Blogging my way through…

As a Costume student in my final year the question has finally arisen…

What do I want to do when I leave CSSD?

Among other plans to be an F1 driver or marry a very rich man(seriously) is the desire to be able to enjoy and be passionate about what I do.

Accordingly, I have recently been doing just that: pursuing what I enjoy; Be it history of fashion, surface decoration or corsetry.

I have been fascinated by corsetry since I picked up my first fashion book, and fortunately the costume course has allowed me to make something of this and created a block for me to dive off of, into the world of tiny waists and steel bones.

One of the most important factors to let me do this was finding a new way to document my work, something that others could read and allow feedback, a kind of knowledge exchange. And so I started ‘LacedinHistory’ my own Blog dedicated to all things corsetry…

I have been updating this regularly for a while, including updates on my course, especially as its my final term!! Check back for new posts!


Accidental Update, PA never stops…

Hi Guys

Wow… it was a mental term and although officially on Easter Holidays, I think i’m doing more if not as much work as before.

The rest of the Professional Development Task went well and I’ve gained a lot from it all and feel I know where I’m going for my Third year, which in theory for PA is like your first year in the professional world, but with Centrals support behind you. More of this next term I feel…

So this little project the Accidental Festival, has kicked off and we’re now fully programmed and on sale to the public to please do visit our website and see some of the exciting acts that we have performing and book. We have Future Shorts, Forced Entertainments, E4 School of Comedy, The Hampstead Theatre and loads more, Click on the logo to click and book.

That’s my shameless plug over, the hardest thing in the world is marketing and we’re doing well, but word of mouth and support from those in the art scene dragging everyone down to see what theatre can be, is so important, that’s one thing I’m learning as a producer and on my new project SOLD.

Through one of my meetings for my PDT I’ve ended up becoming the producer of SOLD which was one of Centrals CDT (collaborative & devised theatre) productions, which is going to Edinburgh, so that’s all really exciting, I’ll keep you updates as to how this is going.

Finally I’m busy with MProductions as we enter our week of research and development next week for ‘Antigone’ so it’s all busy busy, when they say you don’t stop at Central they really really mean it!

Speak to you all soon!

Learning new skills

The other day, a tutor of mine reminded me of something that I said in my first tutorial in response to the question “why did you come here?”. Before I disclose it, I must reinforce that I said it with a tongue-in-cheek tone, for a laugh: “I am here to rip open my carcass and let the maggots in… but in a flowery way.” It seemed, on re-hearing, so far in the past, however, far more appropriate than when I’d originally said it.


Second term of ATP has richened and developed my practice exceptionally and beyond what I could have imagined. On having a discussion with our Course Leader, Nick Wood, a week or so ago, he confirmed that this had been a recurring pattern for MA ATP students over the years. Our first term was conducted by established Theatre Practitioners facilitating workshops; sharing their knowledge and experience with us whilst opening up a space for us, as artists within our own right, to colour their practice in the studio. The second term has concentrated on formed companies within the year group making our own work alongside conducting either practice or “book” based research.


In light of this, I have attempted to dedicate myself to “opening up my carcass” and letting others’ skills and knowledge fertilise shadow elements within my practice. Previous to my time at Central, as a director I would do a lot of research into the work I was making from a philosophical angle, talk through this with the performers on the project and then lead practical workshops in order to explore these notions in an “image in motion” fashion. Working with my company formed over the second term (Nothing and Nobody), I have been introduced polar opposite ways of creating performance. Instead of starting through thinking, members of my company have induced creation through doing.


A series of workshops that were lead by Seven Sisters group seemingly planted this seed. Each session was commenced with “automatic movement”: in pairs, one person being the guider and the other the mover, the mover closed their eyes and was encouraged to move around the space, with the knowledge that their guider was protecting them. After this, we wrote for two minutes and then swapped roles. Thus, within my working process withNothing and Nobody, this practice was in many ways extended, however, our eyes were open and we were moving in and out of one another’s space and giving and taking one another’s idea; this time it didn’t start sat around a table. This became our material for many rehearsals: no ‘story’, no ‘theme’, no ‘prop’, no ‘image’.


