The Darkroom invests in creative relationships rather than pieces of work and aims to give each company we work with space, time, and money to experiment, to rejuvenate, to enliven their processes and to grow creatively.
In previous years, a number of companies have been invited to spend paid time working in a retreat/laboratory environment in collaboration with a writer.
It’s a place to play, to try out new ways of working and to interrogate old ones without having to submit a funding application or create a marketing pack before you’ve made the work.
Above all it’s a place to experiment, an opportunity to try things that you thought might never work with collaborators you never dreamt of working with – all without the demand to generate a show.
The Darkroom is a terrific idea. Time for artists to breathe, reflect and to be challenged is far too rare. The Darkroom has proved a precious resource for artists emerging out of BAC. I have seen the direct benefit of the programme to companies such as Sound & Fury both in terms of the way the artists think about their work and develop their practice.
David Jubb – Artistic Director, Battersea Arts Centre
Who is the Darkroom for?
-The Darkroom is for theatre companies who make work through a collaborative process.
-The Darkroom is for theatre companies looking to explore how and why they make the work they do.
-The Darkroom is for companies who want to sail in uncharted waters alongside a new artistic influence.
-The Darkroom is for companies who would welcome a creative break from the cycle of producing and selling new work.
Everyone had their moment. It all came together. It stetched me in a different way.
Alecky Blythe, Darkroom collaborator - 2008
The Darkroom was a truly collaborative adventure
Tom Espiner, Sound and Fury
How to enter the Darkroom?
Currently the Darkroom can be entered by invitation only...The past few years have seen some of the most exciting emerging and established companies take part in the Darkroom. Take a look below through some of the participants and their experiences. The Darkroom will will be opening its doors again soon....
Action Hero is the collaboration between Gemma Paintin & James Stenhouse.
The company explores the epic and the banal; they create performance that is intimate, distinctive and invigorating. Action Hero’s ongoing interests lie in the iconography of popular culture and its use; both as a weapon and as a shared cultural memory.
They tour work regularly throughout the UK and internationally. The company have been shortlisted for several awards and won an Austin (Texas) Critic’s Circle Award in 2013.
Action Hero & The Darkroom…
Since we left the Darkroom we’ve tried not to return to the enforced focus. Try to remember what it felt like to wake up in the Darkroom.
The Darkroom was the first time we have ever made creative work where we’re not just trying to make do. We’d accepted that that was our fate. The Darkroom was the first time where we weren't making do and realised the potential of that.
It is going to change the way that we work forever. We don’t work in the same way again.
We knew it was going to be useful but not how profound an effect it would have on our process.
Analogue formed in 2007 to make ambitious new theatre inspired by real stories and contemporary ethical questions. We collaborate with a wide network of pioneering thinkers, bringing together research and invention to create performance that fuses the human with the scientific.
We are particularly excited by the possibilities of documentary, neuroscience, interactivity and new technologies and strive to cross boundaries of continents and disciplines, embracing audiences and arts organisations locally, nationally and internationally.
Since our formation, we have produced a number of award-winning and critically acclaimed shows.
Analogue and the Darkroom…
We realised that we weren’t going to have to look after anyone, manage a room or manage people. We could go off and submit to our imaginations. Not inviting too many people into the room too early was a big learning point. The pleasure of making work and being allowed to be creative was a big moment. The Darkroom is about articulating things that have become intuitive, it's a process of flushing out ideas that have become too embedded or taken for granted. It makes you think fundamentally about what you have to offer in a room – this process gets to the grass roots of that.
In the 2 weeks that we were there the space filled with our unconscious concerns. It was therapeutic but also dangerous, in a good way.
It has given Analogue more confidence. We went straight out of that into re-rehearsals and went straight into meetings with neuroscientists. We felt much more armed to go into that with pwn personal expertise. We felt strong as artists and as individuals. We felt energised and excited and The Darkroom gave us the confidence to call myself a writer and director.
Blind Summit Theatre are doing for puppetry what South Park did for cartoons. They subvert the artform to tell grown up stories full of wit and visual invention. Over the past ten years they have produced their own shows including Mr China's Son, Low Life, An Odde Angel, The Spaceman, Pirate Puppetry, Real Man, Martin's Wedding, Tramping the Boards, and collaborated as puppetry creators on many shows including Anthony Minghella's award winning Madam Butterfly for ENO and Met Opera, Shunkin with Complicite, On Emotion with Mick Gordon at Soho Theatre, Faeries with Will Tuckett and ROH2, The Time Step with Linda Marlowe, A Dulditch Angel with Eastern Angles, Cherevichi at Garsington Opera. They are currently adapting George Orwell's 1984 with Annie Siddons and BAC.
Blind Summit and The Darkroom…
Blind Summit worked in the Darkroom in 2007 with playwright Rebecca Lenkeweicz, puppeteers Giulia Innocenti, Brigida Neves, Oliver Smart, Sean Myatt, and Finn Caldwell and puppets Lolly and Petras to create scenes and characters that explored the idea of puppets working with text. In particular Rebecca was interested to see if subtext could work with puppets. At the end of the week Paul Warwick directed the scenes. A fabulously free creative week which led to no conclusions but opened up lots of possibilities and ideas.
