Chichester Observer

Inspiring through theatre

- Naomi Foyle Writer and poet

• 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 astratheat­ or www.chichester­ –somefreeti­cketsareav­ailable for people from disadvanta­ged communitie­s, email info@astratheat­

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Naomi Foyle

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