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  • Christina Hill

The 'How to Use a Washing Machine' 2019 UK Tour

I'm going to dedicate this first blog post to a project which cannot be captured with a simple photo on my design page: my first and only producing credit, the tour of a new musical by Georgie Botham and Joe Davies How to Use a Washing Machine. All the creative stuff is already well-summarised on the SLAM website, but I wanted to say a few things about the business and branding of the project.

Having been on similar tours twice before, I had some idea of what went into a successful production and where companies (particularly student companies) often tripped up. SLAM Theatre had previously been a student company who had not performed outside Oxford until we rebranded ourselves as a young but professional company, which enabled us to get noticed by leading venues and relevant press ahead of the tour. Through early applications supported by materials from our 2018 run, we were able to secure our first-choice venues in our four cities in optimum slots in the programme for our genre. We selected these venues primarily for their reputation within their local areas, crucial for any company unable to spend enough time in a locale to establish their particular brand, as well as size and technical capabilities. Venue choice was particularly important at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where regular fringe-goers place a high level of trust in the quality of productions and favoured venues.

In terms of establishing our own brand, especially in Edinburgh where picky audiences and reviewers are on the lookout to spot the best emerging talent, we needed to ensure that our print and online communications succinctly, strikingly, and accurately represented our show. In a highly saturated market where 4000 companies are trying to catch the attention of audiences with limited time and money, I wanted our graphics to be simple, colourful, and coherent conveying the comedy elements of our show. Georgie and I worked with graphic designer Sophie Kuang to develop this idea into the bright yellow, bonkers graphic we wore on T-shirts and handed out on flyers for two months, successfully achieving our goal of creating an image strangers would approach us to ask about! The title of our show, initially created for a low-stakes limited studio run in Oxford a year previously, ended up being the strongest element of our brand: it clearly communicated our comedy sub-genre, it made audiences want to know whether they were actually going to learn how to use a washing machine, and it made us stick in their minds as "the washing machine show".

I could probably write a (not very interesting) book about all the decisions and strategies that went into making the show the creative and financial success it turned out to be, as well as all the mishaps and miscalculations that made it a supremely brutal learning experience. In the end, I was mostly just relieved to have made a show that so many talented people wanted to work on, so many audiences wanted to give their time and money to, and only a few middle-aged guys making patronising remarks about our washing machine competency.

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