Similarly, working with two puppeteers has enlightened my practice also. A workshop that a company member lead was amidst a flurry of paper. This group member (Max) asked us to walk around the room, armed with wads of paper, and “extend” our bodies with this material in whatever ways came to mind. After we had explored extended nostrils, shoulder pads and paper eyes we were directed to walk slowly up and down the room, singularly, and find a moment of transformation for the paper (e.g. my extended nostrils became chop-sticks). After this exercise, we had 10 minutes to make 3-5 different palm-sized objects, using only paper, string and glue, in secret. We then sat around in a circle, with our eyes closed and passed our objects to the person to our left. Each person took it in turns to tell the story of the object in their hands armed only with the senses of touch and sound.


Additionally, another member of the group comes from a writing background. Sarah Grange, with a Dictaphone at hand at appropriate, and inappropriate, moments, brought to the group a way in which to interpret events within the working process through stringing together images through poetic text. During sessions of finding material through movement improvisation, when words arose she would record them and then fashion them accordingly. Coming from a ‘visual theatre’ practice, this was new soil for me to sink in. She encouraged us to write three pieces of text in the form of ‘section one’ section two’ and ‘section three’ at a later stage in our working process. For me this was daunting to say the least, however, I found a further way for the images created within my shared working practice to flourish.


In order for these flowery maggots to infest my carcass, I have had to calm my impulse to colour the shared process with images with flash instantaneously into my mind with such large strokes and instead allow a larger space for other’s on the pallet. Through this, I have learnt new skills


PA – AF, Site Project & MProductions

Well the hunt to find out about freelance vs. institution work is going well and I’m slowly working out the pro’s and con’s of both. It’s been fascinating to see how they run and it’s really helping my practice.

I’m just about to start working on ‘Below The Salt’ which is the 1st year PA and Design for Stage Site Specific piece at Shoreditch Town Hall, which their currently devising at the moment, working as Directors/Dramaturgs (confusing word but is an outside eye, ensuring the piece stays true to the original text/concept), Writers & Performers. So look out for more info on that.

I guess the biggest thing that I’m working on at the moment apart from the Festival (which is going well, check our programme out was released last week) is my company, MProductions, that I started 3 years ago with 2 other friends Séan Aydon (Acting, Manchester School of Theatre) and Douglas Green (2nd Year BATP Lighting Design). It’s really grown over the past few months, we now have a team of 20 other Central students across all BATP courses and the Collaborative and Devised and Musical Theatre acting courses*. Some of our team also come from from a wide range of different theatre courses at other drama schools including Manchester School of Theatre, Mountview and Guildhall.

MProductions was set up to give young people in training the chance to work on a production with an actual budget creating and experimenting with professional theatre. The company is all run and produced by our team of under 25’s. This year our successes were recognised when we became an affiliate company of Trestle Arts Base (a mask and physical theatre company). My role within the company is as a producer and director, which is hugely stressful as well as rewarding at the same time. We’re currently working on two productions, ‘Heart & Music’ (a celebration of musical theatre) and ‘Little Women The Musical’. We are also in the research and development phase for two pieces; an original adaptation of ‘Antigone’ and a new ‘Steam Punk’ musical, all really exciting. Check out our new website ( which has more information and details of what we’re doing this year.

I’ll keep you updated on how all these little projects are going and how the festival, my PDT and general PA life is.

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An overview of my work on MAATP so far…

My work since starting at Central has included solo performances which I would colour and shade with the term live art. I am interested in the use of the body as a metaphor in space. I, thus, aim to achieve a displacement of anthropological attributes in order to offer the audience a type of objective reflection on the human condition. An example of this would be a performance where I stood in a tin bucket, covered in sponges. The audience was presented with a watering can full of water and asked to water me. Projected behind me was a muted video of my lips moving. Another performance that aimed to meet these goals was me moulding myself to the shape of a banister in Central and asking the one audience member to “Centralise me” (the title of the piece). Here, I offered up no physical resistance and they had two minutes in which to sculpt me. I had tied myself to the banister so their options were limited.

My collaborative work is steeped in accessing each group members’ strengths, whilst exploring areas we individually feel rawer towards. Currently, my company is interested in sharing experiences and responding collectively and individually to environments. Thus, our present piece is a creative response to a research trip we took together… to a place we’d rather not name. What we took from this place was an atmosphere that can infiltrate into the psychological as well as the physical. We have found ourselves designing a scenographic structure prior to having the content material defined and set. This has meant that the work has been able to develop and breath within a  physical structure, as we have continued to improvise within our ‘set’. We work collectively, writing, performing, offering up ideas, eating dinner together, sharing poems, videos, articles. We take turns to be ‘the outside eye’ (the term director is one we shy away from) and are reluctant to give each member definitive roles. We are all highly interested in the use of materials on stage, in terms of giving them an active a role as the human performer.

