Spotlight On… Theatre Temoin’s Ailin Conant

Theatre Témoin presents The Marked at Ovalhouse, 52-54 Kennington Oval, London SE11 5SW

Thursday 13th – Saturday 22nd October 2016 (no Sun or Mon), 7.30pm Press Night: Friday 14th October 2016, 7.30pm

Following 5-star sell-out successes at Edinburgh Fringe 2016, Theatre Témoin bring The Marked to London’s Ovalhouse, using mask, puppetry and physical theatre to navigate a haunting, mystical world inspired by real-life stories of homelessness.
As a boy, Jack lived in a world of monsters and invisible guardians, as he fought to protect the people he loved.  Now grown up, his life on the streets of London is less fantastical. But when a ghost from his past turns up, Jack must harness the power of forgotten myths to defeat her.
At its heart, The Marked is a story about the link between trauma in childhood and homelessness in adulthood, exploring the vivid internal landscapes that we create and discover through pain and healing.
This is an emotional rollercoaster ride that pulls no punches…there are touches of humour that are welcome relief… The three cast members…give stellar performances in a moving, thought-provoking play (British Theatre Guide).
Since 2010, homelessness has increased nationwide by 55%, with an unprecedented 100% increase in rough sleepers in London.  With ongoing cuts to services, this trend is expected to continue.   Theatre Témoin feel that it is vital that the most vulnerable in our communities have a voice on stage.

The Marked was developed alongside community consultants with experience of homelessness from St. Mungo’s Recovery College and Cardboard Citizens, who participated in Mask Theatre workshops delivered with the generous support of Big Lottery’s Awards for All scheme.

Theatre Témoin has an engagement-centred approach to devising, working with community partners and consultants at every stage of the process.  Devising Director Ailin Conant comments, While researching The Marked and listening to the stories of people experiencing homelessness, it became increasingly clear to me that for some people fantastical beliefs are a matter of urgency, of vital necessity.  When you have lived through powerful experiences, you need an equally powerful language and framework to describe those experiences.

I chatted to Ailin Conant from Theatre Temoin to find out all about the piece:

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, tell me about the piece and your vision for it.

The Marked takes a peek into the mind of a young man battling life on the streets while haunted by memories from a difficult childhood.  At its heart it is an adventure story. Overcoming your demons is an epic, heroic task, and I wanted to flip the whole victim / delusion / anxiety question on its head and see the hero’s journey that many people are living, just to face reality, especially if they inherited a very difficult and tumultuous reality from a very young age.

Did you have initial ideas about casting and what you wanted actors to bring to the piece?

We knew it would be a physical piece involving a great deal of movement, puppetry, and mask work so we looked for actors who were able to “take the space” physically.  That’s not really something that you can pinpoint or articulate with words, it’s just the way some actors “pop out” by the way they carry themselves and move.  If you see the show you’ll see what I mean as all of the actors have this quality.  We also looked for actors who wanted to engage with the subject matter in a long-term and meaningful way.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

I don’t know to be honest, everyone’s reaction is so personal, and so different.  Some people leave in floods of tears but say the experience was “healing”, others are “deeply disturbed”, and others “don’t get it”.  You never know how an audience is going to connect with a piece of work, or what it is about it that will affect them.

A scene from Marked.

Have rehearsals altered your initial thoughts at all?

Devising is a funny beast because the whole point is that you expect to have your initial thoughts changed, challenged, and deepened by the process.  No one walks into a devising room on the first day of rehearsal thinking, “yes, I know how this will end”.  So in that sense, yes, everything about the way I think about sleeping rough, being a child dealing with an alcoholic parent, and the lines between fantasy and reality, and faith and delusion have fundamentally been changed by this process.

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

I guess I’m always going to go for that weird and wonderful five-star/one-star show over the safe and pleasant four-star show.  When you stretch to go to new places or play with new forms, that’s always a risk.  With The Marked it’s a risk that seems to have paid off: out of the thousands of shows in Edinburgh The Marked had a sell-out run and was the best-rated physical theatre show and the 9th-best-rated show overall according to The List’s ranking system which counts star ratings.  I hate stars so I kind of cringe just writing that, but the point is, people didn’t leave going “oh that was pleasant.”  Many left thinking “holy sh*t”; people said it stayed with them.

Finally, any advice for budding directors?

Recharge.  It’s a long-game.  Marathon, not a sprint.  Make sure you enjoy the journey because you never arrive, the carrot keeps moving.  If you’re a director, that’s usually because you’ll deliberately move the carrot.  That’s in your nature.  So just make sure you get plenty of other kinds of nourishment along the way.  Otherwise, what’s the point?

Huge thanks to Ailin for a much appreciated interview, break a leg!

