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The Creative Journey of When Mountains Meet

Written by Kath Burlinson, Co-Director, Devising and Adaption

When Mountains Meet began for me when Anne Wood came as a participant to one of my 3-day Authentic Artist workshops. Anne felt ready to share her story and I immediately became interested in the potential of her tale. As a theatre-maker I was fascinated by the status shift Anne encountered when, as a professional musician trained at the Royal Academy (ie high status in the UK), she visited Pakistan and became defined by her illegitimacy and gender. The fact that she was a musician lowered Anne’s status even further.

I offered to help Anne make the piece if she wanted my support. I felt confident that with Anne’s fabulous musical skills and my experience in devising we could make something interesting. I then had the great good fortune to meet Niloo-Far Khan at Cross Currents, part of Edinburgh International Festival 2019. Niloo was exactly the right voice to have in the room, with a set of skills that complemented mine and Anne’s. I invited my long-time collaborator, Kate Taylor to come on board as Producer, and our core creative team was complete.

Throughout our research and development period we explored ways to approach Anne’s story, working from the source material of Anne’s journals. The eventual script has only a fraction of the multiplicity of possible stories we might have told. My own speciality area is devised and ensemble theatre and I’m fascinated by the process of creativity and finding form for creative expression. I’ve been delighted to work with Niloo, whose rigorous approach to dramaturgy has reined in my more wayward, experimental and over ambitious tendencies! Together we have created a script that we hope works theatrically, honours Anne’s story and her source material and will have a delicious balance of light and shade for our audiences.

The next steps for me post When Mountains Meet at Celtic Connections are an Authentic Artist workshop in Oxfordshire in early March and then a week-long residential workshop, Ensemble: Me & We, March 25-April 1. This I will co-lead with my dear friend Nigel Hollidge, whom I have known since we were Drama students at Hull University many decades ago. Nigel will bring his experience of working closely with Monika Pagneux, one of Europe’s most highly respected theatre pedagogues, who collaborated with many of the great theatre and movement pioneers of the C20th - Mary Wigman, Etienne Decroux, Jacques Lecoq, Moshe Feldenkrais, Peter Brook.

I will bring the legacy of my work with mentors Paul Oertel and Nancy Spanier as the Ensemble: Me & We group explore some key questions about working together: How do you find your rightful place at any given moment? When we are in social interaction, how do we navigate the relationship between our unique individuality and the larger group? How do we find the ‘we-space’ or the place of true flow within a group?

I look forward to the next set of adventures, but first my focus is on making When Mountains Meet the best we can.

Find out more about our team of creatives and cast.


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