fanSHEN’s Rachel Briscoe on the creation of Lists For The End Of The World

In August 2015, I had a Skype interview for Live Theatre’s Live Lab Bursary. Uncharacteristically, I’d written the application very last minute, for a project I thought could be quite cool but hadn’t really figured out how to talk about – a show made up of lists that we’d source from people and then ‘dramatise’ in some way. In the interview, Gez Casey (Live Theatre’s Literary Manager) and Natalie Querol (The Empty Space) asked me questions which made me think hard about what I was proposing but there were none of the ‘but how is this theatre?’ questions that I didn’t yet have the answers to. So often you have to pitch for opportunities pretending you know a whole lot more about the work than you do – but this was more a conversation that helped me sort out my thinking. When the Skype ended, I believed even more in the show’s promise, but wasn’t holding my breath for the bursary.

Six months we were at Live Theatre making the show. Lists For The End Of The World is a project that Gez and Natalie believed into being. Looking back, that was a real turning point. We’d felt restless in London for some time, and Newcastle was on the list (yes, a list) of places to move to. Showing the try-out performance in Live Lab 2016, alongside fantastic NE companies Unfolding and Curious Monkey, made us feel like this could be our home. It was something about the audience too. There’s a section early in the show, where Clare reads a list of ‘Places I’d hide a body’, which we’d known was funny in rehearsals – but doing it for the audience at Live Lab, there was just these roars of laughter. It took her about five minutes to get through the list. I had this moment of thinking ‘these people are here to have a good time’ – and that’s not true of audiences everywhere, believe me!

That was February 2016. In May 2016, we went to ARC, who co-commissioned the show. The showing at Live Theatre had gone well but we knew the shape wasn’t quite right, that we needed a way of including content from that day’s audience, that we could make more of the relationships between the three performers. We also had all this incredible material that we’d gathered via social media and in workshops (my only regret with this show is that people have told us so much funny, beautiful and poignant stuff that we just can’t fit in the show). We were a bit worried that the overall tone of the show was a bit too lefty-arty, reflecting the people who’d contributed. We wanted more diversity than that. At ARC, we did more sourcing workshops – where we encountered different viewpoints, especially from some of the young people we met. That went in the show, along with some other new bits.

Then last week we came back to the show, making the version we’ll preview at Live Theatre and then take to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival. Again some more nips and tucks – and a new musical number. We hope that it’s still as funny – and still has those moments where the incredible stuff people have shared just stops you in your tracks. It’s still the same show but fuller, more crafted and with more voices. We can’t wait to bring it back to its –and now our- home.

Rachel Briscoe
Artist/ Director/ Dramaturg/ Producer

Lists For The End Of The World was winner of Live Theatre’s Live Lab Bursary 2016.

Lists For The End Of The World plays at Live Theatre on Friday 28 July at 7.30pm.
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