Staff and students dream up a scene for Co-op Chekhov

Kevin Clarke, Will Steer and Tristan Sharps at work in Stanmer Woods, shooting footage for Before I Sleep

Staff and students at the University of Sussex are helping to set the scene for one of the major productions of this year's Brighton Festival as it takes over the former Co-op department store building in London Road, Brighton.

The old store's aisles and showrooms are being transformed into a landscape inspired by Russian writer Anton Chekhov's play The Cherry Orchard.

The company behind the project is dreamthinkspeak, founded in 1999 by actor and director Tristan Sharps, who has a long association with Brighton. The company now has an international reputation for producing site-specific theatre in innovative locations.

For the past two months Tristan and the company have been working with 3D modellers, carpenters, architects, costume designers and scenic artists in the Brighton community to transform the derelict site, which is awaiting redevelopment.

The participants have been sworn to secrecy about the show, so that audiences enjoy its full impact when it opens on Saturday 1st May.

The promenade (or "walk though") production involves the audience following Firs, an old manservant abandoned by his masters at the end of Chekhov's play, as he travels through a century in search of his past.

Media and Film Senior Lecturer and practitioner Kirk Woolford, technician and tutor Kevin Clarke and Media and Film student Will Steer have been filming scenes around Stanmer Woods that will form part of the backdrop for this multimedia production.

Kirk says: "Kevin and Will are working together with Tristan on a video installation as the show includes both live performance and video. "

The show has offered Media Practice and Theory second-year student Will an excellent opportunity to build experience. He got involved when his animation work caught the attention of Kevin and Kirk.

Will has been producing animation based on live-action footage and integrating it with computer generated imagery. His work will form the basis of one of the key shots of the video component of the play.

Will says: "From what I've seen, the show looks great, and the bits I've only heard about sound really spectacular, though I don't think I'm allowed to talk about that so I shan't!

"It's been a full-on experience. Visual effects and animation are extremely intensive processes, and I knew that already to some extent going into the project. I know it better now. I have learned a great deal from a technical, creative and even organisational/institutional point of view. Mainly, of course, I spare a thought for Tristan, our director, who I understand has been working 18-hour days for two weeks in the run-up to the first shows."

Dr Natalia Beloff, a Senior Lecturer in software engineering in the School of Informatics and a one-time ballet dancer, is also taking part in the production.

She says: "I am part of the acting cast and playing two different roles. I was involved in several theatre productions in Brighton before being invited to audition. This is an absolutely amazing production, a definite 'must see'.

"It engages with the audience on many different levels, through light and sound, amazing sets, film and images, live performance and improvisation. You get to experience the old Co-op in a very different light."

Dreamthinkspeak Artistic Director Tristan Sharps is responsible for pulling the whole project together. He says: "Working with the University of Sussex has been invaluable to the project. Will has done some wonderful work on an important stream of film for the production and Kevin's experience, advice and hard work have had a crucial part to play in the creation of the film sequences. I am also delighted to be working with Natalia, who is proving to be a real find!

Notes for Editors

Before I Sleep runs in the Brighton Festival at the Old Co-op Building, London Road, Brighton, from Saturday 1 May to Saturday 23 May. Audience entrance timed at five-minute intervals between 6.30pm and 9.30pm. Tickets, £15, must be booked in advance.

For Press information about the production, contact Sharon Kean (020 7354 3574) or Kate Campbell (07710 402 554). See also

For booking information see:

For course information, see the School of Media, Film and Music web pages.

For information about University of Sussex in the Brighton Festival and Festival Fringe, contact the University of Sussex Press office. Call Maggie Clune or Jacqui Bealing on 01273 678 888 or email



Last updated: Tuesday, 4 May 2010