Orange Skies Theatre are Camden Fringe-bound with a show which speaks to a plethora of very current issues. In Addition plays Camden People’s Theatre 2-4 August 2019 (tickets here) so I caught up with Artistic Director Daisy Minto to talk all things In Addition…
To begin, tell me a little about the company and the name – when and how did Orange Skies Theatre come to be and what’s the vision?
We’re a company of regionally based artists making work together that an tour far and wide, always with a political focus. We were founded in Norwich in 2016 by Daisy and quickly grew to have a base in Kettering and the New Forrest through company members Sam and Rachel. As a group of artists we want to make theatre that can give back to the communities that inspired us to make, we keep our regional roots at our heart and our vision is to continue to make work to tour regionally across the UK.
We came together as we thought that the arts were ever more drifting towards big cities, and there was a lack of investment in regional audiences. We wanted to change that. The company name comes from our artist interest in in-between moments especially the orange skies just before dark and just before sunrise.
You are clearly a company interested in reflecting prominent issues in today’s society. Where does this politically-driven energy originate with you as individuals?
I think our drive to bring political content into our shows comes from the need we all feel to get people talking about things, caring about each other and their communities. Hopefully that would bring about a cultural shift towards a society where care is at the heart of what we do. We all come from small cities and towns where we know our MP’s and we can see the effect austerity has had on our local councils, schools, libraries, so being politically engaged comes from seeing the effect of apathetic politics on our home towns.
In a theatrical landscape of revivals and classics revamped, why is it important to you to bring new writing and in this case, an original score by Dreaming Pills, to the stage?
Theatre should be reflecting the current cultural climate and challenging people to feel things together! New writing is so important to allow new perspectives to be shared. The original score by Dreaming Pills is so close to our heart with this production – their music was the first creative spark for this show, so having been able to work on it together from the get go is incredible.
For me I think the original score brings a cinematic element to the show that audiences are familiar with from film but might not have experienced in theatre, that’s what makes In Addition so special as it tries to meet its modern audiences. In a world where we have constant new tv and film to watch on demand, theatre needs to keep up to date in its content to continue to draw in more audiences, to tell them the stories that matter to them in their lives now.
In Addition spans a plethora of contemporary concerns, from privatisation of the NHS to zero-hours contracts to the perils of social media – all kinds of strains our modern times place on relationships. Does the play view each issue as distinct or as symptoms of one another in some way?
In Addition does span a breadth of modern concerns, and when we were creating the show it definitely felt like they all fed into each other. The way we’ve understood social media and digital life in the show is a metaphor for anxiety, but also a driver of it too. Message pings and mounting statistics gives the show a sense of tension – would Ben and Sheyna be better if they didn’t have this constant onslaught of information?
What brings together the issues of mental and physical health that the characters have is a lack of capacity to care for themselves and for each other, be that because of money struggles, being emotionally drained, or a lack of understanding of how to. The theme of care also underscores the rest of the problems in the play; you wouldn’t give out zero-hours contracts if you cared for your employees as people, the NHS wouldn’t have become private if we cared about the health of our neighbours.
Sheyna and Ben are the young couple at the centre of your narrative. Are they pointed representations of particular sectors of our current society? Demonised millennials or working classes for example?
Ben and Sheyna are definitely an allegory of millennials – although the show is set a little while into the future, so they’d probably be Gen Z! We felt it was important to show how these two generations have a completely different understanding of mental health and care than the ones that have gone before them. The show starts with a breakdown of all the things that challenge this generation, and the most poignant one for me (because I don’t know if I agree with it) is that a ‘wider vocabulary of mental health has lead to lessened resilience against problems with mental health’.
I think that speaks to the ‘special snowflake’ situation where young people are seen as unnecessarily vulnerable and self pitying – whereas this show then goes on to break that down and lay out that mental health problems are so much more vast and complex than that and if someone is reaching out for help we shouldn’t invalidate how they feel. Sheyna especially carries a lot of weight on her emotionally, and I don’t think we recognise in society how much young people do carry on their shoulders.
In Addition utilises physical theatre – for you, what does the form offer narratives that more popular forms like traditional plays don’t?
I think it offers space for part of the stories to be told through the body and not through language. Theatre is as much visual and visceral as it is textual and the human experience comes as much through touch as any other sense. So I feel physical theatre can tell more emotional stories than text can, as I feel more textual traditional plays can sit too much in a cerebral place.
And how does the prominence of physical theatre, movement, music and dance contribute to power of this particular narrative?
The power in the movement in In Addition comes from the emphasis on the body. In a show about healthcare a focus needs to be put on the body, as the problems Ben and Sheyna face are not immediately corporal to them. Anxiety comes out in movement, is lived in the body. Connection happens through touch. Support literally happens through the body. The emotional crux of this play is in the movement and the music, and you can track how the character change most through the movement.
The production promises to be ‘provocative, evocative, tender and angry’ – would you say it’s a production which is as much about educating as entertaining as a piece of theatre?
We firmly believe that it’s about emotionally educating. In Addition doesn’t take a strong political stance and isn’t didactic about the issue of saving the NHS. Instead it shows you the emotional and lived effect of this in two people., who struggle and succeed in a genuine way. It’s provocative in that sense because it asks you to feel through this problem, not debate it. The anger comes in what could be unnecessary sadness for these people if something in their political world would have been changed.
Is there a combination of light and dark to be found in this narrative or are we looking at dystopian drama as a warning shot for the future?
There is definite light and dark to be found, especially in Ben and Sheyna’s relationship. You can see that they really care about each other and see moments of tenderness and playfulness there. The show is less of a warning shot about the future, rather a plea to look after each other now. The world of the show is not that far from the world we live in now, that’s the most troubling thing about it. And that fact creeps up on audiences and makes Ben and Sheyna feel a lot closer to them.
If audiences take just one thing away from seeing In Addition, what would you like that to be?
To care for each other, themselves and their parents.
And finally, to close – in one sentence only, why should people come to see In Addition?
People should come and see In Addition to understand a generation.
And now for the quick-fire round of general theatre related questions…
Who or what has inspired you most in theatre?
Gecko Theatre, Enda Walsh and Garry Starr.
Favourite theatre genre and why?
Gig-theatre! It’s super new, super exciting, makes the most of both theatre and music, and reaches you right in your stomach.
Do you have a best ‘the show must go on’ tale?
Before we took this show to Edinburgh Fringe last year, we had a cast member with a light sensitive learning difficulty. The design of the show requires the actors to shine really bright LED lights into their faces for pretty much the whole hour. Our actor although having been fine through the tour and rehearsal period called his doctor to check whether doing a month at Fringe was a good idea. Obviously it was definitely not, and we couldn’t responsibly risk it. So two weeks out from Fringe opening we had to recast and re-rehearse. But we did! And it was all okay in the end!
Crikey – what a rollercoaster! To close then, if you could bring change in terms of opportunities in theatre right now, what would it be?
More quality opportunities for makers and audiences in the regions!
So there you have it! Remember, In Addition plays Camden People’s Theatre 2-4 August 2019 and you can find tickets here.