Adventures in planning

Post It NotesSince the beginning of 2014 we’ve been busy doing lots of stuff that I would file under the category of “Things You Don’t Realise You’ll Have To Do When You Decide To Start A Theatre Company”. There’s some stuff that I should have reasonably envisaged (like sorting copy and promotional images and checking contracts and re-designing the website), some stuff that, had I thought about it for a few minutes, I could have thought about existing in some hazy ill-defined way (like funding applications and pitches and commission deadlines) and then there is the stuff that, even when I’m sitting in the meeting talking about them, I have little grasp of the fact that our chosen career path involves us having to do them (company accounts and branding and business plans and, possibly most terrifyingly of all, ORGANISATIONAL DEVELOPMENT).

What all of this stuff has forced us to do, however, is talk. About small stuff like how we express what Write By Numbers does in a single sentence and about the big stuff like how the way we structure and operate the company feeds into the way we make things. It’s also making us PLAN.

One of the PLANS has been about how we use our website and this blog. We’ve come up with lots of ideas (notably the one that got WBN-wide support featured cake) and, beginning this week, we’re going to start implementing them. This blog is going to be a mix of things in the way that WBN is a mix of things; so expect theatre and arts and community and opinions and board games and ridiculous travels with large pieces of furniture and cake. Definitely the cake.

EMERGEncy: Assessment of Risk

“I need to do a risk assessment for Reasons.” I announce during our weekly meeting.

I am announcing this, rather than just doing it, because I am a little bamboozled by the task.

A risk assessment for a show isn’t a particularly unusual request. Indeed I once exchanged approximately 74 emails, had three phone conversations, spent eight hours writing risk assessments and had a meeting with the Edinburgh Fire Brigade for an EdFringe show which, for approximately five seconds, had A FLAME in it. As it was, the fire was fine; it was a performer tripping over a (risk assessed) discarded prop that landed us in A&E.

But with Reasons – which, at its base state, consists of one man standing still, telling you a story with the use of some flashcards – the only notable risk is that Andy might give himself a papercut. If I am to start a precedent for risk assessing the possibility of paper cuts for members of WBN then I fear I shall never again have the time to actually be involved in making any theatre.

The meeting turns to what I might put on the risk assessment instead.

“That a small child might put one of the happiness cards up their nose?”

(People at risk: audience. Likelihood: remote. Severity: minor.)

“That Andy might keep in the use of the word ‘fuck’ when there is a child in the room?”

(People at risk: audience. Likelihood: possible. Severity: minor.)

“That…well, yes – the papercut thing.”

(People at risk: performer. Likelihood: possible. Severity: whilst not underselling a papercut, minor)

It is no good, neither Estelle nor Charlie can come up with any plausible risks either. We have made a show where the main risk is getting an audience to commit to having one man tell them a story without the use of any theatrical wizardry other than some flashcards and a drawing Andy did back in 2012, for thirty minutes.

“I’ll…write some words…” I concede. “Now, if this were Blueprint…”

We laugh the sort of laugh that only arises with the knowledge that at some point in the not too distant future someone will ask for a risk assessment for Blueprint and compiling it will make us all cry.

24 hours later I’m assembling the Blueprint props from where I had, with the kind of foresight that probably deserves some kind of chocolate related reward, packaged, separated and labelled post our Bike Shed residency. I realise, just after I’ve pushed the box back in, that I’m missing the stopwatch. No bother, I’ll just lean in and get it out –

My forehead collides with the metal underside of the table.

There’s the flash of embarrassment that I have just headbutted a table in an open plan office and that people might have seen me do this. This quickly subsides though; it hurts too much for me to manage embarrassment as well as pain.

I sit still waiting for everything to stop spinning.

And then, to no one in particular:

“Well, I didn’t risk assess this, did I?”


EMERGEncy: Adventures in Furniture Removal

“I think I want to cry.”

It’s as good as any reaction to the situation in front of us. I’ve spent the last 24 hours in a combination of packing, clearing and lifting. The day has already included a 15 minute riff on the episode in Friends where Ross attempts to “pivot” his sofa up the staircase of his apartment block, only played out with a bookcase that was too large for the lift. Now 70% of the tangible assets of WBN are piled up in the car park of our new office, arranged between a fire escape and a £50,000 car. I am not sure which I am most terrified of: that I shall hit the car with a piece of the MDF I have insisted on us keeping despite the fact that it wasn’t ours in the first place and has no discernible current use, or that we are going to have to carry all of the stuff in front of us up the fire escape.

“Let’s get the worst bit done first.” Charlie suggests.

