Bonobo Conservation Initiative and Teshta the Monkey

22 January, 2013 § Leave a comment

On Saturday I went into London to meet with Tallulah from BCI-UK. We had a great meeting where we talked about everything from conservation, the education system, sexual education, inhibited religious upbringings, homosexuality and marriage. It was productive and we will definitely will be working together soon. We are both crazily busy though since we both have jobs and academic pursuits beyond the charity we are running. We decided to look at it after May when I am going to Morocco with Teshta (the Moroccan version of Muna the Monkey) so I am really excited about that in a couple of months.

I am also feeling inspired to find a new way to do Teshta. I am hoping to find a more portable in a country that doesn’t have such easy transport way of doing it. I think I have an idea but I am not sure how it will work yet. We also need to find a cast for it in Morocco which is not going to be an easy but I am ready for the challenge. Oh well, I better get on with the script if I am going to ever get there!

Monkey Hugs

New year – new projects

15 January, 2013 § Leave a comment

I am meeting with Tallulah Bygraves of Bonobo Conservation Initiative – UK at the weekend so I spent some of last night and this morning updating my bonobo-knowledge and coming up with a few creative ideas for how we could develop a play for them. I forgot how much I love designing things, particularly for a species I already love.

For those who don’t know already bonobos are part of the Pan group which is chimpanzees. They used to be called pygmy or gentile chimpanzees the former is a misnomer since they have a large overlap in size with chimpanzees. They live in a very small area in only one country – DRC. They are female-dominant and the females form friendship bonds since they are often not related. A male’s rank is dependent on that of his mother and he will stay in the same group as her with a life-long bond. Possibly the most interesting thing about them is the frequency that they have sex. It is not limited to procreation and is conducted face to face as well as ‘doggy style’. They tongue kiss and have oral sex, they have sex with partners of the same sex and the only individual off limits is adult males and their mothers. They are renowned as the ‘Make Love, Not War’ primate and I have always found them interesting.

We are hoping to develop a piece with BCI-UK for secondary school students – a new challenge. I have brain-stormed some new ideas and hopefully soon will be able to get some idea of how plausible it would be to do such a show. I am getting really excited.

I am also going to meet with Beale Park this week, I am going to take our new volunteer Kyle to show him the spaces we use and the monkeys they keep.So things are ramping up again for MASC, we have a few new projects in the pipeline that I will not reveal until I have them confirmed. I am feeling excited about MASC again which is nice. Not much work at the moment so it is good to have something I can really get my teeth in.

Panto’s over blues

7 January, 2013 § Leave a comment

We finished panto last night, it was a great run and was great to see so many people from previous years and make new friends. I will now be back on here a little more frequently.

One thing that bowled me over about the end of panto was that in less than an hour the venue went from being panto to being the Hexagon Theatre with some panto set on stage. In two days when we are preparing for the next gig in it’ll be like panto never happened (except for the large scrape Steve and I left on the wall with the hydraulic truck). Panto is magical in that it is a time and place where and when everyone is together with the same problems and most people have their lives on hold so panto becomes everything to that group! When it is over it is melancholic but positive. Next year, even if we did the same panto with the same people it would not be the same place. That place is gone and there’ll be a new one next year. 

The wonder of theatre hey!Image(If anyone would rather I didn’t post this picture then I will take it away toot sweet!)


Making Muna – Set

8 November, 2012 § Leave a comment


This is a little insight into what it takes to make a show like Muna. First of all you need a set.

Since the play was in a story-telling style with a narrator we wanted to have the set tie into this. We also needed it to be free-standing so that it could be put up indoors and outdoors on different surfaces. We had scenes in a number of locations so the concept of the set being a book with pages to show different locations was born. Image

It also had to be something I could make with not too much help, something that could be broken down into a car for transport and made in the most environmentally responsible way possible. So the design meant that each cover of the book was made in two halves, each 1m square, that formed a 2m high 1m wide cover when bolted together. Four square frames are relatively simple and even I would have problems messing it up. Then four bolt holes and long bolts to hold it all together. Finally a spine that would attach both sides, allow them to move freely, fold in half for transport and could hold all the pages of the book. I went to Oxford Wood Recycling with my order and they kindly cut all the pieces I needed to length from the salvaged wood they have.Image

Then the pages. They needed to break down into transportable components too. I wanted to make each page a frame with a page made of cloth stretched over it. These then needed to attach to the spine. I decided for the corner pieces and the clips to hold them to the spine I would get plumbing pipe, since it is simple to attach and gives right angles, t-pieces and clips of a consistent size. I did some research into plastic pipe materials and where PVC is not a very planet-friendly resource there are other pipes made of ABS (what Lego is made out of) and this is a different plastic that is much more environmentally sound.

