Staging a theatrical revolution
27th June 2019
Applause Rural Touring are in full swing of their summer season of theatre. Last year 30,000 people saw one of their performances which take place in community centres, pubs and at outside. Eileen Leahy talks to Sally Lampitt to find out why this arts company has the edge
Tell us a little bit about the history behind Applause Rural Touring?
Applause Rural Touring is an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation based in Tunbridge Wells. We support communities throughout Kent and Sussex to access professional theatre, music and other performing arts. Working with artists, performing companies and a network of local promoters, Applause takes live performance into the heart of local communities filling familiar local venues such as village halls, community spaces, pubs and outdoor fêtes and festivals with exciting theatre, music, storytelling, and dance for everyone to enjoy.
Why do you target local rural communities?
Many of them are isolated and have difficulties in getting access to high quality arts, with poor transport links and the cost in money and time of travelling to the nearest town. Applause events provide direct access to inspiring performances, galvanising communities to come together, and last year over 30,000 people saw an Applause event in 92 different locations.
Tell us a little bit about what you are doing for 2019?
In addition to our Indoor touring programme to village halls, each year Applause Outdoors commissions several performing companies to create new outdoor shows to tour to fêtes, festivals and outdoor events across the region. The shows are booked by local promoters at highly subsidised costs, and this year we have seven fabulous shows enlivening over 50 different events with exciting performances! Look out for mischievous cavemen, a giant dodo, some cake baking birds, participatory painting, ping pong playing dancers, a 17ft tall tree – oh and a shark! All the seven shows this season are interactive, family friendly and will entertain, so audiences can support local events and enjoy fantastic performances.
What has the audience’s reception to your shows been like so far?
Fantastic! Arbor in particular has been drawing lots of attention. Smoking Apples Theatre have created a 17ft tall part man, part tree who tells the story of a tree pushed from his home and his fight to preserve his future. It is beautiful visual storytelling with an environmental message, and he was very popular at Unfest and Elderflower Fields. Enter Edem’s Comedy Cavemen also spreads an environmental message – in a particularly mischievous way – you’ll never look at recycling in the same way again after meeting them!
How do you decide upon the venues you perform in?
Local promoters looking for something different for their events contact us, some we have worked with for years, and others are booking their first shows with us this summer. The events range from very small local fêtes on village greens such as Rusthall to larger festivals. This year we will be at outdoor events until October so there’s lots of opportunity to see one of these brilliant performances.
What’s your USP compared to other touring theatre companies?
We are a member of the National Rural Touring Forum, and we provide the link between performing companies and artists and local communities. We simply couldn’t do what we do without the support of a network of committed, enthusiastic and passionate volunteer promoters. They see the value of giving their community access to brilliant performances in their own familiar spaces, whether that is a village hall, field or pub – that otherwise might be inaccessible to many because of distance, time or money. Applause subsides each performance by on average 30% helping to keep ticket prices low. We also support performing companies and artists through commissions and grants to develop their work specifically to tour to rural locations and give them the opportunity to tour their work to new audiences.
You have a very special collaboration happening with the Turner Contemporary in Margate, how did this come about?
We are delighted to be working with Turner Contemporary on an exciting new project. In October 2019, Turner Contemporary in Margate will host the Turner Prize and to celebrate this, we have co-commissioned performer Eric MacLennan to create an outdoor show inspired by JWM Turner and the forthcoming exhibition at Turner Contemporary Seaside: Photographed. The Open Air Drawing Room is a live art project where the audience will become the artists, creating hundreds of small watercolours of stones selected from a mini museum of 31 stones, each one from a different part of the coast of the British Isles and named after the atmospheric areas of the shipping forecast. These small paintings will later be amalgamated into one epic painting entitled A Sea of Faces, which will be exhibited at Turner Contemporary in the autumn and may even set a new world record for the largest number of artists creating a single painting! The Open Air Drawing Room is one of the seven shows touring fetes and festivals across the region this summer.
What will people get from seeing one of your productions?
We hope that anyone who sees an Applause show is entertained, surprised, challenged and inspired! Through Applause Outdoors at festivals, Applause Indoors in local village halls, and Inn Crowd which helps to reinforce pubs as a central community hub with specially created performances that are perfect for pubs, we work with some of the best professional performing companies and artists to take exceptional performances to all corners of Kent and Sussex.
*Here is a list of the 7 shows touring Outdoors this summer*
Bootworks Theatre: We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat
A show for small town communities, about small town communities. Step inside and pull-up a seat around the hull of the Orca, as we enter the movie world of Jaws!
Joe Garbett Dance: Doubles
Doubles brings bursts of colour in a collision of dance and ping pong. Watch as the dancers spin and slide in this playful pop-up performance that smashes expectations of dance and advocates the importance of safe, positive and accessible public spaces. Grab a bat and join in!
Eric MacLennan: The Open Air Drawing Room
A co-commission with Turner Contemporary Margate to celebrate the hosting of the Turner Prize. An exciting art project leading to the creation of hundreds of small watercolours by members of the public, the painting will be exhibited at Turner Contemporary this autumn.
Smoking Apples: Arbor The Tree
Part Man. Part Tree. 17ft tall. Meet Arbor. Follow Arbor as he strides around telling the story of a tree pushed from his home and his fight to preserve his future. Beautiful visual storytelling, stunning puppets with an environmental message.
Rust and Stardust: Tweethearts
A heart-warming interactive adventure, with live music, beautiful puppets and an enchanting tea shop setting. Tweethearts is a perfect relaxed introduction for young children to the magic of theatre.
Enter Edem: Comedy Cavemen
A posse of Palaeolithic cavemen characters causing mischief and spreading an environmental message. This team of toothy trouble makers will have audiences laughing and running to the recycling bin as they tell the tale of their time spent frozen in ice to be awoken into a world of plastic problems!
Dizzy O’Dare: The Dodo Rider
Interactive walkabout with giant Dodo Puppet, this dainty rider dazzles audiences around the globe, bounding along on the back of a rare galloping Dodo.
For more information on Applause and what’s on head to the website www.applause.org.uk