two women dressed as men with moustaches and colourful Hawaii shirts stand in a jungle, looking confused

Guest Blog: Alan and Ron on making shows in the context of climate change

| Tue 3 Dec 2019

Alan and Ron is a new climate comedy duo made up of our residency artists Alice Boyd and Rosa Garland. They will be taking their debut show, Two Super Super Hot Men, to VAULT Festival 2020. As a company, they are exploring how environmental sustainability can be at the core of their practice and content. Here they discuss the process and creative challenges of being sustainable at every stage of a show’s creation.

We set ourselves some challenges when we started to make Two Super Super Hot Men. We wanted to make a show about waste that didn’t generate any waste. We wanted to portray two characters who didn’t care about the environment, while making sure everything they do on stage is environmentally conscious. We also wanted to be two twenty-something women playing middle-aged men, and centre the show around an art form we had literally never done before… so there’s that.

Our characters are indeed two middle-aged foley artists, working in habitual comfort in their homely sound studio. Going into R&D with this concept immediately solved the problem of needing any shiny new props: we wanted to create a world that appeared lived-in, so all the beaten-up second hand props we found were perfect. Our experimentation with foley art meant that anything and everything became fodder for sound creation in the R&D week. Old wrappers (some of which are still in use), cardboard packaging, our friend’s bag of random ‘useless’ objects from his flat, were all helpful things that otherwise may have been thrown away.

A wonderful thing about the Creation Space is its size, which allowed us to pin up various mind-maps around the room throughout the week as ideas took shape. These were completely crucial, and we have yet to find a way around using paper in the rehearsal room. So much came out of those mind maps and we referred to them again and again throughout the week. All we can say for now is that we never wrote anything down flippantly, we used every inch of each piece of paper, and that when we no longer need them, they will be recycled.

As our week at artsdepot progressed, we realised our initial pitch of ‘minimalist’ set and props was fading into the distance. Clowns love to play with objects, and to have a concrete world to interact with. There is always a balance being negotiated, between our ideal concepts in our minds, and sustainable sourcing. At what point do you begin to shape the idea around resources you already have, rather than working out a way to bring your idea to life sustainably? We are still moving around different parts of this spectrum as we rehearse. It can be really fun to think of a crazy idea, and then ten crazier ideas about how to make it happen sustainably. The most obvious solution would have been to have next to no props - but we couldn’t make it that easy, could we?

Truthfully, ideas have also ended up on the backburner until we work out a way to bring them to life sustainably. For our work-in-progress performance, we will be missing a couple of bits of prop and costume that we are still working on - but as it turns out, these limitations are ripe for comedy. Repeatedly, we’ve overcome a challenge by deciding to lean in and draw attention to our limitations, which often results in something really funny. For example, we are missing second hand/sustainable fake leaves. A handwritten note saying ‘IMAGINE THERE ARE LOADS OF LEAVES’ is sufficing for now. Hopefully, the audience will end up laughing not only at the characters’ climate change-related foibles, but our own attempts to overcome these challenges in real time. Sustainability is a work-in-progress, and we always find it so beautiful to see performers laying their challenges bare, endearing themselves to us, and being unabashed try-hards at something ethical.

The biggest change in our mentality has been to place environmental concerns first and foremost in the creative process, rather than making it an afterthought. It’s been an incredibly positive experience so far. Sustainable practice makes you consider what you really need at every step, and think more carefully about why you are using every resource - which is something we should all be doing anyway. Our work itself is becoming more thoughtful, more generous, as we create a piece that is by necessity not hiding much from its audience. It delights in DIY, and is completely honest, which are things we love to see in theatre generally.

Moving forward into marketing and selling our tickets for VAULT Festival, we are lucky enough to be collaborating with ‘climate club’ design duo Adapt, who are designing all of our marketing and social media assets. With them, we are strategising ways of making our online marketing interactive and more engaging, so there will be less need for print. Our Instagram is run in character as Alan and Ron, and is directly engaging with political events surrounding climate change.

The next stages will be working out transportation, as we hopefully head to Brighton Fringe festival and eventually Edinburgh. We are also talking to our lighting designer about ways of lighting with low energy use. Every stage is a learning curve, and it is so refreshing to have carved out time to specifically dedicate to these challenges. We hope that our process of sustainable creation will help create a more heartfelt, generous and hilarious show.

Two Super Super Hot Men will be at VAULT Festival Fri 13 - Sat 14 Mar 2020. Find out more here. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram at @AlanAndRon.

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