Theatre and community
Considered Words is all about writing as a profession, so let’s hear from the professionals.
First in the series is Helena Thompson,scriptwriter and artistic director of SPID (Specially Produced Innovatively Directed) Theatre Company. Despite all the work that her many titles suggest, she found time to share her experience of the theatre.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and background
I studied English at Cambridge and Playwriting at Birmingham. Then I set up my own company the SPID Theatre Company. We found ourselves a venue in 2005 when we were looking for a dilapidated space to put on a promenade show.
The community rooms in West London’s Kensal House council estate were perfect, and we’ve stayed there ever since.
How long you have been involved with the theatre?
What’s your greatest success?
The show I’m proudest of is Childsplay. This is a really resilient show created for outdoor spaces.
The audience are treated to audio on headphones and the show involves them actively in different games, exploring outdoor play across the ages.
We’ve had a tough time making work for parks in the past because of sound issues and the danger of stuff getting nicked, but this time we really cracked it.
Everything in the show is cheap and expendable, and it plays out beautifully against a vibrant background, however noisy. We hope to tour it in the Summer.
To you, what is the perfect balance in success when it comes to writing v director v actor roles?
I like the writer and director to share a vision that can be shaped by actors input. SPID (Specially Produced Innovatively Directed) works with young people on council estates and I really enjoy seeing them perform my work.
Often untrained performers are the most authentic.
How do you go about putting on a play?
First of all we decide the location. Then we develop a script which brings that place to life. It’s important to us that the audience participates somehow in the experience.
How do you decide what to put on?
We try to involve our performers in the piece’s development, often by letting the young people we work with chose the subject matter.
What would you like to know about your audience and how important is it?
We work mainly on council estates with people who have little access to mainstream theatre.
We like to know whether our audience members have been to the theatre before and how engaging they find our style of performance. We create shows that happen all around and we try to find out how our audience responds to that.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
The most important thing is to see your work in production, so don’t be afraid to put it on yourself.