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Heart & Horizon: Uni of Essex Student Founds Theatre Company


Heart & Horizon: Uni of Essex Student Founds Theatre Company

Masters student Grace Durbin has founded innovative Colchester-based Theatre Company, Heart & Horizon. The Company is made up of Essex Drama students, both current and alumni. The team includes: Francesca Gray, Adam Pardy, Megan Sharman and Ciaran Forde.

Heart & Horizon founder Grace Durbin. Photo credit: Heart & Horizon

Grace is currently undertaking a research masters in Theatre for Development having graduated with a first-class degree in Drama. Grace explained: ‘‘I decided to set up Heart & Horizon primarily for the benefit of my masters. The Company outlook is to explore topics relevant to a worldwide audience, translated from a British-based piece. I asked myself: ‘‘How can I, a white British female theatre-maker create something of universal importance?’’ It’s important for me to craft theatre that doesn’t force a western perspective but instead shares issues from a point of view that we can all appreciate.’’

‘‘I was deeply inspired by the ‘Dear Children, Sincerely’ project I was involved in at university (in conjunction with Project Ariadne) during the Summer. This was a week-long intensive workshop experience involving students selected from across the year groups. The premise was to create a piece of theatre revolving around the idea of the older generation telling the young how they grew up. We worked with female theatre-makers from across the world and learnt their individual country’s vision towards the premise. This process culminated in an original piece of theatre devised by us which played at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester. During the project, Rwandan theatre director Hope Azeda introduced us to the existence of the Umbumunty Festival and expressed her interest in myself taking a piece of work out to Rwanda. This prompted me to consider how I could find a balance between Human Rights and collaborative work. Hence, came Heart & Horizon and my masters! Indeed, the final performance in July alongside a written dissertation will be the premise of my qualification.”

‘‘When it came to forming a company I knew that I needed physical theatre actors, but also those strong with strong grounding in Human Rights work. I approached those with both relevant experience and that I knew I could trust to remain committed to the year-long process. With it being my masters, I really am depending on these actors sticking by Heart & Horizon for the long run. That being said, I will continue to ask for input from others whose insight could be beneficial to both the workshops and rehearsals.”

Being a Drama graduate herself, I asked Grace if she would be partaking in the acting side of things. She responded: ‘‘I love performing but I’m going to predominantly direct. That’s my primary role in this project. That being said I’m keen to advocate a collaborative experience. Each member’s input will be valued in the devising process. What’s more, there’s also potential for me to have input in the creative side of things. I’m excited at the prospect of getting involved in music, costume and set design.”

(Left to right): Megan Sharman, Francesca Gray, Adam Pardy. Photo credit: Heart & Horizon

As established, the Company are currently working on a project which they plan to take to the Ubumuntu Arts Festival in Rwanda in July 2018. Heart & Horizon are closely partnered with Mashirika, a Rwanda based performing arts and media company founded by Hope Azeda. The two companies share an interest in developing theatre through innovation, be it through rhythm, sound, mood work, engagement- a whole wealth of passions.  Grace explained to me how Heart & Horizon’s project is going to be centred around the theme of mental health and resilience. In preparation, she recently ran the Company’s first R&D workshop at The Lakeside Theatre which was a great success. Grace explained to me: ‘‘ The workshop went so much better than I expected. I planned it well in advance, but two days before had an irrational panic! I started to overthink and worry that I lacked material and actors. As it turned out, we had an extremely productive morning which when it came to devising in the afternoon turned out to be hugely beneficial. We started with basic physical theatre scenarios, then upped the stakes and brought emotion into play, creating sequences with a stimulus more specific to Human rights and Rwandan culture. Finding the links between mental health and Rwanda was admittedly difficult, but this is where discussion came in invaluable.”

Ciaran Forde and Adam Pardy. Photo credit: Heart & Horizon


Megan Sharman and Francesca Gray. Photo credit: Heart & Horizon

To help make their international project a reality, Heart & Horizon are kindly asking for support from their followers, no matter how big or small! If you would like to help the Company in taking their work to the Umbumunty Festival, check out their Click Funding page. All funds will go towards the theatre production (props, costume, set) and the Company’s living expenses whilst in Rwanda. As a thank you, fundraisers are rewarded with the chance to see the project performed at The Lakeside Theatre during the Summer.

The first £200 donated to this project will be matched by the Alumni of The University of Essex.

Grace plans to run an open workshop, details of which will be posted on the Company’s social media. Be sure to keep an eye out for updates! This will be particularly useful for anyone interested in doing a Masters in this area or with a keen interest in Human Rights and collaborative theatre.

Be sure to like the Company’s page on Facebook and give them a follow on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with this exciting theatre company’s ongoing work!

Adam Pardy and Ciaran Forde. Photo credit: Heart & Horizon

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