I’ve made you a mix-tape…

Last week TOOT transported ourselves (well actually it was a combination of Clare’s Ford Fiesta and a rather packed Great Eastern train service) back to the ’90s, a decade that seems like yesterday but in reality went out with a bang almost 14 years ago (wow, that makes me feel old).

The company’s new show in development, ‘Be Here Now’ is inspired by the music that we listened to, grew up with, bought and played during that decade – a soundtrack that acted as a backdrop to early crushes, school discos, first loves and heartbreak. Think Stock, Aitken and Waterman’s Hit Factory, Bryan Adams’s longest ever number one and the Britpop of Blur v Oasis. It was a time of amazing change in terms of how we listed to, consumed and shared music – the decade began with teenagers taping the charts of the radio (pausing between songs if you were serious) and ended with sharing digital files and the rise and fall of Napster.

Following early development and a recent series of work-in-progress performances, we were lucky enough to be invited to spend a week at the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich, working on Be Here Now some more. We all knew that this would be a valuable time; concentrating, building, refining, emerging and testing…and so it proved.

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As a producer, you can sometimes feel slightly removed from the development process, even though I think it’s extremely important to be immersed in it for a number of reasons. It’s often not financially viable or practical, but last week I was in Ipswich for two days – a real treat! Nobody was paid for their time, the work is currently (although hopefully not for much longer) unfunded and we paid accommodation and living costs out of our (very) limited reserves/own pockets. Some people might question the benefit of traveling to Ipswich and staying for a week, when we could have probably spent less remaining closer to home and finding cheap studio space. But in truth, the time spent away allowed for a greater degree of focus, day to day life felt slightly removed and spending time together with nobody else around is something that happens rarely. The supportive nature of the venue, embodied by Laura and the rest of the team, made a huge difference – it may have cost TOOT in financial terms, but in the long run the experience and benefit to the show outweighs this expense. Face to face time with venues is vital for artists and producers when developing shows (and relationships) and can only benefit everyone when it comes down to touring the show in the future.

So, what did we get up to? There were multiple games of ‘5s’, a soundtrack of ’90s classics blaring out on Spotify (how very 2013!) and a few glasses of dark rum drunk. Alongside this, we talked about audience, experience, configuration and nostalgia; explored the very nature of why we’re making this show, played abandoned musical instruments and revisited spin the bottle through improvisation – by the end of Friday and before our long drive back along the A12 we all felt as though the show had taken a huge leap forward. We have video to watch through, a post-it note storyboard to untangle and I have two pretty serious splinters and a slightly bruised face (I came off worse in a game-related incident with a glass of water).

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Next stop on this particular journey is Cambridge Junction in February – more time ‘on location’ to see what happens next.

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