Name: UP THE ANTE THEATRE COMPANY
Mission: CREATING REFRESHING COOPERATIVE THEATRE
During The Spiralling Exhibition 001, a friend of a friend from Cheltenham, Jo Byron, came into the gallery. We had a catch up chat and she explained that she was now involved with a theatre company. I offered to write a Spiralling feature on them, so here it is!
Up The Ante Theatre Company are a collective of artists who work together cooperatively to make new work, as well as collaborating with other local performance artists. Jo is the founder of the company and worked in a theatre before studying drama at university in Bristol. She then went on to work as a freelancer in various arts industries throughout Bristol for several years. She therefore felt that she knew a large amount of people to build a company with. However, Jo instead wanted to build something entirely new, and so set about looking for people she had never worked with. “I placed an advert in Theatre Bristol with the outline of what I wished to do, and went about drafting people into the project that way. I’ve found this website to be a way of tapping into a seemingly never ending source of talent from within the city.”
Due to the fact that the company has been built from scratch, everyone has had to build it whilst juggling other commitments. “For most of us, this means directly turning down paid work in order to give our time to the project. We have struggled with this immensely, and have unfortunately lost several members due to this. The nature of losing people has been incredibly painful for all of us, and we have used this struggle to form a more resilient, determined company with a tighter bond between its members. We are all still in it because we loved it too much to let it go, even when everything felt impossible.”
The company has been running for just over a year now and they have produced one performance so far, as well as featuring at scratch nights. “We make the work because it is a passion of all of ours to be a bigger part of the fantastic arts scene in this city. We want to make work that pushes traditional boundaries and challenges the old, stuffy structures of traditional theatre to make something new. We also want to make space to allow people who have found it hard to work in this industry to come and get involved.” The company’s second performance ‘Auguste and the Moon‘ is on a much larger scale and will be performed in April at the Trinity Centre.
The company perform contemporary experimental theatre that draws on various styles. “Mainly these are a mix of physical-theatre, improvisation and clowning, although part of our company focus is skill-sharing, so we bring in elements of everyone’s talent to our projects.”
Between all the members of Up The Ante there are endless inspirations. “We explore artists, composers, writers, dancers, animators, films, and theatre-makers of all descriptions in order to build our work, drawing on the backgrounds and influences of everyone who is involved in the project.” ‘Auguste and the Moon’ is an adaptation of Henry Miller’s ‘The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder’, the story of a famous clown. “Our director, Eduardo, has been wanting to put on this play for twenty years, so developing it has been an incredibly special journey for all of us.” For this particular project, they have been heavily influenced by the artwork that Miller was inspired by when writing the book; Leger’s clown illustrations, as well as Miller’s own painting, and the work of Miro.”
Running free open workshops has been one of the company’s proudest moments. “We invited local artists to our acting workshops. We loved being able to open our work up to people to come and see how we operate, and we were introduced to a world of fantastic new people. The workshop encouraged people of all acting levels, including those with little to no experience. It was a fantastic feeling when several of those people let us know how long they had been lacking the confidence to do something like this, and to see them seizing the opportunity. They were all incredibly talented and it was just wonderful to be able to give them the opportunity.”
In the future Up The Ante want to run more workshops, especially as there has been a demand for them. “We also wish to expand the collaborative element of the company to work with more local artists to bring together something which reflects the multifaceted nature of the city. We would like to tour our work and take a little slice of Bristol to show elsewhere in the country. Most of all, we hope that people catch the buzz!” If you’d like more information on anything related to Up The Ante please feel free to contact them on the links below.