It's little over 12 months since he first performed 'What Does Stuff Do?' to a captivated audience in St Paul's Church, now BA graduate Robin Dale has won the ACT prize at Birmingham's BE Festival for the show he developed in his final year at Circomedia.

BE Festival (short for Birmingham European Festival) cultivates a daring programme of theatre, dance and contemporary circus - amongst other artforms - every July at The Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Our Portland Square venue has played host to their touring show, 'Best of BE', on several occasions and this year it was time for Circomedia to pay a visit to our friends in the midlands.

 

Robin's show, 'What Does Stuff Do?', is an extraordinary fusion of high-level juggling, physical theatre and philosophy. Performed in just a pair of swimming trunks, Robin enthrals his audience with a delivery that is part stand-up, part academic lecture, about how ordinary objects can be transformed by the way in which one interacts with them. So impressed were the BE judging panel that they awarded him the ACT Festival prize, entitling Robin to perform at the ACT Theatre Festival in Bilbao. He's also been invited to join the Spanish leg of the next 'Best of BE' tour and will hopefully be with them for their UK tour in March, meaning he may well be captivating the audiences of St Paul's Church once more.

We caught up with Robin to talk to him about BE Festival and what the future holds for his award winning show.

How did you get involved with the BE Festival?

I saw the 'Best of BE' touring show at Portland Square a couple of years ago and thought it was amazing. I applied this year on a whim amongst several other applications, not expecting in any way to be accepted, so I was super excited when I had a call from the directors to confirm my place.

What did you learn from doing the festival?

In terms of tangible knowledge gained, it’s hard to say. During the festival I was constantly absorbing information and ideas through workshops, discussion sessions and many, many conversations with other practitioners and audience members. It opened my eyes to the depth and diversity of European theatre. It’s an amazing festival. Everyone should go!

Has the show changed much from its first performance in May 2016?

The show is totally recognisable from when it was my Circomedia final project, although I have spent a lot of time reworking it. The juggling is very similar and the script follows the same line of logic but I think it’s better written now. The main difference is the tone; I am finding that I have a better communication with the audience when the style is more casual and the persona closer to real-life me. I’ve been working a lot on the vocal delivery, which I find really hard, but luckily I have a few people who help me when I start panicking.

Are you looking to develop 'What Does Stuff Do?' any more?

For sure. I was falling out with the show a little bit in my rehearsals before summer, but now I’ve had some more chances to perform with nice audiences I have remembered that it’s fun and we are back on good terms.

At the moment the body of research the show is based on is much bigger than the performance and I have a lot of ideas and half-formed bits of material floating around it. So yes, I think there is scope to develop and maybe even extend (a little bit) the piece.

My immediate priority is to translate the whole show into Spanish, and to improve my speaking ability (currently 0) to a performable standard, in time for the Best of BE Spanish tour in October. Wish me luck!

Are you working on anything new? And does it explore similar themes to WDSD?

I’ve been working on several cabaret style acts, some of which are developed directly from WDSD content (pingpong man, water juggling), and am also in the early stages of creating a science show for children in collaboration with another performer.

We wish Robin the best of luck for his Spanish tour and we hope St Paul's Church will be reverberating with the sound of bouncing pingpong balls once again.

You can watch an edited version of 'What Does Stuff Do?' on our YouTube channel here.

Photographs published by kind permission of Jonny Fuller-Rowell at BE Festival