Written by Maddy Costa in conversation with and edited by Leo Kay and Anna Smith.
Structure feels too boring a word for this lexicon. It's emotionless and suggestive of hierarchy or top-down organisation, things Leo and Anna are keen to avoid. “In a way,” Anna says of her role as producer, “the whole premise of the company was: 'I'll get this person who doesn't know what the fuck she's doing in the company so she can't impose any structure on me.'”
But there's repressive structure and there's necessary structure, and many of our conversations involved an attempt to differentiate between them. Contrary to her joke, Anna plays a vital role in Unfinished Business, taking care of necessary structure – including, as Leo phrases it, “holding many of the practicalities of a process”. At the beginning of 2016, Leo was working with Baba Israel on The Spinning Wheel: as director, and in the absence of Anna or a stage manager, he found he was being held responsible for keeping designers to deadlines, adhering to time in the rehearsal room, calling production meetings – but these “practicalities” sit uneasily with his “much more organic and instinctive” approach to making work, and his apparent failure to keep on top of them caused tension between him and Israel, which were resolved when a stage manager entered the fray.
For Leo, those structures imposed by time and money are repressive: the complication is that any work made requires some relationship with them. Anna, he says, “holds this information with grace, and holds it as Unfinished Business, so we collaborate on that and it becomes almost invisible. So it's trying to work out or be conscious of those needs and aware of the invaluable nature of the collaboration.”
Necessary structure, we decided, isn't nearly as rigid as the word structure itself suggests: it responds to the specific needs of the people in the room, through a set of principles of good practice. Those principles include provision of care for vulnerable mindsets, attention to food and other basic needs, and an awareness that to treat people equally means to understand that not all people experience such fundamental social events as walking down the street equally. In the old-fashioned feminist phrase, Leo and Anna have been engaged in consciousness-raising, in the hopes that they don’t continue to mistake repressive structures for necessary ones.