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That's Shallot – A chat with Orange Skies Theatre about WILD ONION

Rachel Elizabeth Coleman, one half of Orange Skies Theatre that is bringing WILD ONION to Stage Two, chatted to us about the creative process, being part of our artistic programme and all things onions!

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Rachel Elizabeth Coleman, one half of Orange Skies Theatre that is bringing WILD ONION to Stage Two, chatted to us about the creative process, being part of our artistic programme and all things onions!

Firstly, why onions?

Haha, great first question! The onions are many things – it first came from a preoccupation of Daisy’s, who wrote the show. She was finding lots of analogies between young people and wild onions. So at first, it was just referenced in the script, and then we realised, ‘Oh wait, we actually need the onions in the space to tell this story’.

So the onions became really central to depict how complex and layered (excuse the pun!) people are and as a device through which we tell the story. We use them in so many ways and so many different kinds. They’re unstated but filled with potential, and they make for a multi-sensory experience for all!

Where did the idea come from?

We had worked on a different version of the show before COVID. But in October last year, Daisy returned to the script and decided she wanted to tell a completely different story, one that reflected the celebration of support networks, friendships, and chosen family. All the things that have gotten us through the hardship of the last couple of years.

What is your creative process?

We began with the script, which acts less as a rulebook and more as a facilitator of what happens in the show. We look past the lines and into the intention of each moment, the journey of each character, and how these all slot together. Then, we get in the room and start devising tasks which reflect the intention. This is done really quickly, which has been crucial to this show where the physical storytelling is almost more important than what’s said.

The script starts to change shape a lot from here on out. Then, we choreograph and interrogate the narrative and character to deepen emotional intentions once we’ve got that down.

Describe the show in 3 words?

Joyful, riotous, huggable

What should people expect?

Expect a blend of big ‘wow!’ moments mixed in with more quietly moving reflections on friendship, care and support. Expect to be moved, expect to want a hug afterwards, and expect to laugh. Expect to be our besties when you leave. Expect the smell of onions and an onion splash zone!

What do you hope people will take away?

We want audiences to feel ‘heart-warmed’ and take time to reflect on the people in their lives who support them to become who they are. We want people to call their best friends afterwards and tell them they love them and are proud of them. We want people to walk away and know they are cherished, challenged, and supported, and that’s how we grow.

What are you doing with your leftover onions?

This is a great question! We use over 100 onions in every show and the ones that make it out whole either get reused in our next show or get cooked up into delicious food by our company.

The ones that don’t make it out intact get composted. WILD ONION is the most sustainable show we’ve made to date, and we’re using it as an opportunity to develop a more environmentally minded way of making performance. We’ve hooked up with Norwich School and some other awesome growing projects in the city to help us with our composting needs and shine a light on organisations educating young people about growing food, nature connection and sustainability.

Tell us a bit more about your relationship with Norwich Theatre?

We’re one of several companies that are Support Artists of Norwich Theatre this year. This means we’re getting an array of different kinds of support from the organisation – everything from rehearsal space and performance opportunities, to marketing support, to general mentorship. It’s been an amazing experience so far, and we’re so proud to be connected to such a vibrant venue in the city.

What is your view on the local creative scene?

It’s unlike anywhere else! Norwich has such a rich local arts ecology, one that is supportive, encouraging and self-sufficient. We are really proud to be a Norwich-born company and to have roots in so many awesome organisations across the city.

Why do you think it’s important for local talent to stay in the area?

Making work regionally is really important to us – as a company made up of regional artists, it’s very much the backbone of what we do. It’s important that the art you want to see is made in the places you want to see it – art is a way of feeding back directly into your local community. It can be a platform to open new, difficult, but often necessary and refreshing conversations.

Do you have any local inspirations?

We’d love to develop more connection outreach connections with different community groups and organisations. We’re a queer-led performance ensemble, and WILD ONION harkens to our own experiences of a chosen family – it would be awesome to connect with queer people locally and encourage them with our work and practice.

What’s next for you?

We’re taking WILD ONION on tour! After kicking off in Norwich, we head to Brighton Fringe, FUSE Festival in Kingston, Derby, and then the Edinburgh Fringe, with even more dates to come in the Autumn. Watch this space!

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WILD ONION