We are venturing into the stylized world of masks. We just got them delivered last week and they are stunning. Now that the essential glamour has worn off a little we are striving to make them come alive. As we push forward with the work, the world we’re trying to create is slowly coming into focus. With this production we, as a company, are taking steps in the direction I have wanted us to go for about two years. It’s hard, and the idea of what we are about to start can be intimidating. Mask work  for Salome and puppets for Christmas Carol; creating more with the fantastical, to make a world the audience can get lost in.

Why puppets and masks? Many people consider these to be old tools that date the work, or put it in a box like Shakespeare, or the Greeks.  So much of what is being produced today on the stage is trying to compete with film. Stage is not film. We never will be. We can be spectacle, like opera, Cirque, or the unfortunate Spiderman the musical. We can be, and should be, more intimate. We illustrate less and ask you to use your imagination more, that is why I love live theatre.

Who I look to for inspiration? Robert Lepage, Complicite, DV8 Physical Theatre,and Handspring Puppet Theatre who have just opened Midsummer Nights Dream at the Barbican, blending puppets and actors in what looks to be a breathtaking production. All of these companies are building new work using what many call old tools: puppets, masks, some fantastical, some primitive.

Why does this work? When we did Pride and Prejudice we used parasols for carriage wheels and trees. I approached the staging more like a ballroom and the work more like dance. My little brother said we created a “game” in a sense that the audience could take part in some way.

As the artistic director, the challenge of putting work up in a space that used to be a pool hall that’s been transformed into a Cabaret space has forced me to break with traditional staging. I’m so grateful for this. Had I been lucky enough to land in a standard theatre with a proscenium I don’t think I would have grown, or built the work I have.

So, now comes the time where we push ourselves beyond our comfort zone. I know that we will fall down a bit, but that is part of the process. We don’t do the standards, we don’t do Rabbit Hole, ART, or All My sons. I have nothing against these works, they have their place. But there are so many companies doing this work, very few willing to take a risk and venture out, or take these works and re-imagine them. Now, as a producer as well, I know that this carries a big price tag, and that you have to look at the whole season. What can you sustain? For us, our overhead is fairly low. This gives us a certain freedom that other companies don’t always get.

So what do you do with this freedom? You take risks. Time is fleeting and I don’t want to say, ‘Well we did what was expected.’ I want to do work that pushes me and my company to be stronger artists. I want our audience to be surprised and enchanted, to be taken on a journey. That is our job as theatre makers.


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