Written by Maddy Costa in conversation with and edited by Leo Kay and Anna Smith.
There are so many words in this document that feel foundational or central, but perhaps the real linchpin is: responsibility. Often in theatre responsibility is focused in the wrong direction: for instance, in talking about the 18-month research process of Change My Mind, Leo, Anna and I recognised the complex ways in which responsibility to fulfil promises to funding bodies, and responsibility to honour Leo's original vision for the project, was sometimes in conflict with responsibility for the artists involved. Leo believed that he was acting responsibly by being an artist in the project as well as its director, as he would never be asking his collaborators to do anything he wasn't prepared to do himself, but ultimately this could be viewed as irresponsible as it had a negative impact on his time and energy for being flexible, responsive to each artist's experience, or ensuring care.
A recurring theme in our conversation was the challenging nature of balancing responsibility and ambition. Working with non-professional or vulnerable people undoubtedly requires a high level of care; when working with limited resources and restrictions on time, there is sometimes a tension between providing these appropriate levels of care and pursuing opportunities for artistic innovation. Recognising responsibility for process might mean radically changing both the process and the work that results from it. What's more important: the work, or care for everyone involved? Are these mutually exclusive? And how many people in theatre are genuinely asking themselves that question?
Leo: What I'm excited about and recognise as fundamental to our developing practice is the need for us to be conscious of the ambition and scale of the work in response to the needs of those we are working with, be that young people or artists, organisations or funding bodies. If that means we sometimes have to slow down…
Image of work by Shakirat Akinosho