My reply from Lucy Frazer MP to my letter about Dominic Cummings

1 Jun

A ‘standard response’ ?It has the same typo in the first sentence on all the others she sent too…

Dear Marcus

Thank you for contacting me regarding Dominic Cummings. I appreciate you taking the time to contact to me.

I have received a very large number of emails about this matter, and it has not been possible to respond to each of them individually and I am sorry that this is a standard response.
I am sorry to hear of the difficulties that you have experienced in adhering to the Government guidance. I know that the measures that the Government have implemented to tackle coronavirus have made ordinary life extremely difficult for many individuals, and huge sacrifices have been made in order to be able to follow them.  Some people have lost their loved ones, and others have been unable to see their family for some time.

As you will be aware Mr Cummings gave a detailed account of his actions, and answered questions from the press. Having listened to his statement on Monday, it seems that his actions were motivated by a desire to protect and safeguard his son and his family in difficult and uncertain circumstances.  I appreciate that many people are disappointed with his actions.  I should say that some constituents have written to me to say that they understand his actions and wish for him to stay in his role as an advisor to the Prime Minister.

 

Over the past few months, I have seen our country and our communities come together through generous acts of volunteering and kindness. This has been especially true in our area. I know that there is a lot of concern and anger at the actions of Mr Cummings, but I hope that this united community spirit will continue, as officials across the country implement measures that will keep us all safer as we tackle this virus together.  As a government, we need to focus our attention on fighting the virus, getting the economy back on track and supporting the vulnerable.  We have come a long way in this journey and our full attention needs to be on the next stage.

 

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Lucy Frazer QC MP
MP for South East Cambridgeshire

www.lucyfrazer.org.uk

www.facebook.com/FrazerLucy

#SHEDx talk with Marcus Romer and Bill Thompson

22 May

 

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Welcome to the first SHEDx talk – from my shed – as we are under lockdown from the Covid-19 pandemic. I wanted to put together some talks by interesting people who have interesting things to say. As some of you will know I have run a TEDx and indeed several Shift-Happens conferences which again brought together interesting people who shared their ideas and thoughts with an audience.

So for our first SHEDx I invited Bill Thompson to share his Idas about a pot pandemic world and how some of the technologies that brought us to this crisis might need to be shifted to help us build a better future.

The format is that I introduce the speaker via Zoom from my shed – and they then present their talk. The idea is that main talks are no more than 10 minutes long and that they ask us some difficulty questions.

There will be more to follow – and if you are interested in being part of sharing your thoughts as part of SHEDx please drop me a line marcusromeruk@gmail.com

The video with intro and chat with me first …

 

The video of Bill’s talk without the chat and intro

 

SHEDx acknowledges the work of TED but is not affiliated to it. Marcus Romer has run TEDxYork and attended the TED conference several times. In the current lockdown period this is a series of talks looking at the issues facing us with speakers from around the world.

Telling the stories of the Coronavirus pandemic with #Covid19Threads

12 May

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Covid-19 threads is a series of short films derived from twitter threads that have appeared during the Covid-19 pandemic. These shorts are designed to sit back in the same social media space that the authors originally located them in.

As part of Mutiny, our new company, Simon Poulter, Sophie Mellor and I have been working on making these over the last few weeks.

Covid 19 Threads.

The first film is by Dr Arnav Agarwal and is voiced up by British actor Oliver Alvin Wilson. Dr Agarwal movingly describes his experience of looking after a man suffering from Covid-19 and the act of bringing his family in to say final goodbyes over an iPad.

The second film is based on the experience of Drew Penkala and is voiced up by British actor Raphael Sowole. Poignantly, in the film, the main character faces up to the fact that following his Grandpa’s death he will not be able to attend the funeral and will be forced to watch via a live stream link.

The third Covid-19 Threads film is written by Dominic Minghella, emotionally poised between his own survival from the virus and the death of someone close to his neighbour. Voiced by Alan Mehdizadeh

In episode 4, nurse Amelia Hennegan describes her sad experience of holding the hand of a dying man at the height of the pandemic (April 2020). Her frustration bursts out from the tweet as she asks people to ‘stay the fuck home’, as the lockdown starts to fray. Voiced by Claire Lacey.

