YOU ARE HERE! is a collaboration between The Occasion Theatre and Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium, and supported by Arts Council England, Airbus and The National Space Centre.
The Occasion was founded in 2010 by Peter Clerke and Catherine Gillard. Previous to this they had both shared the Artistic Directorship of the Scottish touring theatre company, benchtours (1991 - 2009).
How did the show come about?
The original idea came from Ben Ward, the CEO at Winchester Science Centre. It all started out very mysteriously with a message about a project he wanted to discuss and did we want to meet up… but he wouldn’t say what it was until we met face-to-face a few days later.
Ben has a theatre background and we had worked with him on a number of productions in the past. He had the idea of developing a live performance working with Planetarium film, as we had worked with film in theatre shows previously. He liked the way we interacted with characters and situations on screen incorporating them into the narrative and thought this would translate well to a science-based planetarium production.
Basically, the desire was to explore and develop the relationship between science and the arts and the belief that each can, and indeed should, inform the other. And, beyond that, to increase interest in theatre with a science-minded audience, and interest in science with a theatre-minded one.
The project has, throughout, involved professional artists working alongside science professionals. Sometimes ‘the language’ that we each speak has been slightly different, in terms of the ways of working and of developing material, but we have each learnt throughout.
At a very early stage in the project we approached the award-winning children’s theatre playwright, Andy Cannon, to see if he would be interested in developing script for the show. We had known Andy for a long time but had never collaborated with him before. What we didn’t know was that he’d had an interest in astronomy from when he was a young boy, that he had an uncle who was a famous astronomer in Australia… and would love to be involved in the project!
We began to develop ideas in Spring 2017 and – with support from The Arts Council of England, Airbus and The University of Winchester – this resulted in a 15 minutes work-in-progress performance, which we played to various school groups and general public. The response was great; and there was, very clearly, a demand for a fully developed show.
With further funding from The Arts Council of England and Airbus we have since been working to achieve this. How best we can combine live performance and film, science and art, entertainment and education.
YOU ARE HERE! is a unique project. We very much hope that you will enjoy/ enjoyed, watching it.
Peter Clerke & Catherine Gillard.
Co-Artistic Directors, The Occasion.
Peter Clerke - Director
Born in Dundee, Peter studied at Middlesex University and with the Ecole Philippe Gaulier in Paris. Co-Artistic Director with The Occasion since the company was founded in 2010, Peter has directed all the company’s work to date.
Founder member and Co-Artistic Director of benchtours (1991-2009) Peter directed or performed in all the company's productions, including: direction/ performance of The Splitting of Latham (1991-94); performance in Haroun & the Sea of Stories (1994-96); direction of The Caucasian Chalk Circle & Mother Courage (2000 & 2006); performance in Crowhurst (2005/06); performance in The Psychic Detective (2007); and direction of The First to Go (2008).
Prior to benchtours, work included the co-founding and artistic direction of Lung Ha's (1984-86) and five years at Edinburgh's Theatre Workshop (1986-91). Freelance work has included numerous projects in the US with Melanie Stewart Dance Theatre and Rowan University, New Jersey; direction with Edinburgh Puppet Lab and Hullabaloo Theatre; plus lecturing and direction at the RSAMD and Queen Margaret University.
From 2009-16 Peter was Artistic Director of Blue Apple Theatre, Winchester, during which time the company became established as one of England’s leading learning disability arts organisations.
Andy Cannon – Writer
Andy is a writer, performer and professional storyteller based in Scotland. In 1996 he founded the multiple award wining theatre company Wee Stories Theatre for Children. Wee Stories quickly established a reputation for producing high quality work for children and their families with productions such as Labyrinth, The Emperors New Kilt and Arthur - the story of a king.
Since moving on from Wee Stories, Andy has been concentrating on performing his own work such as Scota-land (in collaboration with Mull Theatre) for the London 2012 festival and Tales of a Grandson (with Red Bridge Arts and The Scottish International Storytelling Festival).
In a completely different capacity, Andy was also Creative Director Performance of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony.
His most recent work has included the award winning Black Beauty - created with Andy Manley and Shona Reppe - which this March was invited to play at THE NEW VICTORY THEATRE on Broadway NY. Andy will be returning to New York this autumn with his critically acclaimed production Is This a Dagger? - the story of Macbeth. This solo performance (created by himself and the up and coming playwright William Shakespeare) will be playing at THE LINCOLN CENTER in Manhattan at the end of October.
Earlier this year Andy won the Scottish Theatre Critics Award for best show for children and young people for SPACE APE - the story of YORICK. This was a new piece inspired by his recollections of the Apollo Space programme’s historic venture to the Moon and a contemporary young girl’s ambition to travel to Mars with her step-brother Yorick; a chimpanzee “of infinite jest”.
Catherine Gillard – Performer
Catherine studied at Sydney Acting School and the Ecole Philippe Gaulier in Paris. Co-Artistic Director with The Occasion since the company was founded in 2010, Catherine has performed in all the company’s work to date.
