“Reality Theatre is anti-theatre…!”

“The reason we’re not attracting the sort of audience you want is because of all your stupid posts about art,” said Joe, our music and entertainment director.  I have to admit to internal conflict regarding the arts. On the one hand, our tagline is ‘Entertainment not Art’, but on the other, I confess to a sneaking appreciation for expressive dance, performance art and the like.

 

“Reality Theatre is anti-theatre!” I’m often heard to cry, in the style of the Dada-ists, mimicking their “Dada is anti-Dada!”, an irony so beautiful it makes me almost pee myself (brief art history lesson:  Dada was an arts movement that began as a reaction to first World War, protesting against nationalism, materialism, bourgeois culture and the traditional arts – they were ‘non-artists’, whose movement fell apart when they started to become successful, similar to the notion of ‘Punk is Dead‘).

Dada is anti-dada!

So what’s so anti-theatre about us? I guess it’s our audiences, our content, our approach and our attitude. Our primary aims, after all, are social not necessarily artistic. I see a Reality Theatre play like an episode of ‘East Enders’, but with more bad language, and instead of watching from a safe distance, the audience is immersed as the drama unfolds around them, never knowing if a character is going to turn on them.  It’s like real life, but without the nice bits.

protest

Whenever possible, we throw music in, either as a sound track, or as part of the entertainment package, with live bands playing after the play. Why music? We consider music to be the most popular form of creative expression today. Our preferred genre is punk and hard-core, with both having a history of being anti-establishment. Like us. Reality Theatre is a social interventionist company that aims to bring about social change through the medium of theatre, drama and music.

It’s not art, it’s real life.

 

 

 

 

Working in an Arts Centre

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I have to say that it is particularly awesome having an office/studio in the Barnabas Arts House in Newport.  This building, of which many local people are not even aware, is an oasis of calm in the centre of an urban industrial landscape. Full of books, pictures, paintings, and a wonderful cafe with the best Welsh cakes I’ve ever had, I feel especially intellectual and, dare I say it, quite arty, residing here.  My productivity levels have also increased, due to the inspirational surroundings, which my husband will be glad to hear, seeing as he’s paying the rent on the studio until ‘things improve’ for us.

Below, you can see the area directly outside our office – the little door our entrance, should you wish to visit us.  Come along, say hello, have a coffee, at the Barnabas Arts House, New Ruperra Street, Newport.

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Loneliness & Isolation

31301761_595581430823532_7902876241391255552_nLoneliness and isolation is not only a problem with older people in our society, but this is the group that Reality Theatre decided to work with when embarking on their most recent project with Derwen Housing.  ‘Telling Stories’ has now come to an end and I am in the process of writing up the evaluation report for this project, whilst seeking funding to develop and expand the project to allow us to work with even more older people in Newport.

I don’t think anyone really cares…

Why do we wish to continue? Because there is a need. A need for these people to be recognised, to have a voice, to be treated as equal members of society.  Yes, the Welsh government is tackling the problem of loneliness and isolation and we are lucky to have assembly ministers like Jayne Bryant AM who genuinely cares about the issue and works passionately to improve the situation.  However, when government agencies are spending years on investigating and researching the problem, in order to write a report that is not due until 2019, this means that actual strategies may not be put in place until much later…which is no use to the current body of older people that we now have in our midst.

So how do these older people feel? “I don’t think anyone really cares”, says one resident, who has been attending forums and meetings for two years to advise and support government and organisations.  “It’s the same old thing. Meetings, then more meetings, and then nothing ever gets done.”

Organisations like Derwen Housing are doing a brilliant job at supporting older people, and Reality Theatre has loved working with them. What is needed now is a more immediate government strategy to be put in place to recognise the immediate needs of what is becoming an ignored and in some cases invisible group of people.

Derwen Afternoon Party

the conga Our afternoon party, held at Pant-y-Celyn Sheltered Housing, was a great success, with local musician, Ben Yendle, entertaining the residents who sang along and showed off their dancing moves.  The party was to celebrate our latest project, funded by CPRN, Cardiff University, a social intervention aimed at alleviating loneliness and isolation in older people

big ben

The afternoon enabled the Reality Theatre actors to meet and chat with the residents, to help develop the characters they will be playing in the forthcoming play to be performed in the Riverfront, Newport, on 16 April.

The play is a fictionalised account of the stories gathered from the Derwen residents over the last three months, and includes war-time tales and stories of emigration to Australia and South Africa, for a period spanning 1940s to the present day.  The play aims to show the lives of the residents from childhood to now, by merging their stories into one.

It is hoped that we can develop this project further in the future, to include more residents and more events across Newport.

 

‘Telling Stories’ Project

 

Our current project is a social intervention aimed at improving the emotional well-being of older people living in Derwen Housing, exploring how the provision of cultural activities may help alleviate social issues such as loneliness and isolation. This is a pilot project, enabled by seed-corn funding by Cardiff University.

We began the project by using music from across the decades to generate memories which are now being adapted into a play to be performed at the Riverfront, Newport, on April 16th. Some truly amazing stories have been told: war-time tales of family life, loss and bombings; freedom and childhood innocence; town hall dances and the first kiss; emigration and travels; army life; marriage, divorce and children…making the adaptation into a play very difficult! Some fascinating photographs have been collated too, showing a snapshot of life from 1930s until today;

A story ranging over several continents and 90 years, incorporating memories of so many wonderful residents, means that a great deal of the content, unfortunately, has had to be cut, but we have endeavoured to include something from everyone. Rehearsals are now underway, and the exciting phase of sourcing props and costumes has begun.

It is hoped that this pilot project can lead to the development of a long-standing commitment to arts-based projects for use within social housing organisations in Newport.

Anti-Hate Crime

It’s been an exceptionally busy time for Reality Theatre since our last production, ‘Stand By Your Man’.  We became a Community Interest Company, which was great news, and I have been busy trying to raise funds to keep us going.  Initially, I gave myself a year to pilot Reality Theatre as a prospective community business.  Just as the money was about to run out and I figured I’d have to go back to a ‘proper job’ and fold the company, the hard work paid off.  We have just been give our first pot of funding from the amazing Communities First, as well as conditional funding for a research project we shall be moving on to next (as soon as conditions are met, I shall announce further details).  Suffice to say, this has been a very hard period, but so worth it when I look at the work we have carried out and the work that we are about to do.  Without the fantastic team, none of this would have been possible and I would like to take the opportunity to thank them all for giving up their time, with no payment, to make this work.  Guys, I promise as soon as funding comes in, you will be paid for your services whenever possible!

In the meantime, work on the Crush Hate Crime festival is well underway and I take my hat off to all event organisers and promoters out there – this has been such a difficult and stressful event to manage and it’s been wonderful to see my son, Joe, rise to the occasion and take care of the music side of things.

The play, ‘Just a Bit of Banter’, is a brutal look at prejudice in the UK and raises questions about discrimination: what exactly is hate crime?  What does it means to be British, and how do the police deal with such crimes? Needless to say, the research element of this has been harrowing and I’ve been filled with great sadness; this is nothing compared to the suffering that victims of such vile crimes go through.

Please come along and support us.  Further dates to be announced soon.hate crime