Open Clasp celebrates 20 years of changing the world one play at a time
An Open Clasp and Live Theatre co-production, commissioned by Queen’s Hall Arts:
don’t forget the birds
Tour dates include:
20-24 November, Live Theatre, Newcastle
28 Nov-1 Dec, Battersea Arts Centre, London
Written by Catrina McHugh MBE
Directed by Laura Lindow
Multi-award winning North East theatre company Open Clasp celebrate their 20 year anniversary this week. Described by Lyn Gardner in the Guardian as “a remarkable company working with disempowered women”, over the last two decades Open Clasp’s productions have reached over 100,000 people, and the company has worked with more than 100 community groups, universities, schools and theatre companies.
Driven by a passionate belief that great theatre can bring about social change, Catrina McHugh cofounded the company in 1998. Originally from Liverpool but now based in the West End of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, last year Catrina was awarded an MBE for outstanding services to disadvantaged women through theatre. Open Clasp collaborate with women on the margins of society to create exciting theatre for personal, social and political change.
Erica Whyman, Open Clasp Patron and Deputy Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, said, “Open Clasp are a remarkable company, making small miracles happen which have wide and lasting impact. Their sensitive, impassioned commitment to telling the stories of the most vulnerable women in our society and doing it with real theatrical skill and invention has meant that voices which are otherwise ignored are not only heard but remembered and valued. I am very proud to be involved and sincerely hope they continue to change the world for the next 20 years.”
Their critically-acclaimed prison drama Key Change was created with women serving at HMP Low Newton in County Durham. It explored the experiences of women in prison and originally toured to male prisons. Open Clasp then took it to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2015 as part of the Northern Stage at Summerhall programme where it won the prestigious Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award, which led to an off-Broadway run in New York and a New York Times Critics’ Pick before returning to the UK for a sell out tour in 2016. It was also performed for key decision- and policy-makers at the Houses of Parliament in partnership with the National Alliance for Arts in Criminal Justice, CLiNKS and the Prison Reform Trust, and was screened globally to mark the UN campaign to end violence against women and girls in 2017.
Rattle Snake was created by Open Clasp and funded by Durham PCC and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), to train 398 frontline officers in better responding to sexual and domestic violence – coinciding with the change of law making coercive control in relationships a crime in 2015. The project was based on research identifying gaps in police understanding of coercive control by Professor Nicole Westmarland and Kate Butterworth (Durham University) and the impact of arts-based research interventions by Professor Maggie O’Neill (University College Cork).
This week, the company return home to Live Theatre in Newcastle with the follow up to Key Change. don’t forget the birds is the true story of what happened next for one of the women after release, told by real-life mother and daughter, Cheryl and Abigail Byron. Written by Catrina McHugh and directed by Laura Lindow, it opened at Queens Hall Hexham (13-14 November) before a national tour including Live Theatre Newcastle (20-24 November), Theatre Deli Sheffield (15 November), Middlesbrough Library (16 November) and Battersea Arts Centre (27 Nov - 1 Dec), as well as performances at community venues and schools.
Catrina McHugh MBE said, “Our work holds the voices of thousands of women and girls who are heroes in their own stories of survival. The majority have experienced discrimination, disadvantage, and are often marginalised. We’re celebrating two decades of creating theatre that changes lives, and I’m incredibly proud that in our 20th year our work is reaching audiences regionally, nationally and internationally and is also being used to train and educate. Together, we’re making change happen.”
Writer Catrina McHugh MBE
Director Laura Lindow
Set & Costume Designer Verity Quinn
Lighting Designer Ali Hunter
Sound Designer Mariam Rezaei
Movement Director Mona McCarthy
Photos: Keith Pattison
don’t forget the birds is written by Catrina McHugh MBE and directed by Laura Lindow.
It opens at Queens Hall Hexham (13-14 November) https://www.queenshall.co.uk/events/don%E2%80%99t-forget-birds
before a national tour including Live Theatre Newcastle (20-24 November) https://www.live.org.uk/whats-on/dont-forget-birds,
Theatre Deli Sheffield (15 November) https://www.theatredeli.co.uk/Event/dont-forget-the-birds
and Battersea Arts Centre (28 Nov – 1 Dec) https://www.bac.org.uk/content/45071/whats_on/whats_on/shows/dont_forget_the_birds.
For more information or to book tickets visit www.openclasp.org.uk.
Recommended age: 13+