The Good, The Bad and The Sneaky | Making Theatre

I’m on the TransPennine Express - never has a train line sounded more glamorous that what is actually on offer. I’m making my way to a conference about queer art and the sectors respoonsibilty to respond to the issues facing the LGBTQIA+ communities.

I get very nervous on my way to these things - I’m giving a provocation to open the day, there will be a lot of brilliant people there and so I’ve started to worry about if it will go well, if what I think is right or justified and the ‘what if…’ slowly starts to creep in.

I often use the uncomfortable, difficult or awkward as a place to start making work from or a place of productivity and so it’s funny that I spend a lot of my time encouraging the murky and mucky but still manage to freak myself out and find the safe.

I had lots of lovely bits of feedback from my last blog about how I approach work so I think I’ll put this train journey to good use and talk about fear as an impetus.

The start of every show make, particularly one that is co-devised or co-made is full of everyone with every idea, ideas that are sort of in the way. I've devised a little trick that helps settle me and my gang down.

I start with every theatre makers favourite weapons - some post it notes and a wall and I ask the room to tell me what we want to make. People are full of it - most people have a very clear idea of something that should be definitely included because people daydream about the work long before you actually make it. I write each suggestion down on a post it - these create a nice, neat top line across the wall.

I then ask the room to think about what would be difficult to do - that might be due to the rehearsal time, what feels insurmountable, what might not be able to be unpacked over an hour, what feels achievable. This creates another line beneath our first.

I then ask what scares us - what don’t we want to do. This list is usually littered with worries, responsibilities to the thing we are representing or presenting. In Fat Blokes this list was about getting our kit off, showing fatness as broken. In Class this list was about revealing darkest moments that might frame people's perceptions of me, it also had one very stand out post-it ‘Middle Class retaliation’ - this creates our third line.

If you’ve seen Class or Fat Blokes you might see what's coming. I remove the first line - it was only ever a ploy, a safety net. The shows I’m interested in making are littered with the difficult and scary. This doesn't mean to say you can’t use ideas on the top line but having the second and third line in the room, in our minds, present whilst we’re making the stuff is where, I think, the magic lives.

Its sneaky but I think it gets good results.

Right, I’m off - there a trolley card and I’m about to ask a Lancashirian for a herbal tea. Lets see how this goes.

Laters. x


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