Posted by Morgan Leek, May 6th, 2011
The Lost Boys, 2010 Creative Development, Photo: Otilee Lamb
As a new producer for Performing Lines WA, I had the privilege to work closely on the creative development for a new show by Pinstripe Circus at the beginning of April. This is the first project I have taken on with Performing Lines WA and is a great opportunity for me as I have worked with Ross and Ella from Pinstripe on a couple of projects and love their energy.
After doing an initial development in October last year, the Pinstripe creative team knew they wanted to create a large outdoor circus-theatre work so decided that the next instalment should be about realising the set structure and how such a design might drive the creative content of the work. And who better to help them achieve this but the infamous and renegade outdoor master of largess – Joey Ruigrok van der Werven.
Having worked on many a creative development in my time, I found Joey’s process refreshingly practical. Pinstripe had a storyboard and ideas for a narrative show based on Peter Pan but after consulting with Joey on a potential set for the work, decided they should focus only on the key themes of the story and see where Joey’s creative process might take them.
In some developments I have found that it can be all too easy to discuss character, dramatic themes and enter in to endless provocations about what a show could be, finding ourselves buried in a creative hole with no clear path to find our way out again!!!. However, Joey’s process was very practical, looking at ways to extract physical scenes, asking us not to explain what we think should happen but describe in action. This was a way to constantly challenge ourselves to think of what we were seeing, not what we were trying to say.
Working through a number of clear steps such as listing the types of circus tricks that could be included and the emotion or meaning that might be conveyed by these, we then looked at the environment this could happen in and what kind of props could be used that related to the set and story. We were constantly kept in the physical realisation of the work, rather than simply the emotive or thematic.
After only 4 days, the circus work had evolved to be a FREE outdoor work, in-line with the street art philosophy of bringing art to the people and original notions of freedom and rebellion. The set structure was made in miniature and the creative team acted out potential scenes that were physical manifestations of particular characters, relationships or even time frames in the show’s life. This immediately showed us what might be exciting to watch and what may pale against the set, it also provided guidance about the number of performers needed to compete with such a large and potentially overpowering structure.
The plan now is to work towards a 3rd development stage in October when part of the set will be built so that scenes can be experimented with by artists/devisors to find out the capacity of the performers, set and strength of what this will actually say. Of course, as a producer my challenge is to investigate how we might be able to get a work of such magnitude to our audience without banking on box office income!! It will be a fantastic challenge to seek partners for this project and perhaps it will help to instigate new dialogue with funding bodies about how we can bring exciting large artistic projects to the people that really support us – our audience!
Written by Rachael Whitworth, Producer for Performing Lines WA
This project is supported by the Department of Culture and the Arts and the West Australian Theatre Development initiative (WATDI).