It has been a very busy couple of weeks for us here at Filskit Theatre. Not only have we begun our tour of The Feather Catcher but also we have managed to make time to see four incredibly different shows.
The first was Tube by Oily Cart, an interactive piece for children aged 2-4 that took place inside a giant tube structure. The next piece was in a completely different vein: Domestic Crusaders at Tara Arts – a text-heavy look at the life of a Palestinian family living in America post 9/11. We then journeyed to Oxford to see Paper Balloon’s The Grumpiest Boy in the World, which left us toe tapping all the way home to the excellent songs. The most recent theatre trip was to see Advice for the Young at Heart, a new play by Roy Williams, presented by Theatre Centre, which was completely different again (see our review).
As you can see, the shows were all quite varied and that is half the fun. When making work for children, we confess, you sometimes crave theatre with swearing in it. It is a good idea to see things that you may not expect to enjoy – it may surprise you.
Whenever we go to the theatre as a three, we never fail to be amazed by how different our opinions on the work are. But this is good, when you create work as an ensemble you want each member to bring different ideas to the table and challenge each other, otherwise what’s the point.
From the moment we decided to form Filskit Theatre people started telling us how important it is for artists to go out and see work and we couldn’t agree more. Here are five reasons from us why it’s so useful to see other people’s work…
1. Even if you don’t like it / it’s not to your taste, at least you are forming as opinion on the type of work you do / don’t want to make.
2. If you leave the theatre thinking “that was the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen”, you will have something to aspire to in your own work. While it’s not advisable to try and replicate the work of another company, it’s good to have an idea of the level of quality that you want to achieve.
3. It is always useful to see what else is out there. Pick a venue that you would love to perform at and see what they are programming.
4. Take the time to do a little research about the company. If they have a great flyer, who designed it? If you loved the soundtrack, who composed it?
5. Spend some time watching the audience (but not in a creepy way) to get a feel for what’s engaging them. In our case we go to see a lot of work for children, therefore the work has not been made for us. Something that we might find irritating, the children might absolutely love.
Despite these five very worthy reasons to get out there and see work, unfortunately it doesn’t always happen. We believe that there are two big factors that put artists off going to see work.
The first obstacle that we must overcome is time, or lack thereof. When you start a theatre company and are attempting to juggle bill-paying work with rehearsals, time is a luxury that you just don’t always have. Whilst it may seem more worthwhile to lock yourself away intensively creating than take time out to go to the theatre, the truth is, this is probably not the case.
Once you’ve chiselled out some time in your hectic schedule to go to a show there is the dreaded issue of money. We know that not many companies will be planning on splashing out in excess of £50 every week to go to the West End. But still, for a struggling artist even the odd £8-12 here and there all adds up. Just last week one of our Filskit ladies was put off seeing a production for children because of the £16 adult price tag that could buy two tickets at another venue.
So, in an attempt to save money, any existing relationships with venues may help. See if you can stand at the back for free, or even try your hand at reviewing. Look out for ticket offers (A Younger Theatre is great for this) or set a budget amongst your peers. All the usual student/struggling artist tactics apply.
We believe that it is important for all of us as theatre makers to remember that even though we have finished our training that doesn’t mean that we have finished learning… There are always valuable lessons to be learnt by seeing others work, so try being a member of the audience for a change.