"Our aim is to connect people to their inner artist": Say It Again, Sorry?

We speak to Simon Paris, Artistic Director of interactive theatre company Say It Again, Sorry?, about their audience-centric approach to theatre, their plans for 2021, and the challenges faced as we come out of lockdown. 

"Our aim is to connect people to their inner artist": Say It Again, Sorry?

Hello! Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

Hi everyone, we’re interactive theatre company Say It Again, Sorry?, The hardest company name to confirm over the phone.

Describe Say It Again, Sorry? in 3 words.

  • Plucky
  • Innovative 
  • Curious

What is the premise of Say It Again, Sorry? and what is the inspiration behind it? 

Our aim is to connect people to their inner artist. We do this by engaging audiences in our creative process as well as on stage. 

With over ten years of professional experience working in the theatre, arts, education and media industry, the company ensemble devises the shows but our work truly comes to life when interacting with the public. 

Our door is always open to those who seek the same meaningful work we do, or those who want to learn and discover with us. This means that since we formed, our creative process, company operations, rehearsals, meetings and get-ins are free to observe and participate in. 

Our audience-centered model has led to members of the public deciding the company's legal name, painting our official headshots, contributing to the company blog, balancing a china teacup on an actor's head live on stage and starring in productions.

We’ve performed at some of the UK’s top arts venues and festivals, including Glastonbury Festival, The Big Draw Festival, Wilderness Festival, The Pleasance Theatre, The Omnibus Theatre and Nozstock: The Hidden Valley but it’s the people we’ve met along the way and created with that we consider to be our biggest achievement! 

With each project, our driving force is to engage our audiences in a way that puts the emphasis on their journey and experience, whilst allowing them to find empowerment and freedom in their own individual and collective creativity. 

You aim to connect people to their inner artist. Why have you chosen this mission, and how will you accomplish it?

We are very lucky as theatre-makers that our professions allow us to play as adults and get creative on a daily basis – so it’s easy to forget that a large number of people don’t have this opportunity and may not know where to begin to find a creative outlet. One of the most common initial phrases we hear in our work is, ‘I’m not an actor,’ or ‘I don’t paint’, or even ‘I can’t do it’, but it is fantastic to see such a transformation with a little encouragement and see people having so much fun engaging with the arts, within a matter of minutes! 

We are curious innovators and seek to accomplish our aim by exploring the untrodden path when it comes to actor-audience relationships and public engagement. We like to take risks and fully explore ideas with collaborators and partners who see the magic in what we do and want to take a risk with us. 

Our interactive art show and pop-up exhibition, Easel Peasel, tours to festivals and events around the UK. We’ve recently received a commission by Vehicle Arts to take the show to local high streets and front gardens.

We are currently taking our interactive show, The Importance of Being… Earnest? to Brighton Fringe Festival on the 25th -27th June. In this production, the audience have the opportunity to be cast in the show and interact with the actors and set, live on stage. During its creation, our rehearsals were open for anybody to attend and either participate or observe. All of our financial books are open and we organise mentoring sessions with early-career creatives whenever we can.

What are your plans for 2021?

In 2021 we’ll be taking our new show The Importance of Being… Earnest? to Brighton Fringe at The Warren: The McElderry from June 25th- 27th

If the Goddess of Theatre favours us  we will take the show to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe at The Pleasance, for the entirety of August.

We also plan to tour Earnest? across the UK and are looking at a new digital concept, another reimagining of a classic tale for young people to participate in and an eco-friendly site-specific interactive show – the sky's the limit! 

What impact do you hope your shows will have on audiences?

We’d like our audiences to leave our shows thinking, ‘That could have gone so wrong, in so many places but it didn’t – and I had a part in creating it!.’ We hope that they leave feeling confident and inspired to try something new and that they matter to theatre and its evolution, and don’t just exist as a sounding board’.

Did any artists in particular inspire or influence your work?

Rafe Beckley massively inspired our operation as a theatre company and carved a path to tangible solutions for a more ethical theatre production. John Wright, Viola Spolin & Keith Johnstone impacted the way rehearsals are led and run, whilst the evolution of meta-theatre and farce paved the way for this show to be the next iteration of that journey. Current working companies include Mischief Theatre and Sh!tFaced Shakespeare. They’re both alike in the way they challenge the form of theatre and subvert what audiences generally expect in a theatre performance, which is our closest comparison really. Then again, we sometimes feel as if we are returning to the Globe, at a time when the audience was an intrinsic part of theatre’s creation and survival. 

Other than that, any show that it is impossible to nap to, we’re fans of.

Did you face any major challenges during this project?

Arriving ready to work just as theatres open after an entire year and a half of lockdown is a very strange experience. Our show was meant to be part of a tour and now we find ourselves in a precarious financial position but determined to deliver our aim. Coupled with the fact that our show is highly interactive after a major pandemic, we had a lot to consider! 

We want to reassure our audiences that interactive theatre can be delivered safely and that it is relevant, much more so now we are entering a new phase as restrictions are lifted.

Have you noticed any changes in the industry? If so, what?

Audiences are becoming more interested in experiences and how theatre can enter their lives and not just pass them by, they want to get involved.

Do you have any advice for young people interested in doing your kind of job?

Ask for help and do the thing. If you don’t receive the help, do the thing anyway and then endeavor to help someone else. Contact us or come to our open rehearsals, let’s have a coffee and create a new show together!

How can people find out more?

Website: www.sayitagainsorry.co.uk 

Socials: @sayitagainsorry 

Otherwise, come to an open rehearsal & let’s hang out!

Author

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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