Wild Things

We’re about to walk into the next Doorstep Theatre festival this week. This is our 7th season, and it feels like we’re finally managing to get a sense of rhythm and flow to the work. It’s exciting to see how the ongoing participatory work we run year-round is feeding the festival – and particularly special to see how the young people we work with are progressing as artists.

All of our Doorstep Arts participatory groups are being inspired by Maurice Sendak’s book Where the Wild Things Are this term.

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We love this idea of starting all 12 groups from a common stimulus and then watching the work creatively spiral in a dozen different directions, each shaped by the strengths and vision of the group.

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The youngest groups (aged 4-7) are creating their own wild monster creatures, using face paint and their wickedly wonderful imaginations.

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Our oldest group, Doorstep Youth Theatre, is devising their own original response to the book. This piece will perform an early scratch performance on Saturday 29 October, as part of the upcoming festival, alongside Conrad Murray’s DenMarked.

The DYT piece, loosely titled Lullaby or perhaps Rumpus, is a short scratch piece at the moment- only about 10 minutes long. Facilitated by Jade Campbell, Hugh Malyon and myself, the script is an original creation, written collaboratively by the company. We often use Natalie Goldberg’s Rules of Writing Practice during our devising process. This non-school style of writing creates a space where everyone in the company is unquestionably a Writer – no matter what we may have been told in school about our own writing skills. Within the devising studio, all of us have capacity to be writers – and it is often the most poetic, messy, misspelled, and wild writing which enriches the piece. And it is this notion of ‘wildness’ that I’m intrigued by as I look at this short scratch piece in mid-development.

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There are two original songs in the piece. One song is called Lullaby and one song is called Rumpus. These have been written by 3 members of the company – Elley, Izzy and Millie. These two melodies compete with each other – there is a call of the wild, and a reassuring song of home. But they pull and twist against each other… a tension exists. The lead character Russell is torn between them. There is a Chorus of Wild Things who live by the ‘Rule of Fun’ – manic and mercurial. Russell is drawn to them, but also drawn back to the lullaby. Perhaps Russell is torn between his own wildness and his longing for the comfort of home?

Wildness – the embracing of it, the fear of it, the necessity of abandoning ourselves to it, these concepts are permeating the DYT piece.

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But there is something else emerging within it too – a question. I’m not sure how much I’m driving this question from the director’s seat, or whether its a collective wondering of the ensemble. The piece seems to be asking a question about where the good stories are in our world – right now. Particularly this moment of 2016, post-Brexit, mid-USA-election, overwhelming refugee crises, and drowning in social media stories of pain, despair and human coldness, there is a feeling of being lost. Of somehow a more negative kind of wildness overwhelming our societies – and a fear of the darkness and chaos which seems to be implied by it.

My social media feed is saturated by it.

I’m overwhelmed by this.

And I’m 36. I wonder what it must feel like to be 13, 15, or 18 years old in this moment in the world?

The Scratch piece will perform on Saturday and we’ll ask for audience feedback on it – seeing some advice about where it should go and what it should become. This term’s work will finish at the end of November with final sharings of all the groups’ work. More updates soon, I promise.

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