From A Wind of Change to If I Say Jump
The first quarter of 2018 is a somewhat crazy, and exceptionally important time for Common Chorus. By the end of March we will have produced the two most ambitious projects we have ever undertaken, and between them they represent the opposite ends of what I set the theatre company up to make.
The weekend of 16th / 17th of February saw us complete ‘A Wind of Change’; a large scale community theatre project that took us, and our collaborators InterACT, a year and a half to complete. Around 60 participants contributed to the script writing, there were 40 or so actually on stage, 11 local professional artists oversaw the production, there were three shows sold out before the first night, and now we have a galvanised community in Meanwood raring to go for whatever community arts adventure comes next. It was epic and wonderful and the recovery time will be lengthy.
But there won’t be much time to recover, as come mid March we launch ‘If I Say Jump’; our new professional cast show travelling to studio theatres up and down the country. It is performed by Lynsey Jones and Richard Galloway, and the script has been created by Fringe First winner Dick Bonham, with help from Jake England Johns. It’s a fast paced and comic story about a Vicar and her best friend, who just so happens to be a recovering alcoholic, who with the best of intentions get themselves into a right pickle with a rogue gun, a dodgy builder and a car full of flowers. It is also a sort of Western… set in Barnsley. I can’t say too much more about it without spoiling it – come and see it!
I love making community theatre because it’s such an intense and special experience, and I love making professional theatre because you can craft a thing that can be toured to people anywhere and everywhere. I set Common Chorus up so that I could do both.
Switching from one to the other in such a short time will take a little adjustment, however I try to approach both forms with the same process and mindset. When it comes to the content of the shows it is always about telling inspiring and entertaining stories. Our stories are fictional, and often fantastical is some way, but they always reflect the truth of important biographical stories that have been told to us. Our process, be it professional or community, always starts with stories from the real world which become fiction.
The way we approach people on a human level is also really important and consistent across forms; my mantra is ‘people are important’. I called the company Common Chorus because I see every project as an opportunity to bring people together to make a wonderful thing where every voice is important, but also where voices combine to make something bigger than themselves. In the theatre world we use the term ‘ensemble theatre’ to describe this approach. People haven’t always come across that term in communities we work with, but I think the idea is fairly universal.
I hope that by the end of Spring the first phase of what I imagined for Common Chorus will be complete. We will have created two successful examples of theatre I love, in two different forms. Sometimes these forms have different audiences, and involve different artists. But, it is always lovely when people and stories transfer between the two.
If I Say Jump is touring to the following venues this spring:
Thur 15 – Sat 17 March, Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds
Thur 22 March, Waterside Arts Centre, Sale
Fri 23 March, The Witham, Barnard Castle
Wed 28 March, CAST, Doncaster
Thur 29 March, Square Chapel, Halifax
Wed 11th April, Harrogate Theatre
Thur 19 April, Arts Centre Washington
Fri 20 April, Helmsley Arts Centre
Tue 8 May, The Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead
Thur 10 May, Interplay Theatre, Leeds
Sat 12 May, The Civic, Barnsley