Past Commissions

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Ecology for Girls by Jo Blake Cave

Jo is the third commissioned artist in our first round of commissions - creating a new solo show 'Ecology for Girls', with a focus on composition.



There are two contracts involved in a 3monkeys commission, one written, one not.  The written contract is there to protect our funders; the unwritten contract is the nuts and bolts of how we work.

We let the artist take the lead.  When we work together to agree the specific challenge of their commission and choose their mentors our aim is to open up possibilities for the artist to explore.  When we arrange timings and locations for scratch performances and previews our aim is to expose their piece to the audience they feel it needs.

3monkeys recognises that many of our commissions are risky and that our overriding duty is to support our artists through the process.  Asking an artist to extend their practice exposes them to different ideas and often contradictory emotions, not all of them pleasant.  We support our artists by ensuring we have an open line to them, believing what they tell us and taking action accordingly. 

An unwritten contract works both ways.  Our artists have to share their process with us – as otherwise we can’t help them or support them appropriately.  Artists may have doubts, they may need to spend time exploring dead ends, or they may just need to distance themselves from the piece for a while.  We support our artists through these times too.

This way of working demands a standard of honesty not normally found.  Our artists have to be honest about their needs and abilities; we have to be honest about our resources and expectations.  It leaves 3monkeys exposed to the possibility of failure; but it provides the possibility of being part of great works, and that is well worth the risk.


 Jo Blake is a distinctive voice within a new generation of performance storytellers making their mark on the storytelling scene in England and Wales and beyond. 

Jo has been Storyteller-in-Residence at the Royal & Derngate Theatre in Northampton since 2010. Along with fellow storytellers Dominic Kelly and Clare Murphy she is Artistic Director of Talking Skull Ensemble – a contemporary performance storytelling ensemble.

Jo trained in dance and performance and brings a beautiful physicality to her work, which when matched with the passion she has for performance, is a joy to experience. Our intervention with this commission is to challenge Jo to focus on her composition. She is very skilled at conjuring worlds and creating frames within which narratives are placed, and we would like her to apply this clear skill to the individual narratives she works with.

Because the focus of Jo’s commission is on composition, the selection of the material was a key part of the developmental process, and she initially spent some time buried in books in Ben Haggarty’s remarkable library. Eventually she found herself drawn to the motif of flowers and plants in traditional stories - and so the subject matter was chosen. Jo is now busy working on the actual show, its construction, composition and performance. She has recently spent time working with storyteller Sally Pomme Clayton looking at the material she had chosen and how she might shape it, and she has also drawn on the technical expertise of members of the Royal & Derngate's lighting team (and was recently seen leaving the theatre with a borrowed projector tucked under her arm, which sounds promising!). More recently she has performed her work to a 'non expert' witness - to give feedback as an 'interested, non-expert, audience member'.

Jo began a PhD in Performance Storytelling at the University of Chichester in 2012, and as this is a practice based course, she incorporated the commission into her work – which was quite simply good timing!

Jo performed a scratch performance of Ecology for Girls to an invited audience, and premiered at the Soho Theatre on the 16th of April.

 Jo Blake Cave has wandered into the mythological forest – delving among the roots to find the splintered remains of stories that speak of petals, plants and astonishing transformations. Here bark becomes skin, flesh becomes food and chlorophyll becomes blood…
Nine families with murderous thoughts dance in spirals through the night, a green mist rises over a peaty marsh, and two men stand on a riverbank conjuring a woman out of blossom. These story-shards present a fractal ecology of repeating motifs from British and New Guinean myth, Russian wondertale and East Anglian folktale.
But be warned, with poison-tinged petals and leaves dripping with blood, this is no feminine whimsy, nor a story of a green and pleasant land. This is mythological ecology… for girls….and boys!

We are tremendously excited by Ecology for Girls. It has the potential to become a really superb storytelling performance and we look forward to seeing how Jo develops it in the future.

 Jo Blake Cave's commission is supported by Arts Council England.