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INSECT BLOG – Post-project

September 7th, 2015


Insect Drama Workshops

Last week was our final week of workshops for the Ouseburn Farm’s holiday programme.  The last three workshops were spent almost in a state of ‘live rehearsal’ as we looked ahead to the work-in-progress showings that went ahead on the Friday afternoon.Insect Drama Workshops

With over half the show taking place outside we anxiously checked the weather reports to see if the day would be kind to us.  Thankfully it was and the stockpile of umbrellas we’d brought from home weren’t needed.  Of course that is just one day and if we’re going to tour this in outside spaces over the long term, the UK weather is bound to get us at some point so how we cope with inclement weather will be important.

The showings themselves lasted for about an hour and had a story and structure that had evolved over the past couple of weeks.  The challenges were primarily logistical, with just two actors playing a variety of insects with different costumes in different locations it was crucial to figure out a route around the garden for both of them that was easy to follow and meant they had the time to change costume.  The showings were well received with some useful feedback coming from the audience and many things to think about going forward. 

It’s looking likely that we’ll be back in rehearsals in early 2016 to shape what we’ve done into something closer to the actual show the public will see.  We’ve come to really like this way of working – a few periods of concentrated working with time in between for thinking and writing.  it seems to give us space and clarity when making pieces which we find extremely useful.  So until then I’ll be looking over everything we created and figuring out where to go from here.

It’s been a great summer and we’d like to thank the Ouseburn Farm for hosting us, Dr Vivek Nityananda for his insect expertise, our brilliant actors Hannah Goudie and Aron De Casmaker for their limitless energy and invention, Newcastle University and Arts Council England for their support, Byker, Hotspur and St Lawrence’s RC Primary Schools and of course everyone who came along (several hundred of you) to the workshops to explore your inner insect!

Insect Blog – Post-workshop, day 10

August 26th, 2015


Insect Drama Workshops

Insect Drama WorkshopsA small but very engaged group of children today which meant a really lovely workshop with lots of great things. One participant came along for the third time and her mother said that her daughter had been playing bee games after coming to the workshops and that the science we mention in the workshops had really been staying with her. Result!

I think today’s session puts us in a good position heading into a days rehearsal with the actors tomorrow with a view towards putting together our work-in-progress showing next week.

In past workshops I’ve definitely been guilty of rushing things, of going to far too fast which sometimes seems to shock the kids into silence or shyness. But I was really happy with how it seemed to pan out with the participants, who seemed a bit shy to begin with, slowly coming out of their shells and by the end they were happily getting involved.

Using an easel, a walking stick, a sheet and some tape I’d put together a ‘flat’, which is basically a free-standing wall – something that the actors can be behind and then come out from in character. It means it makes it a bit more magical, the insect characters seem to appear from nowhere and when one actor exits, the audience’s imagination can reset before the next characters comes out.

We spent most of the hour meeting the different insect characters and revisiting some of the scenes and situations we’d created over the past few weeks. Our actors were amazing as usual – I give them a quick rundown of what we’re going to be doing each day but never in much detail so they have to just run with whatever I throw at them, not really knowing what scene they’re going to have to do next. And they jump in every time. 

With just 5 workshops to go before the end of the summer, it feels like the show is starting to take a wee bit of shape which is reassuring and exciting.

Insect Blog – Post-workshop, day 9

August 21st, 2015


Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis

After an hour of workshopping today we came out with a great song, which is what we wanted but it was a tricky session overall.

It started well, with some real live insects in the room (some grasshoppers in a clear plastic box that really grabbed the kid’s interest) and some physicalising of crickets, learning more about them through Vivek’s commentary of their behaviour and then turning them into humans.

We moved into the musical element of the session with some playing of percussion instruments to accompany the cricket’s activity.  So far, so good.

But when we moved into starting to write lyrics we hit a bit of a wall and the session seemed to peter out.  We begun with what we felt was an accessible exercise about where the crickets were, what they did and how they might feel amongst their environment but shyness seemed to take over and it was left to the parents to chip in most of the ideas.

