The Benefits of Recession – FREE SPECIAL OFFER!!!

So now that we’re in recession’s full swing, and all as broke as a dirty pane of glass in Lower Woodstock, it’s time to take stock. But hang on – there is no stock! And there’s no budget for new stock! Oiks! Just how long will this thing last? And please, when can we get our budgets back?

So, The Squeeze is on. In fact, it’s showing right now in your living room – a gunslinging, mudslinging, foulmouthed Western saga about priorities and fighting the good, dirty fight. The losers are those selling dud bullets, fake hairnets, lame horses and poor advice. Those that get to stay in town offer good service, good value, a solid reputation and reliability. A recession sifts quality from the dross, which is a good thing. Trimming. Pruning. For vigorous growth later on.

Another benefit of recession derives from that old idiom – Necessity is the Mother of Invention (So who’s the father? Do we care? Perhaps Accident is the Father of Invention, or Serendipity, or Perseverance?) We’re all getting creative, thinking and manouvring, figuring how to make ends meet. Sure, for some, it’s back to basics now – tightening core business processes – but for others it’s also: what needs to happen next? Deep listening.

For some years, takeAWAY has diversified organically…. into film, web, print, radio, public performance and information design, covering a multitude of topics. Perhaps its time to refocus on our core business – using theatre to engage people in the change process? Perhaps not – corporates just need a little persuasion and experience in order to abandon their starting perception of workplace theatre interventions as superfluous, unsustainable, expensive. Our business seems not to be recession-friendly. But we will stick to our guns – because workplaces where people connect and engage, communicate and listen, are workplaces that will survive, and ultimately thrive.

Unlike any other learning or communication media, theatre activates the living imagination, as we move our own bodies, find our own voices. Dispensing with actors (it’s the economy, stupid), we work directly with your people, exploiting interactive theatre technologies like forum theatre, playback and improvisation – to problem-find and problem-solve, test behaviours, form relationships, practice new ways of thinking and doing.It’s exciting, effective and a breath of fresh air.

And that’s where our free special offer comes in: The first THREE respondents to this blog will each get a free 1-hour TakeAWAY PlayShop WorkOut – a fun, interactive, profound, mindshifting teambuild/engagement session for your business. Terms and Conditions apply…

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Fear Not!

Hello friends! Greetings of 2011 to you… a year that is widely predicted to be ‘worse than 2010.’ Yay!!!

After the hiatus, it’s hard enough to find the keys, never mind starting the engine. Here is a quick sample of some stuff we did in December, with TakeAway producing live learning encounters for Nedgroup Investments, De Beers Marine, Environ Skincare and the City of Cape Town. (Plus some other stuff.) So fear not! Help is at hand. 2011 need not be so bad! For a chat or just to talk about some some new and exciting ways to nail your objectives in their moer this year, give us a call.

ENVIRON SKINCARE: Ambush Theatre

What nice clients! This show – for Aids Day – was perhaps the biggest jol of the year. In a small factory crammed mostly with giggling females, our cross-dressing domestic workers – Thando “Surname” Doni and yours truly cracked the hilarity barrier when the g-strings started being draped over a very sporting MD. Despite (or because of) the whoops and hollers, we still managed to gain a poignant silence when hitting the hard notes on an issue which defines our times. Especially satisfying to thrill a nervy client who hadn’t used us before, on a last-minute gig. Smoooooooth!

NEDGROUP INVESTMENTS: Induction Programme

A high-point as we used some next-generation interaction and listening-led conversation to connect with a great bunch of people. Briefed to engage people in new and dynamic ways, connecting them with a sense of purpose and ownership, we used tai chi, breathing exercises, old-fashioned games with no particular purpose except laughter, improvisation, group body-sculpting and lots of chocalates in an invigorating discussion of brands and branding. An extremely well-received encounter – except for one individual! Ha! She knows who she is…

DE BEERS MARINE: Transformation Workshop and Show

Teaming with our gifted friends from the Bonfire Theatre Company, we designed a mind-and heart-moving experience for around 80 employees. Facilitated by drama therapist, performer, psychologist and all-round nice person Heather Schiff, the workshop aroused much laughter as well as profound discovery and learning. The Bonfire show after the 1-hr workshop yielded some of the most affecting testimonies of growing up in this complex and incredible country I have ever heard. A bonding experience if there ever was one.