The edges of the frame needed to be sustainable and I went for bamboo as the fastest growing plant on the planet and arguably the most renewable resource available. This was a bit of a nightmare because you cannot guarantee the width of each end of each pole but after much work we did get enough to fit the plumbing pipe to make the pages.Image

The pages themselves were made of lightweight theatrical cloth and plain black polycotton. After several design changes they were tied onto the frames with a pocket running through the middle for the central bamboo re-enforcer to run through. These were then painted and had Velcro added to it to stick on additions to the basic backdrop to make the house pages look like three different houses and to add a flap onto the black page to cover the hole in it when it was not in use. Image

That’s an overview of how we made the set, if you enjoyed this please check back in the coming weeks, for the props and costume entries.

Monkey Hugs

Cornwall and a holiday!

24 September, 2012 § Leave a comment

Hello everyone,

What a busy few weeks. Now safely on holiday I am able to debrief about Cornwall. We had a great time, visited Linda Byrne who generously gave up her house for us one night. We saw everyone at the Monkey Sanctuary and did 4 great shows. We have even made a few contacts for a mini-tour next year! I will add some pictures to speak more eloquently than my addled brain!

Monkey Hugs

Environmental theatre

6 September, 2012 § Leave a comment

For this new production we have been very careful about making sure we are making as many green decisions as possible. Here are some of them:
The wood used to construct the set was from Oxford Wood Recycling, the page frames were made from bamboo one of the most renewable resources on the planet. Some of the costumes were bought in charity shops so re-using rather than making new. The shell for Ahmed the tortoise was made from old cardboard and has two recycled straps. Every scrap piece of fabric was kept and in many cases used. The props were made from some corrugated plastic that I scavenged from an old job. It was designed to fit in a car (which it almost does) for low-emission transport. The blocks used for the show are all re-used, donated by Dinrino Theatre Services. We will be hiring lighting for the new show from them and will be using low-energy LED fixtures to light the show using much less than 13amps which is what can be plugged into a normal plug socket.

There we go

Muna the Monkey first run

4 September, 2012 § 1 Comment

What a whirlwind, from production to rehearsals to a run in a few weeks and my brother got married in the middle of it! We have had great feedback from the show and made £103.31 for the cause so that’s great. We are now gearing up for our visit to The Monkey Sanctuary in Cornwall. Washing to be done and mending. Here is a slightly low-res photo of the show to give you a teasing taster of what it looks like.

Muna and Ahmed – our two central characters

The children travelling with Muna to the UK

Muna meets Lily (another rescued macaque) at a sanctuary

Muna, Lily and Bert (a rescued fighting monkey) enjoy a groom

Monkey hugs

So we open!

30 August, 2012 § Leave a comment

Throughout the last two weeks we have been putting the finishing touches on the show. Finally, today we open for our first show of Muna the Monkey. The cast are great with Laura Fisher playing the eponymous Muna in such a gentle and caring way, she really touches your heart. Bryony Tebbutt and Matthew Vernon playing multiple parts each with energy and power, some funny, some scary, some sweet. Redvers Lawson plays the narrator and Ahmed the Tortoise, who guides Muna through many dark hours. I hope to have photos of the show today to put up this evening.

Good luck to everyone and I hope there are plenty of people to come and see the show today.

Excited monkey hugs


15 August, 2012 § Leave a comment

So I have bought most or all of the costume I need to buy. I have arranged to borrow some more and Jen is very kindly making some. That means costume check.

I started papier-macheing (?) the props yesterday and have so far done a ball and a cactus. A few more things to go then decorating.

I have 14 or so useable poles out of 35 so today I am going to try and finish them. Then I can cut, sew and draw out the backcloth which will hopefully be ready for painting on Monday next week. I am going into Oxford and picking up the wood for the set tomorrow so that will be something I can do on Sunday.

I am also visiting Christine Brewster of Stripey Basket today to talk to her about potentially making Ahmed the tortoise’s shell.

So all in all things are going quite well. I keep meaning to post pictures but I haven’t been able to get the device that gets them off my camera.

Monkey Hugs

Production begins

31 July, 2012 § Leave a comment

After spending the day calling places yesterday ordering the big things to make our show from. So that was the book cover and frames for pages and all the fixings. Today I went with Ben to buy the decorative bits so fabrics and paint and things. I am excited looking at all the bits in front of us and getting ready to make things.

I will publish my diagrams of pages when I have finished them.

Busy monkey hugs

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