One factor may have been that our participants were very young overall and perhaps this way of working was too complex for them.  Therein lies the challenge for these sessions and one that I’m always grappling with – there is no way of predicting the number or age of the participants from day to day.  So when it comes to planning you have to make an educated guess as to what will appeal to a variety of age groups and then, in the moment, try to change it if it isn’t working.  This is something that isn’t always possible, or at least you don’t feel it’s possible as your brain whirs away trying to think of an alternative. 

So as well as generating material to make a show and connecting with lots of children and their families from within the community, (I hope) these workshops are making me a better facilitator.

Next week is quite an important week as on Wednesday we’re rehearsing with the actors for most of that day, putting together the core of what will be shared at the work-in-progress showing the following week.  The shape of that is coming together, it’s just a matter of taking all the fragments we’ve made and joining the dots between them.  At least, that’s the plan.

Insect Blog – Post-workshop, day 8

August 21st, 2015




After a couple of false starts brought about by plans changing and the weather being awful, we finally made it outside.  We’re lucky having an office at the Ouseburn Farm where there is lots of greenery to be found and also, by default, real live insects.

We took our participants (all 20 of them, including some repeat customers which is encouraging) to the orchard which is away from the main farm building and a bit more secluded.  It was lovely to be outside in such a big space and we were able to use the distance available to good effect as we watched 

Hannah’s bee buzz around from 50 yards away.  A pond with real dragonflies flying around was a real highlight and there was also an abundance of real bumblebees and honey bees.

The challenges are moving a group of that size around, it takes up a fair bit of time which means you can lose the magic somewhat.

But it wasn’t bad for a first effort.  We’re considering the possibilities of a show that starts inside and then moves outside as it did yesterday.  We bring the group together in a more intimate space, set up some conventions, the audience can ‘meet’ the actors and some characters and then, as a team, we can move outside where the lion’s share of the performance takes place.  We’ll see.

Tomorrow is also an exciting ‘first’ for the Insect Drama Workshops as we are going to try and write some songs that will be sung by a ‘cricket choir’!

Insect Blog – Post Workshop Day 4

August 11th, 2015


Insect Drama Workshops

Insect Drama WorkshopsDid you know that dung beetles use the stars to navigate?

Or that non-toxic butterflies have evolved so their colouring is similar to that of toxic butterflies, therefore warding off potential predators?

I did not know either of these things until yesterday when I was planning today’s workshop with Vivek.  Both are fairly mind-bending facts; facts you’re sure kids would be really psyched about – the challenge is how do you weave these into a workshop in a way that’s clear, engaging and memorable?

I’d been tying myself up in various knots over the past couple of days trying to figure this out.  Katy Vanden,  producer at Cap-a-Pie, came at it with a lot more clarity this morning:

“We’re co-creating the show with Vivek and the kids, so we need to get the kids to understand the science so that they can be creative with it”.

So I guess the upshot of that is perhaps we don’t have to be too clever in our attempts at weaving in facts.  It may be enough to explain the information in a clear and simple way (possibly using drama) and use that as a springboard to create new things with the kids.

I feel like we managed to do that today.  Today, more than any other day, we managed to achieve a good combination of the kids acting, writing and directing with our brilliant actors (Aron and Hannah) while creating various small scenes.  It’s something that I need to refine but we’re getting there.  And during the short end-of-session discussion, it seemed to be that the majority of the participants had learned something new about insects to take away with them.

Tomorrow, we will take all of our characters and attempt to create story.

Insect Blog – Post-workshop, day 3

August 6th, 2015


Photocredit – Dr Vivek Nityananda

It seems hard to believe for us, but our first week is all done and dusted.  It’s only been 3 workshops and only 3 hours contact time with our little human-insects but it feels like we’ve generated a lot of material in that short amount of time.

Circumstances dictated that we were in a much smaller room today so the idea was to focus more on design – of costumes and sets and see what the kids imagined a human insect might look like and where they might live.

First though, we met with our ladybird and dragonfly characters from the day before.  They were armed only with movements at this stage so we watched them move around, gave them more insect activities to do and gave them voices.  Then we started to explore what it might look like if these insects morphed into humans with insect souls.  What jobs might they have?  Where do they live?  Almost instantly we had possible ideas from our participants and our actors fleshed these out in the moment.  For the record, ‘Buzz’ the Human-Dragonfly was the owner of a successful spectacle-making business and ‘Darubybelle’ the Human-Ladybird was a house painter.