Many people have been unable to visit or see their loved ones during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the fifth film in the Covid-19 Threads series, a man’s mum is in her last moments of life at Doncaster Royal Infirmary. A health care assistant, just known to him as Julie, holds her hand as she passes over. A sad and true story from the UK 2020 lockdown. This episode of Covid-19 Threads is voiced by Natalie Gavin. Words by Glenn Mitchell.

In the sixth film of this series, one of the saddest stories of the pandemic is told via a tweet by Francina Hyatt. Both of her parents died during the pandemic and she expresses the pain of that experience, not being able to hug or console her family members. The story is voiced up by Liverpool based actor Keddy Sutton. Our thanks to Francina for her permission to use her words. The film charts the period from 1945 to 2020, the course of the lives of her parents.

We are deeply grateful to the original twitter authors who have given us permission to use their material and to the actors who have come forward to voice them up. Covid-19 Threads has been remotely produced by Mutiny during lockdown. We would also like to thank Sandy Nuttgens for post-production sound. The entire project has been made on goodwill and the conviction that these stories need to be recorded and shared. All work on Covid-19 Threads has been voluntary.

Mutiny was born in 2019, formed by Sophie Mellor, Marcus Romer and Simon Poulter. The new company has the simple aim of bringing fresh performative art and theatre works to new audiences using whatever medium or combination of media it takes. We are accepting new commissions working from our UK base, comprising of the Mutiny HQ in London, Mutiny Corner Studios in Plymouth and Mutiny Shed in Cambridge.

If you have a story then please get in contact at info@mutiny.org.uk

Follow on twitter at @MutinyProjects and #Covid19Threads

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Marcus Romer is delivering one-to one online courses for Arts Practitioners, Actors, Directors and Arts Organisations

1 May

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Marcus Romer

Artistic Director / Theatre  / Film / Digital 

New one-to one courses for Arts Practitioners, Actors, Directors and Arts Organisations

I am an award winning director and theatre maker who has led Arts Council funded National organisations for over 25 years. I have a specialism in creating and directing new work in theatre and film, with additional skills in digital capture and live-streaming of productions. I am offering one to one sessions online for actors, directors and arts organisations across the UK. These include:-

Audition and Monologue preparation and rehearsal. These could be for drama school entry, self taping, showreels,  or ongoing acting training.

Presenting and acting for camera skills

Script reading and dramaturgical advice on pieces of new writing.

Application advice and one to one support for arts funding and job submissions 

Live to Digital practical skills and training – including live-streaming and online platform creative work delivery.

Digital strategy – planning and delivery

Business Plans and strategic planning for arts organisations.

Marcus was Artistic Director of Pilot Theatre,  Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds and Associate Artist for Theatre Royal Stratford East and Harrogate Theatre and National Theatre, Wales. He wrote and co-directed The Knife That Killed Me for Universal Pictures. He has directed shows that have opened and played in more than 30 theatres across the UK. He has developed digital strategies for Manchester Royal Exchange, Chichester Festival Theatre, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Kettle’s Yard, Home, Manchester. He has taught and directed at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School

All one to one courses are bespoke for each person or organisation. With concessionary rates for students and early career artists and a sliding scale for funded organisations.

Please drop me a line at marcusromeruk@gmail.com for an initial chat

 

marcusromer.com

Call for Key worker testimonies and stories #Covid19

19 Apr

0304_n13_covid_19_coronavirus_graphic_generic_fileAre you a key worker? Are you working in the health and care system?  Have you been told you can’t share your stories on social media? We want to hear from you. We want to hear your stories. We want to hear your experiences.

So stories about triage, DNR, lack PPE, requests to work in gowns for multiple patients, the video calls to relatives, how you get through your day.

But also the recovery stories, those about the human spirit, kindness, love and empathy.

It is important for all of us that we can learn from you and document this time, these stories and your experiences.

We don’t want the stories and you to go unheard…

We would like to be able to share these at the right time with your permission – but for now we would just like to hear from you.

