Fairies, Mechanical Dolphins and Raves: Interview with Alan Lane

To celebrate Midsummer and the RSC’s inventive way of celebrating this, in the form of The Fairy Portal Camp, Impact Arts spoke to theatre company Slung Low’s Artistic Director, Alan Lane. From his collaboration with the RSC to advice for students breaking into the theatre industry, Alan gives his insight into being the only theatre company to open a portal to the fairy world.

Can you tell us about your inventive theatre company, Slung Low? What makes you so unique?

Well, we make work outdoors; ambitious, political, large work in non-theatre spaces. We pay a company wage so everyone gets paid the same no matter who you are, and entry to performances at our venue in Leeds is all Pay What You Decide. And, to my mind, we are the only theatre company ever to try and open the portal to the fairy world through a ceremony.

 How did the collaboration with the RSC to create The Fairy Portal Camp come about?

We’ve had some really good conversations with Erica Whyman (RSC Deputy Artistic Director) and Geraldine Collinge (RSC Director of Events and Exhibitions) about how certain types of work can attract different people in different ways. For example, when you are outdoors, with fire and free food and a mechanical dolphin, that tends to catch the eye of those who might not think theatre is for them.

What events and activities will you be organising for audiences to transport them to the fairy world?

All sorts: A new form of Ceilidh. DINNER FOR EVERYBODY. RashDash (a theatre company who blend music, dance and performance) are going to do a fairy rave around a bonfire. Theatre company School of Night are going to improvise mad stuff. Willow weaving and face painting. Opera singing. A band. Oh god so much. And a mechanical dolphin boat.

What inspired and influenced your ideas for The Fairy Portal Camp?

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, especially Erica’s recent production, which will be in performance in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at the same time as our camp. The raves I went to as a kid. Generosity. The idea of community. Books I read as a child, about camping and surviving. Jamie Oliver. Rash Dash. School of Night.

We’ll be visiting the camp to try our hand at willow-work, open the portal between worlds and attempt to spot mechanical dolphins – but which activity is unmissable?

Rash Dash Fairy Rave each evening and dinner. Start with those two and you won’t want to leave.

Sum up The Fairy Portal Camp experience in three words.


Do you have any other projects ongoing?

I’m the Artistic Director of the national commemoration of the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. That’s a bit different to this. All stories from soldiers and orchestras and stuff. It’s on 1st July in Manchester.

Do you have any advice for students who want to get involved in the theatre industry?

Be useful. The days of a non-commercial theatre industry are numbered, at least outside of London. It’s been ruined by the market and income generation being used as the measure of success.

It’ll all be poor replicas of commercial houses in the north soon enough. And, looking on the sunny side, that’s brilliant because there’s no false promise now. Theatre makers are returning to what they always were. We’re the story tellers. The truth sayers. Never craven. Always brave. Always inventive. Wild. So don’t worry about a career – it doesn’t exist. Make the thing you want to make, with the people you want to make it – accept no substitutes, be useful, be pragmatic, be adventurous. Learn to drive a van and edit a short video. Write your own marketing copy. And hold on to the people who make you better than you thought you could be.

Amy Wilcockson

The Fairy Portal Camp takes place from Monday 20th to Friday 24th June, at the Avonbank Gardens, Stratford-upon-Avon. For more information on the RSC’s Fairy Portal Camp, see here, or to book tickets to performances of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, see here

For more information on Slung Low, see here

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