Pieces of Us – diving into the process with Gilly Roche and Jude Christian

Pieces of us

Find out more about these personal stories and the students' processes for creating the work.

In March 2021 Guildhall School premiered Pieces of Us: a kaleidoscopic series of short, stand-alone solo performance works created by Guildhall School students – conceived, written and performed by final-year Acting students, produced by Stage Management students and featuring original music created by Electronic and Produced Music students.

In this Q&A, Head of Interdisciplinary Practice Gilly Roche and dramaturg Jude Christian spoke to some of the Acting and Stage Management (SM) students behind these original performances, to find out more about these personal stories and their process for creating the work.

Gilly Roche: Pieces of Us has been pulled together in the most challenging of circumstances. All of you are in your own homes, all over the country, all over the world, coming up with these incredibly diverse and rich and brilliant solo projects. It would be really interesting to find out how the process has been.

Jude Christian: I want to just cast everyone's minds back to the very beginning of this project – for some of you that might be five or six weeks ago, for some of you that might be 10 years ago! For our actors, where did your idea come from? And for our stage managers, what was exciting about the idea of working on these solo projects?

Dan Wolff: I always felt there were stories which I wish I had seen or heard of when I was younger, stories that I felt hadn't really been told before. It felt like there was a gap in the market for different experiences in society.

Dolly Webb: It came from the women in my life and the conversations that I've had with them. The people around me inspire me, and I very much learn through other people and community.

Nia Towle: I'd had ideas about dancing in my head for ages, because that's what I love doing and what I used to do a lot when I was little. I loved disco music, and when I watched the film Saturday Night Fever with my mum one night, it kind of sparked a little story in my head. But when we started the project, I just really wanted to do something that would make me happy. I was thinking “Right, I've got to do this for six weeks, and I want to enjoy it!”

Genevieve Lewis: At first I felt like I didn’t have any ideas about anything, but I spoke to someone who told me to write about something that I knew. I’d been through a really difficult period of time and realised that’s what I wanted to write about – it wasn't something that I thought up, but something that I'd actually experienced.

Chloe Jones (SM): One of the things I got out of this whole experience was learning how the Acting students work, because it's not something I'd really experienced yet, and it's been really interesting seeing how everyone works in different ways.

Ross Carmichael (SM): I was really looking forward to working with actors more directly because we don't really do that as much – we normally work in our teams and then you have the acting teams, and there's not too much crossover.

Emma Peace (SM): I think for a lot of us in Stage Management it was all about process and being in such a close relationship and working with the actors. It was also a privilege to witness the relationship between Jude and the actors as well.

Rose Dayan (SM): Yeah, a big thing on this project for me was working with a dramaturg. I'm sorry to say I'd never worked with one and didn't really know what one was. I Googled it and there was a really vague description, but now I understand what a dramaturg does, and it's so interesting.

Umi Myers: My piece came from my identity and my heritage, of being from two cultures and maybe in the eyes of some people looking like you come from one of those cultures or ethnicities less than the other, and the way in which identity and the fluidity of identity is present in culture today.

Hope Kenna: I really wanted to use this opportunity to write something from myself and ultimately end up with a piece of work where I could show myself in the light that I wanted to be seen to the industry, rather than having a role handed to me and having to adapt to it. That came through themes of mental health, themes of disability, but ultimately, however dark those subjects are, contrasting them with humour. That's how I cope in my life – when things are dark, I switch to comedy.

Jude Christian: For our actors, what’s changed from that initial idea, what are the things that have stayed true through to this point, and what have you changed? For our stage managers, what’s changed in you after this project, what have you learnt?

Dolly Webb: I think the thing that I've held close to my heart and has remained the same to me is wanting to make people laugh. I want my friends to laugh, I want the people around me to enjoy it and delve into a world that isn't anything to do with COVID or anything that's going on in the world right now.

Genevieve Lewis: There was always a message that I wanted to give people, something that would have been able to help me at the time I was struggling. I wanted to give something to help myself out back then, and also maybe help other people.

Chloe Jones (SM): I definitely feel like I'm more confident in managing a team and managing my own time. It was also a really good exercise in prioritising my mental health, because working online takes a massive toll on you.

Ross Carmichael (SM): Working as creative producers, we had daily meetings where we came together as a group and kept that community spirit, which I really enjoyed, especially at a time where it's so easy to just live in a box and feel quite isolated.

Emma Peace (SM): I think it's opened a lot of new opportunities in terms of looking at our own practice. COVID has changed a lot of things within our department, but I think there are definitely a lot of new opportunities that have come out of this new way of working, and it’s so interesting and exciting.

Dan Wolff: I’ve learnt to let things become a character's idea, and not necessarily the writer’s idea. So even though the idea came from Dan, it can develop into a character story, and it doesn't necessarily have to belong to the writer and I don't have to necessarily agree with everything that I'm writing.

Umi Myers: One thing that changed is it's no longer a documentary, that was the first thing that went out the window, but the heart and soul is still the same, the spirit of the piece is still there. I've also learned not to cut myself off artistically, to just go with it and not hold back your artistic impulses.

Hope Kenna: The writing was constantly changing, and that did drive me to the point of insanity in the best possible way. Being a perfectionist, I’d be shooting and think “That line actually doesn't feel quite right. And I'm the writer here, so I can probably change it right here right now.” But you then have to draw a line at some point and move on. That's what I found really difficult, but really helpful.

Brandon Grace: I think what's changed is my attitude to work. Whatever you think is going to happen just does not happen, and you have to have the ability to just keep moving forward rather than dwelling on things which aren’t working.

Kate Buxton (SM): I've always been a very much a theatre person, but working with the actors to make these short films, create lots of different scenes, all the different sets, has really changed how I feel about TV and film.

Rose Dayan (SM): I learned a lot about different ways of filming, the TV and film industry, editing and copyright laws. What hasn't changed is my love for theatre, and the creation of art.

Jude Christian: Massive thank you to all of you, and massive well done. Keep going – you're all excellent!

Gilly Roche: Thank you for being so courageous today and every day. We can't wait to see your work!


Pieces of Us is available to watch on demand until midnight on Monday 22 March.

Watch the trailer