Selling a serious play on small-scale touring circuits.

GillWe know we’re not brilliant at marketing ourselves.  We struggle when it comes to appropriate, pithy copy.  We fight shy of blowing our own trumpets, even though we know that audiences really value our qualities and our experience as actors.  And we are wary of owning up to the essential seriousness of the plays we offer.  Yet we know that these are just the sorts of play that we look out for in a theatre brochure and we know that others are also looking for the same thing. We particularly look to place our work on rural touring circuits and in studio theatres because that is the scale and ambiance that our productions are made for.

Here are a couple of brief reports – originally Facebook entries – that reflect our struggle to get the marketing right for Almost Heaven:

26/09/2014

Engrossing conversations with some of our audience at The Acorn after Almost Heaven last night. They were all very taken indeed with the show and were full of advice as to how we should reach the wider audience they feel it deserves. As you’d expect, about as many different opinions as people. Some would change the title though most really liked it. Some would change the poster image though most really liked it. They had ambitious plans for us in terms of venues: Start with the Drum in Plymouth then either the Menier Chocolate Factory or Hampstead Theatre in London. [It’s all right, we know it doesn’t really happen like that.]

We particularly wanted to know what had attracted them to the show and how they would describe the piece to attract other people. They all agreed that they loved that it was a serious drama that made demands on them. And that, generally, that is what they were looking for from theatre. So they would emphasise the drama, the interest in the relationship and the quality of the acting.

We know from the intensity of people’s reactions that we have something special here. We’re listening hard to learn how best to spread the news.

We’re at The Lyric Theatre Bridport tonight and we have further outings in Lincolnshire, Huddersfield and London over the next couple of months with other performances to come in the New Year.

27/09/2014

The Lyric Theatre in Bridport is a most wonderful place – all that a creative space should be. And Niki McCretton, whose space it is, is a most wonderful theatre maker. We had a very special day there on Saturday as we prepared for and played Almost Heaven.

After the show we shared bread and nibbles with those of the audience who wished to stay and had a fascinating discussion circling around the content of the play. We’re proud that it triggered such wide ranging and thoughtful observations.

We also focussed-in (as we did post-show in Penzance the night before) on how we should be representing the play to other potential audiences.

The two main messages that came across were that, (a) whatever our starting point in creating the piece, the play is centrally about the relationship between the two characters and (b) that we should be promoting the complexity and essential seriousness of the piece. Allied to these points was the observation that we write too much blurb – we’ve got to fine it down. Our audience were quite united on these points and quite forthright in expressing them.

So Almost Heaven is not about words, or rhetoric or the power of stories or Nimrod or Babel or God and his angels or neurons and synapses; it’s about two people with a past reaching for each other as time runs out. And the play is complex – it’s not one you can sit back on. Much of the story of their relationship – both past and present – is implied rather than made explicit, and you have to be alive to what’s not being said. There’s plenty of wit but there is pain and a certain amount of ugliness as well. Furthermore, they’re a couple of bright people. Their discourse is at times fast and furious and wide ranging and you might find yourself running to catch up.

Now to encapsulate that last paragraph in one pithy sentence!

Little Brother and Little Sister launches a year’s curriculum

LBLSbrochureimageWe love being used. We love schools getting the maximum return out of our visits. We’re excited when one of our productions is the springboard for further creative and imaginative work. So we are particularly delighted to have launched a whole year’s curriculum for an entire local Primary School.

At the end of our production of Little Brother and Little Sister, the Wicked Stepmother is still on the loose. She has been chased into the deep, dark heart of the forest but no-one knows what has become of her. Well now the children at Forches Cross Primary School do know. They know that when Little Sister and her new husband, the King, fell asleep after a picnic down by the river, Wicked Stepmother crept back out of the forest with a drop and a half of magic water. The drop froze the King into a statue. The half drop froze Little Sister apart from her eyes. She is still able to cry. To cry just twelve drops over an extended period of time. If these twelve drops are all collected together they can save Little Sister and the King.

The creatures of the wood witnessed what happened and they find Little Brother to tell him. In a series of workshops with different year groups we had rabbits and squirrels and hedgehogs and foxes and crows and owls and slow-worms and badgers and a robin and a dolphin (?) retelling the story to Little Brother. And letting him know that the Wicked Stepmother intends to move Little Sister all around the world so that it will be very difficult to collect all twelve tears.

As you might imagine, these world-wide environments correspond to environments that the children will be exploring as part of their curriculum – from Barnstaple Town to Exmoor, from the Amazon to the Arctic and many points in between. And they will have email contact with Little Brother and with a friend of his, an expert, who will visit the children during the year.

If all works out right and all the tears are safely gathered then they should be meeting Little Brother and Little Sister again at the end of the school year. What a great way to wrap up the curriculum in an imaginative and playful adventure. And how lucky we are to work with such a school.