June 12, 2020 caroline

I’ve been on a few zoom chats where I’ve heard a quiver of fear from theatre makers scared of what the pandemic means for their work.

This post is for you.

What do the restrictions mean for thinking about your work differently?

How can this unusual set of circumstances be turned into opportunities for exciting new projects and collaborations?

How can it help you grow as a theatre artist?

There are of course a huge number of amazing practitioners doing incredible work outside of conventional theatre spaces in numerous and exciting ways. I’ll make a list of companies you should look up at the end of this text who might inspire you but for now I’ll share a way into thinking about making work which might be helpful to you in the next few months.

I start any project by asking myself three questions.

These questions become my guide and  solace in times of uncertainty.

I hope they can do the same for you.


The Three Whys


1. Why should I be the one to make this piece?

Most of my favourite projects have been when the answer to this question has been that I shouldn’t, or at least it shouldn’t be just me.

And it’s with that information that you go and find the people that you feel should be making this piece: the right collaborators / life experts to come along on the journey with you to be part of the work and teach you what you and perhaps an audience don’t know.

In relation to the pandemic this could apply to finding new collaborators with skills you don’t have in order to make new kinds of work you’ve never made before. It could also mean working with community members or performers who know more about a subject you want to explore than you do. Be brave in seeking the right people out.


2. How does the CONTENT meet the FORM and why?


Why should it be a theatre show / dance piece/ installation / zoom chat roulette/ one on one performance (with masks) / flash mob opera / {insert your wonderful ideas here}?

This is where the artist in me gets all excited.

What form can hold the content in the most wonderful and exciting way to make it be most vividly felt by an audience member?

Yes you work in theatre. But you are an artist and a maker of things. Time to raise the roof and get your thinking/dreaming hat on.

And remember the pandemic and its consequences in terms of form is new to EVERYONE! We are creating the new parameters! You are the writer of the rules.

If your work is about hope what does that do to the form? If it’s about beauty what does that do? If it’s about togetherness what does that do? What does a work about secrecy look or feel like? Let form be fluid – you can make ANYTHING.

{ The astute of you will have realized the crux of what the pandemic means for form – we HAVE to welcome in certain parameters around form in terms of social distancing. However this necessity doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do the work to land upon where content and form can be the best bedfellows. In fact I think we have to spend more time on it to make really excellent art. No one wants to see sloppy films of theatre shows you wish you’d been able to make in a theatre. Think harder / dream bigger. }


3. Why should anyone care?

In times like these there’s a bigger question here around what stories / art does the world need right now? I personally feel like I need to spend time on this question for a little bit. I think the answers to it will change. Be kind to yourself if you don’t know yet. These are unprecedented times. For me this also branches into the territory of who is the work for?

But if we wind back the clock to the time before I might have said this about this question:

Try and think bigger than you.

Bigger than even the project itself.

If Freud was around what would he say the project was about?

What is the hook for any human irrelevant of identity politics?

The answer to this question can change as the project evolves. At its best it’s slippery and a little bit magic. Having said this I try to make it solid and unflinching at the start of the project and then when I know I’ve served the answer (even if that means realizing I have to change it) then I allow myself space to use it as a launchpad to go wildly off-piste to see what I find.

The work doesn’t wear it on its sleeve but if you cut through any part of it, you’ll see it in its middle. Think of it like a stick of Brighton rock – break it apart at any spot and it should reveal the same rainbow.

When you get it right I think of it like falling in love. The more in love you are the harder it is to say exactly why but somewhere deep down all the information is there. (But if you’re honest it all started because you liked his/her/their hair.)

Ok that’s it for now! I’ve got healing to do from having C19 and I don’t know yet what that will do to the art I want to make. We shall see.

Good luck.

Make lots of beauty happen please. We need it.


{Companies and artists to check out for inspiration: Coney, Action Hero, Anagram, Blast Theory, Jeremy Deller, Adrian Howells, Tania El Khoury, Ant Hampton… and many more!}