I’m currently producing a new musical that’s set to open at The King’s Head Theatre in March. This work informs both the creative work we do for clients and adds to our research about how stories are crafted and shared.
Theatre is a collaborative art. Musical theatre about ten times more so.
Being part of a team is both brilliant and challenging. And by challenging I mean it can be f***ing exhausting sometimes. Mostly this exhaustion has to do with ego. Our own egos. My ego quite specifically. And typically that ego gets triggered by circumstances, misunderstanding and general ‘other stuff’ that’s going on in my world. It’s easy to get lost in yourself when you’re creating across digital space and don’t have the luxury of being face to face for big chunks of time. A sentence can feel like a stab if you don’t read it in context.
Our brains are such amazing storytellers and they do love a bit of tragedy. Stepping back for a second and trying to find the funny in pretty much any situation is what seems to work well when I can feel my triggers being pulled (or pushed?)
The Broken Cabaret team is made up of many moving parts. While John and I sit at its overall core, we have a number of key collaborators depending on the project. Each individual brings brilliance and skill to the table (which isn’t actually a table, usually it’s a cold, damp church hall on a Wednesday). A successful collaboration depends on the level of flexibility each member of the team has. It’s so easy to get wedded to your ideas, to your own vision of how things should be. But if a project is to be a true success you have to be open to the ideas of others, or at very least open enough to trust they can interpret your vision within their particular skill set. The best solutions are generally the ones that have been tested across a number of people.
Now that doesn’t mean it’s a democracy. That’s a very specific kind of practice and only works in certain circumstances (devised pieces for example). What’s needed here is more of an oligarchy (but you know – a nice one!) A creative set at the centre that is keeping its eye on the end result and the overall vision. The trick is to make sure that the oligarchs aren’t too closed off to the wider team, that they connect their ideas freely and that they welcome input and questions to keep them on the right track (or the possibilities of new tracks they didn’t even see themselves). The other trick is to make sure that the oligarchy doesn’t slip into a dictatorship. The effectiveness of that central relies on a balanced relationship that is unafraid to be honest with one another about the work.
I hope Dan, John and I are building a great collaborative centre and wider team as we continue to craft Something Something Lazarus. I think we are. It’s definitely our intention to involve everyone and bring them with us. At times (generally the times when there is a lot of shit to do in not a lot of time with even less money) it can feel like we’ve forgotten to do that. That we’re hunkered down in the thick of of a specific task and then “well just catch up!” or “don’t ask a question just agree with me” becomes our mantra. It’s at this point that we take a minute, remind ourselves why we started this whole thing in the first place, and we change the mantra (or we tell the mantra to “bugger off we’re busy having fun”).
It’s then that the ego releases its grip. Things feel less exhausting. And we remember that the biggest part of this whole ‘let’s make gorgeous art’ thing is about the opportunity to work with brilliant and challenging people.