By ‘worst bit’ I immediately know he means the second bookcase. I say nothing, something which is my life tactic for trying to avoid doing stuff I don’t want to do but know I eventually will have to.

“It’ll be easier once we’ve done that.”

Logically Charlie is correct, the second bookcase is the last piece of furniture which needs carrying up multiple flights of stairs. Once we’re past that we’re back to the MDF, tea and coffee making implements and assorted hats which come with the territory of being a theatre company.

Illogically though, I just don’t want to do it.

However, I think I signed away my right to use that excuse for WBN things at the same time that I entered into the contract, otherwise known as forming a limited company, to do what is right for WBN and not what is right for me.

“Okay. But  – I’m not going backwards up the stairs.” This, it would appear, is as much dignity that I can scrape from the situation.

We’re mid-way up the fire escape before I’ve had time to re-think.

“I’ve just realised -” Charlie says “If I lost my footing now you’d probably fall all the way down the fire escape.”

I stop.



EMERGEncy is WBN’s new weekly look at the day-to-day life of a theatre company (of the ’emerging’ variety).

The shows Estelle is most looking forward to at Ignite 2014

Before writing this I checked my diary from last year, and was shocked to discover I had spent less than 48 hours in Exeter last year for Ignite 2013. The whole thing was such a whirlwind that I am delighted to say I will be around for the whole of this year’s festival! So, how to spend my time? Well, I currently have my eye on these:

The Love Project – Ellie Browning

At our beloved (get it?) Bike Shed Theatre, a piece of verbatim theatre about that most enduring  thing: Love. I missed this at Edinburgh last year and am delighted I can get to see it at Ignite. I remember reading about it and thinking this is exactly the sort of work I am interested in. Real people, real stories and LOVE. Looking forward to it.

The Ballad of Martha Brown – Angel Exit Theatre

Public Hanging in Dorset, during Ignite Festival? Don’t mind if I do. I loved The Ballad of Martha Brown from the talented (and very energetic) Angel Exit Theatre. This story has drama, intrigue, comedy, music and incredible physicality.

Dirty Decadence – Theatre With Teeth

For my third pick I am intrigued by Theatre With Teeth’s Dirty Decadence. Having seen and loved Posh I am excited to see their take on the topic. I have to say I’m surprised this wasn’t one of Charlie’s picks as he set up the company back in 2007.

It has to be said here that I really wanted to pick Gloriator but the darstardly Mr. Andrew Kelly got there first.

The shows Corinne is most looking forward to at Ignite 2014

Choosing three picks was tough, not least because there is an adaptation of Beowulf in the festival and there are very few times in life when I could legitimately roll out the fact that I have read Beowulf in its original Old English. Having held in any obnoxious showing off, however, my three picks are:

The Very Thought – Rose Biggin

One of the most interesting blurbs in the festival: feminism and pole dancing. I know a fair amount about one and nothing about the other (I’ll let you guess which is which). Plus the blurb also makes it sound like we’ve got an unreliable narrator going on, which might be my favourite writing device ever.

Stuff – Juncture Theatre

Last year at Ignite not only did Juncture Theatre perform the beguiling A Little Nonsense they also united with WBN on Cathedral Green to triumphantly complete the I crossword (with only one cheat). Even without those credentials, however, as a genetically pre-disposed hoarder, my own relationship with, well, stuff would have me intrigued.

Help – Viki Browne, Jointventure Theatre

At the start of our residency last Autumn the Bike Shed asked if a local, recently graduated director could observe during some of our R&D time. We said yes, and the director turned out to be Viki (on an entirely unrelated note, whose dresses I’d admired from a distance during Ignite 2013). Not only did Viki engage with and give us some incredibly valuable feedback on Blueprint she also ended up performing in Walking Stories. I’m a sucker for a one-person show (see Rose’s above) and I’m properly excited to finally get to see Viki’s own work.

The shows Andy is most looking forward to at Ignite 2014

My top 3 picks for Ignite:

1. Gloriator– Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at Bike Shed.
A Very Very Famous actress (and her brow-beaten PA) attempt to perform all of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator armed only with some small cardboard props and one big ego. An absolutely hilarious piece of clowning- two very talented performers getting themselves into all kinds of absurd tangles. You have to see this.

2. Wildbore– Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Exeter Library
Solo performer Jesse Meadows reflects upon her life with her grandmother. A poignant examination of aging, bereavement and love between generations, told with humour and optimism.

3. Current Location– Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Exeter Library
Fellswoop theatre make really good shows. This is a tense and thoughtful play about a small, tightly-knit community facing catastrophe.