‘Sticking Stakes in a Landslide’
I make theatre as a Director, Performer and Facilitator and I make theatre happen as a Producer, Coach and Mentor. In March 2020 I lost 90% of my work and a planned period of research and development. The John Hodgson Theatre Research Trust Covid Response Grant enabled me to: reflect on and articulate my practice; research best practice in community theatre, place-based work and permaculture project design; reflect on the place of community theatre practice, what it means to be together and ideas of place and belonging in a post-pandemic world; and re-plan the proposed project in my hometown.
Thinking about theatre in a pandemic felt a little like trying to stick stakes in a landslide, over the 4 months of research the context was constantly changing. I used the time to read, participate in national and international online conversations – some led by organisations and institutions, many led by artists and makers. I thought and wrote, noticing that everything I wrote already feels like a history piece.
I mapped my 19 years of practice and identified common threads, noticing how I combine tools from theatre and performance, participatory democracy, community organising, activism, formal education and personal development. This enabled me to articulate more clearly what I do, and advocate for it. I thought a lot about artistry and craft and who gets to make work. I couldn’t make firm plans, it’s hard to do that when you don’t know where you are going to be living. My plans are inspired by Bethany Wells provocation – if social distancing is the site of our work – what do we make? I feel more strongly than ever that we need to localise artistic practice, grounded in social and environmental justice, to support people to process the collective grief and economic shockwaves of this moment.