CITY OF CAPE TOWN: Ambush Theatre

Contracted by leading sustainability consultants Icologie, we performed an out-the-box show about energy, information and agency to an audience of over 500 City of Cape Town officials.  Using the power of the surprise, our audience were spared nothing: breast augmentation, espionage, shock and horror, tenderness and hope… as well as a healthy shot in the arm for the City’s sustainable energy plan – the best in the country by a country mile. (OK so there wasn’t much breast augmentation shock and horror.)

Watch this space – and until next time – wishing you a great start to your year.

Sean and the TakeAway team.

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Some thoughts on World Aids Day

The HIV and Aids pandemic has had a lot of money and energy thrown at it. Some of it wisely, some of it in desperation. Some of it hits the target, some of it misses…

Every year, TakeAway Theatre gets request for HIV-related interventions on World Aids Day (WAD), the 1st of December. Some people call early, some leave it a little late. We enjoy the challenge of multiple productions around the country – incidentally, my daughter Eve was born on the 1st of December four years ago, and I got to spend the day at the hospital while all the shows were going on.

I have always felt that is good to at least have this day, to focus on the disease and what it means in our lives, but part of me is also a little cynical, a little ambivalent. Because, I guess, people expect a message on this day – they need to see something happening – which then allows them to forget about it for another year. Businesses and organisations feel the imperative to ‘do something’ – and, now, that  ‘something’ has become ‘something special’ (perhaps this is to do with Aids fatigue?) All this is about making a show, a spectacle, an event – something which is understood as compassionate, demonstrating connection with its community.

Yet often the community are at odds with the message. They might prefer to have the status quo reinforced, not disrupted.  This is because the ways that we perceive HIV says so much about us – who we think is likely to get infected, and why – and how we rate our own chances of infection. These questions can be unsettling. But necessary.

Some years ago with with our sister company, Bonfire, we did some WAD stuff with a large multinational. Parts of their business – the management structure – were ruffled when our production strayed onto the twin ideas of responsibility and infidelity – something which we have found always generates interest and changed perspectives on HIV. (Infidelity is a cracker topic for people who feel that HIV has nothing to do with them or their world.) Afterwards the group expressed disappointment that the show wasn’t funnier, more enjoyable. On World Aids Day, they wanted light relief, you see – like they’d had the year before.

The other show we did for their business that day was for the disenfranchised ‘workers’ onsite – a black, Portuguese speaking group of about 250 people, who needed to interrogate what HIV was in their lives – and for them, a ‘song and a dance’ wasn’t’ going to cut it.

That show that occured was extraordinary. A member of the audience told a story of how he had had sex with a stranger in a bar, and the condom had broken. And now he was going home to his wife, who wanted to have children. Problem was, he was still in the window period. What should he do? Well, our business is not in providing answers – which is what ‘industrial theatre’, in the classical sense often attempts, namely, a transfer of information. Instead, it is in creating a space where audience members can reach their own conclusions, through the shared experience of what happens onstage. In this case, the audience had a very lively discussion about the man’s predicament. And it was funny!

So, I guess it depends on what you want to do… what you want to achieve. Is it just ‘awareness’ you’re after? Or do you want something more, to go deeper. Both have their place. But the second option – where the audience speak, and are empowered with their own voice – is much more interesting, powerful and ultimately, more effective.



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International FAS Day

TakeAway Theatre has been creating groundbreaking community theatre with South Africa’s leading Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)-related research and training organisation, the Foundation for Alcohol-Related Research (FARR), for the past four years. The relationship has been profound and rewarding, and our journey in partnership continues to grow with recent shows in George, Aurora and Piketberg in the past few weeks. The show is followed by a workshop facilitated by the performers where audience members roleplay alternatives to some of the challenges presented. (BTW, next year we are going to TOTALLY revolutionise the concept of community health information and support with a travelling intervention…. so watch this space – and for more on our past achievements, please go here.)

International FAS Day – 9am on the 9th day of the 9th month – saw us teaming up with the Western Cape FAS Task Team this year, at Mary Harding School in Athlone. Learners lined Klipfontein Road with banners raising awareness of the syndrome, which is the world’s most common preventable birth defect – and which South Africa are world champions at. Yip. We’re a nation of boozers and brain-cell bashers, drunkards and downbeats. In sunny SA, alcohol measures success. Which is fine and good, as long as you’re not pregnant. Or driving. Or performing surgery. Or playing sport. Except darts. And fishing. Maybe.

