WULF in Reliquiæ vol. 5.

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Fantastic news! Excerpts from WULF will be published in the upcoming issue of Reliquiæ from Corbel Stone Press. 

'Rowan Evans excerpts from Wulf, an adaptation of the enigmatic Anglo-Saxon poem, Wulf and Eadwacer in volume 5 of Reliquiæ.'

"island to island / ēglond to edgeland / blade-edge pitched / toward fæstland / hours of running […]”

from edgeland

Out in November but available to pre-order now. 

Pre-order here.

Watch 15:44

15-44 still 2.jpg

You can now watch our 2016 film 15:44 online at https://www.datableedzine.com/maisie-newman-rowan-evans

Listening through speakers or headphones is recommended. 

15:44 is a cyberpunk liturgy to disembodiment and digital apparition. A collaboration between digital artist Maisie Newman and poet / composer Rowan Evans, the film combines poetry, 3D animation and original music. It was first commissioned by Mercy and Penned in the Margins as a live performance for the EVP Sessions, Shoreditch Town Hall Basement, November 2015. 

More info here

 

WULF R&D // Week 1

Written by Alice Lamb, Performer in WULF.

We’ve just completed the first week of R&D for ‘Wulf’ with the full cast and most of the creative team. The week has been about creating a loose framework of material for the entirety of the piece ready for us to develop and flesh out at our next R&D in three weeks’ time.

Prior to the start of these rehearsals writer Rowan and director Maisie created a structure for the narrative in the form of 8 chapters, which we have been working our way through all week. As a full team we have been discussing what we need to get across in each chapter and then heading back to our ports of expertise to develop the sound, text and movement. All these different aspects began to entwine as we worked, Rowan (also our composer) feeding in sounds, influencing how we moved and working out how we used the movement to support the beautiful text Rowan and Celine (our dramaturg) had been developing. 

I and my three fellow female performers have spent the week generating lots of movement material with Maisie. We’ve done this by taking key words from our conversations about each chapter such as ‘periphery’ and ‘community’ and exploring them physically,  sometimes as a group and sometimes individually, whilst Maisie plucked out the juicy bits from our creations to build the sequence for each chapter. We’ve been playing with how the environment of the marsh lands affects our physicality, as well as finding a juxtaposition between grotesque, animalistic movement and more human ways of moving. 

Working our way through the poems narrative has been like wondering through the dense landscape of the Somerset levels, because of its ambiguous nature. We still have a lot of unanswered questions about these women and the journey of the piece which I look forward to discovering. It’s been lots fun learning bits of Anglo Saxon and playing around with such a fantastic ensemble of women to create this other world.  I’ve loved the moments in rehearsal this week when the movement, text and sounds have all come together, giving me the feeling that we’re on to something really exciting. 

  Photography by James Kent

Photography by James Kent

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Field Recording at Avalon Marshes, Somerset Levels

Written by  Rowan Evans, composer and writer for WULF

fæst is that ēglond, fenne biworpen  [that island is secure, surrounded by fen]

Avalon Marshes is a large network of wetland and nature reserves in the Somerset Levels, south of the Mendips. Divided by rivers and man-made water channels, the area is shaped by water and marsh and frequently floods in the winter. Watched over by Glastonbury Tor, the place takes its name from an island in Arthurian legend, Avalon, and in past centuries would have been a constantly reshaping landscape of islands that rose and disappeared as the floods ebbed and retreated. Outside of East Anglia, Avalon Marshes offers the closest environment to the marshy fens described in ‘Wulf and Eadwacer’, the tenth-century poem at the centre of our project, making it a promising choice as a site to take source field recordings. The Levels is also the place from where the Anglo-Saxon King Alfred assembled his troops (and burnt some cakes) to resist the Viking invasion, and our poem itself exists in the Exeter Book manuscript, so it felt right in many ways to head to this local part of the South West.

  Reeds and mere at Westhay Moor. Photo by Clare Twomey.

Reeds and mere at Westhay Moor. Photo by Clare Twomey.

The music, sound design and visual projection of ‘WULF’ all integrate field recordings from the area in original or abstracted form – the sounds of circling birds, reeds and wind, the surfaces of dark bodies of water. We made our first audio recording trip to the reserve at Westhay Moor in the winter of 2015 with Laurie Owens, then sound editor at Wounded Buffalo, musician Hal Kelly and photographer Clare Twomey. We took a couple of Zoom handy recorders and a gun mic, which all wore fluffy ‘hats’ like us to keep out the December wind. My biggest surprise arriving at Westhay was how oppressive and even claustrophobic the environment can be. Although the Levels are an expanse of flat land, the sense in the thick of the fens and woods is far from open. Dense reeds tower above head-height, black coppices and undergrowth crowd in and shut out the light. The only points of spaciousness are offered by meres and pools whose water is blackened by peat, and which are completely un-navigable to anyone on foot. In the pre-industrialized world of ‘Wulf and Eadwacer’, such environments would be a hostile wilderness to those without proper knowledge of the dry tracks and boardwalks, and leave humans vulnerable to attack from predators or each other. I lost the group straying off to record creaking trees, my feet in shallow pools and undergrowth, using the microphones’ heightened stereo field to tune in to constant peripheral activity, the feeling of being observed between reeds and branches.

