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Connecting And Working Together

I got involved with Atlantis through the Arts Jobs website. I saw there was a post appealing for a composer and sound designer for a project. I had been doing a few theatre projects that were community engagement focused and I started to focus my own creative practice a bit more in that direction. So when I saw that advert I jumped at it.

When I write I quite often create various musical drafts that I'll send back and forth with the director and writers. That's always a good chance to connect with everyone else's shared vision and make sure that we're all moving in the same direction. That’s quite a useful process for collaborating, particularly when we're in different cities. And even at that time we were still working quite a lot on Zoom. I then take myself off and start to develop the music. The first thing I do is create a list, which is just basically the music cues. That's kind of my crib sheet of music, my work that needs to be done. And it's always changing, always evolving. So with Atlantis, a big part of that was the decisions between what was going to be live and what was going to be pre-recorded, so that was always a really important thing to keep an eye on as it developed.

One of the worst things I can do is come in having made decisions for actors. I was very conscious I had to open up the dialogue - particularly with the solo performances - about the fact that these are draft versions, and this is about you making it your own. Certainly for the character of Margarita, I'd sung something to give an idea of what the melodic line sounded like but in reality Paul, who played the character, needed to completely make it his own - and did so brilliantly. So yeah, having that dialogue was a really important thing to do early on. 

There was a moment in the final week where we needed another song. I was literally shut away and allowed to write, which is great. But I do sit in those moments, in the same way that I do at the beginning of writing music, and I go "What if this is the one where I've got no ideas?!" It was a bit scary when I sat down to write knowing I'd said, "Alright yeah, we'll write a song and I'll have it ready for some time tomorrow." That was tricky, but also, in a slightly gritty way you kind of enjoy those heavily pressurised moments.

Part of the brief for the workshops was to collaborate with the Creative Collective in creating the music, or a particular musical moment for the show. The thing that excites me a lot is the chance to actually use and record people's individual voices because that's one of the best ways of creating a recording that feels really personal and unique. Those workshops were about encouraging people to get up and sing. When we first went in, we set up the microphone in the middle of the room. I introduced the idea that "We're going to be doing some singing, and eventually we're going to sit in front of the mic, and everyone's gonna record some stuff individually." And some people kind of physically moved back! It was a process of helping everyone explore and discover their voice. Before they knew it, people were improvising melodic lines!

The last twenty minutes was just 'stand up and sing whenever you feel like you've got something you want to offer.' And every time someone came, everyone else was listening so intently and there would be a ‘It was great, well done, really nice.’ It was just lovely seeing everyone encourage each other. And often the people that were kind of shying away at the start, you couldn't get them off the mic! That was a really special part of it. I remember one person said at the start, ‘I'm not sure yet if I want to take part, I just wanted to come along to this workshop and see,’ and by the end they’d decided that they wanted to be a part of the production because they'd enjoyed the process and finding some confidence in singing. Enabling people was the most exciting part of it, regardless of the piece itself that came from the workshops. The chance to actually go through that process of working with people who had limited experience of singing, and certainly recording their voice, really just confirmed for me that that process works.

The best moment for me was doing the ‘House of Noah’ scene for the first time in the tech run, because it was when I felt saw all of the elements coming together. Tech rehearsals are always my favourite. I know, it's an unpopular opinion! But there's always a moment that breaks me where I just think, this is why I love theatre so much. It was my favourite thing to be able to play that track back to people from the workshop, and to see their excitement when they heard their own voice.

I look back on Atlantis really, really fondly. It was amazing, it was one of my favourite projects I've ever done. I think all of the team and the group we were working with were just amazing. It's that feeling - which is actually a surprisingly rare feeling in making theatre - where everyone's different disciplines and departments are all connecting and clicking and working together.

From the moment I came in, it was so clear that the community members were such an integral part. It wasn’t just ‘We're going to create a show as a bunch of professionals, and then we really want you guys to perform it.’ I think probably the main difference I've witnessed with Atlantis, in comparison to other community projects I've done, is that there's such a huge focus on the process. And that’s such a significant part of what the community members get out of the project itself. It’s something that I think Hidden Spire does brilliantly. In many ways, it's changed my opinion on what is possible with creative engagement projects.

I'm doing another community engagement project which I've only just recently got going with and there's no question that that job has come directly as a result of the experiences of this project.

I'll definitely do more creative collaborations with small teams working remotely, but collaborations with communities, I think, are still much more beneficial in-person. There is something really vital in collective collaboration that happens when you're in a room with people, when you're able to share a space and create.


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