Grace Patrick takes in the latest Welsh offering, How to Act Windy, from the Vault Festival in London.
Honestly, I love a good play about a play. They never seem to get old for me; there’s something so interesting in the idea of creating a piece of theatre around the act of telling a story, rather than the story itself. With that said, How To Act Windy at Vault isn’t exactly highbrow drama. Indeed, rather than a play, this is more of a sort of (true) retelling of their experience as part of an absolutely dire touring children’s theatre company. By compiling a series of photos, diary entries, reenactments and a quick song, Eleri Morgan and Katie Pritchard seem to have managed to invoke just enough of their time with this unnamed company for us to understand the extent of the chaos, but without giving away any details that would allow them to be sued. It’s a fine balance.
There are definitely some moments which feel a bit like “you had to be there” to appreciate the magnitude of the problems, as there was a noticeable divide between the raw horror on the faces of the two performers and the rest of the audience, with the exception of their fellow company members who had come to watch. Some of the anecdotes didn’t have all of the context that they needed for us to really appreciate them, although the time constraints of the piece don’t necessarily allow for much background.
It would definitely be fair to say that this particular show was much more about the cathartic act of telling a room of strangers about the performers’ mistreatment at the hands of the sadly anonymous company. There’s something quite satisfying about the fact that they’ve managed to to not only move on, but also use these events as a platform upon which to create more of their own work which, given the two dubiously inflated dinosaurs onstage, probably has a much higher production value than the original.
There is, however, more at stake here than mere catharsis for the artists. We’re told that the company with whom Morgan and Pritchard worked has been blacklisted not only once but nine times – seemingly to no effect. If nothing else, it’s so deeply important that these things are discussed, especially in artistic fields. In careers where swift moves between jobs can become isolating and panic-inducing, it can be easy to assume that it’s normal to be economically or practically taken advantage of.
Just the act of sharing experiences like these, not to mention having the tenacity to be able to laugh at them, puts other creatives in a more stable position. Regardless of the execution, it’s brilliant that this show is doing something to hold one of the many terrible companies out there accountable.
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Led by National Theatre Wales and made up of twelve collaborators from Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM) in Wales, Collective Cymru have been chosen to direct one of the ten pioneering projects for Festival UK 2022.
Grace Patrick is a regular contributor to Wales Arts Review.