‘Because your site is alive and uncontrollable, your work must always be flexible, always ready to accept the unexpected opportunity’
Phil Smith, the Hidden City Festival handbook
POINTS OF DEPARTURE
Everything we do is underpinned by a set of socially engaged values and an informed approach to making work that encourages collaboration, open investigation and shared discovery. Read more about our underlying principles here.
Our work always begins with a fascination, a question, or some mystery that seems to demand investigation. At times this comes from a story or theme that has emerged from people or place and at others we go looking for the people and places that feel key to developing a theme or story.
Either way, we start by working with real places and real people, where everyone is a potential co-collaborator in a broad all encompassing exploration, following our curiosities and serendipities.
One of the greatest joys of making work anchored in the world around us are these unexpected connections and deeper meanings you find in each new meeting and tucked away street.
Although each piece is very different in form, the common factors at the core of each process are of sites, artists and communities coming together around a shared discovery and creation.
We always bring writers into the heart of everything we do. Whether words or text end up in the final work or not – they usually do – writers know how to shape and craft stories and no PECo project has ever set sail without one!
Our work also brings writers together with artists from other art forms and professionals from other disciplines as core collaborators – as well as finding ways to bring young and emerging folk into the mix wherever possible.
This multi-disciplinary approach requires commitment to an in-depth development period that regularly results in surprising discoveries, fresh perspectives for individuals, new methods of working together and original ways of imagining and making theatre.
The company’s Engine House formed from a desire to create a distinct identity for these process-focused stages of our work and an online space where the most interesting aspects of these could be shared more widely. You can visit the Engine House here to find out more.
A projects community ends up being comprised of all the people from the many walks of life that we meet along the way, who care about the work and who become a part in some way of what we are making.
To start this process, we will spend time exploring the site, theme, story, talk to people, research, bring everyone together at an inspire day, or a series of inspire sessions and share and chronicle the collective knowledge of these diverse groups. We also make sure we find ways for those who aren’t able for whatever reason to access us to get involved too.
Through this open approach, where everyone has something to offer, people whose voices aren’t regularly heard or listened to, find they have a say, as well as many who might never normally get involved in the arts.
The unique oral history, specialist knowledge, precious memories and passion for place that get unearthed in this way is essential to the work we make, opening our eyes and transforming the way we see; something that happens many times over for everyone involved.
However much a site might appear empty, forgotten or lacking in potential, we know it is only a matter of time before its unique spaces, atmospheres and hidden places begin to reveal secrets – real and imagined.
Every site is loaded with the history, politics and ambitions that shape its various qualities as well as being highly charged with the memories and emotions of the numerous people who treasure their own experiences of it.
Sometimes these emotions aren’t only positive, sometimes an opportunity to re-imagine and create a new, positive experience for a site is what is needed.
We never know where we will end up when we start out but each event only truly succeeds in our eyes if we have found how to listen to and embrace these common ingredients of process and been able to use them as the vehicle with which we move into a shared creative territory.
Performances might take any manner of forms; celebratory light and sound shows, immersive installations of hidden narratives uncovered by audiences exploring spaces, a drive-in where a building performs its own story to audiences listening on their car radios, [yes we really did that!] or a more conventional theatre show format.
What is likely is that they will not take place in the usual arts buildings or if they do that it won’t be in a usual way, that we will have found a way to value and share the discoveries, processes and people that helped fuel the work and that everyone involved in the process will be incorporated in the results.
What we aim for is to bring fun, discovery and adventure into everything we do and for each persons experience to be deepened and enriched by their involvement in it.