Thanks to funding from Arts Council England, Forest Forge Theatre Company in Ringwood was able to support writer John Yates in producing a research and development project (R&D) for his new play ‘Axe’.

Research and development performances like this allow for part of the play to be produced and performed in front of an audience to gauge whether there is potential for the play to be developed further.

Forest Forge Theatre brought together a talented team consisting of Director Sean Aita, stage manager Julie Bisco, and actors Vix Hobbs, Michele O’Brien, David Rubin, and Anna Harriot, to transform the play from the page to the stage.

Axe is set in 3,600 BC Neolithic England and tells the story of the last hunter. The main character, Blood-eye played by Vix Hobbs, is the last of the hunter-gatherers; enduring a series of events mirroring a rite of passage. She survives, embracing the new ways and forming a relationship with a descendant of the Neolithic settlers.

AXS Production-20 (1)

With the support of Forest Forge Theatre’s artist development programme, writer John Yates was able to see his vision come to life. Great attention to detail went into its progression, including use of linguistics specialist Andrew Miles Byrd, voice coach Sian Radinger, and dramaturgy by Angela Street.

In just five selected scenes the audience were transported to early Neolithic England. The drama was played out in a simple in-the-round set. Percussion by Dave Renshaw and Julian Caesar and dance choreographed by Junior Jones, performed by the New Forest School of Dance, enhanced the atmosphere and brought the scenes to life.

The success of the short performance was abundantly clear with audience members eager to know what happened next. One was quoted as saying:
“An absorbing journey back to a time when the basics of life were so important.”

For John Yates the process was uplifting, he said:
“I’m delighted with Forest Forge’s commitment to my project. The development week has been a remarkable experience for me. To work with a team of creative people from such a wide range of disciplines has been both enjoyable and instructive.”

CEO of Forest Forge Theatre Company, Sharon Lawless said: “It’s an important part of our work at Forest Forge to support writers and to develop their work from concept to performance.”

Following the success of the R&D, Forest Forge Theatre Company and all who were involved, hope that Axe can be developed into a touring play with help from further funding.