Interview with Abigail Sewell

Following the success of Burn Bright’s digitally commissioned pilot, Better In Person (led by Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley) is continuing the series with the next instalment which will amplify Black women’s voices and stories. I spoke with Better In Person Director, Abigail Sewell to find out more.

How did you first get into theatre?
I got into theatre through several training schemes. I trained as an actor at the brilliant Intermission Youth Theatre and as a Young Associate at Ovalhouse. Young Vic also have a fantastic Directors’ Programme where I’ve learned loads. The experience with these organisations laid the foundations for me, plus put me in contact with some amazing peers with whom I now regularly collaborate.

Can you tell me about Better in Person?
We are social beings and so this period of isolation has been a challenge for many of us. We’ve all had to adapt in many ways. Sometimes that has meant having important conversations – that would be better in person – over text, phone or video call. Better in Person is a snapshot of these intimate moments. It lets us in on the personal, messy, beautiful, human interactions that are happening behind closed doors. All in the form of 5 short plays set on Zoom, shared via Zoom.

What was it about the project that made you want to get involved?
Burn Bright aims to level the playing field within theatre so I love what the organisation stands for. And Better in Person feels like a really special response to the times. It’s a really exciting way of working too – casting and directing 5 plays in a week. Plays that have been written in a week, responding to stimulus from the general public. It all felt so live and responsive, which was refreshing given how stagnant the world has been.

What can audiences expect?
If Better in Person 1 was anything to go by then audiences can expect to feel seen, reflected and warm & fuzzy inside.

How do you think the representation of black women in theatre can be improved?
Hire us. Not just to make the work, but in buildings – as decision makers. It’s not going to work if we don’t have a say in which stories are told. Then we need to go a step further and shine a light on the structural inequalities that dictate who can sustain themselves within this industry. These structures must be dismantled. And we must be prepared to work through the discomfort that this will cause for the privileged.

What would you like Better in Person to achieve?
I hope audience members leave feeling inspired to connect, to create and to change.

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