I’m not sure if the above tweet is exactly the correct way to introduce Theatre41. But I guess it’s a way. Because it acknowledges that I’m incredibly excited about the project (hang on, I’ll get to what the project exactly is in a second or two) whilst also acknowledging the OH MY GOD, WHAT HAVE I AGREED TO DO? nature of the endeavour. Maybe it’s just me (though, talking to friends that haven’t abandoned me because of the crazy that is just below the surface at any given moment currently, I think it’s the same for everyone who runs around wearing different work hats) but all my projects smack a bit of this. At some point I’d probably like to make some stuff in a sedate, ordered, non-seat-of-pants manner. See: PROFESSIONAL.
Just before Christmas I was told about a regeneration project which was happening in Wood Street Market, Walthamstow and it was suggested that I should pitch something. I initially scoffed a little for three practical reasons i)The occupancy of the shops was for a minimum of three months. Starting in February. That’s a LOT of shop space to fill with performance. ii) Walthamstow may well be in London but it is a London a long, long way from where I live. It’s the end of the Victoria Line for starters. And I don’t even live on a tube line. And finally iii) I’d made some sweeping statements about getting down to some serious writing in 2012, 2011 having mainly been made up of three house moves and the behemoth of taking a show to Edinburgh Fringe. I then either made a big mistake or did the right thing (depending on how you loook at it) and mentioned this to Charlie WBN and he looked at me like I was a bit daft for having any other thought about the idea. Of course we should pitch. And so I did – and then had at least one of my reservations soothed when it was suggested that there might be a system where a rolling programme of artists was created for one particular shop and, would I be interested? Yes I promptly replied (but I’d quite like to start in April). Given that we turned The Brixton Project round in six weeks (which included Christmas and New Year during which, apparently, it’s rude to make people work when you’re paying them in love and cake) anything later than mid-February would take on the sheen of all of the time. Thus when we were offered the shop for near to five weeks from the second week of April I did a little dance around my living room. That screamed SO MUCH TIME.
And in some ways it has been. We’ve had time to curate something on a scale I’ve never quite attempted before, time to approach people we wanted to work with and cajole/ bully/ bribe them into working with us. There has been time for funding applications and for us to start working with groups in Wood Street even before we’ve got anywhere near the shop itself (just this week we held our first workshop with a class of Year Three pupils at the local primary school). There’s also been time to think about what we want Theatre41 (as we have named our shop) to be and do – both for the writers and theatre makers we’re working with and for the regeneration project and community we’re going to be part of. It sounds a bit ridiculous to say that working as part of the project to regenerate Brixton Village Market changed the way I think – I know, point and laugh, point and laugh – but it did. It made me think about my spending habits and localism and small traders versus big corporations and community – and what my role as a theatre maker might be within that (for, I have firmly concluded, we can have a role to play). I’m sure, in between the minute-by-minute blog posts peppered with capitalised words about some aspect of the project that is freaking me out, I’ll return to this subject in a less flippant manner. So time has been nice.
But also – OUR LAUNCH IS TWO WEEKS TODAY.
*blows into a paper bag*
See what I said earlier: professional.
Regardless, I have little time for sanitised blogging (read also: I’m absolutely incapable of doing it) so we’ll be documenting the process from this point onwards in all its terror, pain and (hopefully) glory.
The other thing to note is that in the expanding WBN family myself and Charlie have been officially joined by Drama Facillitator/ Theatre Maker Estelle Buckridge and Scenographer/ Theatre Maker Emily Harwood (and I’ll be making them blog here in some manner, though they don’t know it yet). That Estelle had to deal with the fallout of the whole launch-party-venue-has-flooded trauma of The Brixton Project and Emily made me a boat at 5.30am on the floor of a flat in Edinburgh last summer and they still want to work with us I shall take as a good sign.
Finally, our official programme of events is here. We’re waiting on a couple of funding/ inclusion decisions which is also why I’ve not indicated what’s happening on every day, do not worry: there will be something. Even if that something is tea and cake and over-excited chatter about theatre. There’s a couple of things we’re actively seeking writers to participate in so if you’d like to make some work for the shop see Cold Writing: The Forest or if you’ve got a short play you’d like to be read then Cold Reading might be the one for you. Any other questions, suggestions or offers of things to keep us warm – give us a shout.