Until recently, every funding application, mission statement and biography we have ever written has begun with the phrase “Filskit Theatre are a London based company…” but as we have grown as a company and our personal circumstances have changed, we have now come to the realisation that two thirds of the original company are actually no longer “Londoners”.
When we were all 18 year old aspiring actors from the shires, the bright lights of the City beckoned and it seemed as though London was the only option if we were going to ‘make it’ in our chosen field (even if we did end up living in Sidcup, which isn’t technically London). It’s a buzzing hub of activity with its lively offerings of the West End, museums, pop-up venues, fringe scene and everything else that a European capital city can offer.
Our time in London has most certainly served us well; the opportunities for young companies are endless and indeed many of our regular supporters such as Stratford Circus and Creative Youth are London based. But as we plan and scheme new ways to make Filskit our fulltime job (and plan our subsequent world domination…) we have realised the importance of expanding the reach of the company outside the Big Smoke.
So last year when we were planning two weeks of R&D for our latest production, we were thrilled to be offered the chance to develop the piece at two different venues: Stratford Circus, which provided our London setting, and The Point in Eastleigh which saw us spending a week on the South Coast.
Having now completed two weeks of R&D at these two very different venues (and writing our evaluation for Arts Council England) we are looking at how geography can affect your creative process. Let’s start with our first week at The Point.
What makes The Point a unique place for artists is its onsite accommodation and ‘Creation Space’ – a “state of the art retreat for creatives from around the globe”. Being able to stay onsite at the venue had a huge impact on our process; it’s amazing how very un-creative a 90 minute commute with your face in a stranger’s armpit can make you feel. But by staying onsite with only a short walk downstairs to the fully equipped theatre, via the kitchen (with teabags aplenty), we completely bypassed all of the stressful day-to-day things that can have a detrimental effect on your creativity.
We must say that up until this week of R&D we were always a little sceptical of how productive it can be to be locked away in a rehearsal room with no outside influences. Ok, so we weren’t staying in a wooden shack in the middle of nowhere, but still we always worried that any kind of isolation could potentially make the work a bit self-indulgent. But the creative retreat at The Point was the perfect balance for us – quiet enough that we made huge developments to our new piece, but we also had the opportunity to meet with staff and engage with a local nursery group which massively helped with our audience development.
After our brilliant week at The Point, we returned to Stratford Circus, which is becoming a bit of a home from home when creating new work. We love Stratford Circus and always receive great support, especially from the technical team. But being back in the city soon began to take its toll on our productivity, all of a sudden we went back to worrying about which train to catch and how long it would take to drive the set over in the morning traffic, – basically we were distracted. It took us a day or two but things soon picked up and we managed to make significant developments to the piece which we then shared with a local school group.
This sharing again highlighted how different locations can affect the work; whilst the first group at The Point were very well behaved and perhaps a little tentative, the group at Stratford Circus were positively raucous. The different audience responses will help us develop our work further, and highlight the importance of still engaging with London venues and audiences as we look to expand into other areas of the country.
Whilst the piece is a little way from being finished, we are already seeing the benefits of creating work in a variety of locations. We hope that this way of working will make the piece more accessible to a broader range of young audiences. It’s not necessarily all about the buzz of the city.
Photo by Flickr user _dChris under a Creative Commons Licence.