Hi everyone, I hope you’re all doing ok and settling into this ‘new normal’ world we find ourselves in.
I’ve been asked to write about our Fluid value, which feels particularly apt at the moment. I heard Covid-19 described as a ‘Corona-coaster’; I definitely feel as if I’m on a fluidly up and down path through this – from optimistic, despairing, enjoying lock-down, over-emotional, very clear, hugely keen to create, very confused and so on….
Anyway, it’s been nice to take some time away from uncertain project plans and spreadsheets full of scenarios to focus back in on why we make work and to dwell on the values that drive us. I’ve tried to unpick exactly why we’re fluid – looking at the qualities we have as a team and behavioural patterns we often follow as a company. This is where I’ve got to….
A Meandering River Of Fluid Thought
fleet of foot
good at weathering storms
enjoy the journey
Rabbit out of hat pullers
open to gifts
keep having a laugh
quick to accept change
Why Are We Fluid?
The short answer is because we have to be. If we weren’t adaptable, flexible and open – our projects wouldn’t build into brave and experimental artworks. They wouldn’t involve local people and tend to the locations we work in. And quite a few projects would never have materialised – falling at the first of many hurdles.
It Comes Naturally
As a devising theatre company, we are naturally fluid. We literally make things up as we go along; luckily with the help of tried and tested techniques and a team of artistic wizards. This instinct to follow our noses and respond to what we find is at the heart of our methodology.
For the fun of it
We enjoy the journey of a project as much as the final result – the fun is in not knowing what we’re going to find. Being playful throughout the process is why we make work – it makes us happy, connects us with new collaborators and keeps us evolving creatively.
Keeping ideas fresh
Our process benefits from being open for as long as possible – open to ideas, to people and new ways of working. It keeps the projects fresh throughout the process. Our shows can be 3 years in the making and so we don’t want content to become too fixed down too soon; otherwise projects run the risk of ‘going off’ or becoming less relevant than they could have been.
Disclaimer: Obviously this openness is supported by a rigorous planning process and not everything is left to chance!! We set deadlines for creative decision making in our timelines and the final script is usually about Version 30 by press night.
Make the most of the gifts
A favourite WildWorks expressions is “What do you get for free?” We’ve learnt to find the gifts in life’s challenges – such as obstructions that are better to factor in than fight against e.g. a trainline cutting through the back of a scene, which became souls on their way to the underworld.
Logisitically, the route of a show needs careful thinking about. Narratively, everything along the way should ‘serve the story’ and not pop you out of the world. I remember at Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk how Richard Daplyn the National Trust head ranger offered up a suggestion of a possible route. It was perfect! Richard’s route also directly influenced the story development. For example, at the end was a magnificent V shaped avenue of trees which inspired the idea of a choice in the final scene between civilisation and the wild.
How are we fluid?
We move with the tempo of the terrain – physically and metaphorically. Our work is often likened to being in a live film – the storytelling relies heavily on the visual – from epic long shots in the landscape to drawing the audience into striking close ups. Within a two hour show we will have collaged music, sound, bold visuals, intimate moments, installation, fictional narrative and real-life stories into one piece.
We also work on multiple projects at the same time, which all might take a different form. In 2014 for example, we were developing Wolf’s Child (a promenade ticketed theatre show), Installing Once Upon A Castle (a 26-room performance exhibition in a Flemish castle) and working on 100: The Day Our World Changed (a one-day event from dawn to dusk across 5 mile area).
We work in the past, present and future all at the same time. We’ll be wrapping up projects (for about a year after a project- would you believe!), whilst being mid delivery of a major work, as well as be having multiple conversations and planning sessions for future work for the coming year and beyond. This requires a lot of flexibility in thinking and extensive use of multiple colour-coded notebooks.
Expert bad weather sailors
In my nine years with WildWorks there has been all sorts of storms to weather – from sites going into administration months before a show is due to open, funding not coming through, beloved Bill’s cancer diagnosis, Bill’s death, biblical rain to Covid-19. It’s been pretty relentless. Just as it starts to feel like we’re back on an even keel- we get hit by another massive wave. Luckily, as outdoor theatre specialists, we’ve got fantastic all-weather clothing!
Being flexible is second nature to me as a producer – the job is to respond and tend to the artistic ideas and solve multiple problems and dissolve barriers along the way. Over time, we’ve learnt to ride the waves.