As it turned out, we were generating so much juicy stuff by working with the actors that we had a bit less time to look at design than anticipated.  But we still managed to see some insect costumes and insect houses drawn in chalk on our blackboard material.

The show itself feels like it is taking some kind of shape in our heads, although it is a very faint shape.  I do want to resist the temptation to start curating the children’s ideas with my adult brain and try and let their creations be as they are and act as provocations for further thinking from other children to see where that takes us.

One thing that we’re also still refining is how the research can fit best – we want to be accurate with the behaviours and appearances of our insects and try and make sure that any fantastical ideas don’t conflict with this.

All in all a great week and looking forward to getting back in the room on Tuesday!

Insect Blog – Post-workshop, day 2

August 6th, 2015



Photocredit – Dr Vivek Nityananda

It was dragonflies and ladybirds today in the world of insect workshops and the kids we had today got into it with much gusto, smoothly flying around and changing direction as a dragonfly and scuttling about as ladybirds. I slightly changed the methods we used today, just to keep the experimenting going and seeing what might work best. We were also helped along today by having our researcher, Dr Vivek Nityananda in the room, who was incredibly helpful in imparting insect information and helping us with ideas on how each insect moves and behaves.

Another two characters were created out of the session today which we’ll explore a little bit more in tomorrow’s session, adding voice and other characteristics. We’ll also see what happens when our insect characters morph into human versions, whether this could be interesting to an audience and what they could do or say.

Today we also looked into how insects might feel in certain situations. Our participants thought ladybirds might not like wind because they’re so little they might get blown away; and that they might get excited if a bigger ladybird was teaching them how to fly. It’s these kind of insights and leaps of imagination that us grown-ups don’t have the same access to and hearing these has been my favourite part so far of the first two workshops.

1st Insect Drama Workshop – Blogs from Cap-a-Pie

August 4th, 2015


Photo credit – Dr Vivek Nityananda

Beginning the Insect Show – Katy Vanden

Today I’m very excited to get into the rehearsal room and start work on Cap-a-Pie’s new production – The Insect Show (working title). The show is as of yet unnamed and for good reason – we have a big team of creative collaborators, waiting in the rehearsal room, and this show will be as much theirs as it is Cap-a-Pie’s.We are very pleased to be working with an excellent creative team on this project. Joining myself and Brad McCormick at Cap-a-Pie is Dr Vivek Nityananda – insect expert from Newcastle University, two actors – Aron DeCasmaker and Hannah Goudie and last, but certainly not least, families and other visitors at Ouseburn Farm over the summer holidays 2015.

Our first workshop at Ouseburn Farm starts this morning and I’m intrigued to see what happens when we bring together Cap-a-Pie, our performers, Dr Vivek Nityananda and participants into a rehearsal room and start to explore insects and devise a show together.

We want to create characters, story, movement and design all through a devising process where anyone is invited to participate. Just turn up at 11am on a Tuesday or Thursday or 1pm on a Wednesday and you too can help make our insect extravaganza. We’ll also ask if you’d like to have a credit as part of the creative team – we want to write everyone’s name that contributes on our flyer – hopefully we’ll have to use a small font!

For Cap-a-Pie this is an excellent opportunity for us to make a highly original and authentic piece of theatre for families alongside an inspiring creative team. On 4th September we’ll be sharing our ideas so far at a work in progress showing at Ouseburn Farm. This will provide not only a chance for us to perform our ideas but also for the participants and families we’ve worked with to share their thoughts and ideas on what we have made with them.

This project also provides us with an opportunity to share some of the latest knowledge and thinking about insects with people that might not otherwise get to hear about it. At Cap-a-Pie we always feel very privileged to work with academics – always excited, intrigued and fascinated by the new things they are discovering. To share this with others through theatre and creative arts is not only an exciting start point for a piece of theatre but also an obligation. If we understand why a praying mantis might wear 3D glasses then why shouldn’t everyone! If you’d like to find out why follow this link

I’m looking forward to a summer of insect fun and the prospect of a professional touring show made with a large and diverse creative team. I hope you can come along for a workshop or to see our work in progress showing at Ouseburn Farm.

Post Workshop Day 1 – Brad McCormick

So 11am rolled around and we were in the classroom at the Ouseburn Farm about to start. We had a group of potential insects with us, roughly 10-15 including grown-ups. So we set to work.

