EIRA backs East 15 graduates at London’s Vault Festival

  • Date

    Wed 22 Jan 20

The Maniac Complex by Project Lockout

Business savvy graduates have secured funding for their fledgling theatre company which will take part in London's biggest, boldest and wildest arts festival for 2020.

East 15 Acting School alumni Michael Lynch and Mikaela Ruddell have won £3,000 at the EIRA Microfunding competition, which will help fund their theatre company Project Lockout and their upcoming show.

Described as ‘a physical and visual theatre company driven by the medium of movement, monologue and spoken word’, Project Lockdown will perform their third production, The Maniac Complex at The Vault Festival in London.

Michael and Mikaela told us more about their innovative theatre business and how EIRA funding will play a significant role in their future successes.

What is Project Lockout?

Michael: We wanted something bold and simple. Lockout came to the mind and felt wholly encompassing of our style, relating to free-writing and spoken word ‘to lock out your ideas’ and physicality ‘to lock-out your limbs’. Project Lockout came by accident. We started as a company making small video projects as a series under the label ‘Project Lockout’. Then three videos later, it accidentally stuck!

How did you start your business? Did you get support from Essex?

Michael: We started in our first year of Essex creating videos of spoken-word combined with movement. Then, the Southend Fringe Festival was announced, and we couldn’t resist! Our first show The Things That I’ve Dismissed received outstanding support and encouragement with an unbelievable response of a full house and standing-ovation.

Mikaela: Through Essex we got involved with the Essex Start-Ups Dragon’s Den events, further creating two art-documentaries and our second show Feel The Fear for Southend Fringe Festival 2018. Closing in on our final year we received invaluable support from Essex Start-Ups and managed to secure funding to invest in our company and third show, The Maniac Complex.

What makes it unique?

Michael: In theatre, nothing is ever truly unique; we’re proudly inspired by companies we love: Urban Conceptz, Frantic Assembly, Gecko Theatre and DV8 to name a few. But naturally (and actively) our style has grown into its own. In order to stand out amongst companies similar to ours we have to offer something different.

Mikaela: Our work is driven through free-writing (spoken-word), movement and cinematic-mime. We believe everyone has a voice; free-writing in is a beautiful and rewarding artform anyone can play with.

Michael: The same applies to movement. Engaging your body physically through choreography/mime is thrilling, and exciting to witness onstage. You can illustrate so much through your body, whether it be emotion or story.

Mikaela: We also commit to bringing a ‘cinematic’ flavour to our work, achieved through isolated lighting and intricate sound design.

Are you excited about appearing on the line-up for the Vault Festival?

Mikaela: So excited! The Vault Festival has such a fantastic reputation. We have always seen Project Lockout fitting into the setting very well.

Michael: The tunnels, the smoke, the lights - the atmosphere! It’s an incredible and important opportunity to get our company into the eyes of reviewers and industry professionals. Who knows what’s around the corner…?

What are your future goals/ambitions for Project Lockout?

Michael: Ideas are already brewing for a new production. We also know we want to revisit previous works and even ambitiously tackle another street performance, which we piloted last year. We’re also adamant in investing time and training into the family of artists we’ve worked with - continuing that relationship, building the company and creating more exciting work under Project Lockout.

Mikaela: We want to be in the position where we can offer more opportunities to young adults, starting in Southend and branching out, delivering workshops and training through schools, theatres and various community venues.

How did you feel when you were awarded funding from the EIRA Microfunding competition? How has this helped your business?

Michael: Elated - over the moon - we couldn’t believe it! We almost didn’t pitch, though it was Mikaela’s determination to go for it.

Mikaela: We feel like this was a journey to truly take seriously that which you love. Many late hours (or early rather) into the application made us realise the incredible depth and detail required. It was a difficult yet rewarding process in which the EIRA funding made us hunt for information and take ourselves seriously - even if we hadn’t won, all our work still had given us so much value.

Michael: Thanks to EIRA’s Microfunding competition we now have a strong sense of direction for the company. We’re now in a position where we’re taking our show to one of London’s most acclaimed and exciting performance festivals of the year.

More information

The Maniac Complex by Project Lockout takes place at The Vault Festival on Sunday 22 March. Book now to secure your place. Follow Project Lockout on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

EIRA (Enabling Innovation: Research to Application) aims to support the development of creative businesses in the East of England. The University of Essex is one of seven institutions which are part of EIRA.

Seven businesses, including Project Lockout pitched their ideas to a panel of judges at the EIRA Microfunding competition.

For more information or advice on funding your own business, please contact the Essex Startups team.

This article was written by journalism student Layla Shepherd.