Jerwood Fellow 2020/21 - Claire Eliza Willoughby

Photo by Mihaela Bodlovic
I am so excited for all of the opportunities that being a Jerwood Fellow will open up, both locally and internationally. It's a massive privilege to be connected to and supported by such wonderful, risk-taking organisations as Imaginate and Oily Cart, and I can’t wait to start this journey with them. There is something very valuable in taking the time, over a long form development process, to really learn from and be inspired by the best in the field, to interrogate all the different ways in which we can approach making work with, and for, audiences with additional support needs. I am looking forward to expanding my current set of skills as a maker and performer, and developing new skills as a facilitator and workshop leader within schools, with a specific creative idea in mind.

—Claire Eliza Willoughby

I am a musician, performer and theatre maker based in Glasgow. I am particularly interested in creating work that is playful, visual, and explores the live-ness of being in a room with an audience. I trained in clown, and am always really excited to bring that practice into the rehearsal room – what it means to take risks/ to fail/ to be bad at something/ to enjoy and interrogate the two-way relationship between performer and audience member. I sing, and play a number of instruments, so I also like to use those in the work I make. I am constantly intrigued in the alternating ways we can layer different mediums in theatre over one another – a bit like a canvas on stage with different colours and paint brushes and textures of paint. And then scrape it back and reveal the canvas underneath.

I have made a lot of work for young audiences, but never for those with additional support needs. I tend to be drawn to work that is non-text based, and I would really like to use this development time as a Jerwood Fellow to explore the different ways I can tell stories or create sensory environments in approaches that are accessible and can connect to this audience. In particular, I am excited about the opportunity to train and learn about ways to facilitate and work with children who have additional support needs, with a creative idea in mind. This is something I have very little experience in, and to be connected to an ASN school, as well as mentorship and time with Oily Cart would be invaluable to my practice.

The idea I am wanting to explore involves voices and images within an immersive environment. I would like to bring together a large choir of all different voices, and play with textures, structure and improvisation, pitch, and harmony / dissonance. For example, I wonder whether it is possible to write a piece of musical theatre that is notated, but find space within that to clown and play spontaneously with audience members, before returning to the notated script. And what might this look like in a visual capacity? What colour / texture is a high pitch? Or a crunchy chord? Or a floral solo sung in a deep register? These are all questions I will be asking over the next year.