Spotlight On… Star and Writer of Kissing The Shotgun Goodnight, Christopher Brett Bailey

Kissing The Shotgun Goodnight runs from 6 – 11 October 2016 at The Ovalhouse Theatre, for more information and to book tickets, visit this link:


I interviewed actor and writer, Christopher Brett Bailey, here’s what he had to say…

Thank you for chatting to Break A Leg. Tell me about the piece and your inspiration for it

The piece is an avant-garde rock concert & experimental text collage in response to the worship of life and fetishisation of death. It’s a poem on the topic of self-destruction, a portrait of a mind ravelling and unravelling ad nauseum, and a sonic journey of beautiful music and ear shattering noise.

Was it easy to translate from page to stage?


Did you have any ideas about what you wanted to bring to the role(s)?

I will be appearing onstage as myself, so there’s little in the way of acting preparation… Usually when I am onstage as myself I am simply pretending as though I’m not nervous. and I usually try to make my accent a little stronger.

How does the space lend itself to the piece?

This piece has been designed for the Ovalhouse stage and has a lengthy installation process, which is a sick sick luxury I’ve not had before. If you’re reading this and live in one of the other towns we will be touring to… I’m sure it will look great in your town too!

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

I would say “if you like the look of it and think it might be for you and are free on the date please do come along. If you absolutely hate it I may not be allowed to refund you the money but I promise to apologise profusely, take your address and post you a gift of equivalent value!”

Finally, any advice for budding writers / performers?

Oh man, I am definitely still in the budding phase myself! If you have any advice please do send it my way! Uhh hang on, I do have one bit of advice actually… don’t take a writing class, ever. They’re a waste of money. Especially if I am teaching.

Thanks to Christopher for a great interview, wishing every success for the production!

Spotlight On… Born Mad

Ovalhouse, 52-54 Kennington Oval, London SE11 5SW
Tuesday 6th – Saturday 10th September 2016 Press Night: Wednesday 7th September, 7.30pm
Mira was separated from her sisters for 15 years during the Algerian civil war. Jessica and Annabel used to tell each other everything. And Tara? Well, she’s a bit of a pyromaniac…
Following the sell out success of Sister’s première at the Spitalfields Music Summer Festival in June, Born Mad return to London to present Sister for five nights at Ovalhouse.
Sister is an outpouring of memories – some tender, some comic, and others painfully raw. Women from across the country shared stories with a common theme of sisterhood with us, creating a unique tapestry of real lives.
From a myriad of voices emerges two sets of sisters; Jessica and Annabel, and Mira and her siblings. Jessica and Annabel’s turbulent upbringing has repercussions long into adult life, whilst global conflict forces Mira to choose between her sisters and her children.
Verbatim theatre meets Born Mad’s signature style of boundary-pushing electronics and live vocals to bring these deeply personal stories to life. Microphones and cables cover the stage as the performers become foley artists, and every sound is recorded, manipulated and relayed back to create an all-consuming sound.

Tickets are available from Ovalhouse Box Office and, 020 7582 7680.


I chatted to Born Mad about the production to find out al about the concept and how the space lends itself to the piece.

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, can you tell me about the production and what the audience can expect from the show?

Sister is about the overwhelming and infuriating glue that holds families together. It is a collection of real life stories, made out of interviews with almost 50 women. The stories are told word for word alongside foley art, sound design and electroacoustic music. The piece is heartbreaking and uplifting in equal measure.

Sister 2
Sister by Born Mad

Has the concept changed from the initial idea?

In January 2015, when the project was in its infancy, we asked ourselves the following questions: What is it about families that makes them so important to us? What are the unique bonds that siblings share? What is the impact of a shared childhood? How does our past shape our adult life?

We are interested in honest, contemporary stories, so we set out answering these questions by simply asking people. Our first few interviews were funny, tender, joyful and heartbreaking in equal measure, so we decided to continue. We found that many of the closest, yet also the most tumultuous relationships were between women, so decided to focus on sisters. We are also passionate about showing interesting and multi-faceted female characters on stage, so this choice seemed right for us.

We never could have imagined that our initial questions would have made a piece like Sister, but this is an intrinsic part of our process – letting stories lead us into unknown places.

How does the space lend itself to the piece?

Ovalhouse is a great space, and our designer Georgia de Grey made the set for this theatre. Without giving too much away, the space is unusually deep, and the set plays with distance and perspective in a really exciting way.

What are you looking forward to most with this production?

It is humbling that our participants have shared their stories with us and we are so excited to pass these on to our audiences. The piece contains stories about civil war, displaced families and survival, as well as loyalty and lifelong friendship. These are stories that need to be told and the act of sharing them is both vital and thrilling.

What would you say to encourage potential audience members to come?

The show is a powerful conversation about family and relationships – mixing some pretty big comments on modern society with humour, bonkers sound design, and some really beautiful music.

Thanks to Born Mad for chatting to Break A Leg, it was a pleasure!

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