PRODUCER PROFILE: Trish Wadley
This week we've been chatting to Trish Wadley of Trish Wadley Productions in light of the launch of The Wider Earth at the Natural History Museum. The show opened this month and explores the life of a young Charles Darwin on his escapades around the world. Through stunning projection, soundtrack, puppetry and performance the show shines within the museum. We at Stage One are very pleased to have supported and continue to support the production and Trish in her development as a producer by awarding her a Start-Up Investment this year.
How did The Wider Earth come about? Can you sum up the years of process into a short story?
The Wider Earth came about when I was approached by Queensland Theatre in early 2017 who were looking to bring some of their productions to the UK. The story of young Charles Darwin’s voyage on HMS Beagle was fascinating to me and something I thought hadn’t been explored before. I met the creators, Nick and David from the Dead Puppet Society when I was home visiting family in Brisbane over the summer. We hit it off immediately, all coming from the same town and alumni of the same university. We all agreed the script would need development for UK audiences and a plan was hatched to bring them over for a 2 week development workshop as soon as we could get funding. Arts Council Australia came through with a grant within a few months and the workshop was set for May this year.
What have you found most challenging as a producer for this project?
The biggest challenge has been to bring theatre practices into a museum environment. Not so much a clash of cultures, but changing perceptions of how quickly things get done! Also there is not existing infrastructure in the building for a visiting theatre company. Building the theatre was a massive undertaking because we had to build a seating bank for 350 plus, a stage and a full lighting and sound rig. We also had to create dressing rooms and a production office. Defining the marketing position was hard, because people assume the Museum would offer an interactive experience rather than a traditional theatre presentation.
Working within the Museum for this production is brilliant. What inspired you to do this?
Whilst we were developing the workshop, I approached the Natural History Museum to see if they would offer advice on the script to give their stamp of credibility to the production. I also thought it would be the perfect venue to stage the play, given the challenge in securing a theatre in London for an unknown production. The Museum agreed to give us a space for the 2 week workshop and we hired Sebastian Born as our dramaturg and brought together a UK cast. On June 8 we staged an industry showcase at The Australian High Commission and the Museum gave us the go-ahead a few days later. We called Queensland Theatre and asked them to pack the set, puppets and costumes into a container for immediate shipping! So less that 15 months after that first conversation, we announced the show to open in early October 2018 for a 3 month run.
You have co-produced this production with Glass Half Full – what is the best piece of advice you could give our alumni on co-producing?
Two heads are always better than one! It’s important to be supported by your colleagues and they always bring something different to the table. You are also sharing risk and experiences. Make sure you share the same expectations up front and have a robust formal agreement in place. And it can be fun!
What does Stage One mean to you?
Stage One offers the most incredible network of fellow producers that you can draw on. It has been a vital supporter of this show through both Start Up funding and Investment funding. This offers increased credibility to other investors when they see Stage One supporting the project. It is so important that Stage One follows the Bursary winners on their career and supports the commercial productions they have managed to launch – that continuity makes the program so much more appealing.
What’s next for Trish Wadley Productions?
Next up Trish Wadley Productions would like to tour the show throughout the UK and we have already been approached by several producers across Europe. The Darwin story is universal and we have had a lot of bookings from schools so think we can continue that interest in the regions. And of course the show is quite different from the original Australian version so we would like to return there as the previous runs in both Brisbane and Sydney were sell outs.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job as a producer?
I love dot connecting – for me producing is all about putting people, places and ideas together – the energy is also infectious – producers are always positive and fun!
What’s one show you have seen and loved and will always stay with you?
I LOVED Network and saw it 3 times. I started out life as a TV journalist and the studio in the show was exactly like the one I worked at in the 80’s! I thought Bryan Cranston was unbelievable and the whole concept of having a restaurant on stage was brilliant. It truly is a story for our times and Lee Hall’s adaption made it even more so.