I am now just over half way through my maternity cover post as General Manager at Vamos Theatre and the company has impressed me from the word go.
As a midlands based theatre bod I was aware of Vamos's work before my arrival at the company but didn't know the team personally. I always looked in awe when I came across their tour flyers with their 60 date tour lists set out on the back page: it is safe to say the company is in demand! As someone who's done a lot of tourbooking in the past, I remember always wondering to myself how they managed to pull together such extensive tours, but now I'm on the inside and I know the not-so-secret-secret and it's very simple: the work is excellent and venues ask you back time and time again, keen to develop a relationship with a company who makes accessible yet challenging and niche work, that gets bums on seats.
So what's it like it the office? It's a lovely and creative working environment: my desk is nestled between plants, large, busy wall planners, colourful posters and flyers and, of course, numerous masks, which hang on the walls and lie on the tables. I didn't have much experience of mask theatre before, and one of the things I love is how the Vamos team refer to each mask as 'her' or 'him' and talk about them in terms of not just an imagined character, but as a person, with their own particular personality, history and attributes. Each one has their own established name too: a couple of my personal favourites are 'pig face' and 'sexy'.
Artistic Director Rachael Savage is a delightful bundle of energy, with an inspiring, can-do attitude and an irrepressible passion for the power of mask theatre to engage people from all walks of life. Sometimes I think she should have a white, fluffy cat on her lap, stroking it absent mindedly as she sits on her office chair, hatching her next plot for world takeover! Administrator/Workshop Facilitator/Actor/Generally-on-the-ball-about-all-things-Vamos person Kathryn Green is a pleasure to work with, who can coordinate projects with one arm behind her back whilst wearing a blindfold (well, maybe!).
One of the highlights of my time at Vamos so far was at a local care home back in May, where we were running a short project called 'Dancing the Day', with Penny Greenland of Jabadao (yet another wonderful lady linked to Vamos). This project acted as research for our upcoming 'Sharing Joy' care home tour this Autumn, which we are currently organising. It was great to get out of the office and experience the project delivery first hand. As a 1950s rock n' roll classic sounded up, an elderly gentleman resident offered me his hand, and with a twinkle in his eye said to me "C'mon baby!". Safe to say I danced with him to within an inch of my life as the 1950s classics kept coming. I was honoured and humbled to be a part of that special morning.
The company is now at a crossroads and there's a lot to do. We'd like to develop and expand the existing board and before too long will be looking for inspiring, knowledgeable people to join us as trustees. We are currently planning and fundraising for the company's brand new show touring in 2016 (watch this space!) and are expanding our work onto the international touring scene: links in France, Holland, Germany and Italy are being made and a more lightweight set is being re-designed with the international market in mind. I am particularly proud that during my time at Vamos so far the walkabout programme has expanded two-fold: our 'Midwives On Call' act has been touring to big-name festivals this summer, including Glastonbury, Lovebox and Wilderness, opening up a whole new audience to the joys of mask theatre - we are also planning to develop this element of the company's programme further for Summer 2015 touring.
My 10 month post started as Vamos opened Finding Joy to international producers at London International Mime festival, and will conclude with Sharing Joy performed to residents in the sitting rooms of Worcestershire care homes. Both are equally important pillars of Vamos's artistic programme and express the inclusive attitude of the company and the universality of mask theatre - world domination here we come!