By Ethan Taylor, Stagedoor Team.
As we all well know, regardless of which sides of the many fences you may sit on, 2016 was a year of great social, political and cultural upheaval. As a result the world of theatre has been galvanised, producing a myriad of works to reflect and open the debate on issues such as gender equality, racial discrimination, political elitism and the current refugee crisis.
Last October Phone Home ran at Shoreditch Town Hall and brought together live performances in London, Munich and Athens. Elsewhere, London Stories: Made By Migrants was said to “gently merge the personal with the political” (The Stage) in its run at the Battersea Arts Centre. And now, young theatre company Instinct Theatre is stepping up to the plate with their latest show, Tea And Good Intentions.
I asked company co-founder Felicity Huxley-Miners why she thinks it is important that theatre continues to question and reflect current events:
“Theatre is a wonderful platform for discussion. It can send a message without preaching or patronising, [it can] change perceptions and raise awareness all in an entertaining way.”
Tea And Good Intentions follows a Syrian migrant who has been rehoused in England by a woman who perhaps hasn’t got the best intentions at heart. The show is a comedy that taps into British self-deprecating humour, but this is punctuated by heart-wrenching moments and political undertones. Ultimately the show is a story of humanity; “of two people who desperately need each other and of the coming together of communities.”
Instinct Theatre have been working with a Syrian refugee who spoke with them about his time in the Calais Jungle and has been on hand throughout the process, helping inform the team as the show has grown. This sense of collaboration seems integral to the company’s ethos with every person they have worked with bringing “something new and positive to the company as well as to [them] individually”.
Huxley-Miners explains how Tea And Good Intentions came about because she had wanted to write a play that challenged perceptions:
“It doesn’t tell anyone how to think but rather asks if we are truly thinking for ourselves.”
In fact, Instinct Theatre was born out of that same passion. It was created in 2015 by Huxley-Miners and co-founder Lily Driver with the aim of exploring topical issues and current events whilst encouraging non-traditional theatre goers to see the shows, thereby dispelling the myth that you have to be a ‘theatre person’ to go and watch a show.
“Theatre can be cheap, accessible and appeal to all.”
As an actor Huxley-Miners talks of the frustration inherent in the profession and how “having a vehicle to channel some of that passion (and frustration) into generating something” helped her find peace whilst remaining proactive.
Since then the company have directed that passion into creating a force to be reckoned with; producing challenging and compelling productions whilst continuing to confront inequality and discrimination both in and outside of the industry. As a company that works casting blind (looking at talent irrespective of ethnicity) whilst also encouraging strong female roles, I asked, do they believe the industry itself can do more?
“The industry can always do more!”
Huxley-Miners explains “There has been a huge shift in awareness in the last few years which is really reflected in the fringe scene, lots of theatres are programming less safe shows and straying out into the unknown with women and minorities running things on stage and off more and more.” When it should really be the larger theatres leading by example instead this new vanguard of “diversity seems to be crawling up to them from the 50-seater rooms above pubs.”
Instinct Theatre seem rightfully proud of their commitment to producing emotionally and politically charged work. Theatre is more than just entertainment; it is a shared conduit, an open thought-process, a platform for discussion. Instinct Theatre are looking to affect change and it is working; one of their former cast members has signed up to Homes For Syrians, putting herself forward to rehouse refugees. But the company will not be stopping there, you can be sure to expect poignant, current and motivated theatre with a heart and a message, regardless of which sides of the many fences you may sit on.
Tea And Good Intentions plays at The King’s Head Theatre on February 11th & 24th, 1pm. Tickets are HERE.
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