The White project is a partnership between Hippotrix and Catherine Wheels Theatre Company, creators of White back in 2010. Hippotrix are providing expertise in developing apps while Catherine Wheels are providing the artistic inspiration.
My PhD research at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland centres on artistic practice in Theatre for Early Years (known as TEY), in particular examining how Scottish artists create theatre experiences. I am interviewing theatre-makers, musicians, performers and designers in Scotland to see how their practice has developed over time, and whether there are significant commonalities in their approaches.
In the White project, asking questions about artists’ practice is one of the ways we are developing the app, so the input of Andy Manley, Ian Cameron, Shona Reppe, Gill Robertson, Paul Fitzpatrick and the rest of the creative team is absolutely vital. We are very lucky to have them actively involved in coming up with ideas, critiquing designs, creating new assets (objects which will appear in the app), providing music and voices, testing concepts and so on. It would be possible simply to watch a video recording of the show and extrapolate a design for an app, but the resulting product would lack the spark that makes White such an exciting and inspiring production.
By working with artists, we can tap into their ideas and skills, but also probe into their embodied knowledge, meaning practical and theoretical ‘know-how’, which is usually locked up inside their heads. For example, we are as interested in the ideas that didn’t end up in the show as those that can be seen onstage. We want to know which moments they think are the most important, or powerful, or funny, or touching. We want to know their opinions on what an app could be – perhaps based on apps they have used, but also based on their creative suggestions for apps that don’t yet exist. In short, we want them to be artists, to dream.
Apps are not theatre, just as they are not novels or films or paintings. However, they are works of art in a new digital medium. By collaborating with Catherine Wheels, we at Hippotrix, can share the best of both worlds, and hopefully create something new – the first theatrical experience for very young children on a tablet computer.