Recently, I spent a week as Artist in Residence at Toonspeak working with a team of three other actors (Andrew Keay, Kirsty Eila McIntyre, Angela Cassidy) and director Paul Charlton.
We were developing my piece ‘InElsWhEre’, a new Scottish Gothic musical, which premiered at Tamfest last weekend.
The Artist in Residence programme at Toonspeak has been invaluable for the development and realisation of this project. Toonspeak set up workshops with St. Roch’s Secondary School for us to work with the S3 students prior to the residency. Following this we had an open rehearsal where we were able to invite the school along to observe the rehearsal process at Toonspeak itself.
We also hosted an additional open rehearsal performance with Toonspeak’s own Word of Mouth young writers project to gain their feedback and insight on the piece.
At the session with the young writers group we received some brilliant and insightful feedback from the participants who gave a bit of further insight into the process that we’d undertaken in developing the work.
As a practitioner this is a model that I’m keen to continue to develop as I form my own theatre company, especially in developing pieces targeted at young people helping us to guide and shape the piece as we make it, as well as giving participants the opportunity to observe a professional working space and engage in dialogue that goes on in shaping a piece allowing them to see us get stuff wrong as well as right.
For this piece in particular we’re trying to develop a show that connects with teenage audiences in terms of it’s style, humour and content as well as incorporating a multitude of performance elements in terms of song, comedy and puppetry. So it was invaluable having conversations with the audiences who were able to come and visit the open rehearsal process and check up on our storytelling in terms of clarity and how it was landing in order that we could make further adjustments to the piece as the week progressed.
I’d been inspired to create InElsWhEre having always had a strong interest in the Scottish link to Goth Culture, especially in the West Coast of Scotland where I grew up, finding particularly strong links to this scene in the area. I’d previously been involved with various steampunk/ vaudevillian style shows with acclaimed theatre companies in London including Les Enfants Terribles and Magpie Puppet Company.
I wanted to explore creating a piece of work similar to this style but with a strong Scottish stamp wherein music and comedy would also feature quite prominently. The project also touches upon themes exploring mental health issues exploring, addiction, depression, isolation and grief but this is all played out in a very playful and comedic manner so wanted to explore how audiences might take to this in terms of style and content.
We have also been exploring the idea that an audience might choose alternative endings for some of the stories to bring a gaming element to the proceedings as well.
It was great getting brilliant insights into the work from Toonspeak’s staff. Big thanks to Paula, Rachel, Erin and Alan, also author Cathy Forde too who leads Word of Mouth.
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