Excavate has been producing memorable projects exploring the histories, identities, tensions and cultures of communities across the East Midlands since the year 2000.
We work in places and spaces that are often extremely challenging, but we know that where a story is told is as important as the way in which it is told.
It all began in 1997 when Julian Hanby and Andy Barrett were part of a small team working with a youth group to stage an alien invasion of Bilsthorpe, a mining village in the north of Nottinghamshire. Having created utter bewilderment amongst the audience, who were lead around the village which became a very weird place for the night, they decided that creating site specific theatre and working with local communities was the thing to do.
Our work since then has continued pretty much in the same vein – of creating visually spectacular shows that aim to surprise the audience in the manner in which they are staged. They are about theatre as an event, creating shows that we hope will lodge in the mind of all who participate and observe.
And we have been fortunate to work in all kinds of places across the region. Our play in Oakham imagined the town and county being run by a private company – put out to tender – and enabled us to tackle the social and environmental issues that really mattered to the community: house prices, supermarkets, farming, tourism and identity. One of our collaborations with Broxtowe Borough Council allowed us to inhabit the woods at Halloween and to bring a 1930′s manor house back to life, complete with butlers, cooks, servants and musicians. Our work with the University of Nottingham in Bilborough concluded with an audience of over seven hundred people, who were as equally surprised and excited by what was happening around them as those who came to Bilsthorpe all those years ago.
We thought long and hard what to call ourselves as we move into the future. We chose Excavate because that is what we try to do. To unearth stories that shape, define, and which divide or bind communities together. As globalisation begins in many cases to erase the local, we seek to redress the balance by working in and with communities to champion their uniqueness, celebrate their identities and investigate their pasts as they move into the future.
We are a theatre company that does more than make theatre. As time has gone on our work has evolved as we have found other ways to use the material that we gather from our research to ensure as wide and diverse an audience as possible. We have made books and films and websites and audio installations. We have run festivals and produced a body of research about our work in conjunction with the University of Nottingham.
Some of our shows have been very large, and some have been very small. But each one is made with an absolute commitment to the community in which we work. This means getting every detail right; it means listening to everything that is being said; it means offering opportunities throughout the process for people to engage; it means making sure that those who turn up to watch what we have been making will talk about it for months or years to come.
As we move forward we will continue to make theatre and other work of all shapes and sizes. And we will collaborate with a wider range of artists; directors, designers, choreographers and others who we think will excite the communities that they develop work with, and will take the quality of what we have been doing to a new level.
We want to make partnerships not just with people and communities in the East Midlands, but further afield too. We are part of a network of companies that work in towns and cities across the world and we are increasingly part of a discussion about how best to create truly thrilling theatre that is absolutely rooted in the community experience.
Over the next years we hope to develop projects with friends and fellow travellers across the globe and to find new and imaginative ways for people to share their stories with others whose experiences may appear very different and yet be surprisingly similar.