think that was a good idea back then?”
- Stereotypes. Gender stereotypes. Age stereotypes. OK – some of it is rooted in truth and came from a well meaning place – but with a bit of perspective and the conversations I’ve been a part of since we’ve made a few tweaks.
- Asking for help. I didn’t used to be very good at this. But we are very lucky we have a Carrie [Taylor – Production Manager] and Craig [Fleming – lighting designer] this time (and Karen [Tennent – set designer] again) with a wealth of experience in the world of touring children’s theatre. And Starcatchers team have grown too – I won’t name check them all but we’re so grateful for all their support. AND DID I TELL YOU ABOUT THE KNITTERS? We needed so many knitted things made for the show as everything we made before was lost to a flood. We put a call out and we received 189 knitted cakes; 189 bundles of utterly sparkly-multi-coloured-covered-in-sprinkles joy! Thank you knitters!
- A lighter touch It all seemed so weighty, and ever so serious when we first made this show. It has felt more relaxed this time.
- Being ‘dementia friendly’ I am really excited we are doing some dementia-friendly performances and it has led to some great conversations about this theme in the show and how we can make adjustments with that audience in mind.
On reflection, I have started to think of that year (when I was Starcatchers Artist in Residence at the Byre and first made The Attic) as a bit of a ‘golden moment’ for me. Hectic, stretched, even perhaps chaotic at points, but highly creative and industrious. I did realise how rare and lucky it was to have support that was artist-led, open-ended and sustained over a whole year. It has completely shaped my path since then and everything I have made.
Behind the scenes rehearsal photos
I lost this game.
Carrie putting lights in the tree
Craig setting up lights
Heather giving notes
Karen popping in with costumes and Craig plotting the lights
David and Gowan listening to the director.
The Attic Winter Tour | December 2017 & January 2018
The Attic was created by Hazel Darwin-Edwards during the Inspire Project at the Byre Theatre, Saint Andrews. It first toured in 2011 and 2012, and Starcatchers secured funding from Creative Scotland in September 2017 to tour the production again to Fife in December 2017 and Edinburgh in January 2018, with a Scottish Tour in April/May 2018. Set to a live, original piano score, two characters discover a magical place filled with hidden treasures. The precious remainders of past generations are woven into new memories as Lucy entices her grandmother to enter her imaginary world. Little ones and their carers are invited to watch and then join in an extravagant tea party under the stars.
Full Tour Dates
Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline
12 – 15 Dec | 10:30 & 13:30
16 Dec | 11:00 & 14:00
The Studio at the Festival Theatre
6 Jan Preview | 13:30
9 – 13 Jan | 10:30 & 13:30
20 – 21 Jan | 10:30 & 13:30
Watch this space for more details about our Spring Tour!