At the time of writing this blog it is five days, four hours, 17 minutes and counting until our first performance of Snow White as part of the Camden Fringe. We are all stuck in a cycle of nerves and excitement, and are all wondering when the standard pre-show dream about performing the wrong show naked will rear its ugly head.
Our forthcoming run as part of the Camden Fringe marks a momentous event for us Filskit Ladies. Next week will be the first time that we have ever had a run of five shows, (three was our previous limit), we’ll be experimenting with live streaming, performing in our biggest venue to date, oh and hoping to lay the ground work for future opportunities… so no pressure then!
As many small companies will know, in order to get things done you have to wear many different hats. Over the past few months we have been writers, accountants, devisers, marketers and designers, but when we reach 6:30pm this Saturday we get to be performers – just performers – and we can’t wait.
As we are so close to performing our finished piece, we thought that now might be a good time to look back on our process, especially as people keep asking about our “process” and we’re not entirely sure what it is! But hopefully we will be able to learn from the ups and downs – such is the beauty of hindsight.
This time last year we were just beginning work on Snow White. We tried out various ideas, some which grew and developed – and others which involved us running around with boxes on our heads, speaking in dubious Mexican accents (thankfully we got past that stage).
We first shared our Snow White ideas at Hoxton Hall as part of its Urbanisation Festival. The idea of the ‘work in progress’ may leave a bitter taste in some mouths due to the raw nature of the work, but nights like these have been an integral part of the way we develop our work. Yes, you are technically putting unfinished work in front of an audience, but at the same time the very presence of the spectator can assist in the shaping of the piece. It gives you an opportunity to show ideas, images, thoughts and fragments to see how they play out in front of you. They also usually result in us stepping off stage already knowing exactly what worked and what didn’t before even talking to anyone else. Our stint at Hoxton was no exception and it was a pleasure to place the work in such a fantastic setting as the atmospheric Victorian music hall. However, we admittedly did not expect such strong feedback as the words we received from the audience there that night. They were intrigued by our images and atmospheres. They were excited to see how the piece would grow. It was also at this moment that we heard loud and clear that we should be making it a show for children.
Scenepool at Upstairs at the Gatehouse was our next chance to show Snow White. This time we were equipped with a full length piece and had the good fortune to be billed for several nights, allowing us to really get into the swing of things. It was at this point we had the outline of a narrative and a catalogue of images at hand. We were also able to try out a number of marketing techniques on a small scale to get a clearer idea for what might work and what really would not. These discoveries range from the positives, such as discovering brilliant, helpful newsagents, and the less positive such as scouting out people in November rains (insert your own Guns and Roses reference as appropriate), which was unsurprisingly less successful. As part of our run, we had a Sunday matinee performance. This was our first chance to show our work in front of children; we were terrified but the results were very encouraging.
With our new target audience in mind we stumbled upon a fantastic opportunity. We applied to The Unicorn Theatre’s EMERGE project. This particular project is a new initiative run by London’s largest children’s theatre to encourage theatre companies which wish to work for children for the first time. So our New Year kicked off with a fantastic and intensive week near London Bridge. We were in heaven, with brilliant facilities and access to experts; we made many vigorous changes and developments to the piece. This was a clear launch pad for Snow White, and unquestionably set us on course for a strong 2011.
The New Diorama Theatre offered us the next moment to mark Snow White’s development. As part of the All Our Sundays initiative we were able to have access to the theatre for the day. This was our first full official show, and it was here that we were finally able to put a stop to the devising process.
In fact, the refining and focusing on the minutiae of the performance is new ground for us. As is most likely a common difficulty for devisers, our instinct lies with the concepts, the rhythms, the staging and the imagery. Now we are wearing our performer hats and learning to develop skills we may have overlooked a little in the past year. As a somewhat contentious issue, this overlooking may also be the result of utilising technology in performance. For anyone who has seen our work (bless you), you will notice that micro projectors are featured in every performance. But to enable this and to make the projectors synonymous with our work, we have grappled with the roles of performer and technician. However, as this is quite a hot topic in its own right, it will be the focus of one of our future blogs.
It has not only been a year of creative challenges, but organisational ones too. In the past year all three of us have moved into part time work in order to facilitate the rehearsals, shows and extra work. We have had people sadly move away whilst others have joined us. The most notable changes have been on the production side of things. Quirkas Productions, alongside other wonderful individuals, has been helping us to build the business side of Filskit. It has given us direction, facilitated our Camden Fringe adventures and advised on promotion and marketing. This has accelerated our progress and is enabling us to look towards 2012 with achievable aspirations. These include touring, and the notorious Edinburgh festival. Oh and of course a new piece. We shall let you know the outcome of Snow White but for now – five days, three hours, 42 minutes and counting…