When the company’s touring plans were placed on an indefinite hiatus, Hack Theatre decided to look for different ways to work and to invite artists, writers and performers to join them. They were especially keen to explore ways for the arts to address issues around inclusivity and allow them to discuss the inequalities and different experiences highlighted by global lockdown in a current and post Coronavirus world.
Hack have created UNMUTE, a series of six fully captioned films from individual artists. The films aim to kickstart a conversation to ensure that the arts are as inclusive as possible and adapt to the ‘new normal’.
Each film gives an engaging glimpse into the diverse experiences of international artists across different artforms, along with never-seen-before short adaptation pieces. Each guest artist also offers up their top tips for creativity in isolation and beyond, sharing their views on how the arts can adapt, how to digitise but not disenfranchise, and why including all voices in the new normal shouldn’t just be a ‘check box’ exercise.
As such the films provide help and advice for both emerging artists and the more experienced, as well as a fascinating glimpse into issue led creativity for anyone interested in modern artistic practice.
The films are all around 30 minutes long. Each consists of a discussion between the artist and Hack Theatre’s Michelle Sewell, their themed top tips for emerging artists and a monologue from the featured artist. They will be released on a daily basis from 20 July, one a day, with each film available to view free at http://www.hacktheatre.co.uk/unmute from 10am. There will also be an open 30 minute Q&A with the each artist via https://twitter.com/hack_theatre in the afternoon of the day of release. See full schedule below. All films will be available to view after launch day at http://www.hacktheatre.co.uk
The contributing artists all make issue-based work and UNMUTE includes themes of race, gender, disability, sexuality, screen exhaustion, international collaboration and financial inequality. Equality, diversity and inclusion are at the heart of their work and the artists explore how these can be central to future arts/cultural practice and provision. Each will also share a truthful short adaptation piece that captures this moment and the need for change.
Watch a short sampler of the films here http://www.hacktheatre/unmute
UNMUTE – artist/film release schedule:
Monday 20 July (Twitter Q&A at 3pm)
Afshan D’Souza-Lodhi is a writer of plays, prose, performance pieces and passive aggressive tweets, born in Dubai of Indian/Pakistani parentage and currently based in Manchester. She also sits on the steering committee for Northern Police Monitoring Project, an independent campaigning and advocacy organisation that challenges police harassment and violence. @afshandl
Tuesday 21 July (Twitter Q&A at 3pm)
Athena Stevens was born in Chicago with athetoid cerebral palsy and now lives in London. She is a writer, performer, director and social activist. She is Artistic Director of Aegis Productions Ltd, writer on attachment at the Finborough Theatre and Creative Council member and Associate Artist at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. She has made films for Channel 4 and BBC TV. @athenastevens
Wednesday 22 July (Twitter Q&A at 3pm)
Sean Wai Keung is a Glasgow based poet and performer of Chinese descent. He has been a Starter Artist at the National Theatre of Scotland and has performed at events and festivals including Edinburgh Art Fair, Anatomy Arts at Summerhall and Rhubaba Art Gallery. His debut poetry pamphlet You are Mistaken won the Rialto Open Pamphlet Competition 2016 and was named a Poetry School ‘book of the year’. He is currently a poetry editor at EX/POST magazine. @SeanWaiKeung
Thursday 23 July (Twitter Q&A at 3pm)
Koko Brown is a London born spoken word artist, theatre-maker and producer, who uses her vocal loop station as an additional limb. She creates work about being ‘the other’, focusing on race, mental health, gender, and identity. One of the Evening Standard’s ‘Seven new playwrights to look out for in 2019’ she has performed at the National Theatre, Ovalhouse, and Soho Theatre, as well as at Glastonbury and Latitude Festivals. @theKokoBrown
Friday 24 July (Twitter Q&A at 12noon)
James Colley is a comedian who lives in his native Australian where he has written extensively for TV and radio. He also contributes to the Guardian, The Big Issue and Frankie magazine. @JamColley
Saturday 25 July (Twitter Q&A at 4pm)
Christina Murdock originally hails from San Francisco and is currently based in London. Her younger sister has atypical Rett syndrome, speech apraxia and severe epilepsy all of which led her to became a passionate advocate for the issues of disability, care-giving, anti-racism, accessibility, and inclusion. An award-winning playwright, actor, and opera singer who has been featured in The Guardian, BBC Arts, BBC World Update, and London’s Evening Standard for her play Dangerous Giant Animals about growing up with her sister. @murdockmusings
Michelle Sewell said ‘I’m really humbled to have had such insightful conversations with such talented artists for UNMUTE, who bring such unique voices to these important issues that so many different communities are facing right now. I have had to think really creatively about how to have an inspiring discussion from my bedroom/meeting room/writing room. They have all been wonderful to work with and I’m very proud of the films we have created together. We hope the films will capture what is happening right now and inspire others to keep adapting, championing, and calling it out wherever they feel they can.’
As a companion piece to the UNMUTE films, Hack are also creating a new adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. Eliza tells the story from the flower seller’s point of view as a woman with Down Syndrome. It is written by Michelle Sewell and expresses the rarely discussed topic of the sexuality of women with disabilities. Eliza is performed by Sarah Gordy MBE, an actor with Down Syndrome and best known for her TV roles as Katie in The A Word, Orlando Quine in Strike and Lady Pamela Holland in the most recent BBC TV version of Upstairs Downstairs, as well as many theatre roles including Ben Weatherill’s Jellyfish. More information about Eliza will be released soon.
Photo credit: Hack Theatre