The start of Rough Mix 2012 is suddenly upon us. After several months of preparations, we start work at 9.30 on Monday morning at Dance Base in Edinburgh.
This is the third time we've run Rough Mix, and I thought it might be interesting to write about what the philosophy behind it is. I was reading in The Guardian last weekend about the Two Things game (link here
). This is where you have to summarise something in a two phrases - the Two Things about trading stocks are "Buy low; sell high", and the two things about theatre are, apparently, "Don't forget your lines; don't run into the set". The most interesting ones are those that are slightly contradictory: for example, medicine is summed up as "do no harm; to do any good you must risk doing harm". I was trying to think what the Two Things about Rough Mix might be and my current thought is "Don't think too much; think about everything". The idea of Rough Mix is that it's an opportunity for artists to have some time to play with an idea, preferably one that they wouldn't otherwise get an opportunity to play with - it's an opportunity to push yourself out on a limb without having to worry about what happens. This may sound like something that is part of an artist's job description, and I think we fondly imagine that that is what we always do; but the reality is that often we're trying to meet a deadline, or fit a brief, or meet expectations, so the idea of taking a big risk or making a change in direction is something you maybe feel you'll do next
time. The idea of Rough Mix is to take away the fear (or at least lessen it) by allowing space and time to play.
The other crucial element. from my point of view, is that it's also an opportunity to meet and spend time working with artists from other artforms. We can often get trapped in our own self-referential way of working, and there's nothing like seeing the way other people approach their work to make you think more carefully about it. When I worked with the visual artists Sans facon on what became Walden
at Rough Mix in 2006, I was fascinated by the way they looked at props not just as things to objects to be used to tell a story but as purveyors of meaning in their own right. By contrast, when I was working with the artist David Shrigley last year, he was always concerned that an object on stage would read as what it was and nothing more - if it was a fridge, it had to read as a fridge. Both approaches have had an effect on the way I work.
This is one of the best things about Rough Mix: finding something new and learning from it. Which reminds me of a phrase that is in itself a sort of Two Things for how to continue to work fruitfully: "The more you learn, the less you understand" - this is a painfully simple but vital lesson to understand, or perhaps to just know.