She worked for three years as a performer and sign language interpreter with Theatre of the Deaf, one of Australia’s leading inclusive companies and performed in numerous touring productions, including the national tour of Children of a Lesser God. After moving to the UK in 1990 she helped co-found, and was Co-Artistic Director of, benchtours (1991-2009) performing in all the company’s work.
Recent freelance projects include performance with Melanie Stewart Dance Theatre for the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, Edinburgh Puppet Lab, Magnetic North and The Traverse, plus direction with Blue Apple.
Catherine has also worked as guest lecturer at Queen Margaret University, Dundee & Telford Colleges and as a workshop leader for the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. For more information visit www.catherinegillard.co.uk
Jemma Blythe – Performer
Jemma is a performer and theatre maker based in Glasgow. Having studied Acting at Langside College, she then went on to specialise in Physical Theatre through different courses including: Embodied Theatre (Al Seed, Alex Rigg and Ewan Downie); Clowning (Simon Edwards at The Actors Space, Tim Licata at Plutot La Vie); and Bouffon (Phillipe Gaullier - organised by Amadan Theatre in Belfast).
She has created work for Surge Festival in Glasgow, Geenste Feesten in Belgium and Imaginate in Edinburgh. Performing credits are with companies such as Edinburgh International Science Festival, Theatre Alba, Can you catch the Killer?, Interact, Cuerdas Producciones and Surge.
Ali Maclaurin – Designer
Ali trained in theatre design in Edinburgh and Croydon and has since designed, devised, facilitated and taught all across the UK. She has worked on many innovative, visual projects (from small to large-scale) and is someone very well-used to working collaboratively.
In her long career she has designed productions for the Belgrade Theatre in Education Company, the award-winning Shadow Syndicate, Battersea Arts Centre, Hull Truck, TAG, The Traverse, Grid Iron, Scottish Opera, Dogstar (the fringe first winning show, The Tailor of Inverness) and Licketyspit, as well as The Voicetrunk for Winchester Science Centre.
Ali has also designed Apocalypse, The Taking of Zena Charbonne and The Monster and Mary Shelley for The Occasion.
Richard Williams – Composer/ Musical Director
Richard began playing guitar, bass and drums at an early age. After a succession of bands that ranged from hardcore punk to jazz fusion, he formed Trip, who went on to be signed by MCA Records and were featured in the Oscar winning Terry Gilliam movie The Fisher King.
Other projects include work with the Midlands-based bhangra collective, The KK Kings; the album Singles Night at the Shooting Gallery by The Cage: and composition for the award-winning theatre in education show, Justice For Johnny, commissioned by Hampshire County Council’s Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Support department.
Alongside teaching various instruments and music technology, Richard writes and performs with singer Sara Fawcitt in the duo, Gracie, who are currently recording their debut album at various locations in the UK and Spain. Richard has also recently toured Germany as a multi-instrumentalist with electro-noir act, Knights.
Joe Price – Lighting Design / Production Manager
Joe trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and received the 2015 Francis Reid Award for Lighting Design.
Credits include: My Name Is Rachel Corrie (Young Vic); The World's Wife (Welsh National Opera); Conditionally (Soho Theatre); Mrs Dalloway (Arcola Theatre); Breathe (Bunker Theatre); Goldfish Bowl (Paper Birds); Heather (Bush Theatre); Heads Will Roll (Told by an Idiot); This Perfect World (Theatre Royal Bath); GATE (Cockpit Theatre); Box Clever (Nabokov); Fossils (Brits off Broadway NYC); This Must Be The Place (VAULT Festival); Let The Right One In (Arts Ed); Magnificence (Finborough Theatre); How To Date A Feminist (Arcola Theatre); Some Girl(s) (Park Theatre); Around The World in 80 Days (Theatre Royal Winchester); The Love I Feel Is Red (Tobacco Factory); Some People Talk About Violence (Barrel Organ); Dry Land (Damsel Productions); Alternative Routes (National Dance Company Wales); The Duchess of Malfi (Richard Burton Theatre Company); Animal/Endless Ocean (Gate Theatre); Y Twr (Invertigo).
Interview with performer Catherine Gillard, director Peter Clerke and writer Andy Cannon.
There’s an out-of-this-world adventure for children coming to planetariums across the UK this winter. You Are Here! is a brand-new, live action planetarium show that perfectly combines live theatre and exciting storytelling with an immersive 360° full dome experience.
The 30-minute show takes the audience on a virtual trip around the Universe with WOW Tours. Expecting to attend a lecture from ‘The Professor’, the tour is unexpectedly confronted with the disappearance of the stars – not to mention the disappearance of The Professor!
Equipped with only umbrellas and a mysterious A-Z guidebook of the Universe, WOW Tours embark on a magical journey. With help from the audience they uncover where The Professor has gone and discover “the most incredible, remarkable, mind-blowing thing in the universe!”
With Jupiter as the ultimate ‘behind you’ moment, a zoom through Saturn’s rings and a voyage down to the surface of Mars, You Are Here! is a show unlike any other. We talk to performer Catherine Gillard, director Peter Clerke and writer Andy Cannon about the concept, the challenges, and the importance of shows like You Are Here!
Where did the idea for a live-action planetarium show for children and families come from?
