Jerwood Fellow 2020/22 - Claire Eliza Willoughby

Photo by Mihaela Bodlovic
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.

As part of my Jerwood Fellowship – a two year period (2020-2022) of research, training, creative development and work experience, focused on making sensory work for young audiences - I developed a performance idea called Dussskk. I was inspired to make an artistically ambitious, sensory piece of work that brings body, breath and voice together to address some of the hormonal and physical changes that happen in adolescence, which can be particularly unsettling for disabled young people.

Dussskk is a musikdrama for young people with additional support needs, specifically created for those who enjoy sound and seek sensory aural experiences. The piece will be a hybrid of gig / choral concert and immersive Gesamtkunstwerk – “a total work of art”. Dussskk is inspired by difficult transitional periods, emotional shifts and the magic of the inbetween. It is not driven by a narrative, or storyline as such – rather, the piece follows the dramatic arc of a transformative journey from morning to night, explored though sound, costume, lighting and movement. It will feel mature, powerful, aurally stimulating and is a celebration of the dark and light in all of us.

I envision Dussskk to be an immersive, kinaesthetic and aural experience with many facets of the performance - lighting, sound, costume and movement - coming together to envelop the audience, who can move freely amongst the performers. There is no division between “stage” and “audience” – instead, the performers inhabit the space like a living, moving, breathing creature, making full use of proximity and distance. It will feature 6 singers and will use the full range of vocal expression - from breath sounds and ugly, crunchy vocals to choral singing -  to create something that feels new and exciting for this audience.

Documentation of the most recent R&D, at the end of my Jerwood Fellowship.