At present, we are working on several projects simultaneously, including:
- Dialogue Theatre Club – informal discussions about individual shows to which anyone is welcome, following the format of book groups. The first takes place on October 10 at the Royal Court in London, discussing The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas. To find out more, and to book see the Royal Court Theatre website.
- collaborating with the production company Fuel on the New Theatre in Your Neighbourhood touring and audience research project, writing about which can be found here.
- planning a sequence of Dialogue discussions for 2014, bringing together people who make theatre, write about it and love watching it to question the relationships we have with each other.
We're invited to take part in a networking event organised by House, based at Farnham Maltings, for venues based across the South-East, to talk about our work and particularly our experiments with audience engagement through different types of post-show discussion and theatre clubs.
Maddy spends a week at the Bike Shed in Exeter with Chris Goode and Company, during their residency working on a new large-scale ensemble piece, Albemarle. The residency ends with a Dialogue discussion night, at which we discuss the value of presenting, not rough showings of a work-in-progress, but “ideas in progress”: conversation nights, poetry readings and monologues that link thematically with the thinking behind Albemarle.
We visit Mayfest in Bristol to hold a conversation with theatre-makers, programmers, producers, writers and theatre-goers on the need for localised critical communities to work alongside artist communities, watching and critiquing performances within a local as well as national context.
We're invited for our second residency at Battersea Arts Festival in London during the month-long scratch festival. We attend a variety of scratch performances, from “Freshly Scratched” talent-show events to rough initial sketches of an idea to work-in-progress showings of almost finished pieces. In a programme of Small Talks, we meet with people creating work at BAC in the cafe for hour-long conversations about their work and their relationship with BAC and Scratch, to which passers-by are invited and encouraged to join in. Our Theatre Club, discussing Mess, is attended by theatre-makers, a school teacher and several psychology students. And we stage our second Speakeasy event, to discuss the good, the bad and the ugly of Scratch as a development process.
We visit the Transform festival at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, and host a panel discussion on the subject of theatre's ability to transform cities and enliven communities. But it's a panel discussion with a difference. We call it The Speakeasy: five speakers sit around a long table, with the audience all around; at any point, audience members are invited to take a seat at the table and contribute to the conversation. The idea originates with performance artist Lois Weaver, who conceived the piece as a kind of staged dinner party: we hope to keep using this format, as the dynamic it creates in the room is fascinating.
Chris Goode invites Maddy to take part in Thompson's Live, a series of podcast recordings, and talk about Dialogue and the shifts we are advocating in critical practice and engagement.
Residence, an artists' collective based in Bristol, invite us for a two-day Hideaway: time in which we can work on our own projects but also discuss our work with the Residence group. We take part in a Tiny Ideas session, and share an idea for an interactive, enthusiasm-based website in which participants can send postcards about work they're seeing around the country.
For the Love of Theatre: the second Dialogue discussion, held at BAC. We talk about what different readers want from criticism, whether press nights are useful for theatre-makers, and the strange parent-child relationship that exists in traditional critical practice.
We're invited to give a provocation at the Risking Together conference discussing strategies for more supportive and effective touring, at Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham. We advocate critical horizontalism, and dream of theatre coverage based on communication between theatre-writers and -makers, not star ratings.
We join up with Northern Stage at St Stephen's during the Edinburgh festival to hold our first Dialogue discussion. We have the thrilling feeling that we've created a space in which theatre-makers and theatre-writers can talk openly and honestly about their own frustrations and desires with theatre criticism.