Peter: The original idea came from Ben Ward, the CEO at Winchester Science Centre. It all started out very mysteriously with a message about a project he wanted to discuss and did we want to meet up, but he wouldn’t say what it was until we met face-to-face a few days later.
Catherine: Ben has a theatre background and we had worked with him on a number of productions in the past. He came to us with the idea as we had worked with film in theatre shows. He liked the way we interacted with characters and situations on screen incorporating them into the narrative and thought this would translate well to a science-based planetarium production.
How would you describe the show and what can visitors expect?
Peter: You Are Here! is a mixture of a theatre show and a film, all performed within a planetarium – the excitement of live performance combined with the wow of 360 degree full dome film! Audiences can expect to see some truly breath-taking images of Mars and Pluto, not to mention a jaw-dropping encounter with Jupiter. They’ll be informed, amused and, above all else, entertained.
Catherine: It’s a fun and accessible show that brings together theatre and science. The characters are a mother and daughter team of tour guides who aren’t science experts at all. They, along with the audience, end up going on a journey into space and discover, through their own curiosity, lots about our own solar system and where we fit into it. There is a play between the characters, interaction with the audience, lots of full dome planetarium imagery, educational facts, plus some laughs.
Andy: I’d describe it as a playful introduction to stargazing - with a little bit of navel-gazing too!
Who is You Are Here! suitable for?
Catherine: The science content in You Are Here! is designed for children aged 6 – 9 years old, but we’ve made a show that we hope will entertain both younger and older children and their parents. We’ve learnt an enormous amount ourselves while working on it – about the universe, our solar system, planetariums, astronomy and how scientists work. We hope that by sharing some of this in a theatrical way with an audience we’ll spark a curiosity to find out more.
Andy: It’s suitable for anyone who’s ever thought ‘what’s up there?’
Andy, how did you approach writing You Are Here!?
Andy: As an enthusiastic amateur stargazer, I wanted to share my wonder of our galaxy (and beyond) by connecting people to where they fit in to it all. We are as much a part of this incredible story as any Gas Giant, Super Nova or wondrous Martian Landscape, so I thought I’d begin with the closest star to home, the Sun, and take it from there!
Peter, how did you approach directing You Are Here!?
Peter: With The Occasion we always work collaboratively with the full production team – performers, writers, designers, musicians, technicians etc. We like to develop work, initially, in the rehearsal room with everyone contributing; with individual artists then going on from that collective process to develop script, musical score and design ideas. I suppose my job as director is to ensure that this process works smoothly, that we don’t get lost down blind alleys and that the process keeps moving forwards.
Catherine, how did you approach performing in You Are Here!?
Catherine: The show is very much the product of a team of people – the director, writer, designer, composer, planetarium staff and the actors. We started work on it over 18 months ago, firstly by watching a lot of planetarium films and presenter led shows, reading books and speaking to teachers, astrophysicists and other planetarium staff.
Alongside this we spent time talking about exactly what information we wanted to present, how we wanted to present it and with what kind of characters. We decided early on that we didn’t want to play ‘experts’ – we wanted characters that were finding things out along with the audience.
Playing the tour guides is fun. We get to talk and interact with the audience as they come in and are just as excited as they are about the ‘talk’ we’re taking them to. I’ve very much approached this as any other show – find the character and form a relationship with the performer I’m working with. With this show though there’s another big element to deal with – the full dome film. It’s almost like a third character in the show.
How does this differ from other shows you have done in the past?
Andy: The main difference has been getting the opportunity to present a story in a planetarium; with all the wonderful theatrical possibilities such an incredible auditorium can offer. I’ve also had to think long and hard about what to include and what to leave out because ‘Here’ in this tale is literally ‘everywhere’!
Peter: Although we’ve done quite a few shows that involve video we’ve never done one where film is such a massive part of the production. That’s the major difference.
What are the challenges of a show like You Are Here!?
Andy: Getting the right balance between live performance and the spectacular dome presentation – the two need to work as a whole and not simply as an enormous ‘Power-Point’ presentation.
Catherine: Definitely the biggest challenge is working with the full dome film. Once it starts we basically have to keep up with it, so as performers we have to be very exact about timings. As different things appear on the dome we have to be ready to react to them.
Why do you think shows like You Are Here!, which appeal to non-theatre goers are important?
Andy: Because science and art share the same essential goal – to explore. Exploration (for me) is not just about finding stuff out, but also about discovering how it all connects with us – our past, our future and, most importantly, our present. This connection with new and old horizons is more often than not quite an emotional experience and that’s where art comes in – finding a framework to express our wonder.
Peter: One of the primary objectives of the show has been to introduce theatre to science-minded audiences, and science to theatre-minded ones. We believe that anything that introduces new possibilities and opportunities, particularly to young audiences, is something that will stay with people all through their lives. We very much hope that You Are Here! will be such an experience and will encourage all people, not just the children, to embrace both the arts and the sciences and to realise that they are complimentary to each other and by no means exclusive.
Catherine: They have the possibility of bringing new audiences in to experience live theatre. Equally, theatre has the possibility of presenting astronomy and science in a fun and entertaining way to those who may feel that those kinds of subjects aren’t for them.