You can DM me on twitter at @marcusromer or send me an email to Marcusromeruk@gmail.com

 

 

Taking livestreamed theatre into Adult Social Care Homes with @stratfordeast

11 Apr

Arts organisations must keep their digital archive online and free to access – after all we’ve paid for this to be made in the first place –

Marcus Romer's work & blog

I really enjoy working as an associate artist at Theatre Royal Stratford East. As part of our work as A People’s Theatre, we are continuing  to explore how this can extend the reach and engagement for audiences using existing and emerging platforms and networks.

I have previously described the real human connection that was discovered when our livestream went into children’s hospitals and a children’s hospice earlier this year. As you may know I have been a real advocate in my work for developing new projects that have an extended element of digital engagement for audiences for over a decade now.

So this new initiative is no different. Tommy, is the great new touring production of the classic 1969 album and subsequent movie by The Who. Ramps on the Moon have produced an extraordinary show, directed by Stratford East’s Artistic Director, Kerry Michael, the piece has access running through all aspects of the…

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Making and directing a piece of #ZoomTheatre across Norway during the #lockdown

8 Apr

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 14.19.36Welcome to Radio Harstad…

Harstad is a beautiful town in the Arctic Circle, and I have been visiting and working there every year since 2016. I first went when my film was screened at the Arctic Moving Image Film Festival. I was invited by my now friend and colleague Helene Hokland who is the festival director and who also runs the lovely 1930’s cinema in the town. To screen The Knife That Killed Me – and to do a director’s Q and A. Also to run a workshop for the FHS in Harstad and their drama and performing arts students.

It was here that I was taken to the school at the north of the town, which runs from an enormous building that houses the students and staff. It is a one or two year residential course and the students come from all over Norway. It is a tertiary college and students range in age from 18 – 23. It has a drama and film black box studio, a recording studio as well as making spaces, large communal rooms and the most amazing view across the Fjords.

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The Theatre Director is a wonderfully creative powerhouse and inspiring woman called Hege Fjeld who runs the course and leads the students. She has invited me back every year to work with her and her students and it is an immense privilege to do so. I normally spend a week working and making something with Hege and her students. This year of course is different. All the students are at home under lockdown across Norway from Alta in the very North to South of Oslo – a distance of over 1200 miles and 24 ours of driving. Norway is huge…So over the last week, Hege and I have been working remotely in Harstad and Cambridge and making and directing this piece together.

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So we have spent last week for two hours a day meeting on Zoom and working through a script version of War of the Worlds that Hege has translated. Here you can see one of the students, Embla, presenting as the weather reporter for North Norway where you can see Harstad at 8 degrees on the West Coast.

We rehearsed the students together and individually on the Zoom platform. We used the additional backgrounds tool and were able to add in all the locations we needed for this first part of the project. You can see the Radio Harstad insert via green screen on the picture at the top too.

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We chose the backgrounds carefully to allow the students to be placed in the locations for their direct to camera address. Part of the online rehearsal and work was about getting the light right, and also the capture device at eye level for the actors to rehearse straight down the lens. All too often the image on the screen is who speakers tend to talk to and this is too low for eyelines.

So after rehearsal we were able to then mute and take off screen all the other students and focus on the main speaker. We then used the capture and record button to shoot a take. This was done a few times then the files were then transferred to Hege and the edit suite and studio back in Harstad.

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Some characters were supposed to be in the same location. So again with careful use of a correctly angled background image we were able to give that illusion between the interviewer Karoline Phillips and Professor Pedersen in our shot above.

The files were then edited together and additional foley sound and score were added from the recording studio at the school. We have completed the first part of the project and we have 18 minutes of captured, edited and scored material. We will meet for a couple of hours a day from the middle of next week and complete this piece of work.

It is incredibly rewarding to spend creative time with such talented students, and the learning for all of us has been a rapid curve over the 5 days we spent working.

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The Zoom platform is great for recording – and the sound quality is very good indeed. The image quality depends on bandwidth at each end, and this can vary when the platform is in heavy usage.

The excitement of going for a take is the same as any form of filmmaking or theatre production. It involves focus and concentration and this is undoubtedly a really good training opportunity for the students. This level of focus and discipline from within their own home environments during this time – is the same for all of us.

