Inspiring through theatre
• You are presenting a piece of work at the Chichester Fringe. Will you tell us about it?
ASTRA is a multimedia theatre production for adults based on my eco-science fantasy quartet The Gaia Chronicles. Set in a post-fossil fuel Mesopotamia and exploring themes of climate crisis, refugee rights, disability activism and the plight of child soldiers, the show is directed by Raven Kaliana of Puppet (R)evolution, and contains archival Palestinian music curated by Mo’min Swaitat, and original musiccomposedbyyoungasylum seekers working with the charity Play for Progress. An Arts Council England-funded work-in-progress,astraisfollowed by a Q&A, and won the Brighton Fringe ONCA Green Curtain Award for work that encourages artists and audiences to engage with social and environmental challenges.
•Itisbilledasafullyaccessibleproduction.whatexactly does this mean?
Working with Access Consultants Prof Hannah Thompson, author of the influential blog Blind Spot, and Troi Lee, co-founder of the organisation Deafrave,wearecommittedto the principle that Access is for All. Our British Sign Language Interpreter,sumayyasi-tayeb, plays a role in the story and has been praised for bringing a powerful sense of emotion to the show. Our Audio Description(ad)iswrittenandrecorded in the voice of a character, Astra’s friend Lilt, and deepens the storyworld for anyone who listens to or reads it. The AD Intro Notes are available as audio file and text on our blog. A captionedfilmoftheshow(including BSLI) will be shared online by Chichester Fringe over the weekend of July 8-10.
• What inspired you to write this piece?
I am deeply moved by Raven Kaliana’s life’s work with puppetry to address difficult issues including human trafficking and trauma recovery. I was touched and honoured when Raven read The Gaia Chronicles and agreed to collaborate with me on bringing the books’ challenging but ultimatelyhopefulvisiontotheatre audiences.
•Howdoyouhopeyouraudiences will respond?
ASTRA tells a global story
of displacement, resistance to injustice, and empowerment through solidarity. Raven and I hope that audiences will be emotionally stirred by the story, impressed by the power of puppetstotackleadultthemes, andinspiredtojoinwithothers to confront the threats we are facing as a species.
• What has your career pathway been – and what do you hope to go on to do?
Author of five science fiction novels and three poetry collections, I am a Reader in Critical Imaginative Writing at the University of Chichester which has supported ASTRA with rehearsal space and a research grant. I hope to develop ASTRA into a longer theatre piece for a national tour and would also love to adapt The Gaia Chronicles for film, TV and graphic novel. Fingers crossed I’ll write more fiction and poetry eventually!
• Where can we book and find further information?
Visit astratheatre.earth or www.chichesterfringe.co.uk –somefreeticketsareavailable for people from disadvantaged communities, email firstname.lastname@example.org