Helena Fox

As a writer/director/folklorist my practice involves exploring new ways to innovatively and engagingly bring intangible heritage to life through performance, attracting new audiences to theatre.

What The Sea Saw – a first step into the world of Verbatim Theatre.

In 2015 I worked with the fishing community in Scarborough’s Old Town on an exciting project What The Sea Saw recording their verbatim testimonies to develop a new play exploring the history and heritage, heyday and decline of the industry. This led me into the world of Verbatim Theatre due to the strength and passion of the interviews collected and was the first time I experimented with writing verbatim theatre.

“Evocatively powerful, poignant & engaging- a true story set in Scarborough that will resonate with lifeboat communities all around the country.”

What The Sea Saw is a verbatim theatre script exploring the soon to be lost cultures and superstitions of the fishing community told against the backdrop of the 1954 Lifeboat Disaster- a disaster that impacted the whole community and which they are still coming to terms with decades later. It was performed as a rehearsed reading at Stephen Joseph Theatre in March 2016.

Toward a more experiential performance for audiences:

BOMB HAPPY (2016-2019)

In 2016 I worked with the Normandy Veteran Community in York exploring their experiences of trauma & survivor guilt through the retelling of D-Day & the Normandy Campaign through their eyes using verbatim testimony.

With Bomb Happy I experimented with how an audience engages with verbatim testimony by changing the tense spoken in the recordings from past to present tense, and by ageing the real life characters in the play at the same age the veterans had been in 1944. This gave a more immediate and immersive experience, allowing the audience to connect deeply with the testimonies.

I felt I was there, on the front line, I was standing shoulder to shoulder with each veteran and I could see everything that was going on around them as if I was actually there.” Audience Member, 2017 tour to Yorkshire Small Venues Network.

In adapting the play into an audio performance I wanted to push this to be an even more immersive and active experience for the audience, and I therefore placed the audience in the position of being part of the military intelligence back home in England, receiving messages from the frontline via a new character “The Signaller” who tracked the veterans journey across Europe.

Verbatim in site specific promenade performance- heritage curation or artistic performance?

“In the Footsteps of Hank Haydock; A Walk in the Park.” 2020 -2021

“Brilliantly designed and scripted by Helena Fox, and excellently performed by George Stagnell and Esme Schofield. If you were not one of the “fortunate forty” to have the privilege of seeing their “Performed Walk” in Duncombe Park – you missed a treat!” The Helmsley Archive

More recently I have been exploring the exciting challenges of creating site specific work using verbatim testimony to bring a heritage setting to life, through the play “In the Footsteps of Hank Haydock; A Walk in the Park” at Duncombe Park, carefully curating a performed walk that uses verbatim testimony to lead an audience through hidden remains of a WW2 army camp.

This project allowed me to revisit the testimonies of Veteran Dennis Haydock, who had been encamped at Duncombe Park in 1944 undertaking tank training ahead of the D-Day Landings. This was a live performance and I am now exploring how to adapt this for a short audio/film, commissioned by Helmsley Arts Centre, that will both allow audiences to see the hidden remains as they listen to the audio play.

Verbatim Theatre in the Community – Audio & photo curation.

At Mustafa’s Grave (Current commission)

I am currently under commission to Helmsley Arts Centre to create a sister piece to “In the Footsteps of Hank Haydock” audio/film, working with residents of the local community, capturing first hand testimonies of what it was like to live in an army garrison town (Helmsley) during WW2. This will become an audio play with online curated photo exhibition.

Photo courtesy of The Helmsley Archive.

Going forward

Going forward I am looking at developing my process further to explore new ways to push the boundaries of verbatim theatre and how an audience can engage more experientially with it.

Previous Work includes

Light on Time Lantern Procession, Poole Old Town and Quay

Previously Helena has been commissioned as writer by Activate Performing Arts/Dorset County Council to work with schools to create the narrative for a lantern procession in Poole’s Old Town exploring museum archives to unearth stories from Poole Quay’s past.

Young People’s Theatre

Associate Artist New Writing, Theatre Royal Winchester

Education Associate, (Schools touring) Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Co-founder/writer/co-director for inclusive Young People’s Company , OUT OF THE BLUE

Script writing

Commissioned short film script “Vera’s Hot Tandoori” by BBC Film/BBC Writers Room

Rehearsed readings of script “Hey Joe” Salisbury Playhouse/Theatre Royal Bath

Writer/Director for award winning Young People’s Theatre, OFF THE WALL

Rehearsed reading of script “A Thousand Shadows” director Nadia Fall, National Theatre/Birmingham Rep.