Catalyst in the Cloud was a online festival of theatre created by the MA Creative Producers at Mountview Academy, which ran from 4-7 June. It comprised fourteen productions in total, each running around fifteen minutes.
I managed to view most of the productions, to give a flavour of the festival, although I missed out on the dance piece Museum of Memories, Katie Sayer’s Pet Peeves and Other Drugs, Tanya Loretta Dee’s Posters and Madaline Gould’s Original Material.
The first film I viewed was [REDACTED]. Written and produced by Iarina Armaselu, directed by Anastasia Bunce, this is about the fall of Romania in 1989, the role of women, the meaning of democracy. Filmed in black and white to start, as in a confessional piece which plays with ideas around liberty, government, and identity.
Block’d Off starts with a lit-up tower block where we eavesdrop on two people (Louisa Binder and Landry Adeland) in this radio drama complete with “stage directions”. Written by Kieton Saunders-Brown, directed by Julia Levai and produced by Jake Curran-Pipe, this is a two-hander about companionship in a small space, how we tolerate and ignore each other to survive.
Next was And Eve? Or Voices For Quarantined Women. Created and produced by Flick Chilton, this is a timely piece about female identity and experience. The actors delivering their lines from recordings made by female-identifying people.
It explores issues around physical and mental illness, the female body, physical and psychological abuse, social media, and the effect of lockdown-imposed routine changes on women’s health and recovery.
My next choice was Mira and Her Maker. Written and directed by Phoebe Wood, produced by Kate Maguire, this is about a writer, her lockdown, her memories, sex, intimacy, nature, uncertainty, the characters she has created, and the blurring of fantasy and reality. The film is based on the play My First Time was in a Car Park.
Can I Call You Back? written and produced by Emily Rennie, performed by Phoebe White, is about phone conversations, anxiety, hiding, immune deficiencies, human fragility and more.
It is very funny watching the character on the screen make her own entertainment and happiness in isolation, and interesting to hear how thoughts can be articulated in a period of silence and solitude. As a film it is a one-room piece, with furnishings, lights to indicate time and mood changes, and White’s smudged make-up effectively belies her upbeat moments.
We’re in more blackly comic territory for Dan Street-Phillips’s Escape Claus, as Mrs Mary Claus gives a live YouTube broadcast on that happiest of nights for most of us, but the loneliest for her.
In “Getting Merry With Mary”, she gets progressively more tiddly as she tells us what happened when “his sleigh flew into town” (into the grandest of grottos). Produced by Daniel Cartlidge, and directed by Street-Phillips, we get a feel for the woman behind the man in the red suit, and it is nicely performed by Rebecca Crankshaw.
Delayed brings us to the train station, delays, commuters, customer service, and how (implied) suicide impacts on others. Written by Charles Douglas, directed by Olivia Stone and produced by Josh Foyster, this is a mix of transport nostalgia (all those empty stations make me long to be able to travel again) and personal trauma. I didn’t find the impersonation of different characters worked that well, although I appreciate the idea behind this.
We’re back to one person in confinement in In Hiding, written and directed by Becca Chadder. If you’re in a wardrobe with a laptop, you might start to talk more than you ever would out in the open. Jennifer Jones produces this piece which is deeply claustrophobic but very chatty and open. A quirky take on lockdown, hiding, and facing your fears, performed well by Fallon Mondlane.
Radio Imagination takes us into 2011 Japan, affected by earthquake and tsunami, with radio silence, chat and voices. It’s a piece which feels closer to the avant garde than the other films, with disembodied heads, weird sound effects, and a ghostly vibe.
Based on the novel by Seika Ita, it is translated with music by Yuka Harada-Parr. Directed by Kelsey Yuhara, produced by Masaaki Sagara, this is more than a little disconcerting to watch with its odd imagery and creative filming.
Finally, Angel of the North takes us to Leeds, where a young woman called Angel shares her story and her need to make others laugh. Martha Pothen performs her own play, which teases out the complexities of laughter and tears. Produced by Catriona Cayley.
The Catalyst in the Cloud films bring out a variety of creative ideas for the screen, exploring ways of developing ideas and engaging with audiences who aren’t there, reacting, in the room.
You can still, at the time of writing, watch the “Festival Talk” which considers change and progression in the theatre industry following this pause in live performance.
Catalyst in the Cloud was free to view.