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Our house! Arts family explore memories in kaleidoscopic show

Our house! Arts family explore memories in kaleidoscopic show

Friday 20 January 2023

Our house! Arts family explore memories in kaleidoscopic show

Friday 20 January 2023


All seven members of a creative local family have come together for the first time for a kaleidoscopic performance exploring the memories embedded in a home through everything from acting to puppetry, sound and film.

After 18 months of planning, the MacDonalds' creative talents will collide at the Arts Centre tonight as they present 'One of Those Streets'.

Having been involved in the island's artistic scene for many years, the MacDonalds are longstanding friends of the Arts Centre, and were commissioned to create a piece to open the venue's 'Festival 40' weekend, a mini-arts festival being held over three days to celebrate its 40th birthday.

The resulting performance project seeks to explore and excavate the multiple layers within a single house, touching on both the physical fabric of the building and the experiences of the people who have lived and will live there. Its aim is to highlight the realities and myths of inter-generational living, familial and community connection and social isolation.

Together known as Mezzanine Productions, the family behind 'One of Those Streets' consists of: Simon MacDonald (playwright, performer, and director), Lisa MacDonald (painter, illustrator and maker), Todd MacDonald (filmmaker and musician), Lulu MacDonald (fine artist and sculptor), Martha MacDonald (comedy writer and performer), Joss MacDonald (performer) and his wife Christina Orchard (composer).

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Pictured - left to right: Siblings Todd, Lulu, Joss and Martha. 

Express sat down with siblings Joss and Martha MacDonald ahead of the show opening tonight...

Although this is the first time the family will formally work together as a company, the pair explained that the process of the MacDonalds working together is not unfamiliar. 

Growing up in a creative world

They described growing up in a “creative environment” during which they all used each other as “artistic sounding boards” for their individual ideas or projects.

“Whenever we’re working on something ourselves, we always ask out family members for input - they’re our first port of call artistically,” Martha said.

Her brother, Joss, added: “We all have expertise in different fields, so it means we can cover a much wider variety of stuff when we are trying to home in on something ourselves.”

Martha explained that ‘One of These Streets’ is a “more formalised version of the whole family actually coming together as a company.”

A "story-telling experiment"

She described the result of this “coming together” as a “story-telling experiment”, which brings together “a collage of creativity”

The show focusses on the central character of a man, played by dad Simon MacDonald, who is moving out of a house. At the beginning of the performance, he is excited for a fresh start.

However, over the course of the play, he begins to move his belongings out of the house which evokes memories of everything that has happened between those four walls.

“The piece deals a lot with memory,” said Joss.

"People can look over at an object in their house and feel a thousand different things"

He continued: “We explore how people can react to a house, a home, and just a building in general. People can look over at an object in their house and feel a thousand different things, but it’s not something that’s obvious for someone else coming into your home."

He explained that the MacDonalds are “trying to put a telescope on that kind of feeling that we are all aware of and familiar with, but is hard to explain when someone asks you.”

Although there is a central narrative thread running through the piece, Martha said that the show “dovetails off into abstract moments” which allow different creative disciplines to take centre stage. 

Martha explained: “The show is essentially an experiment in telling a story with lots of techniques from different creative disciplines, because we all work across various creative practices. 

“We all kind of perform in different ways. For some of us that is more conventional theatrical performances, whilst others use different elements of their own practice.”

"The trust is there"

Although Martha and her parents are still currently based in Jersey, her other siblings have come back to the island from the UK (Joss and Todd) and Germany (Lulu) specially for this project.

“It is really amazing to come back to Jersey to fulfil a creative dream,” said Joss, who lives in the UK. “It feels like such a privilege.”

Working with your family may sounds like some people’s worst nightmare, but the MacDonalds have found the process to be a rewarding one. 

Joss said: “When approaching this, I was so amazing by how easily we were all able to fit in to our roles. The trust is there, so we can all just rely on that person to do that certain thing.”

Although ‘One of These Streets’ has been in the works for 18 months, most of the planning for the project has taken place online. It has only been in the last week that all seven members of Mezzanine Productions have finally been together in Jersey.

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Pictured: Simon MacDonald in 'One of Those Streets'

Joss, who specialises in physical theatre, spends a lot of time devising collaborative pieces. This has resulted in him taking a lead in facilitating what happens in the MacDonalds' rehearsal room. 

He explained that having a group of people who already know and trust one another lends itself to a more efficient rehearsal process.

“Being a family means that we don’t have to have that period of time at the beginning of the process to figure out what we can trust certain people with,” said Joss. “We’ve gone into the process knowing that already, which has been a real blessing.”

Martha added: “We had the foundation and preparation in place but this week, during rehearsals, it’s been really nice to experiment and see unexpected stuff happen in the room as well."

"Stepping out of that family role is really hard"

Although Martha admitted that it is impossible to completely disregard family dynamics, she explained that the MacDonalds are “used to flipping between seeing each other as family members and as creative professionals”. 

She added: “Stepping out of that family role is really hard, and obviously you can’t eradicate that completely, but we’re really lucky to get on with each other really well. We have that foundation of working professionally together too, so it doesn’t get in the way too much.” 

For Joss, his initial concerns were about how to combine all the different creative elements of his family members without making the end product seem jarring or disjointed.

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Pictured: A backstage snippet from 'One of Those Streets', on tonight at the Jersey Arts Centre for one night only. 

However he explained that, as the rehearsal process unfolded, it has “become really apparent that there’s so much overlap with everything we’re doing on stage and the story we’re trying to tell”. 

"It brought out the best in all of us"

Joss added: “It’s been really amazing to see how it brought out the best in all of us, and people have really surprised me.” 

Martha described the way that everyone’s creative inputs “layer on top of each other” and “seamlessly feed into each other” to create the final project. 

Although there are no concrete plans for Mezzanine Productions’ next show yet, the siblings confirmed that they “will always work together” creatively as a family.

“We’ll see how this one goes first,” joked Martha. “Watch this space!”

‘One of Those Streets’, which was sponsored by the Association of Jersey Charities' 50@50 award, will be performed at the Jersey Arts Centre this evening (Friday 20 January) at 19:00.

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