We’re making a show. It’s our third one and we’re feeling excited about it. We have grand ideas about what we want it to be, what we want to say and question and explore. It’s a tricky old thing.
Money is always tight for us – we’re eternally grateful and surprised every time we manage to find funding for anything. The words of one theatre big-cheese from our first year of existence always comes back to haunt us: “the funding landscape is looking impossibly bleak – especially for a company the size of yours”. We’re cautious, humble, painfully aware of the lack of funding for theatre companies and as such we always do our best to help others in whatever way we can – usually by using what we’ve learned from our various funding attempts to help our peers secure their own funding.
Nevertheless there’s an expectation (mainly from ourselves) to be churning out work, to be shooting shows out like bullets, and to make work that is fun, exciting and says brilliant things.
Because of this tightness of budget and need to keep working we restrict our making time, we cut our own wages, we overload ourselves with producing, admin, marketing, prop sourcing and set building as well as actually writing, devising and performing the work.
We look with awe and envy at bigger companies like Kneehigh and Gecko, who have the breathing space to spend years developing shows, the funds to pay for people to do all of the things we do outside of the rehearsal room and have the space in their minds to concentrate fully on a show.
We (or at least I, Caroline) perceive an attitude in the North East theatre world that we’re not quite as entitled to the space and time and funding as companies from further afield. Is that just me? There’s a “fuck you” attitude, which is admirable but feels misplaced, like we’re proud to take up less space and yet still make excellent work.
Let’s be realistic.
This making process has been a massive learning curve for us. We had expected to be presenting a finished show next week. We’d wrestled with this show for 2 weeks, trying to make it into everything we wanted it to be in double-quick time.
We had a moment, a collective awakening, a rising of anger, releasing of rage, a moment of frustration with the conundrum of the show, with the constraints we’d put upon ourselves, with the expectations placed upon us by venues, funders, programmers, other artists, ourselves, with the constant fighting for things that shouldn’t be a problem and glazed smiles when our requests and work were met with attitudes of it being too much trouble… we stuck a massive piece of paper onto our rehearsal room wall emblazoned with the 2 words that summed up the feelings that had been brewing within us for months. FUCK IT.
And so we decided the show was not going to be finished, it was not going to be a perfectly polished, coherent, astounding hour of theatre. That wasn’t what we wanted anymore. It was going to be messy, confusing, rough around the edges and in no way complete. And our rehearsal room suddenly felt lighter, stronger, more carefree and more like a storm blowing itself out. It was fun again, it was free, we made things that made us laugh or made us happy or that we felt told our story in the best way. We felt how we thought Kneehigh and Gecko must feel but with far less at stake. Yes, we’re a small company in the North East, we don’t take up much space and we don’t ask for much. But we will. Our limbs are spreading, our muscles are loosening, and we are coming to terms with the fact that good work takes time, money and determination. And being a small company in the North East doesn’t mean that we can make good work with no money and no time. Let’s be realistic and let’s take up some space.
PS – if you want to see our messy, confusing, rough around the edges previews, we’re going to be showing them on the 17th & 18th October at Northern Stage, Stage 3. Book here.