Last night, at the Axis Arts Centre in Crewe, marked the end of our debut play, ‘Origins’.
In 2014, under a rail arch in South London Henry McGrath, Oscar Thompson, and myself gathered to begin the first improvisations of what would later become the story of Cain in ‘Origins’. That long journey which has led us to this point in October 2018 sheds light on the diligent, and considerate process that we adopt here at Animikii Theatre.
In 2015 we were invited to perform the first scratch of Origins running at 25 mins in length at Liverpool’s Physical Fest. I still remember staring across the dressing room at Henry, who seemed to be engaged in a trance like state of preparation as he sat, head phones on, immersing himself in the inspiration needed to take those first steps as Cain. In his calmness I found confidence, and we took that step together to introduce ourselves to the theatre world for the very first time as Animikii Theatre.
One month later in June of that year, we received the news of a commission to produce ‘Origins’ in 2016 for a combined studio and rural national tour from Matthew Eames and Claire Symonds at The Lowry Studio. Excited by this prospect we received funding to research and develop the play, performing scratch performances in late 2015. Then in early 2016 we found our Cain: Charles Sandford. There was no doubt that in that audition we had found something special to build the world of ‘Origins’ around. Charles took our breath away with his physicality and raw emotional depths. Being the one who worked with him in that audition on the killing of Abel, I can say personally how breathtaking that was. Charles has since taken that role to extraordinary psychological and physical heights. The tour in 2016 became the 1st variation of ‘Origins’; made in just three weeks, and premiered at The Lowry. Following this we toured to the Southbank Centre and SOLD OUT, toured rurally to regions we felt needed our way of telling stories, and finished back where we began in Liverpool at Physical Fest at The Unity Theatre.
‘Origins’ could have ended there. But we knew that to truly announce ourselves to the world of theatre we had to take the emotional and FINANCIAL leap and journey up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which we eventually did in 2017 at Zoo Venues. This became our 2nd variation of ‘Origins’ with work being done on a new structure and overall flow and feel of the play. The month of August in 2017 was filled with a myriad of emotions that are all too common of a run in Edinburgh, I later found out. Earning our first award was a delight, and receiving a healthy mix of reviews and criticism we set out to tour to Bristol’s Circomedia, where, due to scheduling conflicts, I got the chance to play Cain and experience that journey from the inside. These two performances in Bristol were emotional for another reason: it was be the first time Henry and I had performed together since our scratch events in 2015. It also became the 3rd variation of ‘Origins’ due to the hindsight of Edinburgh and being able to re-structure and add in much needed scenes to help the emotional journey of Cain.
Again, ‘Origins’, could have and nearly did end there. It would have been perfect.
In May 2018 I received a message from Charles offering a chance to tour the play to Sardinia and the Rooted Moon Festival. It was too much to resist. Armed with a renewed vigour for telling the story once again we edited the play and managed to tour it abroad to an outdoor festival atop of a historic castle in Sardinia. It was a truly spell-binding experience, and one that proved that our way of telling stories can transcend language barriers. Then came the final date…
After Sardinia we were offered a chance to return to MMU Crewe and the Axis Arts Centre where coincidentally we had first ran an R&D phase on ‘Origins’ in 2014. ‘Full circle’ comes to mind.
I am writing this post the morning after that performance, and I can proudly announce that ‘Origins’ will end here. Last night Charles and I (and Henry in spirit) walked on stage for the last time as Cain & Abel. Every glance, every lunge and swipe with a stick, every laugh and chase, every turn and fall, each fight and embrace was alive with sensitivity and faith in this story. Last night I was very privileged to share an hour with a brother, and help celebrate the great work achieved by all who have worked to build ‘Origins’. We gave our hearts last night to Henry McGrath (Director/Performer), Ian Morgan (Director), Oscar Thompson (Sound Design), and Aaron Dootson (Lighting Design). Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart to all of you for giving your work to this play.
Origins performed to nearly 1300 people in 33 performances over 2 years and 6 months.
Quite an opening chapter. Now begins the steps toward a new story…