After returning from the Edinburgh Fringe, Lecoq-trained theatre-makers Chris Harrisson and David Ralfe noticed that there were comparatively few spaces in London willing to showcase the type of short, script-free, devised performances that they had grown to love. Undeterred, they conspired to set up their own and No Such Thing was born, or rather, will be: this new evening of performance celebrating bold short form theatre will hold its inaugural session at The New Diorama on 10 February, where for just £10 you’ll get six brand new pieces of unique performance art (plus music from Laila Woozeer, Danilo Borgeth and Sarah Triggs).
“The idea from the outset was to try to put on a night to showcase what we call and think of as short-form theatre, so in other words, pieces which are self-contained – not excerpts from longer works – and which can be anything from two minutes to 10 or 15 minutes,” explains Ralfe, one half of new theatre company On The Run. “Within that we wanted to be showcasing a style of theatre we’re passionate about, which takes in physical, visual, puppetry-based, storytelling or devising – basically it’s stuff that’s not particularly script-based or rooted in naturalism”.
Harrisson, who is also the Artistic Director of Rhum and Clay Theatre Company, notes that in designing the evening, “we thought it would be good to have a space where people could present these ideas as full pieces, without the expectation that it would become a longer piece”. While there are plenty of venues producing new short-form writing, they more often than not require that participants apply with a fully-formed script, which effectively prohibits most devised work and very visual or physical pieces from being selected. As such, the team has been particularly sympathetic with their programming – taking into account that “work might not actually exist” at the time of application, and also employing a hands-off policy. “We really wanted to create an application process that is sympathetic to artists,” Ralfe clarifies, and both are quick to add that they also won’t be “interfering” with the pieces that have been chosen: “having programmed the artists, they’re free to do whatever they want”. Harrisson adds that in choosing between the 50 or so applications they received for their first show, “the only rule we had in the end was that the pieces could only be a maximum of 15 minutes. Everything else came down to the strength of the applications and what we thought would work well together.”
The pair, along with their Assistant Producer Emma Baggott, hope the evening will serve a dual purpose. For its audience, it provides a rare chance to experience a wide variety of new and unique short-form formats. Ralfe believes “there is an audience for this kind of work, and I also think that this work is probably more accessible than a lot of people would assume,” since “a really good clown performance should touch and move and amuse” even those who are used to a more “mainstream” theatrical set up. Harrisson adds that, because of the length of the pieces, it isn’t a forum for ‘work-in-progress’ excerpts from longer shows, comparing it instead to “a short-film collection or a festival of one-act plays, both of which exist and fulfil something different to full length films and plays… we want our audience to know they are watching a series of quality pieces, not a scratch night.”
For performers, Harrisson hopes that the evening will act as both showcase and networking event, with a balance between emerging and more established artists and an eclectic line up: “Every piece will be wildly different, but all of them have big ideas. We think we’ve got a mix of funny and sad, silly and moving, acutely observed and grandly sweeping, all in one night”. Baggott hopes that the pilot event will “grow to become something larger, getting more artists to be able to show their work and even try out making work in this form.” Only time will tell how this exciting new evening develops, but in the first instance audiences and performers alike should expect a quirky night of performance worth braving the February chill for.