Thriving in a fiercely competitive industry, Little Bulb Theatre Company lights up the stage with Operation Greenfield, a bizare and visually fantastical exploration of faith, friendship, music and maturity that will strike a chord with audiences of all ages. With a set strewn with instruments and diverse recorded music, Operation Greenfield beautifully captures the confusion, awkwardness and naivety of adolescence. Ahead of the company’s visit to the Watford Palace Theatre on 6 June, AYT met with Dominic Conway, actor, writer and occasional “energetic debater” to find out about their most recent project and plans for the future.
How did Little Bulb form?
We all studied at the University of Kent together and I had always wanted to be part of a theatre company. I tried to start a lot of companies at university and it was difficult to create work just because you wanted to be a theatre company as it’s so open-ended. It’s good to create work with people you get on with: then if you want to create more work, start a company. Alexander Scott, our Artistic Director, had a final project for his degree to create a piece of devised theatre so he cast me and Clare Beresford in his piece, Crocosmia. We were encouraged by our tutors to take the show to Edinburgh. We performed to around audiences of six until a journalist from The Scotsman wrote a great review and then we were sold out the rest of the show. It was a real fairytale Edinburgh story. We wanted to form a company and make work that we were passionate about and that excites us. The dream always changes, and even though you have your own dreams you have to make compromises, but we had a shared ambition to stay in a place where we could make work that we are pleased with and proud of. Sticking to that dream dictates what theatre we want to work in, the scale of the piece, how much money we want to make, but all of these are secondary to the fact that as soon as the work becomes something that we aren’t pleased with, then the whole thing is pointless. We wanted to create work on our own terms.
What does Operation Greenfield mean for you?
The show means something different to each of us. There is a lot of personal history for each of us; for example, I didn’t have a religious upbringing but a lot of the scenes are to do with finding communication awkward when I was a teen, and using music as a way of breaking through the tension is very relevant to me and sits at the heart of the play. I’ve always loved music and when we started the company Shamira Turner, the company treasurer, used to just play harmonica. We all loved music so it started as a hobby and then became a much bigger part of our lives. We created a lot of the work for this piece with Eugenie Pastor, the company’s Associate Artist, who inspired a lot of our music. The characters in Operation Greenfield have highly dysfunctional relationships and can barely communicate, but it is through their music rehearsals that they are brought together and taken much further than anything else they can achieve. All of their internal relationships are linked and, despite being incredibly dysfunctional, their relationships are super-charged which is essential in your teens and other stages of life, too. It is very much a show for teens and adults.
Little Bulb is performing at lots of festivals this summer. How do you find performing at festivals compared to other venues?
Festivals are great because they have such a good atmosphere. You can also see a lot of other work and be a part of a wider body of work. You often find audiences are bigger and more excitable at festivals because they’re seeing new work constantly. But we’ve worked in smaller studios around the country, village halls or performed in fields like Latitude festival. Every venue has something new and exciting to offer. We’ve loved being a part of Norfolk and Norwich Festival this year. We’re taking Goose Party to MayFest in Bristol this summer, which is a great festival.
And how about the experience of visiting theatres, such as the Watford Palace?
As a touring company we often play in black box studio spaces where you expect to find the kind of experimental work that we make. The Watford Palace Theatre, on the other hand, is such a grand space; the shape and the scale of the building will frame the work in a new and exciting way for us, and hopefully for the audience too.
What advice would you offer to young writers, actors and theatre enthusiasts starting out in the industry?
Keep making work that excites you and that you are passionate about. It’s important to get people to take you seriously. Be presumptuous and write to the press and other theatres to come and see your work. Support can come from lots of places and without it you are just going it alone. We knew it is sometimes good to create work in isolation but we wanted a collective around us. Festivals like Edinburgh are a great way to get your work known and get your foot in the door. We worked with the Battersea Arts Centre, which is the best place for people trying to find their feet in the theatre world. Be prepared to work long hours and be broke. After graduation, we became full-time without a full-time wage. It’s so important to start with a show you really believe in. As a company you are always asked to define what you do and have a mission statement. It is important to have a name and identity, but let your work do the talking. If you create work you are passionate about then you have an identity. Lots of theatres have work-in-progress events to which you can take your shows and have Q & A sessions, and they are so helpful in developing what you are trying to say – and your dream looks more achievable.
Little Bulb will be performing Operation Greenfield at the Watford Palace Theatre on Wednesday 6 June. For tickets and more information, visit http://www.watfordpalacetheatre.co.uk/page/operation-greenfield.
The Palace Theatre is just 20 minutes away from Euston on the train.
The Palace Theatre offer a free membership scheme for 16-25s, Rumour, which offers discounted theatre and film tickets. The benefits of becoming a member include:
· £5 theatre tickets on Tuesday nights
· See any film at any time for £4
· 20% off in the Cafe & Bar all the times
· Free access to exclusive events and offers
· Opportunities to perform at open mic nights
The monthly e-newsletter details events in the local area. You can find out more info at www.watfordrumour.com.
Little Bulb Theatre Company can be followed on FaceBook at http://www.facebook.com/groups/10291553382/ or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/littlebulbtheatre. Visit the company’s site at http://www.littlebulbtheatre.com/index.html.