Introducing our Associate Practitioners 2021
imitating the dog is over twenty years old now and we haven’t really celebrated the milestones that have marked the company’s evolution; ten years, twenty years etc. We’re not so good at this kind of thing, maybe because we’re slightly embarrassed about our longevity, or wary of public displays of affection, or maybe, we’re just plain superstitious, believing such a gesture in the marking of this passing of time will be the jinx that finally finishes us off. However, over this period, now spanning decades, we have created a body of work that I feel stands the test of time, each show informed by and building on the work of that immediately preceding it, often working from the same pool of performers, technicians, designers, stage managers, workshop leaders and so forth. A body of work with a body of people working together, working for the company, working on the present show with all that this entails so that there can be another one. So that we can work again. In order that we can have a future. Such is the cycle of theatre.
We came up with the term Associate Practitioner to recognise that broad pool of artists and creative technicians that we have regularly worked with, some of whom go back decades, others over the last two years. To do that thing that we’re not always good at – public acknowledgement. We want to acknowledge the importance of their role in the making process, their absolute centrality to the success of the performances when the work is presented to audiences – the moment to which all our energies are bent towards.
Making the kind of theatre we make isn’t easy – not that it compares with the hell of tin mining or anything. Let’s not overstate our case. But it can be painful and difficult. Almost all who participate in our process have a creative input. Very little can be described as the mere servicing of something that already exists. Yes, we have the core directorial team and yes, creative responsibility lies with us, but the Associates have an important role too. I like the term ‘associate’ because it implies a person or a group that forms around a common purpose. And that common purpose is always the work, the show, the performance, the gig, the company: imitating the dog to which in one way or another, we are all associated with.
Of course, we would hope that everybody in the room, when they make work with us, has a say or at least has an opportunity to contribute creatively to our process. To this extent, the Associates are not placed in any hierarchical order, but it does acknowledge and celebrate their history of working with the company and the skills they’ve accrued and the methodologies they’ve absorbed. That experience is there, anyway, in the rehearsal room, carried forth from the previous shows. It can’t, nor indeed should it be, ignored or hidden from view. One of the things I admire most about our Associates is how generous and open they are in welcoming new collaborators and often these collaborators becomes associates in due course: batons are always being passed on.
It’s interesting to note that when we came up with this definition of Associate Practitioner and the time period that opened the door to inclusion (two years) how large the group of associates became. No doubt this group will ebb and flow over the lifetime of the company, but we hope that association will always be both an acknowledgement of collaboration and also be of some use in the wider world – that being associated with imitating the dog is something to take pride in.
Photograph by Ed Waring from rehearsals at Leeds Playhouse for Dr Blood’s Old Travelling Show 2020