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Vicki Baron & Kate Goodfellow: '…And Now For a Re-VAULT'

Featuring their signature combination of physical theatre and dynamic storytelling, RedBellyBlack's new show Ok, Bye opens the dialogue about what it means to part ways. Co-creators Kate Goodfellow and Vicki Baron write for Run Riot about why parting is such sweet sorrow.

We say goodbye to things all the time. This isn’t a bad or even a particularly complex thing – it’s just the way it is, and for that reason, it’s very interesting to look at how ‘goodbye’ works.

Think about moving to a new house, an addiction, weight loss or pets. Imagine letting something go without even realising that you’re doing it – or have done it. You might recall friends you’ve drifted apart from, coffee shops and pubs you never go to anymore and favourite lovingly-worn old shoes, hibernating at the back of the cupboard. We build our lives out of people, places and objects that are constantly moving and disappearing.

It’s a Jenga Tower made of interconnected bricks and blocks, not a house.

About two years ago, we both started paying more attention to these vanishing pieces. We’ve seen some bricks go that have nearly broken us. We’ve also wrenched some blocks out ourselves and hurled them out of the window – metaphorically speaking, of course. But in the process, the shape of our lives just keeps moving, as the ‘tower’ inevitably changes shape.

We believe that this is true for pretty much everybody.

So, we started talking to our network of friends and families and colleagues and collaborators about it. Everyone who had something to say was of interest to us. We asked them to tell us what kinds of things they’ve said goodbye to and how it made them feel. We never go into these interviews with preconceptions: people are free to discuss anything they like. We listen. It doesn’t matter whether the conversation goes off on a tangent. We want people to be honest and interesting, not perfect. 

RedBellyBlack

One of the most surprising things to come out of the interview process is the conspicuous absence of one particular kind of farewell, namely – ‘the break-up.’ This wasn’t a conscious decision, but like all ‘goodbyes’ – it’s just the way it is, and we’re pleased that it has worked out this way. We tend to include a lot of autobiographical and personal material in our shows and so we are particularly proud to have resisted the temptation to air relationship grievances in Ok, Bye. Verbatim theatre can be hugely cathartic, but it’s also important to practise self-care and avoid the destructive urge to put your entire internal world on stage. We’ve all had our hearts broken and we personally just don’t feel like talking about it anymore – as it seems so do most people.

Another surprising aspect of our show is that although there are many sad stories and moving moments, there is also a lot of pure joy. There are inspirational and uplifting tales from people who have let go of something hurtful. There are gleeful conversations and giggly confessions. The goodbyes that have been helpful, or even healthy, are wonderful to talk about, and we’re excited to stage them.

And we’re especially excited to stage these stories at the VAULT Festival. This event absolutely deserves its reputation for excellence: it is inclusive and innovative – exactly what theatre in this country should be. Theatre is about communication and the VAULT Festival has a beautiful way of bringing people in – literally from the cold – to open important dialogues.

The organisers are so supportive of this notion that they have happily facilitated ‘ReVAULT’ – the new support network for female creatives (co-led by Kate Goodfellow.) This collaborative and creative relationship is something that we pioneered as a way of getting to know our fellow performers, finding out about their shows and supporting their work. 

Tumbling After 2015, image by Mihaela Bodlovic

RedBellyBlack are also teaming up with Boogaloo Radio, with a weekly show called (you guessed it) ReVAULT Wednesdays 12-2pm. Each week you will hear from participants of the VAULT, learn about their lives, their work and of course their love of music.

RedBellyBlack are proud to be an all-female production team, however, like things already mentioned, this is not something we consciously set out to become. We are lucky to all adore each other, be of the same gender and love making theatre… which is a smashing combo.

A lot has begun to change in the past 12 months regarding the power of a women’s voice, however, I find it frustrating to hear people say, “Oh, there is a rise in female-led work.” This statement is flawed. We have always been here, it is just that our voices are now being heard and there is a spotlight being shined on us and at us… which is about bloody time.

There is a lot to be said for the rise in women supporting women, in movements such as #strongertogether and #timesup. What you are seeing now is an army of badass women who are joining forces and showing the world what we can do when we work together. Which is exactly the reason for ReVAULT, because we knew that all it would take to make great things happen was to get these brilliant women in a room together.

RedBellyBlack

The VAULT Festival this year is indeed showcasing a stellar line up of women, women we are proud to know and hopefully will have the joy to work with in the future: women talking about their bodies, their rage and their experiences. Nicole Acquah’s For A Black Girl is a vital and vibrant two-hander that scrutinises racism and sexism. Fuck You Pay Me by Joana Nastari is a refreshingly authentic look at sex work, destroying all preconceptions and prejudices.

In week three of the festival you can catch Bicycles and Fish by Kate Arnstein, which talks about why feminism is discovered so much later in life than misogyny and how she/you/we might change that. Week four of the festival welcomes a show called SURPRISE! Actor, clown and jolly anxious theatre-maker Lauren invites you to a new show packed full of party games and hopefully no panic attacks. SURPRISE! is an interactive clown show that looks at how we can confront anxiety, overcome fear and find freedom through laughter.

In week six we’re excited to see Good Girl. This tells a darkly comic, coming of age tale about learning to live unapologetically while adding a distinctive new perspective to the current dialogue about female experiences. Good Girl, performed by the incredible Naomi Sheldon, will also be transferring after the VAULT to Trafalgar Studios. In the final week of the Festival, don’t miss Big Bad by Jodi Gray. Big Bad is a blackly comic, supernatural tale of imprisonment, resistance, and female sexuality.

We have only listed a handful of shows created and performed by women at the VAULT, now joined at the hip, so to speak, through the RE-VAULT network. But Lucky for you dear reader, Andy, Matt and Tim (the masterminds behind the Festival) have done a genius job of programming these and so many more female powerhouse productions into the eight-week underground extravaganza.

 

Vicki Baron – Associate Director

Kate Goodfellow – Artistic Director

‘Ok, Bye’ will be running at VAULT Festival 7-11th March in the Crescent Space at 7.45pm.

Check out the VAULT Festival website for more details and tickets.