I have always been excited to explore the possibilities of how we can harness the power of emergent technologies to make connections and creative work happen. From early livestreaming work back in 2008 – through to multiple camera livestreams and making feature films in Green Screen studios. This exploration with Zoom Theatre is part of that journey.

If anyone would like to know more about the process please drop me a line on here or find me as @marcusromer on social platforms.

I am going to leave you with another view of the Arctic Circle with its amazing light and clarity. IMG_5787

Hacking the system and taking the punk approach to live streaming shows

19 Mar

Still relevant – and even more so for now – we need to take a punk approach to live-streaming theatre and performances

Marcus Romer's work & blog

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On Saturday November the 4th at Theatre Royal Stratford East we captured the last two shows from the Graeae tour of  ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’

This has been part of the ‘live to digital’ work we have been doing at the Theatre, and something that I have been leading on over the last year. We have livestreamed work into hospitals, hospices and adult social care homes.

The show is fantastic, and the performers all belt out the songs of Ian Dury and the Blockheads with gusto, verve and infectious energy. It has a punk style and an urgent pace, and has been directed with flair by Jenny Sealey, the AD of Graeae.

We have been supported by The Space to deliver this – and we are aiming to get a release of this on the Cinegi platform in March next year.

It got me thinking, what would Ian Dury…

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Making and directing 6 shows in the last 12 months

2 Feb

It’s been a busy old time – and what a great range of projects I have had the privilege of working on over the last 12 months. I have worked with fantastic teams with whom I have collaborated with to deliver 6 very diverse pieces of performance work. I will let the pictures speak for themselves – and let you know the teams who helped me to make these happen.

January – February 2019

Let The Right One inBristol Old Vic Theatre School – adapted by Jack Thorne. Designed by Alana Ashley with costumes by Roisin Martindale. Music by Andy Jenks, Lighting and AV by Joe Stathers. This had great laser projection that allowed pinpoint blood splatters on the bodies. It also had a wonderful final year cast. It ran at Circomedia in Bristol in February 2019.

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March – August 2019
Justice 39 – People Power Passion – Revoluton Arts written by Roy Williams, Atiha Sen Gupta, James McDermott. Design, graphics and AR Simon Poulter, Video by Sophie Mellor, directing team Suzann McLean, music by Sandy Nuttgens, Lavz and Sadface the Poet. Images by Simon Poulter. A large scale outdoor production for the city of culture bid in Luton, which had live performance, augmented reality, live music, video and graphics.

 

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July – September 2019

Pride and Prejudice – adapted by Simon Reade, Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. Design by Dawn Allsopp, Lighting by Dave Thwaites, Sound by Chris Last, Movement direction by Julia Cave, costumes by Heidi McEvoy-Swift, Photos by Tony Kelly. The production with a professional team of 6 actors and a community cast of 18 ran for 16 shows over the summer.

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September 2019

Cambridge International Education & Culture Centre. University of Cambridge Summer School. Words by Tim Wheeler and Marcus Romer. A Shakespeare summer school with our version of the Tempest with these students from across China.

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November 2019 – January 2020

Peter PanTheatre Royal Bury St Edmunds – written by Chris Hannon, MD Ward Baker, Sound Drew Bauhmol, Design Dawn Allsopp, costumes by Heidi McEvoy-Swift, LX John Slevin, Choreography and movement Jess Ellen Knight. Images Tony Kelly. This was the most successful pantomime in the theatre’s history and the team delivered 84 performances over a seven week run.

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January – February 2020

Shirley ValentineTheatre Royal Bury St Edmunds – by Willy Russell, with Keddy Sutton as Shirley, Design by Alana Ashley, LX by Arnim Friess, Sound by Chris Last, Associate Director Natasha Rickman, costumes by Heidi McEvoy-Swift. Images by Aaron Weight and Arnim Friess. This just opened on January 31st and runs until February 15th.

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So what’s next? Well I will be directing Big Skies in June for Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds – written by Atiha Sen Gupta and James McDermott.

Then I will be directing the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds Community Production in August. The title for this will be announced soon once we have secured the rights…

I am currently programming the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds season to the end of 2020 as acting Artistic Director.

