DIALOGUE – THE STORY SO FAR
Here is a list of our activities to date. Scroll down if you'd like to read it in chronological order:
At present, we are working on several projects simultaneously, including:
- a second residency at Battersea Arts Centre, London, during the Scratch festival (May-June)
- visits to Mayfest in Bristol (May) and the Bike Shed in Exeter (June)
- running our own Theatre Club – informal discussions about individual shows to which anyone is welcome, following the format of book groups (if you would like details of the next clubs, please email maddy[at]welcometodialogue.com)
- collaborating with the production company Fuel on a project researching audience engagement and better touring
- and planning a sequence of Dialogue discussions, bringing together people who make theatre, write about it and love watching it to question the relationships we have with each other.
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.
Our first Dialogue Theatre Clubs, inspired by the Two Boroughs Theatre Clubs set up by Lily Einhorn at the Young Vic in London, co-hosted by Maddy. We hold two different groups at Battersea Arts Centre, London to discuss Ring; our participants include people from across the theatre industry, an architect, a child protection officer and a bus driver.
Maddy attends the In Between Time festival in Bristol as writer-in-residence, leading a team of five emerging writers. Together we have writing published in the Guardian, Exeunt, A Younger Theatre, This Is Tomorrow and Urban Times.
Maddy begins working with the production company Fuel on a new audience engagement programme, New Theatre in Your Neighbourhood, working with local engagement specialists in Poole, Preston, Stockton, Colchester and Malvern to think about some of the barriers to theatre attendance, and different models of talking about theatre with audiences.
We're given a week-long attachment at the National Theatre Studio, during which we publish our BAC documentation and spend time answering a question/challenge set by Tassos Stevens: The specific reasons why or why not dialogue makes better theatre criticism.
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.
We're invited to take part in the Radar season at the Bush Theatre, London, in a panel discussion titled: Is Critical Discourse Keeping Pace with Contemporary Theatre? Maddy gives a provocation titled What Are We Afraid Of? arguing that theatre criticism would benefit from writers engaging with the making process.
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.
We join up with the Young Vic in London to start a Theatre Club, informal gatherings to discuss shows in the Young Vic programme, inspired less by post-show Q+A events and more by book groups formed by friends. This is part of the Two Boroughs scheme, an audience engagement programme that gives tickets to local residents who might not otherwise come to the Young Vic.
Dialogue residency at Battersea Arts Centre in London for the duration of Autumn Cook-Up. From our base in the BAC cafe, we spend the three weeks discovering how BAC operates, watching rehearsals for Scratch shows, watching all the work programmed in the season, and thinking about new ways to engage with audiences.
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.