Why Undone Theatre? Creating Our Theatre Company
“Mmh. Wait! Undoing Theatre? No. Undone Theatre? Yes! Undone Theatre. Undone Theatre it is!”. It was another Zoom call or voice note where Chloe and I were brainstorming the name of our theatre company. It was November 2020 and, just as theatres all over the country had to close once more due to the pandemic, we decided to create a theatre company. A proper, professional one.
Chloe and I had worked together before, having collaborated on a few theatre projects and a whole arts festival at university. My personal highlight is sitting on the same table during Death in the Quad, the immersive and site specific murder mystery dinner I’d written and directed, and that Chloe had produced in her role as Director of the On The Rocks Festival, 2019. There was something about that night, when the protagonist collapsed, face first, into his dinner—"Murder!” cried the detective, and we all gasped—that made me realise just how fruitful our collaboration had been. We’d really pulled this off.
A global pandemic wasn’t included in those plans, but a theatre company most definitely was...
But it wasn’t until our next project, my rewriting of Oedipus Rex (Byre Theatre, 2020), once again produced by Chloe, that we started thinking about plans for the future, as we were both due to graduate that summer. A global pandemic wasn’t included in those plans, but a theatre company most definitely was—and on that November evening, after several attempts at puns and acronyms, we’d settled on the name: Undone Theatre. (At one point we almost called it Under The Rocks, as a nod to our first collaboration during the On The Rocks Festival—but this sounded too much like the name of a seafood restaurant, we decided. Perhaps this is a story for another blog post).
Chloe and I, when going out was still a thing...
So why Undone Theatre? As we looked back at the projects Chloe and I had worked on together, a common thread began to appear. Whether we were dealing with ancient Greek tragedy or new writing, our work always attempted to disrupt conventions, propose new ways of approaching old stories or devise imaginative stagings of bold new writing. So many of the stories we tell each other are so caught up with dominant ways of seeing, we thought, and we wanted to undo that, look at how we can construct other narratives that go against an oppressive mainstream. I know what you’re thinking: another small theatre company trying to change the world. How original! And it’s true—we’re setting no small goal for ourselves. But I’d rather we were too optimistic than be lacking a vision altogether. And if there’s no vision supporting new work, then why would you get involved in making theatre in the first place?
We are working hard to ensure that the stories we tell are authentically represented and that everyone who works with us is paid fairly.
When we created Undone Theatre, we decided that no theatre company is too small to make some change, and we cannot wait to harness the power of storytelling to build a better future. To us, this means disrupting dominant narratives onstage, but also, and crucially, it means working ethically behind the scenes. As we plan Selected Recordings of Us, our first show to be staged in London, we are working hard to ensure that the stories we tell are authentically represented and that everyone who works with us is paid fairly. During these challenging times, and in an industry where emerging artists are too often expected to work for exploitative fees or even for free, we are committed to showing that we value our collaborators’ work not only in words, but more simply and most effectively through fair pay.
As we fundraise to produce our show, we have great plans to build a theatre company that stages accessible, innovative work. We’re working towards a workshop exploring queer history and memory alongside Selected Recordings of Us, and we can’t wait to share LONDON/LONDRA with you this Autumn—an interactive, digital map representing a personal, queer and migrant topography of London. And so many other projects!