making theatre for extraordinary times

making theatre for extraordinary times

Since the end of March, Farnham Maltings has invested almost £40,000 in South East theatre makers to create new work for these extraordinary and difficult times. This fund was first announced three days after the theatres closed, and the first round of commissions included a community light show and song, monologues written over Whatsapp, and a jukebox telephone line, all created by artists in the south east of England as immediate responses to the Covid-19 crisis.

Now we’ve been in lockdown for over two months, we have a new way of life in a kind of stasis, and the work that artists are making is responding to that. As lockdown lifts slightly but we remain physically distanced, the new commissions from making theatre for extraordinary times look towards the future, emerging into our towns and villages and building a bridge to ‘after’- whatever that looks like. Theatre company Trigger are installing a portable museum filled with objects that have become important to us during lockdown, and Emma Frankland is creating a performance duet with the river Shoreham, as the tides remind us that nothing is forever.

The six commissioned projects:

Emma Frankland – River Adur Duet

Emma Frankland presents a series of performance duets with the river Adur, sharing stories collected from the people of Shoreham-by-Sea. Reflecting on our experience of lockdown and inspired by the natural rhythm of the river. Shoreham is an estuary town, so everything revolves around the river, punctuated by the daily ebb and flow of the river, which moves from mud flats at low tide to brackish water at high, reminding us that moments come and go.  Nothing is forever.

Toby Peach and Beyond Arts – Adventures in Isolation

Adventures in Isolation is an interactive digital exchange made by young cancer survivors for other young people who are undergoing treatment in hospital units in Surrey and Hampshire. Recipients will be sent a digital gift pack. They’ll uncover stories, be given artistic missions and be encouraged to respond creatively through making their own videos, voice recordings and pieces of writing. Beyond Arts make art with and for young people who have experienced cancer.

Alison Neighbour – Postcard Chronicles

Postcard Chronicles is a new way of exploring a familiar place – postcards appear in the Folkestone landscape containing surprises and provocations, and we invite you to respond and share the magic that you find out and about. Perhaps a set of postcards will even pop through your door or end up in your food delivery – take them on an adventure and see where it leads you…

Out of Chaos – Boss, We Messed Up 

Boss, We Messed Up is a gleeful spin on a gangster caper, delivered as a series of live telephone calls from a hapless junior mobster to their formidable boss. Audiences sign up to play and at the designated time either Marty the Mouth or Mary the Muscle will call, seeking fresh orders as a straightforward heist goes horribly wrong. Will you end up with the loot… or bodies in the boot?  Suitable for landlines, mobiles or internet call and experienced by a single audience member or a group / family. This project will target specific South East community groups but also offer performance experiences to all.

Trigger working with Savinder Bual and Elena Blanco– Curio

Curio, an ambient light installation and portable museum. Curious passersby can peer in through the letterboxes to discover objects contributed by our neighbours.

This summer we will work with residents in Hitchin to find out what they have been crafting, making or about what has become important to them during the recent Covid-19 lockdown. Curio was originally commissioned by Bristol City Council, Illuminate Light Festival and funded by Arts Council England.
By Savinder Bual and Elena Blanco and local residents

Julia Roberts and Culture Shift – Waiting for my real life to begin…

What do young, graduate performers and makers do now?

Doorstep Theatre Makers is a group of 5 new theatre makers who have come together to create new work which reflects the frustration, impatience and yearning for ‘normality’ of their generation. Five site-specific performances will be viewed by live audiences in Seaford, Lancing and Brighton, these will then shared on film, provoking us to think about how we respond to the challenges of lockdown and the future when our “real lives” begin.…



In the first round of commissions, we supported six projects which took place in Slough, Lewes, Bedfordshire, Newhaven, Bexhill and through West Sussex and East Surrey.

“It was our ambition to very quickly introduce some support to artists at this very difficult time and respond in a timely way to those who were keen to keep creating and making for their community… What’s been thrilling about this commissioning project is how it has brought about new conversations and new relationships both between the artists we’re supporting and us here at Farnham Maltings.” ”Katy Potter, Farnham Maltings Producer


Bloomin’ Arts

‘Creative Islands’ – artists to develop a ten-week series of online workshops and resources which will be tailored and available to learning disabled adult student artists from Surrey and West Sussex who can no longer access their regular classes and sessions.

Polly Wiseman – Fireraisers Theatre Company and collaborators

‘Light up Lewes!’ – invited all in Lewes to light Lewes’ skies with torches and candlelight from windows, gardens and doorways and join in song to celebrate their town. Watch the film of the event here:

Abhi Arumbakkam and Nisha Anil

‘Jukebox Telephone Line’, Slough – An analogue response to accessing music every weekday between 4pm and 6pm This is a project aimed at addressing social isolation using a telephone line. When a member of public calls a centralised number, a volunteer answers, engages them in a brief conversation, takes their song request, asks them why the song and if there is a story around it and then plays the song via the telephone line while encouraging them to sing along. For some, this might be their only human interaction during the day, for others it’s a chance to connect with someone feeling lonely. Copy of JUKE BOX TELEPHONE LINE Poster

Act on It! – Rachel Steele and Helen Turner

‘Shouting Out’ – for young people in Eastbourne, Bexhill and Newhaven – is a collection of five mini monologues created through remote conversations. The lighter side of being on lockdown for overlooked young people is explored through themes such as food, friendship and frustration. Performed and shared online, the work will provide access to the arts for the participants during this challenging time.

hunt and dartonHunt and Darton

‘DIY Radio’ – a pack to help families create their own radio feature within their homes, help to upload this to H&D who then curate, edit and share the work through radio connections in Essex and Sussex.

Collar and Cuffs

‘Village trails’- Using a combination of local knowledge and sensory, inclusive methods, Julia will develop three interactive story trails around Toddington village in Bedfordshire that will enable children and grown-ups alike to create their own theatre experiences where they live. The trails – differentiated by age and need – will encourage residents to interact with features of the village from the spider thatched into the roof of Barn Cottage on Park Road, to visiting the disused historic sandpits in the rural belt surrounding the village.

This is a limited programme of short commissions supported by The Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.