This is your first touring production since your Triple Bill in 2017/2018. How did the pandemic affect the company – how did you get through it and did you find ways of making work?
We were extremely fortunate to receive Emergency Response Funding from Arts Council England at the start of the pandemic. With this, we were still able to celebrate our 10th anniversary as a company in style, developing our ‘DANCE:CONNECTS – PULSE! 2.0′ initiative. We were able to financially support more than 25 independent dance artists and work with hundreds of people of all ages from across the world including Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia and the USA through online live workshops, tutorials and accessible pre-recorded ‘Learn at Home’ videos.
The legacy of this work is demonstrated in the existing and new global relationships which the company developed throughout the duration of the activity, this includes with the British Council. It has also been captured in two documentary films and both have been selected to feature as part of the 2020 UK-China Contemporary Culture Festival.
Alongside this, we were able to develop our organisation and used the time to plan accordingly for what the company may look like moving forward.
What was your inspiration for retelling the classic story, The Wizard of Oz, through the Tin Man’s eyes?
TIN MAN is our first production aimed at children 7+ and their families. We were initially interested in the Tin Man and what the character stands for and what we traditionally know of them. I wanted to create a new production that explored the themes of love, friendship and happiness and the Tin Man ticked all of these boxes!
I have always loved the Wizard of Oz and adaptations from the original books but I felt as a company, we could really create something that was new, relevant and had never been seen before. I wanted to put a dark, gothic twist on four of the characters we know and love from the original story (Tin Man, the Lion, the Witch and the Scarecrow) whilst placing the Tin Man at the centre of this work and new world.
In our reimagined story, the Witch is the keeper of the oil the Tin Man needs for their rusting joints. After discovering the Tin Man has no heart, the Witch sets the Tin Man the task of finding it in exchange for more oil. There are loads of surprises in the show so I don’t want to give too much away but what I can say is expect the unexpected!
Can you tell us about your creative process? How did you start with the inspiration/idea and develop it into the work it is now?
There were A LOT of collaborators involved in the process of designing and making the show.
Initially we worked with Human Centred Design Expert Hannah Fox on how we could put young people at the centre of the creation process before the company set foot in the studio. This involved developing content for workshops that myself and our company dancer Dominic Coffey (Tin Man) delivered in Bradford and Manchester. These workshops completely shaped the way in which I structured the creative process and made me realise what was important, what children engage with and how we could look to enhance their wellbeing whilst watching the show. It was wonderful to be child-like again and to explore the characters in the work to see what children were projecting onto them.
The children also fed back to us whilst we completed our Research and Development period and we took their notes moving forward into finalising the show.
I worked with Vicki Amedume (Artistic Director, Upswing) as an Artistic Mentor during the R&D process in the studio and Sue Buckmaster (Artistic Director, Theatre-Rites) as Dramaturg throughout the entirety of the creation process. Both Vicki’s and Sue’s input were invaluable to the development of the work as it was the first time I was working on developing a narrative for a dance production and everyone in the room was able to just soak up all their experience and expertise.
The narrative was developed before we started the creative process so we were able to explore scenes efficiently and amend as we went along. I not only worked collaboratively with the dancers to develop the characters and bring them life, but went on emotional journeys with them so we could deepen the messages within the show which include finding your extended family and communities, the importance of love and friendship and how we can overcome fear and obstacles.
There’s puppetry in the show too, so to learn skills from Sue as our puppet master was just amazing! The mechanics of the scarecrow puppet (Technical Design and Made by Keith Frederick) were extremely complex as we had a long list of things the scarecrow needed to do – all will be revealed in the show!
The illustrations for the costumes came quite early on in the process. We have worked with Eleanor Bull previously and her designs for the four characters were just incredible. She completely captured the vision and aesthetic of what the show was about and something that I’d never seen before. The costumes ended up being engineered so they could be as robust as possible for our first tour earlier this year and it still amazes me how they were made and put together by Rosie Armitage.
I worked closely with our Lighting Designer, Josh Tomalin, on the world I wanted to create. The piece is set in the woods so we discussed how we could transport the audience to a world where it wasn’t so literal, yet had a magical and charming feel to it. The work is very dramatic so it was great to explore this within all aspects of the show.
The overall cinematic visuals of the production are outstanding and it really was a collaborative effort to bring the show to life. It’s been wonderful to continuously be developing the show through rehearsals and seeing how audiences react and engage with the show on tour.
We also worked with Vicky Ackroyd who produced the Audio Description for the show which is available for all our performances and is synced up with the music.
Can you tell us about the music? How did you work with composer Anna Appleby to create this?
Our amazing composer Anna Appleby created the score throughout the whole process through demos before piecing everything together. We started by discussing what world we wanted to create through sound and what instrumentation would be included. The three main instruments in the score are cello, French Horn and various percussion instruments including a big bass drum! There’s also many other instruments and music used throughout.
There are 9 scenes in the show and in-line with the narrative, we discussed what the mood would be for each scene, what instruments would be highlighted and what we wanted the audience to feel. The music is so important in the work as it evokes so many emotions and really enhances the storytelling.
The music is so layered and complex and it really creates the magical world we had always envisaged from the very beginning. Anna was brilliant to work with, she was extremely collaborative and put so much work into making the score perfect for what we wanted. The scary and darker moments are contrasted with humour and heart-warming scenes so you definitely get a lot of variety!
We were also fortunate to receive funding from the Royal Philharmonic Society Drummond Fund and PRS Foundation’s The Open Fund for Organisations to support the composition, live performances (Spring/Summer 2022) and master recording from music ensemble Psappha.
Can you tell us about your dancers.
Our dancers are extremely talented and we love working with them. There is never a dull moment! They are full of personality and it’s a real treat seeing them develop on tour and adding even more layers to the characters on stage.
Our fantastic Tin Man, Dominic Coffey, is so charismatic, he really takes you on a journey throughout the whole show. His warmth as an experienced performer is so engaging for audiences, you’ll laugh a lot and he’ll also pull on your heart strings.
Yue Ying Ho dances the Lion role and adds an injection of fun into the show. With such an important role (come and see the show and you’ll find out why!), Yue Ying’s presence is remarkable as the Lion, she completely embraces the character and likes to show the audience their lively and cheeky personality.
Last but not least, Charley Mitchell is our Witch. Charley’s dramatic performance explores a gothic adaptation to this reimagined character. The Witch is devious, creepy and just over the top fabulous! Charley’s incredible portrayal of our Witch is the perfect remedy for anyone who loves a self-assured villain in a story!
What can audiences expect from TIN MAN?
Our audiences can expect a fun filled, dramatic and exciting show that will take them on a rollercoaster of emotions. The show has a universal and ultimately feel good factor – it’s fun, it’s visually stunning and it’s drag… what’s not to like!
TIN MAN is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, the Royal Philharmonic Society with funding from the RPS Drummond Fund and PRS Foundation’s The Open Fund for Organisations.