When we first met the girls behind Wild Ivy Theatre almost a year ago today we fell in love with their creativity, vision and infectious determination, so couldn’t wait to catch up with them again to hear what they were up to now. Here’s what they told us when we sat down last week…
What did you both do before starting Wild Ivy?
Both Lucy and I come from dance backgrounds and each followed academic paths at the universities of Birmingham and Leeds respectively, obtaining first class degrees and travelling. Lucy read History and was part of the National Youth Music Theatre (NYMT) and I studied Theatre and Performance, specialising in devised physical theatre. Lucy travelled across Central America, I went to Indonesia. We met at ArtsEd (MA Acting) and quickly found we both had a keen interest in history and politics, I think the first time we went to the pub at the end of the first week of drama school we drank loads of wine and spent the whole night talking about the French Revolution, the role of medicine in history and William Morris. Hilarious.
How did the idea for Wild Ivy come about?
We started out wanting to produce good quality, considered theatre for young audiences and quickly followed the idea for adapting classic texts – an important part of our heritage and often not taught or read in schools. All children should have access to the arts and to creative pursuits, it’s vital for development and on a really basic level – it’s crucial to engage in creative activities where you communicate with others; employers across all industries are crying out for creative problem solvers.
Having grown up in artistic households – Lucy’s mum runs community choirs, her dad is an artist and pro taxi driver who ferried her around to seemingly endless dance lessons. My dad is a puppeteer and has a general can-do attitude to anything ‘makey’. He taught me how to build furniture, replace a fuse and understand Shakespeare – it’s no surprise both of us have the vision and drive to build a company when you have role models like this.
How did you guys take it from an idea to a real business?
So, whilst flyering in our local postcodes for said workshop, we stumbled into a beautiful garden centre and found that the manager was keen to help.
Emily was suffering from Laryngitis and had been put on ‘voice rest’ by school (which is a real thing, they give you a badge saying ‘I’m on vocal rest’ and you cannot speak, at all, for a week…) which made the whole situation too comical! Lucy would talk and Emily would nod along and soon enough we were booked in to devise and develop a new adaptation of The Wind in the Willows to be performed in situ at the garden centre. It was a sell out success and a wonderful experience. From then on we have been committed to producing adaptations of classic folk tales, believing in the importance of bringing this classic European literature to young audiences.
What is it like working together and how do you make it work?
Within Wild Ivy as a whole, are keen to foster a working environment where everyone involved feels empowered and valued, so that’s our priority when we work together. Lucy and I have very closely aligned personal ideals; politically, socially and often end up in long discussions about the world and our place in it as; young women, drama school graduates, teachers, nannies, waitresses, friends, daughters, sisters, people living on the bread line and with ambition. How to square the circle of living in London and working in the Arts. We are clear about our values and how the company is an outlet for positive change, we support each other and believe in each other. Essentially, we are nice.
What does an average day look like at Wild Ivy HQ?
Currently beavering away from Lucy’s kitchen table, we start most rehearsals (and office days!) with yoga and a vocal warm up, discussion of our to-do list and usually a bit of chat about something we’ve read, a conversation we’ve had with someone else or something that’s made us angry or happy – there’s always gossip! Chat is important, we get fired up about the things we believe in.
We’re finding our feet, so talking it all through means it feeds into how we feel about what we do and helps us refine how we want to move forward with the company, the ‘brand’ is us – it’s nothing contrived. Rehearsals are always collaborative and our work is devised. We are super lucky to have Depi Gorgogianni on board this time, the benefit of an outside eye is immeasurable and Depi is a wonderfully talented movement director.
What does the process of creating a production look like?
There’s the choice of text. This is the WHAT. Then it’s the HOW – ‘how do we tell this story’. How has this story been told in the past and how are we going to do it today? Who is it for, and why? The social responsibility of theatre and performance is ever present in the way we consider our work – what is the message and why is this something worth saying?
Next, comes assembling the team which is the WHO (Emily had very clear ideas and luckily we managed to snag Patrick Holt to join us this year!) and then the ‘palette’ for the visual. This is includes; where is it set/what are the locations in the story/what will the cast look like against each other/where are the similarities/where are the differences/how do we keep a consistency in the designed elements, e.g between the Image for the print and the visual you’ll see when you sit down in the theatre. The visual and the context then begins to inform HOW we might approach the WHAT.
The WHY has normally happened in the selection of the text but, especially this time round, we come back to this question regularly. The great thing about a devised process is that we constantly have options, we can pick and choose what is best, we can try it – and then throw it away. ‘why is it this bit’ ‘why does she say that’ ‘why don’t we include that’ ‘why don’t we try’ are all crucial in a devised process. As is lots of sillyness, playing around and falling about laughing! Life is too serious to be taken seriously.
We are respectful of each other and our ideas, we all actually WANT to work in teamwork environments and this is where we thrive. It’s a pleasure.
What have you found the most challenging about building the business?
Easily the most difficult thing is finding time to devote proper hours. We are both juggling numerous jobs and other responsibilities. We both have heavy working weeks running all over London just trying to make rent and being able to commit time to sit down is hard. For a while we were walking everywhere because we couldn’t even stretch to bus fare. It would be wonderful to actually be able to concentrate properly on the company – without having to rush off to a shift just as you’re getting going!
What advice would you give to someone thinking of getting into acting / theatre?
You have to have a reason for doing it other than to be ‘liked’ or ‘get famous’ – you need to love it. So that said, if you do decide it’s your passion, be bold, be brave and be kind. This last one is important – just yesterday I was asked to an audition for a very exciting show having helped the choreographer out two years previously.
What’s been the biggest highlight so far?
Being programmed at Above the Arts for The Snow Queen this December. Getting into a west end venue is a lovely step forward.
Tell us about the latest production?
The Snow Queen is one of Hans Christian Anderson’s finest tales and this adaptation follows the journey of a brave little girl named Gerda as she sets off to find and save her best friend Kai – who has been captured by The Snow Queen. It’s a story of friendship and reminds us that the warmth of those who love is stronger than the cold of those who do not. Music, singing, puppetry and storytelling bring the tale to life in this quirky adaptation of a traditional classic.
And the venue?
The Arts theatre is a great venue smack bang in the middle of London, just behind Leicester Square tube. Above the Arts is a small studio space that seats about 60 and is perfect for a children’s show. There is definitely something cool about being very little and going to a big theatre, panto or ballet and being overwhelmed by the spectacle, but we really think there is so much to be gained by being in a warm close-up space for little ones to be able to connect to the storytelling. It’s brilliant that the Arts Theatre are making use of that space and have turned it into a great place for making new work happen, as well as welcoming young companies like us. We’re so excited.
What’s next for Wild Ivy?
In January 2016 we launch the teaching branch (no pun intended…) of Wild Ivy: Wild Things. Headed up by Lucy, this project will offer weekly classes in drama, dance and music as well as other aspects of theatre-making (costume, puppetry, writing, lighting) for children aged 3-11 during term-time, with hopefully workshops for secondary schools following later on in the year.
In celebration of the launch of The Snow Queen by Wild Ivy Theatre, we are offering one lucky family the chance to win an awesome day out on us this Christmas, including complimentary tickets, dinner, taxis to and from home and a £100 voucher to kit the kids out for the day!! Head over to our Instagram @theminiedit to enter.
The Snow Queen by Wild Ivy Theatre will be running Monday – Friday from December 7th – 23rd and is recommended for children aged 3+
A limited number of tickets are available now…