We began in 2015 as a Resident Company at Theatre Deli in Sheffield, and we’ve shown work at Theatre Deli, artsdepot, Hull Truck, DINA, DNweekeND, UnShut Festival, Wardrobe Theatre, Format Festival, Rebuild Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe – and Alphabetti!
We make politically and socially engaged work that explores power (and other things too) by placing an audience at the centre of a surreal world that opens up around them.
In our last show (in a building) A Party After End of the World we fully converted a warehouse space in Sheffield. The team of eight makers created a bicycle powered interactive dance floor – complete with VHS TV stack, bath-tub de-radiation simulator, aerial hoop solo-performance, and an amplified 12-foot tall robot head. The run was fully sold out, and Samatha Williams (State of the Arts) wrote: “I found myself in a room full of almost strangers, giddy with the possibility of positive human interaction, and a new understanding that this work so subtly and cleverly has highlighted our separateness and brought us all together.”
Since then we’ve explored how to distill our practice into a focused studio-show that contains all the same buzz and raucous energy. We have an international team of collaborators ready, and we’re all really excited to be sharing our next project with you.
Person Spec (working title) is about work. It’s about the precarity of labour – unemployment, uberisation, zero-hour contracts, discrimination, and so-called ‘unskilled labour’. It’s also about the new relationships with work that have emerged for all of us. It’s about how we cope with needing to prove that our labour is valuable, and what we ask of ourselves and each other in order to do that. It’s about all the things that our high school career advisors never predicted.
In Person Spec, the audience are playfully employed as recruitment practitioners, tasked with interviewing a new candidate for an exciting role. It reverses the traditional role of the audience, empowering them as the evening’s helpful facilitators in an unusual yet enjoyable event. However, over the course of the evening, the meaning of the recruitment process reveals itself, with troubling implications for the audience’s complicity.
So far we’ve scratched the show, which we put together into a teaser video:
We think our audience’s experience with our work should begins the moment they first hear about a show.
Our ‘In-world marketing’ strategy, combined with compelling invitations has been highly successful in creating a buzz for our shows – and pulling a broad range of people into the theatre who want are ready to see something ‘different’, comfortable that it’s still for them.
With Person Spec we want people to arrive knowing that they’ll have a fun evening, only to find themselves in a totally new theatre experience, blown away by where it takes them.
We’re really excited that the artists for this project are based in the North, across the UK and in Spain. We are: Andy Owen Cook, Inés Collado, Hannah Sibai, Alfie Heffer, Olga Hernádez, Tom Robbins, (and an A/V artist).
Our intention is to develop and perform Person Spec in the UK and across Europe. We recently applied for funding from the Arts Council (but, alas, they preferred other application). We intent to apply again soon, hopefully with your support!
We want to make Person Spec with you because, at the risk of being overly flattering, we really admire what Alphabetti does, and what it hopes to achieve. We’d love to be a part of it in the next programme. When we visited Alphabetti with The Church of Jim nearly four years ago (!) we were amazed at the support and welcome we received. It helped enrich our practice, and we’ve been dying to come back with a new Forest Sounds show ever since. Incidentally, the idea for Person Spec was actually first tried with the Alphabetti audience at the Shrek FLIM Nite – it went down a treat! We want to carry on making theatre in the North, and we especially want to strengthen our relationship with Alphabetti, which to us is the place for adventerous, ambitious and inclusive new theatre and performance in Newcastle.
We’re entering into a crisis of unemployment and underemployment that is set to be the biggest since the 1980s. For many areas it will arrive on top of a decade of austerity, wage stagnation and erosion of skilled jobs. And with the approach of work-automation, the future of work is more than a little daunting.
In addition, the pandemic has brought into focus and accelerated the merging of our work and home lives. It has also highlighted the disparity between people who could stay at home and those who couldn’t.
Work changed in the last year for all of us, and it’s going to keep changing. This coming year is the time to have the conversations we need to have about work – about what this means for us as individuals, and as a community.
Thanks for taking the time to read our online pitch!
We hope you’re a excited about Person Spec as we are. We’d love to tell you more about the work itself, its development and the team involved. For now, if you want to know more about our work, check out www.forestsounds.org where there’s lots of photo, video and audience feedback.
Hope you’re all well.
P.s. In case you were wondering: yes, the shark is in the show! He’s called Dave, and he’s definitely the coolest member of the cast since he’s filled with helium and can fly, so there’s really no competition.