I am also by working alongside my new partners for Mutiny Projects in a new R&D for Arts Council England. 

Here’s to the next 12 months and making new work happen with great teams

Special effects in Theatre – design solutions for #LetTheRightOneIn @bovts

26 Feb
Let The Right One In_Mark Dawson Photography_DSC_7608Anna-Kate Golding as Eli – photo by Mark Dawson

One of the greatest discoveries during my last directing project was working out how we could solve some of the key effects required in the production of Let The Right One In.

Spoiler alert – these included hanging a character by his feet: a sulphuric acid facial burn, a character bleeding from every part of her body, a swimming pool murder scene, in which three characters are brutally killed.

All of which needed to take place in between scenes of relative ‘normality’ took place. So this meant we couldn’t have the stage swimming in blood one minute, water the next, and then cut back to the interior of a house with the characters back to a state of un bloodied costume and hair.

So working with set designer Alana Ashley and Costume designer Roisin Martindale we set out to solve these last October and November – before we went into rehearsal in January this year.

We were going to be performing the piece at Circomedia – which meant that our first challenge was solved. They had flying gear and rigging equipment in the grid that would allow us to winch the character of ‘Torkel’ played by Will Fletcher into the air and be able to lower him down again safely and securely.

Let The Right One In_Mark Dawson Photography_DSC_6624Will Fletcher as Torkel photo by Mark Dawson

We decided to explore the use of AV projection, and the lighting designer Joe Stathers hired a laser projector (It was 10,000 lumens Panasonic PT-RZ970 with a 0.9-1.3 lens)

In the rear of the image you can see on the ice and snow mound a great splatter of blood from the laser projector with precision mapping on the mound. ( Thanks to Daniel Harvey for his mapping and AV skills) So with this we knew we could place sharp and precise blood spots and movie files on any location on the set. This delivered not only great effects but also enabled us to solve the blood ‘management’ issue for certain scenes.

Let The Right One In_Mark Dawson Photography_DSC_7816Freddy Sawyer, Beshlie Thorpe, Emer Heatley, Lawrence Haynes, Tom Briggs, Will Fletcher and Oscar Porter – photo by Mark Dawson

Here the blood splatters on the set and on the bodies was clearly visible from the laser projector. In another shot you can see the aftermath discovery with Eli and Oskar at the side of the pool.

Let The Right One In_Mark Dawson Photography_DSC_7785Tom Briggs, Will Fletcher Oscar Porter Shane David Jospeh and Anna-Kate Golding – photo by Mark Dawson

The pool was another design solution that we came up with. The mound opened for the scene to reveal the blue and green light recessed pool area that Oskar (Shane David Joseph) had to get into.

Let The Right One In_Mark Dawson Photography_DSC_7725Will Fletcher, Shane David Joseph, Tom Briggs and Oscar Porter – photo by Mark Dawson

All of the design and structural elements were built and finished by the BOVTS set and construction and scenic art teams who did a brilliant job. The same was true for the costume elements – and below you can see the dress designed by Roisin Martindale and made by Jemima Homer that solved our special effects challenge. In this sequence it  was required that Eli (Anna-Kate Golding) should be covered in blood as her blood vessels under her skin explode and shower blood across her body.

Let The Right One In_Mark Dawson Photography_DSC_7469Shane David Joseph and Anna-Kate Golding as Oskar and Eli – photo by Mark Dawson

This was achieved with the clever use of silk, crocheted wool and material packed under a separate duplicate dress. In combination with movement and lighting we were able to produce this as part of the action in that particular scene.

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The resulting projection after the scene of the blood dress enable us to leave the ‘marks’ on the set.

The Acid burn face was achieved by building a silicon mask onto a cast of ‘Hakan’ (Freddy Sawyer’s face) and painting it. This was blended with make up and fitted during each show at the interval by the make up team.

Let The Right One In_Mark Dawson Photography__DSC3093Anna-Kate Golding and Freddy Sawyer – photo by Mark Dawson

So a brief overview of some of the techniques we deployed for the show. You can read the 5 star reviews here and here

The show was a real joy to direct and the cast and production team worked incredibly hard to deliver this in the timescale.

IMG_5009 Here we all are after the final performance