Interview: babirye bukilwa, Jessica Butcher & Chloe Todd Fordham Talk Small Truth Theatre’s Second Series

After an On Comm-winning first series, Small Truth Theatre are back with a second! Series 2 of the Digital Caravan Theatre collection launches Saturday 17th October 2020 and features three new works: babirye bukilwa’s WATER; Jessica Butcher’s TIME and Chloe Todd Fordham’s RAGE. Here, all three writers give some great insight into their work…

First up, we have babirye bukilwa – hello to you. So can you tell us, in a nutshell, what’s at the very heart of this work and what inspired you to write it?

I would say a maternal love story is the heart of the play and I was inspired by the movement of waves and how it operates In the human body. 

And what kind of performance style does this work lean towards would you say?

I’m acting in it, so you would have to let me know what you think but a talented director like Miranda Cromwell  brings so much to the table. Her attention to nuance and detail is gentle and beautiful. 

Is there a particular message you’d like audiences to walk away with?

I think I work best when I don’t think about the audience and what I want them to walk away with. I spend a lot of my time as an actor thinking about my body language and facial expressions, quality of voice, clarity, naturalism, breath, use of space etc. writing is something I do for myself. I would hope who ever hears it would feel something. Anything. 

These are challenging times in the world of theatre making – what have been the biggest joys and challenges for you in bringing this work to the digital stage?

The biggest joy about this play has been collaborating with Yasmeen Arden and Miranda Cromwell. We all had an important part to play In creating this and I really do enjoy collaborating with people when new making work. The biggest challenge has been keeping it to a time limit! I have lots of questions to ask. Lots of thoughts to expand.

And what’s next for you – writing or otherwise – what should we be looking out for?

I’ll be back on your screens for something very special next year and there’s a few writing collaborations in the pipeline. I can’t say too much though. I have written another short audio play that is produced by Popelei which will be available for Free to listen to on their website in a few days. It’s called mirrors and is a play to listen to whilst looking at yourself in a mirror.

Next we have Jessica Butcher – welcome! In a nutshell, what’s at the very heart of this work and what inspired you to write it?

At its heart, it’s a story about how everything passes and everything is held. It has been such a year so far, I wanted to write something about love, creativity and trust. I was greatly inspired by a beautiful day in Woolwich at the end of July and the story of Ruth Belville. 

And what kind of performance style does this work lean towards would you say?

I think it’s good old storytelling. Danusia Samal is a stunning actor and she’s delivered it with such realness and nuance, you just want to listen to her. I like things that don’t feel like ‘performance’ – Danusia is very honest and present and that makes the character and the story.  

Is there a particular message you’d like audiences to walk away with?

I’d like an audience to enjoy it and think it was a good way to spend 12 and a half minutes of their day. I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase ‘this, too, shall pass’ – so I hope some thoughts are inspired around that idea. 

These are challenging times in the world of theatre making – what have been the biggest joys and challenges for you in bringing this work to the digital stage?

I have loved working on this project. Chris Sonnex is a fantastic director and it’s been a joy. He masterfully managed to make Zoom fun, which was very inspiring, but I do miss rehearsal rooms. They are the best places. But I do also love making audio digital work, you can be so detailed and really get into the nitty gritty. I’m a bit of a perfectionist so it works for me. 

And what’s next for you – writing or otherwise – what should we be looking out for?

I’m writing a show for Trafalgar Entertainment Group which I am unbelievably excited about. We were supposed to be going into a Workshop in March but that stalled because of the Lockdown. But we are picking up again in Spring and I just cannot wait to get back in a rehearsal room! Also my first play Sparks is coming back to life in a different form….more details on that coming soon!

And last but not least, greetings to Chloe Todd Fordham! Same again to you – in a nutshell, what’s at the very heart of this work and what inspired you to write it?

At the heart is a relationship between a young woman and her inner rage, and a journey to discover the source of her fury. The starting point for this play has been an emotion: a visceral in-the-body rage I have been feeling over the last several months about… pretty much everything… but especially the systemic structures that continue to deny womxn equal rights, and which have been more prominently exposed in these times.

And what kind of performance style does this work lean towards would you say?

Rage is a character in the play (in fact it’s her story). She’s been so interesting to imagine and write – I hope she’s been interesting to perform too, but you’ll have to ask Tanya that! Writing “an emotion” as a character has been challenging – especially working out things like her wants and needs – but it’s also been really freeing and led me to be bolder with language, and to discover some magical realism vibes. In our first Zoom read-through, Yasmeen shared a great observation about how “Rageful” songs by female artists (we’d built a Rage-list on Spotify for inspiration) often had poise and grace and a sort of ancestral wisdom to them. We’ve tried to honour that.

Is there a particular message you’d like audiences to walk away with?

Go find your inner rage. Because the world needs her, now more than ever. And hey, isn’t she beautiful. 

These are challenging times in the world of theatre making – what have been the biggest joys and challenges for you in bringing this work to the digital stage?

Making something with others to share with others. I know that sounds simple and kind of obvious, but Covid has been a serious barrier to collaboration and the shared experience and this is the lifeblood of theatre. I didn’t realise how not doing these things since March has broken my heart, so to have been given an opportunity to make (even remotely) in these times, and with such fabulous humans, has been and meant everything. And then getting to share this with an even wider audience than usual because of the digital element. Knowing our collaboration will interact with an audience (even remotely) in these times, that we could make someone feel something, look at the world differently maybe. It makes me want to cry. And shout even louder about the value of the arts to all of us. 

And what’s next for you – writing or otherwise – what should we be looking out for?

I’m about to start Sphinx30, a brilliant new writer development programme for female-identifying writers led by the brilliant Sphinx Theatre who have been pushing for gender equality in the arts for the over 40 years. I can’t wait to get stuck in to the Sphinx30 commission, so watch this space. Also keep an eye out for new projects by Where’s my Vagina?, an inclusive feminist collective I co-lead with collaborators Jenny Sealey and Jess Mabel.

So there you have it! Remember, Series 2 of the Digital Caravan Theatre collection launches Saturday 17th October 2020 and features all three new works from babirye bukilwa, Jessica Butcher’s and Chloe Todd Fordham: WATER, TIME, RAGE. You can keep up to date with Small Truth Theatre via their Twitter page and their website and you can listen to the full Digital Caravan Theatre series here. You can also read about the first series here, in a fab interview with Yasmeen Arden.

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