[EDEN. Image courtesy of Displace Yourself Theatre]
Eden is the latest project to be brought to life by Displace Yourself Theatre, a young devising company made up of Jennifer Nevin and Mike Auger. The company focuses on the power of movement in their pieces, illuminating aspects of our society that otherwise remain obscured. Eden takes place in 2044, when survival is only possible in Eden, a city enclosed by a protective dome. It follows two individuals’ experience of social exclusion. My mind flicks to Stephen King’s Under The Dome, in which protective paradise is certainly not as it’s first portrayed. However, I will have to wait until opening night to find out if similar areas are explored here. Eden is coming to the Carriageworks Theatre on 26th& 27th September.
I spoke to Jennifer and Mike to ask them some more questions about their intriguing and complex ideas….
[DYT – Displace Yourself Theatre]
TSOTA: So what led you to the idea of Eden and specifically wanting to target social exclusion and ‘false promises of paradise’?
DYT: Seven years ago Jen struck up a conversation with a Big Issue seller outside West Yorkshire Playhouse for a character study at drama school. This conversation led to Eden. We were further inspired after facilitating creative workshops for vulnerable communities on the Thai/ Myanmar border. Eden is born out of a strong ethos to produce intimate work aimed at challenging social injustices. Eden has been made to challenge a society that on first glance seems almost impossible to change, but we want the piece to play a role in raising awareness of a serious issue.
TSOTA: Can you tell me some more about The Path To Eden Project, that you set up to raise awareness of issues targeted in Eden?
DYT: The events are for those who have experienced social exclusion and/ or homelessness, and those who work or volunteer with homeless organisations. We want our audiences to play a significant role in our artistic process, growing our work from the community. The Path to Eden Project was set up to engage with people who may not have easy access to the arts and are interested in learning new skills in a supportive environment. We have hosted these events in Stockton, Leeds and Bradford.
TSOTA: What led you to the blend of narrative, music and movement that you use, compared to traditional forms of theatre?
DYT: Jen has been writing poems about politics and social challenges for years and I have been writing music for over 10 years. We met during our training at East 15 Acting School on a course that encouraged exploration of alternative styles of theatre and the importance of physicality. We were bored of going to the theatre and seeing the same stories being told in the same style and wanted to make theatre that mattered, that was skilled and would involve the audience from beginning to end.
Image (c) Displace Yourself Theatre
TSOTA: You talk about the process of a piece of theatre – having spectators watch your work in progress and giving feedback. Is this an important part of Displace Yourself Theatre?
DYT: This is a very important part of our company. We don’t want to lock ourselves away in a rehearsal room making a show that has had no input from the people who it is about. Receiving audience feedback has been an integral part of our devising process and it became clear to us early on that an audience can bring countless perspectives and their input allows us to step off the stage and watch ourselves in somebody else’s shoes. Having audiences from different backgrounds has been invaluable, offering new ideas that we just wouldn’t have considered on our own.
TSOTA: Are there any theatre companies, directors or actors that have particularly inspired your love of alternative theatre?
DYT: Jen and I first started daydreaming about Displace Yourself Theatre after a performance by Cardboard Citizens – a company that makes theatre with and for homeless people. We began thinking about our future company and how we wanted to do exactly that: encourage audiences to discuss real issues and make thought-provoking work.
Other inspiration comes from companies such as DV8: those who take risks but are accessible, breaking barriers between movement and theatre.
TSOTA: How did your project in Thailand influence and teach you as a theatre company? Has it inspired Eden at all?
DYT: It was a huge inspiration, and a challenge for both the children and for us, not only because of the language barrier but because many of the children had fled war and had come from traumatic pasts, and didn’t have confidence in themselves. This is where we saw a chance to build their confidence by offering opportunities to sing and do drama. We have definitely learnt a great deal about social exclusion and this has driven our passion to make Eden. However, we have a lot more to learn about the situation out there and we will be going back to visit the children in November. Our next show will be inspired by what we learn.
Watch the trailer for EDEN:
EDEN is showing at the Carriageworks Theatre on 26th & 27th September. Tickets available HERE
Displace Yourself Theatre’s next project is entitled The Open Road Project. In November Jennifer & Mike will be travelling to South East Asia to work with vulnerable children who have fled war and forced labour to build their confidence through drama, singing and movement. Working with local NGOs, DYT will devise a show to be performed for their community at an end of year Christmas celebration.
Displace Yourself Theatre are running a Crowdfunder campaign to held raise funds for the project. Visit the campaign page for more details – crowdfunder.co.uk/displaceyourselftheatre