Thursday, 18 September 2014

Interview with Flying Cloud Theatre

I, on the behalf of the Local Theatre Blogging Community, recently had the pleasure interviewing Flying Cloud Theatre, lead by Leandra Ashton, Marta Rizi and Jennifer Kidd, and the company is renowned for their creativity and empowerment on and off stage!

 Photo Credit: The Flying Cloud

Please could you tell me a bit in your own words about Flying Cloud Theatre and its theatre aims?

With Flying Cloud we’re trying to do things differently. When we say on our website, Flying Cloud aims to break down barriers and link up the world in previously unimaginable ways’ – we mean it and work hard to make that happen. We take inspiration from The Flying Cloud – a clipper ship in the 1800’s that defied the status quo, blazing a trail around the world and making the seemingly impossible, possible. We try to live up to the daring pioneer spirit of that ship and it’s young female navigator, Eleanor Creesy.

We want to break down barriers and reach for new horizons not only in theatre but also in our outreach work, business workshops and within ourselves.

When it comes to our theatre work we write daring new plays which collaborate across art forms, mixing music, spoken word and movement.

Our outreach work is integral to our new plays and is offered free in every venue we perform in. Underpinning all Flying Cloud’s work is our motto: ‘empowering through creativity’ and we want to offer that experience to as many people as we can.

We also push the limits of theatre outside of the rehearsal room and auditorium. We believe there is so much potential in unleashing the creative skills you find in a theatre company in contexts outside of theatre: in business, communication, education, politics, relationships… The type of collaboration, energy and creative problem solving you find in a theatre company is a potent recipe for any organisation. The popularity of our business workshops is proving that people want that fresh perspective and reinvigoration of process.

And finally all that combines to mean we really push ourselves as artists and challenge any limiting beliefs that come up, just like Eleanor Creesy did. Someone once said you have to be an artist of your time. In our time, we can’t just be actors waiting for the phone to ring – we’re also writers, directors, and businesswomen… We’re all creating our own lives.

How did you feel Flying Cloud Theatre production 'The Book' went when it toured earlier this year?

We loved our tour! It’s hard work being on the road, driving from venue to venue, unloading the set, setting up, performing in different spaces, sleeping in different beds, packing up… and then doing it all over again but it makes it worthwhile when you play in beautiful venues and get to meet such lovely audiences. We met a lot of people through our free community workshops which we ran alongside our play. The workshops went down a storm! We’re really proud of our outreach work and how it fulfills our ambition to link up the world and break down barriers. You can see a whistle-stop tour of the workshops on our website.

We toured to 6 venues in the North (York Theatre Royal, Stephen Joseph Theatre (in Scarborough), The Maltings (in Berwick), Hull Truck, Richmond Georgian Theatre Royal (in Harrogate Theatre) before a short run in London at RADA.

The play really developed as we toured. That’s one of the challenges of being an emerging company. Nothing beats a run of a play to develop it but sometimes it can be hard to get theatres to offer you more than one night. Luckily we’ve built up some great partnerships with York Theatre Royal and Harrogate Theatre. We had nice little runs at both venues and they also helped out with the development of the piece with feedback from York Theatre Royal’s artistic director, Damian Cruden and Harrogate’s producer Kevin Jamieson. A run of a new play means you get to know the rhythm of it, what needs cutting or changing, plus your audience gives you feedback in Q+A’s. The more you perform the more you get to feel your character’s journey and know what’s driving them scene to scene. A run means you get into a sense of flow with the words, the other actors, and the set… and suddenly you’re all feeling the heart beat of the play. That makes things very special. We think we got there on the last performance in London. It was a cracker. That’s why we need to do it again!

Flying Cloud prides itself with its outreach work with an aim to explore the themes and beliefs raised from the productions.  Please could you share any feedback from the workshops Flying Cloud have been involved with at schools and in the communities?

People genuinely seem to love our workshops which makes our job very satisfying. Here are a few comments from the workshops we ran alongside The Book:

“We all have different stories and beliefs that people don’t know about us and they’re all completely different – no one’s exactly the same but they quite often have some common ground and that’s what connects us.” York Theatre Royal participant

You just have to let your fears go away and be you.” Hull Truck participant

“Drama is such a good way to know people. We are from such diverse backgrounds but when we had to come together they all look like they’ve known each other for all their lives.” Georgian Theatre Royal Participant

“It might be raining outside but in here there’s been a lot of laughter and sunshine.” Darlington participant

What have been the organisation's highlights to date?

Perhaps the biggest achievement is that we’re still here, still friends, still up for it and still wanting to make a difference to our own lives and the lives of others. One big stand out moment was when we got our first ‘yes’ from the Arts Council to develop our debut play NAPOLI at West Yorkshire Playhouse. It was a bit of an X factor moment – opening that letter, screaming, then crying and then falling over!! It’s always a big moment when you get the thumbs up for your next project. We work project to project, funding ourselves in between through our business workshops. We don’t have a regular income from The Arts Council so it’s tough. You have to be resilient and practical. But we’re lucky because we love doing our Business workshops and we can reinvest the profits into the shows and community work. We sold out in York because of all the business contacts we’d made over the last few years – they all wanted to come and see us in our ‘natural habitat’. That’s was very satisfying and really what we’re about – introducing people to experiences or other people they might otherwise not encounter.

How are your future projects and plans?

We’ve had the summer to take things easy and recharge after The Book – it was almost two years work to get to the touring stage so we were all in need of a rest. We’re meeting this week to discuss the next steps. We’d like to bring The Book back for another tour, perhaps with some dates abroad. We think the play and workshops would be very pertinent in so many places like Northern Ireland, Gaza, The Ukraine… there’s a line up for you! We’re also thinking about bringing our first play, NAPOLI back to life which we premiered in 2012. Our business workshops with York University are selling well and we’ve got more in the pipeline with old and new clients, so we’re keeping busy! We’ll be sure to give you the exclusive on the latest news!

I would like to say thank you for Flying Cloud for the interview.  I saw The Book at York Theatre Royal earlier on in the year and please check out my review of The Book's three journeys!  Please follow them on Twitter, @FlyingCloudT ,to check out latest news on their current and forthcoming projects on their website.

By Dawn Smallwood
On behalf of the Local Theatre Blogging Community

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