One of the most exciting events the Barn has seen was the alliance with mtproductions, whose creative director Matthew Townshend has brought his dynamic company from London to be based in Suffolk. Just over a year ago they transformed the Barn into a rehearsal space for the final preparations for Ipso Facto or The Rake’s Return, mtp’s ambitious and exciting new musical piece based on the rapier sharp social commentary of those 18th century luminaries William Hogarth and Henry Fielding.

Matthew at work in rehearsal


The show was premiering in the Britten Studio at the Aldeburgh Spring Festival in April last year, and for the two weeks leading up to the production the Barn was transformed into a bustling, dynamic, action-filled space, with the actors and support team engaged in every aspect of preparation. Essentially an 18th century farce, the story is set in the Hogarthian world of Gin Lane, The Rake’s Progress and Marriage a la Mode. There are riotous sub-plots, confusions and confessions, and devious trickery abounds. With music and lyrics by Neil Innes, famously part of the original Monty Python team and founder member of the cult Bonzo Dog Doodah Band, the wit and verbal repartee sparkles and the pace never slips.

The transformation of the Barn into a creative factory was complete, with every space, both internal and external used to full advantage. Lines were learnt whilst pacing through the shrubbery, the knot garden became a haven for practising some of the dance routines, and the sight of actors muttering madly to themselves became commonplace.

The costume department


One of the side barn annexes became a fully functioning costume department, with fittings for all the cast and many of the costumes created on site. The fantastically talented wardrobe mistress Ella Kidd worked tirelessly to perfect every look, and being based on-site by staying in the Hayloft she was available at all hours to adjust a stray button or fix a hem caught by an elegant buckled shoe.

And as for the wigs – extraordinary confections made of paper, instantly transforming the wearer into a member of 18th century society.

The Barn proved itself as a perfect space for rehearsal with its flexibility, and by having access to the gardens and all the annexes allowing for simultaneous use as practice areas, quiet chill out zones, practical workshops and creative studio areas. And the acoustics are fantastic.

And now mtp is launching a film of the show, scheduled for release on Tuesday 5th of July 2011, directed by Suffolk-based film maker Frances Harper and giving a sneak preview of the production. Frances is known for her hard-hitting documentaries on social issues – she has covered drug addiction and homelessness for the BBC and Sky. The film showcasing Ipso facto contains brief clips from the premiere in the Britten Studio at Snape Maltings in April 2010 and from an earlier rehearsed reading, and we may see some shots of the dress rehearsals in the Barn. mtp hope to have the show ready for a nationwide tour in 2012.


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