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Making Burning Tails (23rd March #Sprint18 #plugplugplug), was my first process of creating a solo show. It’s been a very long process, mainly because I’ve been creating the show in random chunks of time in between other projects and general work throughout the year. A few years ago, I had told myself that within this industry you need to be adaptable. That ideally, as a self-employed artist, you want a show-in-a-suitcase that you can perform anywhere anytime to fill the inescapable gaps within your classically unstable creative life. Essentially, Burning Tails literally is my show-in-a-suitcase, however still a project that I am strongly passionate about, which has also allowed me to emerge as a solo artist.
Burning Tails is a tragicomic piece of visual storytelling exploring love, fear and of course chain-smoking puppets. Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to foxes singing along to Queen and such like, the show is a totally ridiculous piece of entertainment, but it also has themes of our insecurities and feeling like a child when we’re romantically alone. Want to know more? Well you might just have to come to the show… (I’m such a tease).
The ways that I’ve made my show work won’t be for everyone. They just so happen to help me with the style I’m creating. I’ve managed to create a piece which can basically be performed in any dark room with a sound system (or space for a speaker). Here are the two main ways how…
LAMPS. With a true grass roots theatrical mind-set, I’ve naturally stolen all of the household lamps from my family home (I say family home. I still live there. With my family. It is my home.) and hooked them up to a multi-plug socket (with individual switches) to create a bizarre kind of homespun lighting desk which I control with my feet. Did I mention that the show is ridiculous? I did yes good.
SOUNDTRACK. For my 50-minute show, I have a 50-minute soundtrack. So, when it comes to performing it’s simply a case of pressing play, which is pretty handy if you don’t have much time to tech. It’s amazing what you can do with GarageBand and the help it provides when performing visual storytelling. If you’re lucky enough to have access to it, have a play!
In terms of keeping a stable mind-set, it is hard to make a solo show. It is very hard if you also happen to be making a solo show without words spoken on stage. In the early days of rehearsing, the room was almost silent which drove me pretty crazy. To help soften this, when creating I would have atmospheric music to aid the creative process.
I actually never set out to make a whole show initially. I had a lot of fun experimenting with some very silly ideas until I was able to perform a 10-minute scratch, and then a 20-minute scratch, both at Cambridge Junction. In this respect the process was quite smooth and unpressured, especially as it was over a long period of time. My experience has shown me that it is totally worth exploring a concept that you’re interested in, even if it’s only for an hour or so here and there.
Ok then here’s some other general tips that I’ve told myself along the way that have really helped:
- If you’re in a rehearsal room, don’t let the pressure of making the most of it get to you. You can’t expect yourself to be in full gear all of the time. Let your process happen naturally. It’s ok.
- Have a lie down if you need to think. It helps.
- Accept that there will be low points. They are unavoidable and always happen before the ball gets rolling and before you realise it you’re making making making.
- Explore ideas you find absolutely ridiculous. This is how fresh surprising work is made. (Especially if it’s a comedic piece).
- There’s only so much you can make before you need an outside eye. A very good friend of mine, after watching a run, essentially told me what the heart of the show I’d made was, when I hadn’t even realised it yet.
- Believe in what you make. Be passionate.
Thank you so much for reading and finally it would be AMAZING to see you at Burning Tails on 23rd March. I’d love to meet you.