17 May Gecko in Asia: the Producer’s View
We caught up with our Executive Producer Rosalind Wynn during our international tour with one central question in mind: what role does the producer play in international touring? Here’s how she replied…
One of the very exciting and unique elements of working for Gecko is the experience of international touring. Since joining the company in 2013 I have toured with the company to Georgia, Colombia, Russia, Poland, China, Mexico, Hong Kong, Macau, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Romania, Malaysia, Australia and Spain, some of these multiple times. We have also created an international co-production with Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre in China.
I’m writing this from Arko Arts Theatre in Seoul, South Korea, where we’re preparing to perform our international premiere of The Wedding to open the 2018 MODAFE (Modern Dance Festival). On this tour, we have already been to Shanghai and Nanjing in China with our Asian premiere of Institute.
It’s quite the puzzle of activity and availability. A total of 20 people have been involved across the tours, some working on both shows, some on just one, some also delivering workshops, and with additional meetings happening in Hong Kong and Taiwan for Amit and I.
International touring takes a lot of planning: we need to confirm the availability of our performing and technical team (who all work freelance), as well as agree the final deals and schedules with our international partners. We’re often programmed within a festival, so the international partner has many shows to organise across a short period of time. Sometimes, like with this tour, we have multiple weeks of touring and performing in different cities, but this is the first time that we’ve toured one show to one country followed immediately by another show to another, which came with even greater time constraints around visa applications and local performance licences.
It’s certainly not a holiday, with a busy and demanding schedule, always walking into the slight unknown and battling with language barriers. But it’s an incredibly rewarding and insightful way of working too.
The company has toured internationally since the creation of the first show Taylor’s Dummies. The work is created to have a universal appeal with the intention that each audience member will have a personal response to the shows, relating to a resonance with their own life and experience. With a reliance on movement, emotion, design and sound to tell the story, as opposed to language, the work is well suited to international performances and appeals to audiences across the world.
It’s fascinating to hear the response to the shows from different audiences. Across the years I’ve been interested by responses that seem to be very universal no matter which country we’re performing in, and some that seem very specific to a certain country and culture. Taking Institute to China, we were unsure of what the response would be in a country where mental health is still a hushed subject. We were very moved by audience responses: one audience member who had studied psychology had been moved to think about the mental health spectrum that we all find ourselves on whilst relating closely with the character of Louis, whilst another person identified with Daniel, always placing too much pressure on himself to achieve. Journalists, too, were keen to understand our project in collaboration with Suffolk Mind to explore emotional needs through physical theatre. Mental well-being is a big subject in China, and audiences were open in sharing their thoughts and experiences.
For Gecko, international touring is an integral aspect of the company’s existence. After our shows have been created and toured in the UK it’s an opportunity to share them with wide audiences for a number of years. But more than this, it’s a place of exchange where we’re able to share our working practice and also learn from our international partners and audiences, absorbing influences from different cultures into our work. This feels more true now than ever, where on arrival to Shanghai we were greeted by our remarkable performers and collaborators of The Dreamer, who shared the week with us and were on hand to help with any problems, including giving up a Saturday to take me on a mad shopping dash to replace a number of costumes missing from the suitcases!
Relationships like this are special and important, especially with the divisive politics we see today. We’ve had many brilliant conversations around the performances of the shows, not just with audiences, but also international higher education institutions and professional companies to provide training in physical and devised theatre, invitations to create site responsive work and possible future collaborations.
And tonight we perform The Wedding in South Korea, a show that looks at the relationship between the individual and the state.
Amid the possible collapse of talks with the North, tonight’s post show discussion should prove to be thought-provoking!