When the lockdown began, I was exhausted and sad. I missed my show The Glee Club, abandoned on the road. I was heartsick for the beautiful buildings that have offered Out of Joint, and many other companies, a home. I retreated with relief into isolation as the world fell apart at a distance. I could not see the path forward.
Once we ensured everyone on The Glee Club was taken care of, I went on furlough. I slept for 11 hours a night and learnt to garden. Out of Joint executive producer Martin Derbyshire and I spoke to each other every day, to shoot the breeze and cheer each other up. Once we got back to work, an idea began to take shape. The pause had forced us to reflect on tired, old habits and assumptions. We began to radically rethink how we make theatre.
When we eventually emerge from this crisis, every company, building and artist will have their particular offer for the post-Covid world. For us, writing will always be the heart of what we do, but how we write, and who we write with, is about to change fundamentally.
Artists will be the heart of our company as we joyfully, ruthlessly build the work of the future. We will reshape our organisation. Though we work with artists from all backgrounds, our small salaried staff is all white. This is wrong, and excuses are no longer enough.
By spring 2021, there will be a significant and meaningful change in the make-up of our team, which will include people of colour, migrants, people with disabilities and those from challenging socio-economic backgrounds.
We want to tell the nation’s stories. To do this, we have to be genuinely inclusive. We will increase the pace of change, working faster and harder to ensure that representation is meaningful throughout the organisation, in our board, leadership and workforce.
With budgets tight and audiences hungry for live, communal experience, story is everything. When the story is of scale, the audience fills the space, populating it with wonders. We are excited to strip back the televisual, the big sets and large casts, and rediscover our role as campfire storytellers – as travelling players.
Touring work can help a nation to heal, not by papering over the cracks of inequality and grief, but by bringing people together and reminding us of all that we share. To do this, we need a group of artists that represent this nation in all its diversity, empowered to make their boldest, bravest work.
We will keep the audience close throughout the writing process, making plays in conversation with communities and inviting their participation and insight. Many have discovered new creativity and resilience during this terrible time, and audiences must become creators if we are to tell stories relevant to their lives. This is Out of Joint’s DNA.
I am heartbroken by the damage the virus has caused, and the injustice it has exposed to those who could not already see it. But I am excited and full of fire. I can see the path.