But just before we moved from a brief chat to getting on our feet, we had an influx of more participants. By the time it was 11.05am, 46 people were there! But our philosophy is the more insects the merrier and before long, a huge group of pretend praying mantises were swarming about the place and catching imaginary flies.

From a facilitation point-of-view, it’s really good to have the first workshop under the belt. After thinking about the workshops (and the show that will result from them) for some time, it’s a relief to get in the room and have a sense of how you might work in reality, which exercises bear fruit and which ones lose kid’s attention.

In real terms, we created two characters today (a praying mantis and a bee), gave them names and voices, met them individually and then collectively created a scene from scratch where the two meet each other on top of a flower.

Tomorrow we’ll turn our attention to dragonflies and ladybirds and see where the children’s imaginations take us.

Associate artist for Performing Research

August 4th, 2015


Performing Research

Cap-a-Pie is seeking an associate artist to work on our Performing Research project. Performing Research is Cap-a-Pie’s current programme of work, delivered in association with Newcastle University. Together with researchers we are exploring how theatre and drama practices can enable academic research to be more democratic, more accessible and more relevant to communities.

Part of our programme is weekly studio sessions held at Newcastle University where we co-create with academics to develop new pieces of theatre for a scratch performances held at Northern Stage. The pieces are performed by the academic researchers. We are looking for an associate artist to work with Cap-a-Pie and our academic partners to co-create and develop new work for one of these performances.

For more details about Performing Research and Cap-a-Pie’s work please visit

Person Specification

We encourage artists working in any discipline who are interested in co-creating work with academics for live performance to apply.


  • Experience of creating new work.
  • Enthusiastic attitude towards co-creation and participatory practice.
  • Experience of working with non-professional performers.
  • Ability to deliver projects to deadlines.
  • Experience of creating work for live performance.


  • Experience of co-creation with non-arts professionals particularly within an academic context.

Timescales and Fee

Studio will run every Thursday from 8th October, 6pm – 9pm, at Newcastle University, leading to a scratch performance at Northern Stage on the 26th November. We would expect associate artists to attend at least 4 rehearsals – this can be negotiated at interview.

Freelance fee – £1,200 (including all travel & resources).

For details on how to apply please email

Deadline for applications: Midday 4th September.

Interviews will be held 11th September at Ouseburn Farm, Newcastle, NE1 2PA.

Letters for Learners by Eliot North

May 18th, 2015


Thanks you Eliot North for this poem chronicling our Letters for Learners project!



Over Byker Bridge a metro rumbles

The sound of key-strokes as Michael tumbles

Words of research on his computer,

A letter forming from rhyme and meter

To send to someone as yet unknown,

Who’ll receive this missive in their home.




Matt is exploring what wellbeing means;

How stats can skew things, define hopes and dreams.

Governments like numbers but who provides?

Statisticians like counting, there’s the divide.

Wellbeing is personal, what do they measure?

Feet in plush carpet; is this your pleasure?




Jayne has a warm-up, breathe in and out

Mimic the wind and tide with your shout.

Decisions needing making. Who has the power?

Make your voice heard, it will take just an hour.

A mix tape is offered; connect with her vision

Mind maps or software, there is no division.




Quoc is a scientist, senses are key;

How do we connect what we hear and we see?

Earplugs and eye masks are props that we name,

To understand different parts of the brain.

Occipital, temporal; place you hand there,

Let’s see if your isolate sense is aware.




Kate makes her art out of things we all do,

When we’re not thinking of words and who’s who.

Think of your gestures, sighs and eye contact.

Observe your doctor, what is the impact?

Non-verbal noises, the sway of your hips

What do we say without moving our lips?





Michael now asks us to think of identity;

Generation’s relation to gender and geography.

Go get a photo, a place you hold dear

Collect all reminders, ones you have near.

Put in the envelopes; one gold, one red

Associations will then flood your head.




Letters for learners; Cap-a-Pie’s scheme.

Katy and Brad steer the writers up stream.

Newcastle public, we want to engage;

Hear from a researcher, then turn the page.

Read through our letters and soon make some art,

I think we’ve all made one hell of a start!


If you’d like to receive a letter from a research visit our Letters for Learners page.