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    If you have any questions or enquiries, please do get in touch by phone at 020 7419 4841 or email at foh@cptheatre.co.uk.

  • How We’re (Still) Doing Just Fine: The Journey of Shepard Tone Theatre

    Image: Alex Brenner

    As Shepard Tone Theatre prepare for one more London outing of their award-winning show Coming Out Of My Cage (And I’ve Been Doing Just Fine), an interactive investigation into the legacy of the hit song Mr Brightside by The Killers, with comedy, cabaret and karaoke, they reflect on making new work, finding an audience, and the entire journey that has brought them to this point.

    Coming Out Of My Cage (And I’ve Been Doing Just Fine) began with Alex Hick (director) and Tim Chapman (performer), the two founders of Shepard Tone Theatre in 2018. It saw its first WIP stagings in 2019 at Pleasance and Camden People’s Theatre (CPT) scratch nights, before officially opening at VAULT 2020. 

    Since then, Shepard Tone has grown to include more core personnel: Adam Gregory (dramaturg, and who some of you may recognise from CPT's box office) & Hannah Follows (performer). Coming Out Of My Cage has been a part of CPT’s iconic Sprint Festival, sold out a month-long run at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and completed a 13-venue nationwide tour. We are now heading back to where it all started for a main-stage run at Pleasance London, 15-18 May 2024.

    But how did it end up like this? We’ve been incredibly lucky with the journey we’ve been able to take Coming Out Of My Cage on, but there are a few key moments that we recognise as the turning points along the way. 

     

    The Hustle & Grind 

    VAULT 2020 was a game changer for us, but in particular being awarded “Most Anticipated Show” placed us on the map. The award was publicly voted for, and enough time has passed for us to admit that we were insufferable in our efforts to win the title. We each quite literally individually messaged every person we had ever met to vote. It seemed silly at the time, a side quest whilst we probably should have been focussed on making the show we were so hellbent on advertising (which was far from finished). We’ll never know quite how much sway the award had on our final ticket sales, or our subsequent journey, but it feels like the first true success to us. 

    It would be remiss of us to continue on without saying how devastated we are that VAULT has had to close its doors. There needs to be spaces for emerging talent to take chances, and push for greatness. We don’t know what the answer is, but we really hope there is something that comes in its place soon. In the meantime, we know places like Pleasance and CPT will continue to support new work, and we are so thankful for what they continue to do.

     

    Out With The Old… 

    Following VAULT, we were offered a full slot with Underbelly at Edinburgh Fringe… 2020. 

    The road to Edinburgh can be daunting and, like many others that year, our road was a lot longer than we had originally anticipated. We didn’t make it to the Fringe until 2022. In many ways it felt like a set back; it was hard not to feel like that at the time. With hindsight, it gave us a fantastic chance to rework the show, especially with COVID amplifying the importance of community. 

    One of our biggest takeaways from the Fringe was the importance of not being afraid to let go. We would be consistently redrafting entire sections that hadn’t landed the way that we hoped they would with an audience. Some came naturally, like a revelation that seemed so obvious it was hard to understand how we didn’t think of it to begin with. Others we had to sit with and pick apart as a team. Artistically, we have grown through this process. It allowed the show to breathe, creating room for new additions such as a bespoke playlist curated by each audience (which is now one of our favourite parts of the show and logged on our Spotify). 

     

    Move With Your Audiences

    Our next big goal was to take the show on the road. Due to other people’s career paths changing, we were on the lookout for a new producer. Enter Jess Donn. Thanks to our success in Edinburgh, and the sheer force of nature that is Company Associate Producer Jess™, we secured a nationwide tour for early 2023. 

    Something we had a much clearer picture of from the Fringe run that we harnessed when planning our tour was our audience demographics. We had originally thought it would be predominantly students aged 18-25. But we actually ended up performing mostly to families (parents with teenage children), large groups of friends looking for something different, and music lovers aged 35-45. We built this knowledge into how we pitched the show, building a tour from an audience perspective. 

    For part of the tour, we partnered with Red Ladder, who arranged for us to perform at three community spaces in Northern England, as part of their initiative to bring theatre to venues convenient to local audiences. This brought its own unique set of challenges - reblocking in a flour mill, volume adjustments in a housing society meeting room and a serious conversation with a pastor about language in church halls (they were not f*cking ready). In all sincerity, it meant a lot to us to be able to do this, as it allowed us to ensure, even as a young company, that Shepard Tone stands by its aims that everyone should be able to experience the joy of a night at the theatre. 

     

    And Now…   

    We make an effort to document all of our applications, successful or unsuccessful, on our website. We hope by sharing these others creating their own work might find something useful in our processes! Please also don’t hesitate to reach out to us - we love meeting and connecting with other artists. 

    The beloved cage has been behind the sofa for over a year now, but we are so excited to be dusting it off and returning to London (15-18 May, Pleasance London). Six years after its conception, it’s such a special feeling to look back over how far this silly little show has come. In the words of Brandon Flowers himself - we didn’t know it was going to grow into what it’s become since, but we knew that it was good. 

     

    We can’t wait to see you there! 

    Lots of love, 

    Shepard Tone x 

    Shepard Tone

    “Such a crucial part of the UK theatre ecology… Developing artists and audiences”

    The Guardian