From the very moment you switch on your Computer, Television, Tablet or smartphone, you’re bombarded with so called images of perfection, and that’s even before you’ve left the house! Then there’s the numerous amount of inescapable ad campaign in magazines, billboards and bus tops tempting you to buy the latest luxurious shampoo or miraculous mascara. But what, in 2014 does it mean to be a woman? To be a feminist? With the movement of feminism being a hot topic at present, Jackdaw Theatre explores this in their latest production of TEN WOMEN. I was able to talk to Artistic Director Bethan Dear and Creative Producer Amy Clamp ahead of their production about the Theatre Companies beginnings, travelling to Uganda and and why their proud to call TEN WOMEN a feminist play!
You’ve both formed Jackdaw Theatre whilst studying at Middlesex University. What inspired the creation of the company?
Amy: It was initiated by the fact that Bethan quite soon after University went and did a Residency Programme at the Finborough Theatre. Afterwards, she was offered a spot for a Sunday (and) Monday show and invited me to come on board as Production Manager, so that was the first project we worked on together and from that point realised that we worked really well together.
After University, you both travelled to Uganda and created theatre whilst out there. What was that experience like?
Bethan: Before I went to University, I was out in Uganda for 7 months. I was running a theatre project out there for a small company called Soft Power Education, which is a British Based Charity that work out in Uganda to develop educational facilities for children. I’d already developed a relationship with this organisation before I went to University. While at University, I organised a few trips out there, one in the 2nd year and the 3rd year and took a group of students out (to) run theatre projects with the charity.
Amy: We went out there and we did a mixture of labour work and practical (work), teaching and workshops. There were 6 of us (students) in total and we all had quite different skills, so we’d run workshops separately and then put on a performance at the end. It was massively special and incredibly enjoyable as you can imagine!
Does Jackdaw Theatre have a mission statement?
Bethan: We’ve written this up into 3 things, which is (1) We make work which excites and ignites us! (2) We make work for a real audience; we’re really passionate about theatre being inclusive and for everybody. We both come from a background where we’ve experienced theatre not feeling like something you belong to or that you have a place in or that you’re welcome, so making work for people that maybe don’t feel like theatre is somewhere that they should be or would go. (3) Supporting other artists is also a big thing for us. We really believe that as well as supporting our own growth and development that it’s really important that we try and support the growth and development of the other artists that we work with and are excited by and interested in.
Bethan, you were invited onto the NT Studio Directors Course last year. How did you find that?
It was amazing! It was definitely one of the happiest two weeks of my life! What was amazing about the course was having the opportunity to spend two weeks with a group of really exciting and talented young directors in an environment where we were all actively encouraged to support one another, learn from one another and help one another move forward! That was really special and doesn’t happen very often. We’ve all kept in touch, which is really nice!
Having been awarded funding from Arts Council England, you’ll be travelling to India later on in the year. How do you feel about that?
Bethan: Still pinching myself about that one! It’s really exciting because I’m going to study with Abhishek Majumdar who is a wonderful playwright that I worked with last year. He had a show (The Djinns Of Eidgah) on at the Royal Court, which was very well received. I’m going out to study with his company, the Indian Ensemble (in) Bangalore and possibly spend sometime with them while they’re on tour. Then he’s also linked me up with two other companies making very different kinds of work in India, so I’m going to spend a few weeks with them. Probably about 6/7 weeks in total, studying with other companies and absorbing their practice and the way they work. It’s an incredible opportunity to be able to go and work on my own development. I feel very lucky!
Amy, you initially started out working in TV and film as a Casting Assistant and Crowd Casting Director. What inspired your transition to Theatre Producing and Production Management?
My Degree is in Drama, so it was mainly through being at the right place at the right time that the film work started to come my way in the first year of Uni. So when I left (Uni), the work was still coming in so I carried on. It was really Bethan that was the leading force in me moving back over to Theatre; her friend was directing a show at the Finborough and he was looking for a Production Manager. I’d never production managed before, But Bethan was like, ‘Ah you can do it! You should do it!’. So I just wrote to him and said I’d be up for it, and I did it, and it was great! Then I started production managing with Bethan and the rest is history!
Which did you find more challenging, TV or Theatre, or do they both have different challenges?
Amy: Yes definitely, the role that I had in film is really different to what I do now in theatre. I was trying to find hundreds of extras for free for days of filming, for 12 hours a day, with no money, it was hard! The days were long, it was filming 8 until 8, but it was focused. I was focused on one specific thing pretty much all the time which was casting. In theatre, especially in fringe, you’re having to think about a million things at once, which is the bit that is difficult but also enjoyable.
You’re currently working on a new production called TEN WOMEN, which will be making its debut at the Ovalhouse towards the end of the month. What is it about? What inspired the production?
Bethan: It’s about women and it’s about women’s relationships to their bodies. It’s about the way women are perceived and portrayed in society, whether that be through the media or through job descriptions or through your daily interactions with the world. It’s definitely a piece of feminist theatre; I think we’re both quite proud to say that! It’s definitely about trying to look at, consider and reconsider where women are in the world in 2014, physically in relation to their relationship with their bodies in the West. It’s about the very personal experiences of all the women involved. Collectively (it’s about) what relationships we have as a group of women to our bodies and why that is, and what that is about as a wider (and) social context in which we live. It began because Amy and I at the end of last year, sat down and said, we’ve been making theatre together for 4 years now, we’ve always used other people’s scripts and we love working with writers, (but) what is it that we want to make work about? If we were going to make something ourselves, what would it be about? So for Tell Tales, which is a platform event that we run, we’d decided that something that really scared us, was going back to devising. We decided to try and devise a short 10 minute piece for Tell Tales. After sitting down and chatting about what was important to us, we realised that we wanted to make something about women, and that we felt quite passionately at the moment that that was something we’d been talking a lot about (and) we’d been seeing a lot of theatre about.
Jackdaw Theatre’s production of TEN WOMEN will be showing at Ovalhouse’s First Bites Festival from Tuesday 27th May until Saturday 31st May. For more information on the production, visit here…