“We loved that by using TicketCo Media Services we were able to reach people across the globe,” Wayward Productions
By Shaun Reynolds
With no cameras, no way of live streaming to a global audience, and no experience of selling their own tickets, it seemed London-based Wayward Productions needed help from multiple suppliers to make their COVID-19 restricted show a success.
Wayward Productions is a small theatre production company that champions the industry’s future talent while creating a high-quality programme of work that is fresh, original, and accessible to its audience.
The company’s latest project was to manage their planned reading of Max Porter’s critically acclaimed book Grief is the Thing with Feathers in a COVID-19 secure way. Hosting a live audience was out of the question, so Wayward Productions turned to TicketCo Media Services to provide a smooth, stress-free, swift and financially viable way of delivering their show.
It marked the beginning of a new chapter in theatre for Wayward Productions’ founder Judith Dimant MBE and her colleague Jessie Anand.
Judith spent 25 years working for international touring theatre company Complicite before setting up Wayward Productions. In that time, she produced all Complicite’s work and toured shows across the globe. Judith got her start in the industry working at the Pleasance, where she was responsible for booking much-loved comedy stars like Graham Norton, Frank Skinner and David Schneider in their early days.
Jessie meanwhile runs her own opera company, Spectra Ensemble, and recently won awards for her productions of BlueThunder and Orlando which sold out at VAULT Festival in 2019.
But live streaming was a fresh concept for the pair. So, with no experience of broadcasting shows via the internet, how do you go about streaming your production to the entire globe? We caught up with Wayward Productions to find out how TicketCo Media Services makes the seemingly impossible a very simple task.
Live stream event
Grief is the Thing with Feathers is a hybrid of prose and poetic styles written by 2016 Sunday Times PFD Young Writer of the Year Max Porter.
The 39-year-old from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, has a huge global following after his book was adapted into a play in 2019 and performed in cities including Dublin, London, and New York.
Wayward Productions had plans to showcase Max’s work further this summer by combining poetry, music, and theatre into one live production. But following the 2020 narrative, plans had to be cancelled. However, when an alternative method of showcasing Max’s work via live streaming was presented to Wayward Productions, they embraced it.
“Max has read passages from his book at festivals before, but he has never read it to an audience from cover to cover,” explained assistant producer Jessie Anand of Wayward Productions.
“Initially we had a product to sell, but no way of sharing it with our target audience. That’s when TicketCo Media Services came along.”
Smooth user experience
Wayward Productions’ decision to partner with TicketCo Media Services HD quality pay-per-view streaming service came after Wise Children’s successful online broadcast of the critically acclaimed Romantics Anonymous at the Bristol Old Vic in September.
Jessie explained: “Poppy Keeling of Wise Children gave TicketCo Media Services a glowing reference after they successfully streamed Romantics Anonymous into the homes of thousands of people globally.
“Despite the reference, we did not want to enter a new way of broadcasting our productions naively – so we did shop around and make several other enquiries. But it quickly became clear that the service TicketCo could offer was the simplest for our customers to engage with.
“Not only that, TicketCo is cost-effective for us too and by using a platform where we can base ticket sales and live streaming in the same location means our customers’ online experience is smooth and simple.”
Being a small business proved no barrier for Wayward Productions either.
Judith and Jessie are the company’s only full-time workers and strive to engage with the next generation of theatre makers through their work, which has been taken abroad to locations including Amsterdam and Berlin.
“Live streaming is not an area Judith or I have explored before and we have no equipment to use,” said Jessie.
To combat this, Jessie drafted in Hackney-based filming company Karma to shoot the book reading.
She added: “TicketCo’s flexible platform meant we could bring in our filming company of choice to film the show for us.
“In terms of streaming the event, things ran very smoothly and the process was simple to follow. We could not quite believe that no-one from TicketCo had to be present to push a button or something equivalent. It was a great experience and the feedback we have received so far has been encouraging.”
Selling their own tickets for the production presented Wayward Productions with a fresh challenge too.
“In every other circumstance, a venue has sold tickets on our behalf,” said Jessie. “Our broadcast of Grief is the Thing with Feathers presented us with a new task, but TicketCo facilitated our ticket sales.
“We were pleasantly surprised how easy it was to monitor sales. Overall, our experience of using TicketCo was excellent.”
By broadcasting Max’s reading of Grief is the Thing with Feathers, Wayward Productions were able to reach a global audience – some of whom had watched last year’s play when it toured several cities across the world.
Jessie added: “We loved that by using TicketCo Media Services we were able to reach out to people across the globe. Grief is the Thing with Feathers has been translated into 30 different languages worldwide, so in hindsight it perhaps was a good thing that we could market Max’s reading to the world.
“Some people that tuned in would not have been able to watch last year’s stage show, but now they had the option to tune in on a wet, cold, autumnal evening and watch the stream.”
And at the request of Wayward Productions, the book reading was only broadcast live with no playback option available.
Jessie explained: “We wanted the reading to be as ‘live’ as possible. I understand it wouldn’t work for every production, but we wanted our show to have a live feeling to it where everyone watching is literally on the same page.
“Though it didn’t maximise convenience for everyone, it was our decision and although many would’ve watched the broadcast alone, I’m sure it would’ve felt like they were part of an audience. At least we hope so.”
Wayward Productions are now exploring ways TicketCo Media Services can be part of their performances in the future.
For those interested in exploring what live streaming can provide to theatre production companies, Jessie had a simple message.
“Times are hard, and companies have to be light on their feet when there is so much uncertainty around,” she said. “But watching a stream from the comfort of your own home clearly appeals to people, even more so for those that are swayed by a live performance.
“I believe the seasons will have a big impact on the popularity of streaming and that the long autumn and winter months will see a boom in the popularity of streaming while we are limited to what we can do outdoors.
“We will certainly look to use TicketCo again in the future, having a platform that combines a quality streaming service with a ticket sales system really appealed to us and we are thrilled with the results.”
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