New Theatre Company The Coterie Launches To Expose The Work And Process Of Artists Who Are Women
Today marks the launch of London based theatre company, The Coterie. The organisation will champion three playwrights to create theatre that explores form, innovates and isn't afraid to take risks. Having won the Sky Academy Arts Scholarship 2016, the company, lead by Caitlin McLeod as Artistic Director and Martha Rose Wilson as Producer, will create a radical home for outstanding artists to develop content in bold and ambitious ways. Having met as part of the original Old Vic 12 in 2015, Caitlin and Martha have a will to create an environment within which playwrights are given the right balance of support, challenge and creative freedom to produce work that is truly extraordinary and without confines.
The Coterie will collaborate with each playwright separately to develop a unique piece of work over 18 months. Unlike a traditional commission where the playwright often writes in isolation to create the first draft of a play, the company will draw on devised theatre methods to give the playwright practical support and resources to road test their ideas as they are being made.
The company will seek to bring audiences into intimate contact with the creative process by providing a "making of" platform to share thoughts and ideas, that will encourage a dialogue that feeds directly into the work.
Caitlin McLeod said, "I believe art and the artist are both unfinished entities. Their strength lies in the fact that they are living organisms, ever-responsive to the world. So instead of asking an artist to define themselves by prematurely creating a product (as so often happens), we are asking artists to define themselves by their process. As soon as you decide what a piece of work is, or indeed what an artist is, you kill it. As The Coterie our strength lies in the fact that the outcome is unknown; it's alive. The traditional commissioning model for playwrights can have its limitations; The Coterie will offer time, financial support and practical resources to create something that is truly remarkable - that could be a play, a cabaret, a musical or a performance piece. The focus will be on process over product. We believe that the more attention and space you give an idea, the more robust the final piece will be."
The Coterie are working with three recognised playwrights to kick off their first year - EV Crowe, Bea Roberts and Sonali Bhattacharyya.
EV Crowe is a graduate of the Royal Court Young Writer's Programme and recently presented The Sewing Group at The Royal Court, gaining four star reviews from Financial Times, The Observer and The Stage. Previous work includes Brenda (HighTide, Yard Theatre); Hero (Royal Court, developed by NT Studio); Liar, Liar (Unicorn Theatre); Kin (Royal Court, directed by Jeremy Herrin) and Young Pretender (nabokov, Edinburgh Fringe and on tour).
Bea Roberts has won a series of awards for her writing including the Leverhulme Arts Scholarship with The Egg Theatre, Bath; JB Priestley Award; Toast of the Fringe Award, Plymouth Fringe Festival and Theatre503 Playwriting Award. Her recent work includes, Infinity Pool: A Modern Retelling of Madame Bovary (Edinburgh Festival, Bike Shed Theatre / Plymouth Theatre Royal / Tobacco Factory Theatre); And Then Come The Nightjars (Theatre 503 / Bristol Old Vic Theatre); and Scoop (Pins and Needles Productions / Lyric Hammersmith).
Martha Rose Wilson said, "Our process of making theatre will be built and shaped by the artists themselves, which is something Caitlin and I have separately been working towards for a number of years. We're thrilled to be launching this company with some of the most talented and unafraid artists we know.
Sonali Bhattacharyya was one of the original Old Vic 12, with Caitlin and Martha, and is currently a member of The Orange Tree Writers Collective. Theatre credits include 2066 (Almeida), Twelve (Kali Theatre), These Four Streets (Birmingham Rep), A Thin Red Line (Kali Theatre, Birmingham Rep & Black Country Touring); and the South Bank Show Award nominaTEd White Open Spaces (Pentabus Theatre).
We are operating in an unequal world; working with female playwrights is our way of actively addressing that imbalance. The Coterie follows Stella Duffy's belief that, 'we have a responsibility to make the world a fairer place, and sometimes you have to do a little social engineering to make that happen'".
The term 'the Coterie' was found in a young adult fiction series about dragons and magic. The Coterie was also a famous set of intellectuals of the 1910s. This group occasionally referred to themselves as the "Corrupt Coterie".
Today The Coterie is: a group of people who unconditionally see each other, who are radically connected, and are able to maintain a community no matter the changing external conditions. The 'magic' that links this group together is a set of principles about how to live in the world, and therefore how to make art.
The Coterie will now begin workshopping with each writer and there will be a winter presentation of each of the three projects (unfinished). The Coterie's ambition is to produce the projects, either independently or in tandem with other partners.
In twelve month's time The Coterie will then recruit three more playwrights, continuing the process with these new artists. As well as supporting the three resident playwrights in its first 18 months, The Coterie will develop a network of writers at different levels of experience, backgrounds and disciplines. They aim to offer in-kind support to emerging writers who are similarly looking to create work outside of the norm.
- The Coterie is supported by Sky Academy Arts Scholarships. For more information, visit sky.com/academy
- Both Martha and Caitlin are advised by Company Advisor, Georgia Gatti (Producer at The Old Vic), and The Old Vic supports The Coterie, providing space and time for the team to work within.
Georgia Gatti said, "The Old Vic 12 was established to inspire creative collaboration and to provide a home at The Old Vic for artists to work and learn. We are delighted to be supporting two of our Old Vic 12 alumni in this exciting next step and look forward to seeing what happens next for The Coterie."
- The Coterie is supported by the RSC. The RSC's The Other Place in Stratford-upon-Avon is the creative engine room of the company and is committed to supporting artists in the early development of work. Some of this work will be produced by or with the RSC, whilst other work may find homes elsewhere, having received support from us.
RSC Literary Manager Pippa Hill said, "We're very pleased to support The Coterie in their mission to create ambitious work in an artist-led way. And we believe in supporting innovative new companies - so are excited by The Coterie's approach and processes in creating this new work."
Photo credit: Helen Murray