MokitaGrit On … Fringe Benefits?Date: 6 November 2009
MokitaGrit Productions was formed in February 2009, through the merger of two established production houses – Jane Lesley and Emily Agnew’s ‘Mokita’ and Joe Fredericks and Jon Bonfiglio’s ‘Grit’. It has already earned itself a formidable reputation, and is currently producing Pages: Promised Land at the Union Theatre, Midnight: When Trumpets Cry at Theatre 503 and the critically acclaimed A Christmas Carol at the King's Head. Here, they explain to Whatsonstage.com the challenges of establishing a new company and their plans for the furture.
We absolutely hate the word ‘fringe’. Don’t get us wrong we think that ‘fringe’ work is truly amazing, entirely inspiring, and the talent out there is astonishing. It’s just that the word sounds like it was invented by a West End Theatre producer back in the day, who wanted to keep themselves separate and alienate commercial theatre goers from ever stepping inside a small scale venue. We have no desire to work on the fringe of anything and those who work in such so-called ‘fringe’ venues are, we would argue, right at the heart of British theatre. The ‘fringe’ enables many more theatre practitioners to ply their trade than all the big West End theatres combined.
MokitaGrit are a crossover independent production house with aspirations to become involved with bigger venues as we develop. Forming a ‘crossover independent production house’ in these troubled economic times? Quite a challenge. But we believe the key is to always have a commercial head on, even when deeply engrossed in artistic development, to budget realistically and to within an inch of your life. Most importantly, you have to produce theatre that you are passionate about and that people will come to see. There is no point in being brilliant if nobody is there to see you do it.
In May, just two months after Mokita and Grit merged, we produced three shows at the Brighton Fringe Festival and were associated with the West End transfer of Stephen Sondheim’s Saturday Night at the Arts Theatre. This autumn we are currently producing Pages: Promised Land (running until 7 November) at the Union Theatre, Midnight: When Trumpets Cry at Theatre 503 and A Christmas Carol opens at the Kings Head in December. We will also be bringing the award winning Once Upon A Time At The Adelphi to the Union Theatre in March 2010.
Indeed, between them Mokita and Grit have played to well over ten thousand people, at thirty different venues, with over twenty productions. Not bad in a little under two years. We also won a Stage One New Producers bursary last year for ‘Pages’ and have plans for several large scale productions in 2010.
All of us are positively reeling from the successes of the past couple of years. What's been achieved by MokitaGrit already is exceptional, it's been quite incredible to see how the company has grown and developed in such a short space of time. We believe much of this growth is down to our unique policy of collaboration rather than competition. On our most recent project Pages: Promised Land, described as "a work of genius" by one reviewer, MokitaGrit brought together 48 people to work on the project, an amazing feat of collaboration and co-operation. This production is a great testament to MokitaGrit's ability to offer practitioners a stimulating and challenging environment in which to develop their craft.
All this work needs funding, though. So far, the MokitaGrit model has been to work with a “self-replenishing budget.” But we are absolutely clear that, to progress as far as the company dreams, we need investment – we are doing an incredible amount of work and we need people with finance to back what we are doing. Sure, money can’t buy you happiness, but it certainly buys you the time to look for it. In a period of economic uncertainty, funding for the Arts has become more and more elusive. Sponsorship is one of the first things to be cut. However, as our plans grow, and our reputation develops we need to ensure that our finances are secure, in order to keep providing our audiences with the great theatre that we believe can affect their lives in such a positive manner.
Pages: Promised Land runs at The Union Theatre Tuesday-Sunday at 7:30pm, with Sunday matinees at 3:30pm until Saturday 7th November. Booking is through the Union Theatre Box Office on 020 7261 9876. We have also just announced an extra 3:30pm matinee on Saturday 7th November.
A Christmas Carol runs at The Kings Head Theatre from 2nd December 2009-10th January 2010. Various performance times across Christmas. For more details and to book please see www.kingsheadtheatre.org
For further information on MokitaGrit Productions, see www.mokitagrit.com