– a guest blog by Sarah-Jayne Butler, cast member for Operation Black Antler 

As an actor a huge draw to this project was the opportunity to work collaboratively, creating a piece of work that seeks to challenge and question our own perceptions and understanding rather than to offer answers. No script to hide behind, no stage to distance ourselves from an audience and no wings to creep into is both terrifying and exciting as a performer. Having researched the topics we cover in the play individually up until now, we began by sharing our findings, exploring the background of surveillance and hearing from an activist who’s life has been affected by undercover surveillance.

In order to encourage our audience members to be active participants, rather than passive viewers, the world and characters they encounter must be completely believable.

We were lucky enough to have Mike Bradwell with us for the first two days of rehearsal to help us craft detailed, believable characters. Mike is the founder of Hull Truck, a collaborator of Mike Leigh’s and most recently ran the Bush Theatre in London. His approach is actor-led, and guiding us through long-form imaginative questioning and away from “head- banging” he helped us to open up the world our character’s exist in. The stimulus for this work however is very real and the research and understanding we already had, helped to flesh out and add nuance to the characters along the way.

Operation Black Antler is unique as it is immersive both for audience and actors and Mike’s approach to character is fully immersive. The detail he helped us find over the past two days will hopefully make the world our audience come into, complete. On day two he asked us to bring in one item of clothing that could work for the character. I decided on a pair of shoes- so often the way a shoe effects how you walk has a direct affect on how the character moves, thinks and behaves. We got the characters on to their feet and I experienced, quite literally, what it was to walk in another person’s shoes. Some of the findings when I took my character out into the world were quite unnerving – the way she views others, the way she interacts and behaves were vastly different to my own rhythms and perceptions.

To see the world through different eyes is something I as an actor take for granted. It’s part of the job and for many performers, one of the most interesting aspects of it. It makes us ask questions and seek answers. By placing our audience at the forefront of this experience, encouraging them to view the world with a different set of motives and options available, we hope to provoke thought and discussion about how surveillance impacts our world today.

Operation Black Antler premieres at Brighton Festival 7th-28th May with dates to follow in Kent in June.

Brighton Festival

Sat 7 & Sun 8 May
Tue 10 – Sat 14 May
Tue 17 – Sat 21 May
Tue 24 – Sat 28 May
Time: Every 15 minutes from 6pm – 8:45pm
Ticket price: £20

Book tickets


Details for Kent will be announced soon

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