As Newport based Flying Bridge Theatre Company prepare to launch their brand new audio comedy drama tonight, we talk to co-writer and director of the series Tim Baker about his experience bringing his theatre company into the digital domain…
What has it been like trying to set up a brand-new digital theatre company in lockdown?
Well, once we had brainstormed the basic concept – and realised that there were some pretty hefty technical issues and challenges that needed to be resolved, (and were) it was thrilling. All the time we used our sense of live theatre as a reference, so even though the company were remote from each other, we worked on the concept of us being in the same space together – as you would be in the theatre, and we worked “live” all the time – which means once the recording starts, it runs though non-stop to the end. Exciting stuff.
What drew you to the idea of writing and directing Astrid Investigates?
A number of things – crime stories are very popular and satirising the genre of the “film noir” through a private investigator through an audio medium appealed to us. Then importantly, the fact that Astrid Is a woman who will stop at nothing to get the results she wants. Some of the stories are pure fantasy and we’ve had a lot of fun with that. Lastly the fact that the whole series is set in a future Republic of Cymru, giving great opportunities for ironic and comedic political situations in the safe zone of the future!
How have you found directing a company remotely from your own home?
So so much of my craft is about communication, and physicality, tone, spatial awareness, eye contact etc play a huge part in the dimensions of communication that I rely on. We get tempted to think that Zoom can suffice but it cannot even hope to emulate being in a room with kindred spirits and working creatively. I’m sure it’s great for less artistic means, but I’ve found it difficult. Not impossible, but one needs to be really clear with lines of thought etc because you can’t assume that others always get your though line.
What can people expect when they tune in to listen to the Astrid series?
I would hope that they are surprised and thrilled by the breath-taking pace of the narrative, the range of comic styles employed, by the deftness of the script and the quality of the acting. It’s a “sit forward and listen intently” experience rather than a “do the dishes and eavesdrop” kind if thing, and I like that.
How would you like to see your digital theatre work at Flying Bridge Theatre progress after this?
Now after one series “in the can” so to speak I am really beginning to enjoy this. The fact that the episodes are always available for people to access is very exciting, as is the fact that work can be rehearse and aired in a fraction of the time that theatre takes. It’ll never replace live theatre for me, but the opportunities for new work, new writing and work by young people mean that there are some great possibilities for Flying Bridge Theatre Online in the future
What are your thoughts on the predicament that the theatre industry is in at the moment?
It’s dire, bleak and depressing. So many of my colleagues are freelancers who make incredible sacrifices to do what they do and love doing – and they are desperate. However – and I don’t have a magic wand – I sincerely believe that the experience of being creative together – in all the performance arts, and both as artists and audience is so innate in the human spirit that we will find ways through this, new ways of discovering together, a reborn theatre. No room for complacency, but lots of space for hope – and funding.
How have you been getting your cultural fix in lockdown?
I an a writer as well as a director, so the link there is words – the meaning of words and how we use words, in particular how we speak to one another.. So my fix is actually the same as it ever was – reading, writing, and creating. I’m also a (bad) musician and have enjoyed spending a LOT of time at the piano and guitar – my two great loves. And I live in the country in North Wales so walking freely without restrictions has been a huge source of inspiration and nutrition.
To tune in to listen to the first episode of Astrid Investiagtes, subscribe to Flying Bridge Theatre Company’s YouTube Channel here: https://bit.ly/3kmOkVQ
Words: Jack Barker