We've chatted with Maddy Costa - Writer of 'Calais' - part of the double bill of performance Borderland//Calais performing as part of Vault Festival on the 8th to the 12 of Feb at 6.20 pm.
Maddy writes blogs, criticism and fanzines, mostly inspired by theatre, but also taking in music, feminism, poetry and more. She is critical writer with Chris Goode & and Company, and co-custodian (with Mary Paterson and Diana Damian Martin) of Something Other and The Department of Feminist Conversations, inter-related projects that think politically about performance and performatively about politics.
1. How does it feel combining political activism and Theatre Making?
A funny question, as I'm neither a political activist nor a theatre-maker. This is the first time I've written a text for performance (apart from the play i wrote when I was about 20 which NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT). And I've always shied away from direct action. And yet: a big chunk of my working practice as someone who writes about theatre is as critic-in-residence with Chris Goode & Company, whose mission statement includes a strong desire to hear marginalised voices, and to think about different ways of living together - anti-capitalist forms of social organisation, basically - and to advocate queer perspectives over heteronormativity. And in my writing about the company i'm fiercely political, with all of those desires mingling with my own, which have always been adamantly feminist.
2. How new is this for you?
The specific events I'm writing about - the demolition of the Calais camps in October 2016 - very new, to my shame. Writing for the stage - also new. Editing an unwieldy text into a cohesive narrative - very familiar. I spent some years as an editor at the Guardian before writing full-time, and my critical practice blurs into dramaturgy, so I'm getting to exercise muscles in both stretchy but comfortable ways.
3. What do you want your audience to feel coming out of the show?
I really, REALLY don't want people to feel bludgeoned. Or that the text is pious or simple or romanticised. It's complex and I want people to spend some time with that complexity. And - obvious though it is to say - it would be amazing if people came out of it inspired or galvanised to do something to help, whether it's joining up with an aid organisation such as Crew for Calais to help out in Greece or Paris or elsewhere, contributing to charities here by volunteering to do admin, or donating money. I worry there's a hierarchy of aid, that one kind of aid is considered more valuable or worthy than another. It's all necessary, all vital.
4. Have there been any statistics or events in the research of the refugee crisis that have really resonated with you?
Because of the nature of what I've been doing - working with twitter feeds - mostly I've been devastated by the pettiness in humankind. Why spend your days sending basically abusive tweets to volunteer organisations in Calais about how much you loathe refugees? Making jokes about them? Also, I've been struck by the ease with which people - me included, in this answer - speak about the refugees as a monolith, as though "the refugees" weren't made up of thousands and thousands of individuals. Individuals from so many countries as well. So many languages. So many situations of danger and desperation from which they're escaping. But maybe these are things that have struck me; and in fact the thing that has most resonated with me is a kind of instruction on the Refugees Info Bus feed, in a list of things you could do to help in this crisis, which simply says: Be kind.
5. What’s been the most challenging part of your process?
I think I'm about to hit it: the first read-through of the text I've shaped from two twitter feeds lasted around 50 minutes, and it's supposed to be 20-30. And the feedback session at the end went roughly like this: "Is there too much of x?" "No! that's so vital!" "Do you think I should cut back y?" "No! that's really important!" I'm taking a few days off from it in the hopes that the space will help me see more clearly where I can make cuts. So there's that, and there's also holding my nerve when waiting for people to get back to me about whether they would like to perform in it - rather than emailing them literally every hour asking "Do you know yet? Have you decided? Can you?"
Tickets are £9 and 2for1 deals are available. If you are a refugee, displaced person or volunteer who can't afford a ticket, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to share these performances with you.
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