But back to the story. Our show, Die Liefdeskind, now approaching 350 – mostly free – performances with the original cast put together four years ago, was as funny and moving as ever, with great nuance provided by Joseph Martins, Andiswa Makai and Mimi Mabona. We are really proud of this show – our longest running – and humbled by the wonderful people that we get to meet when performing. Thanks to Sophia Warner of the Pebbles Project, Yumna Martin, Liz Pegram and Leana Olivier of FARR, the Mary Harding School and everyone who came and supported the event.

See you at exactly the same time next year…

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Embodying Change with BoE Private Clients

We recently created a series of workshops for BoE Private Clients, where improvisation and other theatre technologies were exploited in order to create new ways for people to engage and connect, and discover some fresh perspective on their change process.

Working with our associates nationwide, we designed a session that would be rolled out in different centres – consistently, and keeping travel costs to a minimum. So, after a very “head-orientated” morning, with delegates discussing vision, strategy, values and other tasty things, we instructed invited them to take off their shoes and get comfortable…

In an overwhelmingly results-based working environment, it presented a real challenge for most people to ‘let go’, moving into a space of little or no control. Resistance – fear, nervousness, anxiety – became very apparent – as some people felt that they ‘couldn’t be creative’ and that they would be  ‘wrong’ somehow… Then we started moving, and within minutes everyone was laughing, and it was all downhill from there… Finally, pretty much everyone was grinning from ear to ear and extremely grateful to do something human, dynamic, creative and spontaneous, where delegates were able to reflect on their feelings, and create possibilities for change.

One of the things that came home to me powerfully in the sessions was the value of resistance – as something to be respected and worked with. Without it, there is no journey.

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Leading the way with Sanlam

TakeAway Theatre was recently contracted by Sanlam to provide unique multimedia for both their Senior Management and Future Leaders Conferences held in Cape Town. What made the job such an enjoyable one was the client’s deep acceptance of the experimental nature of the work.

During registration, a pair of actors posed as delegates, complete with identifying lanyards and a (very loose!) backstory of how they fitted into the business. Naturally, there was a fair amount of preparation involved, and the performers were very carefully chosen for their profiles, their warmth and appeal, as well as their ability to improvise.

They were equipped with a video camera, with which they filmed their ‘colleagues’ –  posing questions about the conference and what the expectations were… basically, how did people feel about being here, and what did they want to get out of it? After registration, the footage was edited in one of the hotel rooms for broadcast later in the day… An exhausting and meticulous process, after viewing the footage and organising it into themes and a storyline. {For confidentiality reasons, we unfortunately can’t show the films here. You’ll just have to take our word for it that they were funny, insightful and very nicely put together. VERY nicely put together!}

The performers told delegates, if asked, that the camera was there because they simply wanted to make a film about the conference for their partner, who had gotten a little peeved at all the travelling they were doing and was on the verge of asking if there was another woman or man on the scene…

What we found was that pretty much everyone responds to a warm smile and a welcoming approach. People are interested in each other – we were reminded that trust and openness come naturally to some people – certainly, to those who need to lead. There was much laughter at the screenings – and our brief – to shift people’s ideas, helping to make them feel that this would be a conference with a difference – enabled us to have some fun with what we did.  Thanks to Sanlam for the opportunity, and for all the room service!

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Pssssst! New stuff for Necsa

Commissioned by digital marketing gurus Gloo Design to conceive and produce a short interactive film for the new visitor centre at South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) near Pelindaba, TakeAwayTheatre got in touch with favourite filmaker Luke Younge of Lucid Pictures who brought animation maestro Michael Clark to the team… OK – so the credits are only supposed to come later but what the hey!

With an ‘attractor loop’ featuring the performer, Celia Ncalane from Artists1, whispering to passersby in the visitor centre, the short video is then triggered by motion sensors and plays from a mock-up doorframe between exhibits.

Working on a tight budget and with a brief to develop interest amongst younger visitors in a career in nuclear science, we used the theme of ‘magic‘ to describe the sub-atomic world, playing to the idea of infinite possibility both within the nuclear realm and within a career in the industry.

Michael’s animation was the magic element … So have a look. Tell us what you think…

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Futbol Madness with BoE Private Clients

Longtime partners BoE Private Clients worked with TakeAway Theatre to exploit opportunities presented by the FIFA World Cup 2010 – entrenching and extending a deeply felt commitment to values identified by staff as most important to them, such recognition, trust, and a sense of belonging. The integrated campaign designed by TakeAway, supported by the marketing and HR teams, was used to foster a deep sense of connection and spirit (i.e. FUN), engaging with people in a way that respected their desire to be a part of the biggest event ever to hit South Africa (OK – except for the 1994 elections perhaps). Check out the skills of Mzu Madela in Cape Town!

