Inspired by the work of Christopher Guest, Ricky Gervais and documentary-style TV shows, Rising Stars is the new, five-part TV mockumentary show created by Stockton-on-Tees (Thornaby) based theatre company Northern Stars.
The company, which works with adults with learning difficulties and/or disabilities in performing arts projects wanted to continue performing during lockdown despite not being able to act to a live audience.
So, group leaders Anajli Deen and Naomi Lowe adapted how the group worked and performed by focusing on what the group could do rather than what they couldn’t.
Working purely from improvisations, the group have created a wonderful, comedic insight into the fictional goings-on through a week of sessions at the St Patrick’s Centre.
“One day we were interacting as a group and everything that happened was funny” Anajli told me, “we sat there and imagined if there was a hidden camera it would be hilarious.”
From there, the group developed characters alter egos and the performance developed. “The story was completely made up; it was a trial and error,” Anajli said, “we didn’t write a script; the performance was completely improvised.”
Although initially reluctant to take part on the screen, Group leaders Anajli Deen and Naomi Lowe, rose to the challenge as performers and formed a key part of the narrative. “We really enjoyed being in the show and being able to work alongside our clients as a collective” Naomi told me.
Filmed on a camera phone and using simple editing software the group have created a “raw and real” performance. “We kept the Camera rolling and let everything be natural,” Anajli said.
Although heavily influenced by The Office in style it is hard to think of a show that has threaded all of these elements together. “As people couldn’t watch live performances, we decided to adapt our performances to what people were enjoying,” Naomi explained.
The show was filmed during the lockdown, though the performance did not focus attention on the pandemic or equally learning difficulties, but on character, natural performance and a thorough narrative about the centre being closed down.
The clients at Northern Stars loved the experience, for them, the group is their life and their enjoyment. “For everyone Northern Stars has helped them mentally and physically,” Anajli told me “it has been a little a bit of normality in everything that was going on.”
The show’s first episode will premiere on the group’s Youtube channel on Thursday 1st April at 7 pm. Subsequent shows will air weekly thereafter. There will be a link for viewers to contribute monetarily and there will be a DVD release shortly after the full series has been made public, with extra material.
Youtube premiere: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWP2uNtYrFU
Photo credit – Northern Stars