Tonight’s the last night of this run for Shaky Isles’ production of Gary Henderson’s Skin Tight, and it makes me think about what an odd thing theatre can be, how we often speak as if it’s all about the moment, and yet that moment has such a lengthy run-up. The long process of making a piece of work, whether that be a traditionally scripted play, a devised piece, or even an improvised show. (The last may sound like a contradiction in terms, but getting a great impro show on takes tons of pre-work varying from training to enlightening the audience about what they’re seeing to making the right company that gels together.)

The show we’ve made started life over sixteen years ago with its writer (the script I have has 1994 as its copyright date, but I’m sure it was gestating before then), and there have been many productions since. Our version started a year or so ago when Emma (Shaky Isles producer and actor) asked me to read it, then there was all the back and forth about if it was the right piece for right now and then venues and money and other personnel in terms of makers to work with. Last June we were talking about it more seriously, last July we met to discuss casting and venues, August those were confirmed, September we rehearsed, October performed at the Pleasance, November talked to other venues about a transfer, December confirmed the transferring, January re-rehearsed (for a much larger space), January also performed. So that’s a minimum of seven months working on the this one project, while all of us were also continuing to work on our other projects!

The transfer to the Riverside meant a great deal – it gave us a chance to look again at what had worked well and what we could do better – and then we re-worked BOTH things. (I LOVE that we got a chance to re-make, it’s given us a far juicier, deeper, more meaningful piece, as well as more chance to play with physicality in a larger space). And we truly did think we’d done our best at the Pleasance – and at that time, we had. But with time to play in, and also time to mull over what had been done, we now have a richer version. Re-visiting is lovely.
As a company we’ve made connections with two great venues.
We were able to bring in the designer who wasn’t free to work with us the first time round.
Our lighting designer also production managed and I didn’t have to think about all that stuff getting done when none of the tech stuff is my forte – woo hoo!

So, it’s late January and the narcissus have just starting appearing from the thawing earth and I’m thinking what can I take into the rest of the year?
Just now, before the last show, here’s a few things :
– re-working/re-visiting is even more valuable than I thought it might be, and as enjoyable as it’s been for me as a writer and as performer in the past, I’ve found it even more challenging (in both the good and hard meanings of that word!) as a director.
– I love having live music as part of the work, even more than I assumed I would.
– I will try very hard in future to keep reminding myself when seeing other shows that no piece is made by just the people on stage. Ours has a company of eleven and just three of them are on stage. As director I’ve been hugely supported by ALL involved and have loved what else they’ve brought to what we’ve made together.
– other people’s (non company) enthusiasm and support for ‘our’ project is not only generous and helpful and lovely – it’s quite possibly vital.
– it’s an utter joy to delegate. And it will be even more joyous when I get better at it!
– it really is possible to make a good piece of work on something slightly thinner than a very small shoestring.
– working with people I already know I like to work with is brilliant. Bringing in new people to that is also brilliant.
– it’s about the people. It’s ALWAYS about the people. Get the people you like to work with to come together with a combined goal and it becomes much much bigger than merely those people combined. It becomes a thing unto itself. (Just as a novel becomes a brand new thing all its own once it’s out in the world and being read.) This show was the thing we made, and it was also the thing the audience saw, and it was also something else – itself, with and without us.

Maybe I’m writing this to stave off post-show blues tomorrow. I know I’m delighted there’s D&D next weekend, somewhere else to take these feelings and plans and ideas and hopes. Whatever it is, is the right thing …?

And here’s a lovely review. Which kind of makes it real, even as it’s passing …