Crunch time…

This week is going to be incredibly busy! With less than a week until the presentations for my speculative design of Casanova, there is a huge amount of model making, costume drawing, storyboarding and technical drawing. Today my year group have been working non-stop in the Design Studio, painting walls, experimenting with fabric samples and making those small prop details which builds to creating a world for the plays to exist.

Next week I will show you some more examples of what I have been creating, however until then I will lock myself in the studio until the work is complete.

Until then…

Performance Arts – Festival & Professional Development

I’m Chris Cuming on the Performance Arts strand in my second year.

The world of Performance Arts is all madly hectic from day one and it hasn’t stopped this year. Currently I’m working on the Accidental Festival, which is taking place at the Roundhouse in May (19th -22nd) and all is happening as we’re about to launch our programme and tickets will be going on sale from next week, so it’s all very exciting.

Within the festival I’ve taken the role of Head of Production and Admin, which as dull as that sounds is a really creative and integral job to the festival. From dealing with a lot of companies to working with a technical and design team of 55 people, I get to manage and lease with the artists and producers to ensure that the festival runs smoothly and all our artists are happy. Then I get to sort and look after the budget and with the team ensuring that the festival break even which is integral part to this years festival ethos.  To find out more on the festival go to our website

Apart the festival I’m also doing my Professional Development Task, which all the Theatre Practice students have to do. It sounds like a mission and academic task, but it’s a huge stepping stone in what we’re all doing in our lives beyond Central (without sounding too theatrical). I’m working with lots of different practitioners from The Royal Opera House, Riverside Studios and freelance practitioners. I’m also working with Mark Swetz from ‘Compañía y’ and looking at other people seeing how they work and the differences between institutions like the opera house and working freelance and how this can fit into what I’m doing with my life.. a scary thought for us all now half way through the degree. More on this when I find out more….

Curating the exhibition…

Evening all

I have been busy making model parts to help me create a landscape for the characters to play in. Opting to set the play, Casanova, in an art gallery, today I worked more on Tracey Emin’s bed and Duchamps case to enclose the artwork, “Fountain”. 


It is really fun designing an exhibition for the play’s principal character, whilst simultaneously co-ordinating the design exhibition which will take place next term in Studio One. The Design for Performance Exhibition 2011 is proving to be a challenging task with so many varied styles within the group. The configuration of the space is still a working process with much discussion over how to display the work. Another project to keep me busy…

I’ll keep you posted on any developments. Till then…

Model-making the art world…

Today has been another intensive model-making session working on David Greig’s Scottish play, Cassanova. Making a 1:25 replica of Tracey Emin’s “My Bed” is proving harder than first anticipated. Add to that a mini Duchamp “Fountain”, a Hirst cabinet and a MacBook pro – all at 1:25 scale, and you can imagine how tired my eyes are feeling!

Choosing to set the play in an art gallery, it has been a really fun challenge to create a language to demonstrate the locations using contemporary art as the medium. I’m enjoying interpreting the text in a different context and creating some bold costumes to illuminate the space.

Tomorrow I will be adding more art references to the model and experimenting with the technicalities of changing from one scene to another.

I’ll keep you posted and show you some images soon.

Costume Design at Central


My name is Esme Duncan and I am currently in my third year studying ‘Design for Stage’.

At the moment I am designing the costumes for the upcoming production Europe, by David Greig. The set has been designed by my peer on the design course, Guoda Jaruseviciute and it will be performed by the actors who are in the collaborative and devised acting course.

The performance is being shown next week in one of Central School of Speech and Drama’s studio spaces and will be open to the public.

At the moment I am doing the last bits of sourcing for the show and, as it is set in the present day, I have been taking regular trips to Oxford Street to buy all the clothes.

We are teching the space at the moment, which means that we are running all scenes through and making sure that all the elements, including costume work. This is particularly important because in this play there is real fire, snow, fake blood, a fight and a few quick changes. Hopefully it will all go well and we will be ready for the audience to come on Wednesday!!!

Here is one of the costumes designs that I did for the show, I used Photoshop to create this collage, as it meant that I could be more specific about the details of the costume.  This is the costume for Katia, who is a young woman who has become homeless because of unstable economic reasons in the town in Eastern Europe where she used to live; she is now travelling around Europe with her mother.