I am constantly trying to defend young people to big institutions, the conversations of tickets should be free, should be cheap and should be accessible has become the diluted conversation of diversity.
In an ideal world, every theatre would provide accessible tickets for young people who have never been, first time free schemes are amazing – but are they sustainable?
Thanks to Arts Council England I was able to go and see lots of incredible work across England to inspire my work over the next year with Free Radical. I hopped on a train to see the phenomenal ‘Black Men Walking’ by Royal Court Theatre at Belgrade in Coventry, by far one of the most interesting sets. When I see raving reviews, I have been taught to expect certain things from huge productions with thousands of pounds worth of set – but what this production gave me was intimacy, innovative ways to use space and most importantly, it didn’t compromise the stories. Phenomenal work by a brilliant cast, a special shoutout to the beautiful work by Dorcas Sebuyange. I took away the idea of simplicity in stage design and the use bodies could do to stories, that’s what made the show so powerful in its interactions of each other.
Dance isn’t something I actively go to watch – I love words and for some reason my brain tends to start thinking about stories that tangent into ones that are not relevant to the show I am watching; BUT… I love theatre and seeing things I may not be comfortable with but I visited Virago by Sonia Sabri Company, and Motionhouse’s electrifying production ‘Charge’. The latter confused me, made me look at dance differently and gave me a newfound appreciation for circus/dance and movement pieces, the stamina is just… wow.
Elephant at Birmingham Repertory Theatre has been on my list to go see since it was announced, following a brown families story of secrets in one of my favourites spaces (The DOOR), I was game. The production was heartfelt and powerful.
It needed a trigger warning and got me to reflect on safe spaces within bigger environments but nonetheless an important piece of work.
On a Sunday evening I got a cab to what felt like home: mac birmingham, picked up my tickets to ‘Brick Lane 78’ and sat down. I didn’t know much about the story, the community but I felt their energy. A story that I did know very well was The Kite Runner, which I went to see originally in 2016 at The REP and was blown away. Watching it for the second time had me once again on the edge of my seat even though I had seen the exact same play already, it got me noticing different elements I hadn’t before. P.S. The writers of the book it was based on, Khaled Hoseini also wrote my favourite book of all time “A Thousand Splendid Suns”, go buy the book!
So I went to see a lot of different types of productions but before I leave I have to tell you about the show I saw at Bush Theatre, that was a complete standout for so many reasons.
I know of Bush Theatre, because my Mum, as a true Arab Brummie used to use the toilet there when she went to Shepherds Bush to buy the latest traditional Arab Dir3’s. On this night, I arrived at the Bush Theatre with two friends (and colleagues) and became a part of something so much bigger than the typical show interaction. Imagine being put into a Whatsapp group before a production with every person who will be in the theatre room, brave right? The Believers Are But Brothers was a production commenting on radical extremism – not just one sided here are the Muslim ones but showing right wing extremists too. I mean the content was amazing but the play on speaking to the audience live vs through Whatsapp was amazing, our phones were all on loud, the characters in the play were brought to life by random numbers joining in. I thought it was a fantastic play and if you’re still here, it’s coming to Birmingham Hippodrome this year! I travelled to London to see it, and now it’s on our doorstep! Shall we go together?
So I have a rule, I get a lot of free tickets to see things, and that’s great, however, every time I go I like to take people who either have never been to the theatre, have different views on the content or would be interested and inspired by the work they see. I can’t offer everyone, but we all do our bit.
If you want to come with me, holla. I am going to see:
We also have a free festival full of lots of wonderful activist-y shows coming to Brum this September. Catch us outside of traditional spaces and taking our work to the city with Festival Of Audacity!
Investing in yourself as an artist is important, seeing new work opens your eyes into how you could take bits and adapt parts to your own practice. Don’t underestimate what you could learn from seeing something so far off your own practice.
Also, that’s where the networking happens, at the theatre in the evening! Go, see, introduce yourself, invest in your development, it pays off.
Written by Amerah Saleh
For more information about Free Radical visit beatfreeks.com/free-radical.