I launched FreeRange Productions in August 2010, because I wanted to create a youth theatre company that totally supported and funded itself. The oldest person in the company is 25, and we raise all the funds, build support, and run all the productions from start to finish totally by ourselves.
The main reason for this is that it means we’re totally in control. We direct and devise the work ourselves, choose our styles, and, as young people, develop theatre in exactly the way we want to.
I wanted to move away from the standard ‘youth theatre’ or ‘student theatre’ stereotypes, and do some pretty interesting, different projects. That basic philosophy or aim influenced the choice of our first production, which we performed for a short run in November last year.
This production was No Exit which is a Jean-Paul Sartre philosophical thriller. It is a tough play, because it was written almost as a lecture, as a piece of philosophical text, set in one room, with very heavy dialogue and little action. In fact, many see it as quite a static piece. Our challenge was to make it as exciting and intense as possible. We tried to be innovative, and set up a ‘Big Brother’ style set with live camera feeds and screens scattered all over to make it feel claustrophobic and voyeuristic. We sold out our run, and all went really well. Do look on our website for some rehearsal images etc.
I’ve started writing this blog because we’re just starting the process for our second and third productions; we’re taking the latter to Edinburgh this summer. Every week I’ll be publishing a a day-by-day diary of what we’ve done, how we’ve developed the pieces, and all the admin/marketing/press aspects of the process as well. Basically everything that happens, you guys get to know about.
We’ve just started preparation for the first of these projects, a play called Love Remains. This is a play that’s never been performed in England before, and it’s written by Brett Goldstein, a fairly well-known comedian and playwright,. He’s given us the first amateur rights to perform his debut play in this country, which is quite an honour. It’s an incredibly dark piece, profound but – at times – hysterically funny . We’re in the process of booking venues, and starting to put out audition calls. I’ll keep you updated on all this every week so you can see how it all goes: what works and what fails; the ups and downs of the rehearsal and workshopping process; the admin side; the marketing side; the budgeting; and absolutely all the drama and arguments I imagine we’ll have to face this year.
I’m still relatively new to this, so the problems that we encounter are going to be similar perhaps to what you encounter, and I hope that by filling you all in on what we’re up to that maybe I’ll inspire you to start a company and do all this yourself, or at least give you some idea of how I (a total amateur!) went about going on the crazy journey I’m about to begin.
Chris Wheeler is Artistic Director, FreeRange Productions. Image by Alice Martineau