It’s rare for my wife Kath and I to work together to put on a show. We did a rather special site responsive project in central London some years ago which had a cast of around 40, two spaces, the usual designers and stage managers, and played to around 250 people before the key cast moved the project to Australia for a smaller site-specific presentation.
For this project, we negotiated the venues around six months in advance, we knew our timeline very clearly from then on. We knew the elements which came with the venue, and where we would need to design and dress the space. All pretty standard pre-planning.
This month we are doing a new joint venture. Here the budgets are 40 times the size of our last co-project. We have an opening date in less than three weeks’ time. We have the truck booked for the get-in. We have master carpenters booked for some necessary changes to the venue. But we don’t have a contract.
We know that we have to invest the equivalent of a small West End play budget to make this happen. We know the two main sources of funding which will arrive to pay the investment. We have lawyers working with us. But three weeks before the opening, we have not got a single piece of signed documentation assuring us that this is all going to happen. Oh and we are not allowed to have our production manager make a site visit before the get-in, so we are working off an A4 photocopied not-to-scale plan of the site.
I teach producing. Kath creates and directs shows all the time. We know this is not the way to make an event happen. But it is the way double acts all over the UK have to work sometimes when preparing for one particular site-specific showtime.
The show is called Moving House. An everyday jumble of nerves for couples and singles throughout England. We are putting our complete faith in two Estate Agents and a chorus of 8 lawyers to sing in tune and perfect harmony, to pick up on the cues they give each other, and to work with two “producers” who have no influence over the process except as encouraging champions.
Our previous example was our Wedding – which we treated like a show and had a stage manager, a get-out, a programme and all the other things which two theatre folk would expect.
And the current project is our move from Suffolk to Edinburgh on 31st January. We are trusting in the process, breathing deeply, calling on all the good spirit guides on this plane and other planes to offer their energy, light, and support. And we are busily packing boxes.
On the evening of Wed 31st January we will walk along the shore of the Forth towards the moon rising over Blackness Castle. We will drink a wee dram. And then we will go back inside and unpack some boxes. Before variously going back to teaching Producers how to plan productions calmly, and devising and directing new shows for national and international touring.
We understand that business a whole lot better. Theatre Producing feels so much more stable, certain, secure, and healthy. We love our business…and breathe.