Simultaneous launch events in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban saw teams of freestyle footballers, refs and linesmen ambush the workplace, interacting with staff and handing out invitations to matches, in the shape of dedicated tickets, that functioned as competition entry forms.

Here we see Keeno-Lee Hector ‘hectoring’ a few of the locals in between some more futbol wizardry, and handing out some of the cherished entry forms…

Staff were encouraged to watch matches at work, and all staff in smaller centres were couriered fan packs sourced and designed by TakeAway, containing vuvuzelas, crazy glasses and wigs, facepaint, soccer balls and other paraphernalia. These went down a treat – and, in the month of futbol madness, we all felt that deep sense of belonging that makes the heart of any community beat a little faster, and more proudly.

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Taking Off

The Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) have been preparing for the World Cup from the moment Sepp Blatter pulled South Africa’s name out of a white envelope a few years ago. Can you imagine? As those lips hissed “Souss Africa,” everyone at ACSA must have been wondering how we would cope with planeloads of manic Mexicans and savage Serbs, with barmy Brits and fanatical Frenchmen?

Well, after building the new terminal in Cape Town, they naturally contacted TakeAway Theatre… “We need to motivate our people for the World Cup!” came the call… We learnt that lots of people would be working lots of overtime in the month of futbol madness, for not many more extra shekels, in often trying circumstances. With big language barriers. Which is all fantastic material for a show. But…

Industrial Theatre does not really motivate people. Or if it does, it does so fairly subtly. It’s not a propaganda song-and-dance – although this is exactly what some poeple want. Some clients, for example, want industrial theatre to ‘get everyone to go for HIV testing.’ In this example, the nature of the testing services offered is usually the determining factor. Telling people, rather than asking what is in their best interest, often causes dissent and a fair amount of disillusionment – people will feel manipulated, and of little value. Which makes a challenging situation even worse!

So what can Industrial Theatre offer in this situation? Well, it can be used to communicate certain things, in a very arresting, unique and memorable way. BUT (that’s a big but) the vital buy-in of the audience is only going to happen with plenty of honesty and telling it like it is (see below.) And once the audience feel respected, heard, and that they’re human, important, and valuable, then the show can do plenty.

Industrial Theatre can also act as a dynamic focal point for key issues that can be debriefed or discussed afterwards. It can speak the unspoken,  it gets issues out into the open, without prejudice. (However, beware glib endings and neatly stitched conclusions… It’s a tricky beast to do well and get right.)

Humour is another must-have ingredient. Not just the odd pun, or retreaded physical joke, but real humour. Below the belt stuff. Laughing at the sacred cows of the workplace is a great way to empower people to calibrate their own perspective on things, instead of being told what to do…

The staff at Cape Town International got a great taste of what to expect during the World Cup, and we believe we played a strong role in supporting them to get ready for the event. Thanks to Gareth and Dierdre at ACSA for the opportunity and for their support, and Mark Elderkin, Keeno-Lee hector, Phumza Tshem and Brent Palmer (director) for a fantastic and very funny show – which just may have motivated a few people!

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Having a Vow Moment!

The merger of two independent business units into a single new entity presented a good test for our interpretative and creative abilities recently.

How could we produce a once-off intervention that would celebrate the merger announcement – made just prior to the event (yes,that’s right!) – while incorporating and respecting resistance, and acknowledging the insecurities and potential difficulties ahead?

Contracted by Fresh Consulting, whom we have partnered with to great effect many times before, we spent some time throwing ideas around until we hit on the perfect one… a merger is like a marriage, right? Perhaps an arranged one…

So we engineered a real ‘vow moment’, and workshopped our script around the needs and expectations of each partner, endowing volunteers in the audience as bride and groom.

Petals were flung at the beautiful couple, a garter was thrown, and love was sown…

Most weddings are a lot of fun and this one was no exception. We left feeling proud of the happiness and laughter we managed to inspire at a key moment in the company’s evolution. The powerful imagery of the wedding and the transparent acknowledgement of the potential difficulties involved were combined into a truly interactive experience, which we know will endure as a rather special and unique tool with which to understand fear and doubt, and see expectations and opportunities in perspective.

I especially liked kissing the bride…!

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TakeAWAY Theatre

TakeAway Theatre and Training est 2001