Getting down and dirty in Wolves and West Brom

Just spent the day with the design/making team in our new shop in the Mander Centre, Wolverhampton and our old shop in the Queens Square, West Bromwich.

This run of the Corner Shop (for those of you who don’t know) is a remount of the original production which took place almost exactly a year ago in West Bromwich.

Rob and Johnny discuss the options

Rob and Johnny discuss the options

Remounting a site specific production in a new location is bound to bring with it difficulties – the original show had been specifically made around the venue you were using then. It utilised the unique features of that space and tried to use them to make something that seemed utterly at home in that location. Inevitably, then, a remount elsewhere throws up a number of problems.

Our intention this time is to create something that is less reliant on the space we are using physically, but drawing on its relative location and what that means to the audiences who attend. We want, this time, to create a show that can be toured to other similar locations, if people want it. Therefore, the show’s significant relationship to its current location is based around the shopping centre itself, and what that means to people coming in to see a show about small local shops there.

But we’ve still got the complication of taking the original design and fitting it onto a new, differently shaped space.

Originally, we had a large shop with pillars every 3-4 metres and a staircase rising to a second floor about two thirds of the way back.

Our new location has pillars as well, but not so regular. It has a staircase, but it is right in front of the main entrance and it descends to a lower floor.

What they do have in common is that they are both a little grubby at the moment.

We are also working with new designers, as Purvin is busy on another project (luckily he is still involved to a degree and was with us for a short while today).

After much discussion between Rob (who is the principal designer/builder), Johnny (who is leading on the design/making), Deb (who is production manager) and me (one of the co-directors) we seem to have found a place for everything and a route for the audience that makes sense.

Following this discussion, we uprooted ourselves and went to West Brom, to the original location to see if there was anything that could be salvaged from there for the remount.

Walking into that space was odd, it still held the echo of the original production. The partitioning had been stripped out, but wallpaper still ghosted on the walls. The patina that the original design team had laid down around objects was still there, but the objects themselves had vanished. In the sweet shop, there was still the sickly sugar smell of mouldering confectionery.

Johnny in the old shop in West Brom

Johnny in the old shop in West Brom

For Johnny, who didn’t work on the original production, it was good to see what remained and how it related to our earlier chat, for us it triggered memories in a way that images can’t.

It feels like we are really getting into motion now.

Posted by Steve Johnstone co-director


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