At the beginning of 2021, Dark Horse Theatre released our latest digital instalment, an animated short film fittingly named #FutureLoading that platforms the voices, experiences and ambitions of three neurodiverse adults. Over the past couple of years, we have been discussing how we can open up our creative processes around making work and why it’s important to do so. #FutureLoading is a first attempt to do this. This blog is the second.
#FutureLoading existed this time last year as a collection of around 50 recordings of interviews with mostly neurodiverse adults. These interviews were recorded as part of our research into definitions of adulthood for a theatre production we are making, and the company were using them and other stimuli to develop content pre-pandemic. In the summer, we decided to use them to further refine the production’s aesthetic and content as part of a process with the cast and director. We are interested in how digital design and technology can be used to make more engaging and accessible theatre and always intended for this production to be a hybrid of animation and live action. Animator, Richard Littlewood, has been involved with the development since the beginning but now seemed like an exciting and appropriate time for him to really contribute to the creative process, especially whilst the company are still working online. Richard used images, concepts and ideas found in the rehearsal room to develop the animation for #FutureLoading and the sound design is very much rooted in the music playlists collated by the company actors and used to anchor ideas in rehearsals. A lot of it will not end up in the final production but the work Richard has done here will be taken back to the rehearsal room to grow the collective understanding of the concepts behind the show and by watching #FutureLoading together and using it as a stimulus for exploration, we are discovering new depths to the work and we will use that to make the work richer.
The main job of a director is to ask questions and organise the ‘answers’ into something engaging for the audience. In a very literal way in this case. It is our intention to share this process of interrogation with our audiences. #FutureLoading is not the finished article but the biproduct of a creative process that welcomes you into the conversations we are having daily as a team of theatre makers not just at the end of the process when the product is made but whilst it is happening. We hope that this allows more people to access the work in different ways and understand it on a deeper level (if they want to) whilst going someway to demystifying how professional theatre is made. Thought-provoking, ground-breaking and brilliant work does not come out of the director’s head as a fully formed idea on day one. It takes a lot of people a lot of time and a lot of trialled and discarded ideas to get there. If we can include more people in the process of how we make this work then more people might consider entering into this industry thus diversifying the artistic programme. I’m interested in how we can do that beyond blogging about it hence the evolution of #FutureLoading. There are definitely more ways we could do this and different forms it could take and I would be very interested in hearing from other companies and artists about how we could all do this better and make it further reaching.
The production was met with extremely positive feedback from audiences, many whom we had expected or at least hoped to entertain with this work but also some who never crossed our minds at any point during the making of it. A close friend of mine who is training to be a nurse had been in a seminar just the day before learning about the importance of a person-centred approach, listening to the patient and respecting their wants and needs. After watching #FutureLoading, she was thrilled by how much of the teaching from the previous days’ (much more time-consuming) seminar was understood by a 13-minute short film. She immediately shared it with her course mates who agreed that it absolutely explained most of the theory they had been learning the day before. Though it is not our intention to train NHS staff, this is an unforeseen positive consequence of this work. It serves to illustrate to me the complicated relationship between making art and how that art then impacts on the world. That when we fund art, we get a lot more than ‘just’ a show and in our attempt to demystify the creative process, this work also provided valuable learning for trainee nurses. It brings us back to that age old question – how do we begin to measure the value of art? And more importantly, how do we harness the power it has and use it to benefit more people? If the sharing of our processes can be presented as engaging and accessible works of art, how do we use it to encourage people to think differently in ways that positively impact everyone? Like I said, I’m not sure what the answers are but I have plenty of thoughts so if you do too then let’s talk about it. I’d love to know what you think.