  Jack Offord and Rowan Evans in the bird hide at Shapwick Heath. Photo by Maisie Newman

Jack Offord and Rowan Evans in the bird hide at Shapwick Heath. Photo by Maisie Newman

This sense of enclosure, threat and obstructed vision characterised our recent return to Westhay, Shapwick Heath and Ham Wall with film-maker and projection artist Jack Offord.  Jack spent his first visit capturing wide-angle shots of the landscape, which in open places divides itself into clear visual strata of sky, reed and water. We were drawn to groups of dead trees that jut above the reed-line at angles, almost how I imagine the skyline of the Mississippi Delta, and filmed from concealed bird hides at Shapwick. The serious bird watchers we met were keen to share the whereabouts of kingfishers, and I even spotted a Bittern! Back in Jack’s studio we began to experiment dividing the filmed images into parts and textures as I have been doing with the audio, and encouraging the feeling of oppression and obstruction by removing areas of vision. My recordings have likewise moved from long takes of ambience to the increasingly ‘close-up’, textured sounds of our interaction with the landscape, of pushing through branches or treading over muddy ground. One further mission is yet to be completed, as we hope to gather extended footage of the vast starling murmurations that happen throughout the winter. Thousands of the birds gather and fill the sky with black, flexing torques before they roost together in the reeds at the Ham Wall reserve. Getting a clear shot and uninterrupted sound has been difficult so far, as so many people flock to see the birds' display. There’s even a 'starling hotline' to find out the latest roosting spot... Just as the Anglo-Saxon language of ‘WULF’ is embedded in Somerset’s terrain and place names – Shapwick, Mudgley, Meare – the audio-visual elements of the performance will be bound to this common point of origin. I look forward to more expeditions in the winter monaðs.

 

 

Julia Head on WULF auditions

Written by Julia Head, an associate artist at Fen. 

In 2015 I was part of the Bristol Old Vic’s ‘Made in Bristol’ scheme. The programme was great, it lets you learn about, and experiment with your practice in a working theatre surrounded by professional theatre makers. Last year I was involved in a Young Company production at the Bristol Old Vic on which Maisie was the Movement Director. I remember being fascinated by her facilitation in generating grotesque movement sequences, unlike I’d seen movement done before. It wasn’t dance. It was visceral and ugly and bold and I loved it. 

It is important that I stress now, I am not a dancer. I did ballet when I was four but quit because the teacher wouldn’t let me wear shorts. I do not know the ‘correct’ way to move your body or how to look beautiful with pointed toes but I do know how to move. As children we are very comfortable exploring how our bodies move and as we get older and chairs become more comfortable we lose that confidence in our ability to try.

I was asked to join Fen for an initial R&D period in March for WULF. We had a week of devising over at Desperate Men in Easton (lovely studio spaces!). During the week a quiet bearded man sat in the corner of our rehearsal space with headphones on, staring at a tiny piano attached to a laptop. This was Rowan. At the end of every day he would play us the music he had been creating.  Beautiful resonant ambient bass that was made from field recording’s from the Somerset Levels.

 Initial R&D for WULF in March at Desperate Men. Photo by Rowan Evans.

Initial R&D for WULF in March at Desperate Men. Photo by Rowan Evans.

During that initial R&D period we were experimenting, choreographing sequences and trying out parts of the original poem in different formats. It is always exciting to be in the room when the first building blocks of something are put in place, there’s this spark when you know you’ve got something good waiting to be made. That’s what we had on that initial R+D, a seed of something to follow.

I was asked to come in and help run the auditions for WULF last Saturday. My role in the audition was to facilitate and be an extra eye in the room. We had four hours with everyone and it meant we could run the audition in a workshop format. We ran several exercises exploring movement, tension, rhythm and text. What was so lovely about the auditions was having a group of women from different backgrounds and disciplines all in one room together. There was such a variety! Training included dance, butoh, circus, acrobatics, acting and physical theatre. A large proportion of the women told us separately, how lovely it was to be given the freedom to move in a room with so many other women and how uncommon it was. They were right, watching 20 women move through a space together made me realise how rare it was and how beautiful it could be. It made me want to create some sort of epic performance with hundreds of women!

 WULF audition at The Bristol Old Vic. Photo by Christabel Holmes

WULF audition at The Bristol Old Vic. Photo by Christabel Holmes

Part of the audition was listening to everyone read the poem Wulf and Eadwacer in its original language - Old English (also known as Anglo-saxon). Old English sounds like a mixture of Germanic and Scandinavian with a little bit of English thrown in. It was so great to hear everyone in the space speaking this beautiful historic language, especially because we had so many different accents in the room. As someone who has had no teaching in the language (and didn’t even know it existed!) it was beautiful to watch.  Almost everyone we auditioned spoke about how beautiful the language was and how they hadn’t heard it before. This is one of the aspects of WULF which is so exciting, the show will be bilingual, a mixture of modern and Old English. It will open up the language to a modern speaking audience who may have had no idea it even existed. 

We begin the R&D in two weeks, in the meantime trips to the somerset levels are being made in order to gather more field recordings for music and projection. Keep up to date with the companies progress via this blog. 

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Confirmation of Arts Council Funding for WULF's R&D

Fen are extremely excited to announce we have received an offer of Arts Council funding from ACE South West for WULF's R&D. Development begins in Nov, the project is also supported by Bristol Old Vic's Ferment

We will be publicly sharing a work-in-progress of WULF on 31st January on The Bristol Old Vic main stage as part of Ferment Fortnight. Details found on our upcoming events page.