Thinking inside, outside and throwing away the box.

An interesting discussion outside of our rehearsal space occurred: how do we talk about our company to someone for the first time? A new guest to our rehearsals spoke about how she felt trapped in the box where creativity and new ideas are ignored. A somewhat single-vision artistic world. We didn’t argue that this is wrong, everyone has their method. However, we did explore where we sat in this. Inside of the box? Outside of the box? Why have a box at all?! In this short essay, I would like to explore this idea that is paramount in the lives of us creatives - finding that uniqueness and the possible benefits and hurdles with “the box”.

What is “the box”? A good starting point. The common understanding is that this box is metaphorical but let’s imagine it:

a cardboard box and inside a set of safe ideas, things that will fit the formula for the creative piece – a solid story, attention grabbing movement, good sound (this is just from my own personal experience).

These boxes are produced in bulk. They are the welcome package, shipped to every company, every artist, every creative. They, well, do the job, but do they do the job well? If we used solely these ‘safe’ ideas, audiences would get bored after a few projects. Uniqueness is what brings them back and allows us to continue our own growth as creatives.

One of the central values at NATT is telling a solid story about people. However, our current project, ‘Tull 100’, has invited us to explore a new period and evoke richer questions: What was life like for all soldiers in WWI? What about soldiers with different coloured skin? What was their life like? By asking these unique questions, we are in turn inviting the audience to ask them. The great thing is, the next project will ask a completely new array of questions!

So, back to “the box”. Process is also a part of this pack. At NATT, as discussed in the play essay, we will have a plan with no known end goal. We will not only go outside of the box to seek ideas, but we will see if we can make the box into a hat, maybe a table, maybe a tank. We just keep playing. Improvisational devising, to put a tag on it, allows us to develop our question evoking work. However, we also agree that it is not the golden, 100% must do method by any means. We are extremely inspired by methods from other practitioners in the arts, Lecoq, John Wright, Michael and Anton Chekhov, Stanislavski. Some of their methods will work for us and perhaps some of our methods could work in their rehearsals space. And some don’t. But it is important to have an awareness of process, whether it be pre-planned choreography, heavy context and character work or playing games.  It is much like saying there is only one way to paint – if that was the case, galleries would suck.

The Cast playing during rehearsal of 'Tull 100' rehearsals [Louise Stoner]

The Cast playing during rehearsal of 'Tull 100' rehearsals [Louise Stoner]

So, “the box” is not inherently wrong. In fact, I am extremely fascinated and believe that we should explore tradition. At NATT (and perhaps something I would suggest we all try to do in our lives) we play and are always exploring different methods and approaches. We enter the rehearsal space not knowing exactly what we will come out with but knowing that we will bring in some new game, some new spark.

Move. Explore. Play.

Billy Taylor