The Privileged photo by Yarahmadi

Brave New Work

by Persephone Pearl

May was a busy month for ONCA as we hosted two extraordinary projects by pre-eminent, well-loved companies: local heroes Vincent Dance and the fabulous BowerBird Theatre Company from Prague.

And as these projects unfolded onsite, the ONCA team scouted Brighton Fringe in search of contenders for our first ever Green Curtain Award.

The Fringe is a hotbed of creative innovation, as it catalyses new work from emerging companies trying out exciting new ideas – often without funding or support. But despite the buzz around the Fringe and the thousand or so acts featured in the listings, it can be difficult and exhausting to devise, fund, produce and promote your own work. Sometimes audiences are tiny, and a bad review can be desperately disheartening.  ONCA exists to encourage artists to explore important, difficult (and often unfashionable) themes, so this year, recognising that it was high time we opened this encouragement up to Fringe artists, we launched the Green Curtain Fringe award, which will consist of time and space in the gallery and on our online platforms.

We especially recognise the challenges of making work that asks thorny questions, and thank all the companies who did so at this year’s Fringe, including:

From the dozen or so inspiring and diverse shows that we went to see, we ended up with three outstanding finalists, and announced the winner at the Brighton Fringe Award ceremony on June 4th:

  • The Last Honeypot by Goya Arts: Goya Arts is a new young company and The Last Honeypot is a brand new piece of ensemble physical theatre for children, whose subject is colony collapse disorder and the disappearance of bees worldwide. The Last Honeypot dances a difficult line between delight and gravity with delicacy and style. We were impressed by its lightness of touch and accessibility, its playful, colourful style and practical messages about taking positive action in the face of long odds.
  • Planet Earth III by Luke Rollason: A great piece of improbably hilarious clowning which played to sold-out houses at the Warren. It takes as its premise the disappearance of almost all species on earth, with all that remains being a bored intern at the BBC playing with the archives of Sir David Attenborough’s Planet Earth series. Using paper clips, masking tape and virtuoso physical clown, Luke Rollason conjures stampedes, food webs, the drama of the hunt, deforestation and seahorses, enchanting audiences to feel with and for the more-than-human world.
  • The Privileged by Jamal Harewood: A participatory experience which progresses as the audience responds to instructions issued by an absent authority. The premise is that we have come to petting zoo to have a close-up encounter with an apex predator: a polar bear. The instructions, which tell the audience how to treat the bear, become increasingly problematic and we soon realise that it’s our own reactions that are the story. The Privileged forces audiences to confront serious questions including how we respond to authority, how we make decisions, and when entertainment becomes exploitation. It confronts head-on issues of Othering, control, and the violence of domestication.

We are honoured to offer the first ONCA Green Curtain award to Jamal Harewood.