Jeremy Weller works all over the world, making theatre based on real life experiences. There is no script. The work is devised from improvisations with non actors and placed in a fictional drama.
People with no previous experience of performance get the opportunity to work alongside professional actors, weaving art out of their experiences. Working in this way has proved to have a radically positive impact on the lives of the people – their education, creativity, self-esteem and other areas of social and emotional development.
Our drama projects began 25 years ago, winning 6 Fringe First awards for plays performed by minority groups in Edinburgh. Sine those early days, the work has taken us to Gaza, Belfast, Kosovo, and to Brazil, where we worked with street children. Jeremy Weller recently completed a film project, LIMBOLAND, involving second generation immigrant youth in Denmark,who were at risk of radicalization. Zentropa Films commissioned Jeremy Weller to devise and direct the project. Zentropa’s founder, Lars Von Trier was so enthusiastic about work during production that he became involved as Creative Consultant and producer.
Since its foundation in 1990, Grassmarket projects has won numerous awards for its 44 productions in 20 countries, including THE FOOLISH YOUNG MAN in 2006. This was the first event to take place in the redeveloped Roundhouse, and was the subject of a full-length BBC documentary in the Imagine Series seen by 2,000,000 people in the UK. The play featured disaffected inner-city youth in London, performing alongside British actor, David Harewood, (RSC, film – Blood Diamond, BBC’s Robin Hood)
THE BOYS, in 2008, a play featuring 18 NEET young people from Fairbridge, dealt with issues of street violence and absent role models, and was performed at the National Theatre in London to critical acclaim in The Independent and The Mail on Sunday.
After seeing THE BOYS performed at the National Theatre in Jul 08, Susanne Moore, Columnist for the Mail on Sunday, wrote: I was blown away. I had the assumption it would be about guns, knives, violence but in fact I was confronted with a play about love…This is the only kind of theatre I want to see. I don’t enjoy a lot of theatre. I’m drawn to drama, awareness and real issues. This is the sort of theatre everybody should see!
We are currently working with a group of young women in South London who have all passed through the PRU system after being permanently excluded from school. This marks the beginning of our Beyond PRU initiative, which will explore the issues around reintegration into mainstream society. Workshops over the summer 2010 led to a studio performance of THE GIRLS, at the Middle Temple Hall in London, before an audience of 300 barristers. This piece will be developed and expanded to become a sight specific piece performed in a Pupil Referral Unit later this year.
The Grassmarket Project is on the brink of a significant expansion. We have won funding to refurbish a Victorian railway waiting room at Peckham Rye Station, in London. We will convert it into a permanent GMP home, including a 50-seater rehearsal studio, and offices. Whereas we recently ran a 3-year programme at RADA where we taught the GMP methodology as part of their Contemporary Practice module, in 2011 we will initiate the GMP educational academy. Based at our new home in London, practitioners, performers and directors will learn our methods.
A 5 year Sociology research being carried out at Arhus University as part of the Danish LIMBOLAND film project.
Susan Sarandon, who agreed this year to collaborate with the GMP on a film project about street girls in Brazil, said of our work:
I admire Jeremy Weller’s work with the Grassmarket Project. He deals honestly and directly with the world as he finds it – and the world he finds can be deeply disturbing and distressing. He finds his inspiration on the margins of society, amongst the dispossessed and the overlooked – the street prostitutes in Sao Paolo, the gang members in Harlem, the homeless in Edinburgh… It is here, on the extreme edge of our human experience, that he finds the possibility of art – and of redemption… And that’s why I am getting involved.