WINDOW: Focus Group

WINDOW is Brighton Fringe's Arts Industry showcase created to develop and encourage artists ready for the next step in their career. We spoke to Stu from TOOT, whose show Focus Group* was selected as a WINDOW participant.

WINDOW: Focus Group

Could you first introduce yourself to the readers?

I'm Stu Barter from TOOT – I co-created our show Focus Group*, which I also perform in, and wrote music for, and I created the sound design. Phew.

Could you describe your act for us?

In our show the audience are participants in a Focus Group for Mr Kipling cakes – so you can expect to eat cake and talk a bit about Mr Kipling! What is gradually revealed is that it's really a story about the inner life of the Focus Group moderator. It's dark, funny and weird. I should also mention that the piece is inspired by a David Foster Wallace short story called Mr Squishy.

Why did you want to perform at Brighton Fringe?

We've performed all our shows thus far in Brighton and have always loved it – but this is our first time at the festival. The audience at Brighton fringe is amazing – people are very keen to see work which is new and unconventional, which is perfect for us…

Why did you decide to apply for WINDOW?

It was an opportunity to be more visible (like through a window, eh?!), and for more people to hear about our work, which is what we're always trying to achieve, really.

How did you react to being told you'd been selected to be showcased?

I burst into tears of wild joy! No, we were very pleased. You get a lot of knockbacks in the world of theatre so to apply for something and get it is always pleasing.

How has it helped you so far?

I'm not sure yet….I guess we'll know better how it has helped after we perform. It's a very good thing to say we're part of though.

What is the best part of your job?

I think performing is a real privilege. Not everybody gets to do it (plenty of people don't want to, of course!), so we don't take that for granted at all.

Conversely, what has been the most challenging?

Raising the money to make it happen can be difficult – having said that we've been very lucky to have been supported by the Arts Council and a fair few theatres who have provided money, time and space for us to create our work.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

We have a game of 'fives' before shows (it's like squash but you use a tennis ball and your hand as a racket). I always win though – so in a way it's demoralising for Terry and Clare (my fellow TOOT performers) – we should find a different ritual, really.

What is the process you go through when looking to create a new show? Are you very disciplined or do you need to be strict with yourself?

We've created three shows and the process has been slightly different each time – so I'm not sure we have a set way of creating ideas. I wouldn't say we were super disciplined in the rehearsal room. You have to be disciplined the closer you get to opening though.

What do you think has been the most dramatic change to the industry in the last five years?

I've only been involved in quite a specific part of the industry – but I'd say there's definitely an increased appetite for immersive, participatory work amongst mainstream audiences these days.

If you could have any other job in the world, what would it be?

I'd be a lawyer. I've watched things like The Good Wife and it doesn't look that hard. I think I'd nail it.

Imagine you possess the power to send one message back in time to 16-year-old you. What do you say?

I'd say "wash your hair – Kurt Cobain can pull of that look – you can't".

What advice would you give to young people who want to enter the industry?

Collaborate, meet with and talk to other artists as much as you can. Your peers are your lifeline.

Where can people find you on the internet, and find out more about your show?

Our website is:

Twitter: @tootmaketheatre


Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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  • Sienna James

    On 14 April 2017, 21:01 Sienna James Voice Team commented:

    Ooo, definitely sounds like a cool show! Great, lively interview :)

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