Sunday, 12 January 2014

Making Different and Making Harder

I am 25. In one way or another I have been making work on offer to the general public since 2007, really. During this time, so much of our focus has been dominated by The Edinburgh Fringe. It's a wonderful place and I owe it a lot - for a lot of fun, a lot of stories and a lot of shows. It has it's pros and cons but I wouldn't change anything about the summers I've spent there. This is, I realise, where we launch our work. By 'we' I make a drastic generalisation about people a bit like me or companies a bit like ours. In short - we make shows which are around 1hr long, we play them in one hip-hop-and-happening city for a month and we hope to any gods that public, press and industry like them. I'm sure me and thousands of other theatre makers have got used to this system. It's a fine, fun, and sometimes very rewarding system.

We're making BABYLON in a stone barn behind a pub in Coxwold, North Yorkshire. It's January - the Edinburgh Fringe is ages away - and we open a national tour on Thursday. We play 26 shows in one month covering hundreds and hundreds of miles around the country. We open our show, not to a jam packed city full of arts-folk, but in villages and towns full of people who may or may not care about what's going on. We have two vans to drive in. We have funding from the Arts Council. We are going on a bloody NATIONAL TOUR! 

Who let this happen? This isn't cosy and safe and well known territory. This is god-damn terrifying.

This has only just really occurred to me. It's a bit like being a real, grown up theatre company. And the thing which is perhaps hardest to come to terms with, is that the show isn't 1 hour long. It's 2 hours long, with an interval. That sounds basic, but it's not, far from it. 

The reason, though, the show is 2 hours long is because it's a damn big story. And one we want desperately to get right and tell well. The work we've made before (Beulah / Some Small Love Story for instance) is so very near and dear. But BABYLON is different, I don't think BABYLON will make anyone cry - most shows I write tend to make people cry. It might make people angry, or provoke a discussion, or make people put their arms around their friends and sing longer in to the night. But it's not a show about beauty and it's not a show about love. It's a story about people and about how sometimes we can get it wrong and, hopefully, about how we in real life might not. It easily takes 2 hours to tell. It could take a hell of a lot longer - but we want to tell it well and we want to tell it in 2 hours.

So we're not opening our show at Edinburgh Festival - we're taking it on a national tour around pubs and non-theatre spaces, many of which haven't had any theatre in before. And we are telling a long, involved, social and political story which, we think, actually matters. We're all, like I said earlier, a bit like me. And it feels like we're all leveling up - growing up - as writers / performers / artists / directors / makers. Like we've found ourselves somewhere where we have to take a big leap. Honestly, it is quite scary and it is very difficult. But it feels right. And difficult is a relative term but my brain is working very very hard and the answers aren't always coming easily. It's that kind of difficult.

I don't know whether this is something that happens to everyone at a certain point in the career or development or adventure. Or whether it is happening to us because of our country, our government, the slow dismantling of our industry. But either way this is our response, it would seem - to level up. To grow. To make different and to make harder. To imagine better - both in the telling and the models we use to tell.

I hope, in just over a months time, we have learnt more, know more, have met new people, understood new things, have found out how best to tell our story and to have provoked some debates, conversations, friendships and late night drinking sessions. And, yes, the show might end up in Edinburgh - but it will still be 2 hours long because that's the story we have made. 

Yesterday was a tough day - we got stuck. It's fine getting stuck. The way out is to find a way through. If we never got stuck, we wouldn't get better. If we never got scared, we wouldn't get braver. If it never got difficult, it probably wouldn't ever be any good. 

We open on Thursday 16th Jan with our 2 act, full length, social and political folk romp and then head out on a national tour to pubs and communal spaces across the country. For us, that's a hell of a sentence. I'm sure we'll enjoy the ride. 


Listen to SILVER, a song from the show, here

Tour details are at / keep up to date on twitter @FlanCol

PS - The photos are entirely irrelevant. They are simply three photos I took on a walk yesterday when the world look pretty golden and there was a peacock out on our hill.

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