Rebecca and Blind Summit subsequenty worked together by fortune on Will Tuckett's marvellous Faeries production for ROH2 in 2008.
Blind Summit Theatre are Artististic Directors Mark Down and Nick Barnes. Producer Helen Hodge.
Since 1997 Cartoon de Salvo have been creating imaginative and irresistible theatre. Our work is fresh and fun, and blends storytelling, script-defying impro and live music. We have performed our work everywhere from Edinburgh to the Glastonbury Festival, via tiny Cornish village halls, allotments in Surrey and Nottinghamshire and cultural centres in Hong Kong. Cartoon de Salvo have recently been awarded major funding from ACESE for organisation development.
Cartoon de Salvo and The Darkroom…
We spent a week in the Darkroom with Toby Sedgewick. Toby's work with his original company The Moving Picture Mime Show had an immeasurable influence on the country's greatest devising companies. We worked with Lecoq techniques including the larval Basal masks and then with Toby’s photograph story making techniques. Toby's acknowledgement of visual detail – what you see and how you see it in performance as opposed to what is said and how it’s written in a text – was the most fantastic thing to take away with us. This immediately went into our next R&D work on The Ratcatcher of Hamelin but more importantly his openness, curiosity and faith as an artist will stay with the Salvo’s ethos and continues to inspire us.
Inspector Sands was founded in 2005 by Ben Lewis, Giulia Innocenti and Lucinka Eisler. Between them, the company members had already produced a number of critically acclaimed, sell-out shows which had played at venues including the Riverside Studios and the ICA and had toured the UK and internationally.
Since its formation Inspector Sands has created two critically acclaimed, sell out shows which have toured extensively in the UK and to countries around the world. They have also carried out workshops with practitioners and young people on tour and as part of longer term projects at the Lyric Hammersmith and BAC.
Inspector Sands are committed to creating outstanding theatre which fully embraces its live medium, incorporating visual, sound, textual and physical elements into a strongly integrated whole. Thematically, they are interested in exploring how global events and trends affect the detail of everyday life.
Inspector Sands & The Darkroom…
I have a feeling that the impact of the Darkroom on Inspector Sands, and on us as individuals, will keep making itself felt for a long time to come. The whole experience has been full of so many surprises. I think it has sown the seed of a new show. It has made me understand better why I believe in the idea of having a theatre company instead of (or as well as) working freelance. It has reminded me to question why we're doing what we do and what is it about our work that keeps us feeling passionate.
It was one of the best things to happen to us as a company in a long while and I'm very excited to see how this relationship with Emma develops.
All in all an incredible, and pivotal experience surrounded by fresh air and great company. It doesn't feel like the Darkroom has finished in any way.
Kiln is an all-female company based in Birmingham making devised theatre that interacts live with its audience and environment. As well as performing in theatres and arts centres they have created work in caves, glass factories, moving vehicles, churches and the UK's oldest cinema. The work is highly visual and musical and uses food to create a communal experience. They like to collaborate with artists, experts and enthusiasts.
Kiln & The Darkroom…
The space to focus entirely on our process obviously raised up latent questions relating to the long-term development of the company. We had a long company meeting that we had been sitting on for some time. We also thought a lot about exactly what a Kiln show is and began a discussion as to whether we all have to be involved for it to be Kiln. We haven't come to a decision yet... but it's important that we have begun the conversation.
The Darkroom was an entirely affirmative experience, bringing Kiln even closer together as a collective of individuals. Thank you for the opportunity to re-align and re-focus ourselves, the more time goes on the more I think we will realise just how important the Darkroom was...
Mapping4D is a company of artists who have been working together since 2002, to make devised work in the space between theatre, happening, and live art. The company won the 2004 Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award. Mapping4D celebrates the live communication possible in theatre and explores the boundaries of its possibilities. We aim to catalyze unusual and dynamic relationships between the audience and the performance they encounter. The work is playful and delicate- revelling in the flamboyant as well as exposing itself in anti-theatrical bareness. Each project investigates the ways in which we are connected to one another in imagination and society - the intricacies of accountability, love, honesty, risk and possibility.
Mapping4D worked with playwright Lin Coghlan; the first time we had collaborated with a writer as a company. We approached the week as an exhilarating opportunity to be disoriented and to learn from collision, disarming ourselves by deliberately putting aside most of our normal practices and beginning from nothing but the encounter between our very different preconceptions about what theatre can and should be. This included an unsettling of the roles individuals normally play within the company. The resulting week became an organic (occasionally unnerving) and important process of wrestling, offering, trying and beginning to make real sense to one another. By the last two days we began to find ways to catalyse each other in an exciting exchange: Lin's ability to create powerful, unexpected, emotionally committed text feeding and pushing the structured improvisations we created, which in turn generated further possibilities and shapes. The work we made on the last afternoon surprised all of us and felt like the very beginning of a much bigger piece of work to come.
We are an international touring company who create devised physical theatre based on true moments from history using a european ensemble, multiple languages, storytelling and live music. Established in 2001, we have created nine new shows and toured to over twenty countries around the world.
