A Misplaced director walks into a tavern… Interview & review

MISPLACED's Amy Tanner, Norberto Bogard, Jo Butler and Ciaran Corsar

MISPLACED’s Amy Tanner, Norberto Bogard, Jo Butler and Ciaran Corsar


Jo Butler is a founding member of brand-new theatre venture MISPLACED, and directed their recent sell-out production of Decadence at the Alma Tavern Theatre. I stole a few moments of her time to find out more.

Jo Mary Butler_cropWhat are your theatrical experiences?  

Many and varied. I studied Theatre at University and have worked as an actress, director and theatre company tour manager. I also taught Drama in London secondary schools for six years. My first experiences of theatre were watching my dad play King Rat in pantomime and making my own shows featuring poetry, storytelling, singing and funny little dances when I was 5 or 6. My large, immediate family were my first audience. But my most critical formative theatre experience was performing the Lady Macbeth ‘screw your courage to the sticking place’ speech in front of my English class when I was fourteen. I was the only member of the class who had learnt it by heart. I felt something shift inside me as I performed. From that moment, theatre had its hooks in me.

What other creative ventures do you practice?  

Again, many and varied. I write poetry, short stories and songs. I have also been known to paint and draw. Now we’ve started Misplaced, I’m sure a play will emerge at some point.

I know you established MISPLACED with Norberto Bogard, Ciaran Corsar and Amy Tanner. What made you personally want to do this?  

Ciaran got me very drunk and convinced me to get involved. No. That’s a joke. I had became extremely bored and disillusioned with how theatre and performance was going – even before COVID. I’d done and seen A LOT. Then I met Ciaran, Amy and Norberto at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School doing a Shakespeare intensive. The week after the intensive, we had a theatre company, a production and a mission statement. I think I wanted to do it because of the brilliant actors involved, and because Norberto threw a large pile of used banknotes on the table for us to do it. The Mexican way!

What made you choose Decadence as your first production?  

It was a very quick decision. Amy suggested doing ‘Kvetch’ – also by Steven Berkoff. I’d had previous experience directing Berkoff and of the Berkoff style of performance and loved it. Norberto was returning to New York – where he lives – for a few months so we needed to find a play that Amy, Ciaran and I could do. Then Ciaran suggested ‘Decadence’ and it seemed a perfect fit.

What do you relish about the directorial process?  

Firstly, the almost overwhelming sense of directorial vision that arrives and kind of takes you over when you are offered a great play like ‘Decadence’ to direct. All those ideas, and tiny detailed moments your subconscious has been storing away come to the fore, ready to be woven in to the show. It’s incredibly satisfying to watch those things see the light of day. And secondly, working with great actors. It was sheer luxury to be in the rehearsal room with Amy and Ciaran and throw stuff at them and see them work with it and transform it into a thing of beauty and terror for the audience.

What were the key challenges of developing the show?  

Finding a white leather sofa and reassuring the actors that they would come off stage alive after saying all those awful Berkoff words in front of an audience. Ciaran and Amy are lovely, and the Berkoff characters in ‘Decadence’ truly are as far from lovely as you can get.

Any moments of the process that really thrilled you?  

Finding the white sofa… Finding Esther Warren, our fabulous sound and lighting designer. Plus those moments in rehearsal where the actors begin to tune in to your vision and bring their own, brilliant ideas to the show. I love co-creating with actors. I can be a dictator and make firm directorial decisions if required, but I much prefer it to be a shared experience.

What made you proudest about the March 2022 run at the Alma Tavern Theatre?

The response from our sell-out audiences immediately after the curtain came down. They really got what we were trying to do with the play. They loved it to death. It was great to see them staying around in the Alma bar discussing it and enthusing long after curtain down. That means we’ve done our job.

What comes next for Misplaced?  

A short rest. then the next show – tbc. And we’re talking about taking ‘Decadence’ to London and, possibly, New York. Lots of things.

Decadence

Ciaran Corsar as Steve/Les and Amy Tanner as Helen/Sybil.

Theatre review – Decadence 

Reviewer: Alison Winter

Alison Winter is a writer and creator for Big Finish Productions and has written stage plays, screen plays, audio plays, and short stories.

Steven Berkoff’s Decadence is not a story. It’s a grotesque character study and damning portrait of Thatcherite inequality and indulgent 1980s high society, delivered in coarse couplets and darkly savage mime. What is revealed belongs to our time just as much as when it was written, to the extent that you may be struck by chilling parallels by the end of the performance.

We step into the world of two couples and their sordid sexual relations. Each couple dominates the stage like warped weather clock characters and invite you to despise, grimace and recoil as they play out their inner monologues direct to the audience, revealing a catalogue of traumas, pleasures and desires which they happily inhabit one moment, only to dismiss as folly the next.

Amy Tanner and Ciaran Corsar seriously impress in their respective roles as Helen/Sybil and Steve/Les. These characters are racked with an animality they attribute to those they consider lesser than themselves, but are perhaps unconscious of being at the mercy of their worst and most base instincts. Corsar finds depth and quiet within the brash and the unforgiving, and Tanner shifts effortlessly between sensual and base, heartless and affectionate. These are ugly characters played beautifully, with comic flourishes and real physical skill.

Directed with pace and precision by Jo Butler, and complemented by Esther Warren’s artful sound and lighting design, Decadence is impeccably staged.

