This is a guest blog by Xavier De Sousa, Artistic Director of Needless Alley Collective
As a collective of artists playing with a multitude of disciplines, Needless Alley’s work has always been hard to define. The very first few performances we did saw us often working with impulse and instinct, jumping on stage to create short happenings, pieces that alluded to our discontent with specific current world events.
Our last show, In Embryo, was a constant rolling of ideas, concepts and ‘forms’, often defined by the type of music was being played, or a starting sentence from my narration. We started to play with the concept of a musical jam, applied it to our rehearsal process, and took that essence into the performance.
Someone from our audience called our work ‘post-rock performance’, not only due to the type of music that was played, but also due to the anarchic elements to the staging of each performance. The music composition is led by experimental sound duo $hift$
So when we arrive to Lancaster to start our residency, we arrive with a mixture of emotions and expectations. Could we finally ‘MAKE A THEATRE SHOW’ that can be replicated and reproduced every night?
Starting from the ‘post-rock’ point of view, we have decided to structure the work in small sections, just like a set list in a rock gig. The 5 days were action packed and dedicated mostly to the setting of tone. I wrote a lot. The boys played a lot. I sat a lot listening to what they were playing with. We chatted about moods for each section, but also about what we wanted from each section. By the end we had over 40mins of music ready to pack and turn into a show.
The way we work is that both the vocals and the music keep pushing each other, confronting each other. Whilst at times it might be a duet, sometimes it feels like a battle, in a good way.
We also worked with the genius that is David McBride, his influence allowing us to think strategically with the space in the room – we were now expanding for a 10x6 stage (which is pretty massive) and using a lot more technical equipment that we will struggle to find somewhere else.
But the fact that the stage use has suddenly expanded and the technical requirements of the piece have also gone exponentially over the roof, is new and exciting territory and we now have the task of thinking what type of venues the work can go into.
The final piece will have a sense of discovery, wonderment and coming of age. The piece will be centred on a journey through an idealistic world and we pose the question of what happens when we realise that our goals and wishes of a better world might not be as easy to achieve, as we would hope. It is a big subject. We have a lot to go through.
We always just jumped on stage, because we had spent a whole year playing and experimenting. And because we knew what we are doing. Now, in a way, it feels like a new start, in a new context and in a way, a whole new world that we created for our selves first and now have the tools to shape as we wish. And whilst this is exciting for us, it also requires a new level of adaptation on our side.
For this, we feel very privileged to have had a first week in which we could start almost from scratch with a new piece. To have time to understand what is at hand, what we can do with all our ideas.
To explore the room
To explore each other
To explore structures
To explore ideas
To explore technical issues
To explore lighting
To explore writing
To explore music
To explore whatever the f*ck we want to explore
And thus, we have also started to think about how we develop work. For whom, for when and how. How do we keep our agency to do the work we want to do when we have the pressure of timelines and opening nights? How do we get around that?
We will be back in May.
Until then, we will continue to argue, to make work and to develop our structure.
Eventually we will do run-throughs and invite everyone in.
Now we take our time.
And we feel better for it.
More confident with our work, thrilled by our work and excited to be working on it.
And we feel like we needed that time last year to achieve this.
After The Woods (work in progress title), will open at Camden People’s Theatre in June, before embarking on tour. To keep updated with all latest news, visit our website (www.needlessalley.co.uk) or follow us on Twitter or Facebook. Come and say HI at one of our showings, or let us know what you think of our work. We are always up for a drink or two post performances, and specially if it involves engaging in discussions around the work.