The Darkroom residency was a revelation for us. It pushed NIE in directions we hadn’t thought of before with the intensity of the experience and the isolation enabled us to really focus our work. The residency has prompted the development of a new project for us - Tales From a Sea Journey. This will start with two weeks of research and development in autumn 2009 where eight performers from the NIE ensemble will spend two weeks traveling together on a banana boat sailing from Antwerp to Columbia.
NIE worked with screen writer Clive Bradley during their Darkroom week.
Sound&Fury is directed by Mark Espiner, Tom Espiner and Dan Jones. It draws on the disciplines of theatre, Foley artistry, sound design, music and storytelling. Its key artistic interest is in developing the sound space of theatre and presenting new ways of experiencing theatre and stories by heightening the aural sense. Their work has been twice selected for an Arts Council UK tour billed as the future of British theatre and has been included by the British Council in its group of touring companies. The Guardian has described their performance style as: “Total theatre that doesn't just happen all around you, but that swallows you up completely... you feel as if you are experiencing the whole thing through your skin.
The Darkroom was for us an extraordinary, collaborative and exceptionally creative experience. Its unique nurturing hand and sensitive supportive environment set in motion a project that has been one of the most creatively fulfilling for Sound and Fury to date. It led directly to the successful and critically acclaimed production Kursk. The careful pairing of our company with playwright Bryony Lavery, where the only objective was for us to work together without any restrictive goals - no show and tell, no performance to satisfy interested parties - unlocked a new way of working. It was wholly collaborative and reinvented for us the idea of how a play is written. It became a joint exercise, a project with momentum that gathered creative partners. Bryony and Sound and Fury discovered a new, sharing and invigorating process out of it, which was a direct result of the first week at the Hurst. It is no small claim to say the show we created would not have been made without the Darkroom.
Talking Birds is a Coventry-based company of artists that specialises in acts of transformation. Often these are theatre works and structures which transform the experience of buildings or sites. Other times, they are smaller, more intimate artworks which transform a computer screen, or a telephone call. The company has been working in the UK and abroad since 1992. Its theatre work has toured from Slovakia to Seattle; its film work screens at festivals from Edinburgh to Volgograd; and its web work has active participants from across the globe. It is a Regularly Funded Organisation of ACE West Midlands.
The company worked with verbatim theatre specialist Alecky Blythe with a specific content-based agenda. By exploring the world of the submariner, the company was able to experience new forms of text generation, and interrogate its attitude towards editing, storytelling, and the place of the ‘real’ in its performances. Like many valuable experiences, there was something of a depth charge effect as a result of the Darkroom – significance at the time was intuited, but didn’t appear concrete until later when the material generated led to the creation of a big tin whale a few months later. During the week itself, it was as important to switch off our own individual specialisms as it was to experience a different creative catalyst, though one probably follows the other.
The Other Way Works creates daring and remarkable theatre that draws the audience into the very heart of the experience. Based in Birmingham, we create highly interactive performance experiences, frequently for an audience of one at a time. Our focus is always firmly on an individual audience member’s experience of what we create, and we see the performance of the work as the offering of a gift to each audience member. Our work often responds to ’site’, and we find it stimulating and rewarding to create and perform our work in non-traditional spaces. The Company's current show Black Tonic has been touring to rave reviews during 2008 and 2009, and we are about to start work on a new project for Warwick Arts Centre this Autumn.
We had a fantastic time at the Dark Room in the spring of 2007. Working with our writer Clare Duffy opened up new horizons for the Company's work, and we have since collaborated with Clare as a writer on Black Tonic - our interactive thriller for hotels. We used our time together to study narrative structure, and applied our new found knowledge in site-specific contexts throughout the house and the wider estate during our stay at The Hurst. The time and space to explore new ways to create theatre in a generous and relaxed setting gave the Company a real boost.
Formed in 1998, Uninvited Guests make entertaining and provocative performance. Our work represents a contemporary reality, in which memories of movies are as much a part of our experience as intimate dialogues with lovers. The company works in various contexts and constellations, focusing mainly on performance but also producing installation and digital media. Recent work has blurred the line between theatre and social festivities, with audiences joining us in events that are celebratory and elegiac, nostalgic and critical of these times.
Uninvited Guests received the Darkroom bursary at a really important time in the company's development. We had been together for 6 years. We had just begun the process of reflecting on a previous show and considering points of departure for a new piece. We had never, until that point, had breathing space to think, play and talk without the demands of having to generate a product. We spent a week at The Hurst in Shropshire - a beautiful house, once owned by John Osborne, and surrounded by idyllic countryside. The perfect place to reflect, to take stoke of where we were as a company, and through doing so enable us to move forward, to feel inspired to try something new. We ate every meal together, walked and made dens in the nearby woods, played out ideas in the studio, just a short stroll from the house, and spent evenings talking in the very comfortable sitting room. We were able to just let things happen.
During our time at The Hurst we were given the opportunity to collaborate with a writer. It was a chance for us to review the way we used text and try something new. We were able to find some distance from our usual way of working and see through someone else's eyes. It was a truly inspiring experience, one that we are very grateful for. (Uninvited Guests worked with A Smith)