All in all a blazing beginning for Misplaced. Formed to provide a platform for old pros finding their way back to the boards after time away, it’s no doubt a welcome arrival for Bristol based actors and audiences alike.

Find out more about Misplaced at www.wearemisplaced.com, on Instagram @misplacedtheatre and on Twitter @misplacedstage.

Seen or read anything interesting recently? I’d love to know. I’m always happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com. Likewise, if you’ve published or produced something you’d like me to review, please get in touch.

Garden of culinary delights

The Florist interior by Judy Darley

If you knew and loved Goldbrick House in Bristol, you may be aware that a new company has finally taken root in this amazing building, reopening its doors just over a week ago. With a light and airy flower-strewn interior, The Florist makes the most of the eclectic spaces in that hub, with café corners, a bar with DJs after dark and a stunning restaurant all ready for you to explore.

Stairways and walls are decorated with prints and presses of petals, feathers and leaves, while silk blooms pour from ceilings. It’s rather like stepping into a gloriously extravagant potting shed.

But it’s the menus where The Florist really excels. Already well-established in Liverpool, their Bristol location seems set to become equally popular. Lunchtime cocktails, you ask?  While Mr J perused the Anthology of Ales, I delved into chapters devoted to divine concoctions, opting at last for Rhubarb In Bloom (£8.50), a fruity blend of Slingsby rhubarb gin, rhubarb and ginger liqueur, green apple liqueur raspberry syrup and ginger ale. Gorgeous.

We nibbled on taut green olives while choosing our main courses. As a fan of small plates and lots of varied flavours, I found the deli board (£11.50) irresistible – brilliantly you get to mix and match an assortment of four mini plates, or more if you’re extra hungry, to create your perfect plate.

The Florist Deli plate by Judy DarleyI opted for chilled chalk stream trout, mango and lime cerviche (sweet and tenderly meaty), a Dolcelatte cheese, poached pear and candied walnut salad, a generous wedge of firm Manchego sheep cheese (which I’ve been in love with ever since discovering it in Spain), and an indulgent serving of macaroni cheese, made with a 2-year aged Shorrock Lancashire. Every mouthful was a mini-adventure as hot and cold, sweet and savoury, components mingled on my tongue.

Mr J ordered the cod, king prawn and chorizo kebab (£11.75) with harissa chips and garlic oil, the latter poured with a flourish by our waitress through the perforated dish at the top to drizzle the fish, meat and chips in a fun bit of table theatre.

As icy rain assaulted the windows, I resolutely pretended it was summer and sipped the Lavender Thistle (£7.95), chosen from the English Flower Garden section of the cocktail menu. Marrying Brockman’s blueberry gin, blueberry liqueur, lavender bitters and vanilla liqueur, and with a tangible hint of Palma Violet about it, this was the perfect accompaniment to my dessert. I’d decided to go all out on the floral theme and selected the elderflower meringue with caramelised peaches, dinky cubes of clear prosecco jelly, dabs of rich red raspberry coulis and a scattering of toasted almonds (£5.50). Light, luscious and perfectly indulgent, it was the ideal finish to a meal that had toyed with every tastebud without weighing me down.

The Florist Elderflower meringue dessert by Judy Darley

Mr J went with the waitress’s recommendation and wallowed happily in a warming sticky toffee pud, complete with toasted a sesame and peanut sauce topped with vanilla ice cream (£5.95).

It’s impressive to find a place that can create two very different meals for two utterly different palettes, and ensure that every bite, sip and lick is delicious. The secret to The Florist’s success lies in thoughtfully sourced, ultra fresh ingredients put together with care to create a dining experience that will feed all your senses.

Find The Florist at 69 Park Street, Bristol BS1 5PB, tel: 0117 2034284, theflorist.uk.com

Got an event, venue, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at judydarley(at)iCloud(dot)com.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Poetry review – On Becoming A Fish by Emily Hinshelwood

On Becoming A Fish by Emily HinshelwoodIn this collection of finely drawn poems, Emily Hinshelwood invites us to accompany her on a series of meandering strolls through the coastal landscapes of west Wales, and presents a series of impressions it may take eons to erode.

Footprints in the sand “collide, converge/in silent riot of unmet strangers”, “sounds of birds/run like wet paint/across the sky”, a journey to a lighthouse ends with a walk home “followed by that empty sweeping beam”, a duck “dives down past walls of limpets, ‘dead man’s fingers, spider crabs/anemones,” the ocean reeks of “the breath of saints,” and “the face of Saddam Hussein flaps in a hedge.”

There’s a delicious intimacy to Hinshelwood’s words, enhanced by her humour and evident fondness for the places included in this tour of Pembrokeshire. With the poet as our guide, we embrace enticing rock formations at Saundersfoot, watch gleeful ghosts run “long-knickered into the sea” at Tenby, observe swans “floating/like love letters, open only to each other” under the Cleddau Bridge, sneak a peek at a girl’s prayer for her goldfish at Caldey Island, greet a snake at Shrinkle Haven, bear witness to the disintegration of a wreck at Mill Bay: “Salt cuts lacework as/the stiff body is eroded rib/by rib.” We even join the poet and her daughter in counting dead birds at Skomer Island: “use the binoculars/to see their twisted spinal columns in grotesque detail…” Continue reading