starting from scratch

starting from scratch

Catherine Ireton is a singer, a songwriter, an actress and a theatre maker produced by Farnham Maltings. She will be performing her new show Leaving Home Party at the Fireside Festival on 8 November.

For more information on the Fireside Festival and to book tickets go to the Fireside Festival website. Catherine has written us a blog about her first experience performing at Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year.
Credit: Mark Dean

Back in August Julia from Farnham Maltings got in touch with me and asked if I’d like to write a blog for the theatre website about the process of creating and touring my new show Leaving Home Party. At the time I was in Edinburgh performing the show daily at the fringe festival, the show was only an hour, surely I could spend some time one afternoon and pen some of my thoughts? Of course I could! I agreed and assured her I’d have the blog written by the end of the month.

The end of August came and went and though I had thought about it, I hadn’t written anything. Soon it was mid-September. Now here we are mid-October and to be honest I’m still a bit reluctant to write this. What was my experience? What did I learn from making a show? What can I tell you about the Edinburgh Festival? And I realise my delay in writing this has been mostly because of that question ‘WHERE DO I BEGIN!?’

Making a theatre show from scratch is no small feat. Making a show to take to the Edinburgh Festival magnifies this challenge tenfold. Now I have made pieces of theatre before but for this show I really had wanted to challenge myself and write something very close to my heart – me leaving Ireland and about the possibility that I might not return. In April I heard the good news that I had been awarded an Arts Council grant and by that stage I already knew a lot of the big decisions about the show – like I knew I would be the one who had to write it, I knew I wanted to work with a musician and I knew that there would be a lot of music. And I knew the subject matter. So I was in a good position and people advised me to start writing it, even though rehearsals wouldn’t start until June and even though I was yet to find the wonderful multi-instrumentalist, Ignacio Agrimbau who would share the stage with me…the word of advice from everyone around me was “start writing!”

Catherine Ireton - Edinburgh Festival image 2
Credit: Mark Dean

So I did. I really really did. But the thing is I didn’t quite know how to – because what does a start look like?
My starts looked like this:
me in my living room with tiny bits of coloured paper of ideas floating
me sitting at a piano staring at the keys
me going for coffee with Gavin Stride and telling him all my ideas and advising me… well you should start then

By the time the rehearsals began in June I had written and rewritten ten pages of stuff that didn’t exactly join together, a mishmash of ideas, where nothing was concrete and so together in a room and so together as four in the rehearsal room we started again.
and again when we threw away all of those ten pages
and again…when we decided that the whole show should be performed through song
and then in week four of rehearsals we started again with a new set.

Leaving Home Party opened in Harlow playhouse on 15th July to an almost full house. We performed 5 previews in total – and every show was different. By the time we reached Edinburgh late July the co-director, Caroline Byrne and I decided we needed a new ending and so we continued working. While others were out enjoying the early festival free comedy I was back in my room overlooking Arthurs Seat rewriting an ending. And it didn’t stop there, I rewrote the show almost every time I performed. Testing it on an audience, tweaking, reshaping, reworking.

And I guess this might have been the biggest thing that I learned from this whole process is just that. Doing 24 shows in a row is a huge opportunity to hone and craft a piece of performance.

And the fact of the matter is that it is not about ‘Where do I begin?’ But simply BEGIN! It’s not about starting but about the restarting and rewriting over and over again. In fact a start might not even look like a start but the key is to keep going and don’t ever stop starting…. until you’re finished.

So here’s the blog, phew! I’ve started it and finished it. I knew I’d get there eventually…. (I might re-write this sometime next week…)

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