Things We Should Talk About is a newly devised work directed by Xanthe Beesley. The show is a social commentary on why it is so difficult to talk about things that really matter. I sat down with assistant director Harriet Wallace-Mead and ensemble member Mavin R Karunanidhy to have a chat about the show and why they feel it’s an important work to see.
To begin with, tell me briefly what the show is about.
H: It’s a theatre-movement-dance piece that asks ‘Why does it feel so hard to talk about the things that matter’. Big conversations are filtered through movement and are abstracted. There’s a beautiful, fantastic irony in making a movement show about talking.
M: For me as part of the ensemble, when you think of dance you think of the kind of dances you usually see. In this case, it’s more movement. That’s the best part! We’re not a company of professional dancers. Everyone is unique. Everyone is from different places. There is this one person who is from the UAE, one from China, I’m from Malaysia, so we’ve got totally different perspectives of things and we bring that to the space and this is integrated within the piece.
Can you elaborate on the title Things We Should Talk About? How has this shaped the show’s development?
H: The movement is informed by a lot of discussion but these things are sometimes inarticulable. They’re things you cannot possible find a way to say or they’re so complex or they’re so big and that’s one of the things that has kind of come to as well; the inability of us as an ensemble of young people to deal with these huge issues.
M: They weigh heavy on us and it’s not easy to translate those emotions into words per se.
H: There’s the underlying battle between the urgency of these issues but then also, how do we possibly grapple with them and are we entitled to speak about these things?
Did you have any ideas of what the show might look like when you started?
M: Not really, I wasn’t too sure about what was going to happen and I think that’s the best way to come in – without any expectations. I have zero theatre background so this whole thing is new to me. It’s the first show I’ve done.
What has been the most challenging thing for you?
M: I think that it was a challenge to be fearless and put myself out there, but that has been liberating and uplifting.
Why do you feel that this show is important and how do you feel it sheds new light on these issues?
M: I think that sometimes people would think this issue is done with but that fact that we still bring it up is proof in itself that it’s not done with. We still have to address it because it’s not all about this society, it’s about different societies. At the end of the day we all come from different places and we still bring those values into this common place and it will still affect other people in different ways.
H: I think one of the things that we have grappled with throughout the process and one of the reasons why it has become more about trying to talk rather than about the specific issues is the sheer number of issues, like there are so many! Issue like; climate change, indigenous rights, feminism, racial politics, class, sexuality, persecution and immigration to name a few. We realised that we just so don’t want to be tokenistic about it. If you try to cram them all into one show that is the risk. It’s like you have to start ticking boxes. I think what this show brings that is different is that we’ve stepped away from that and we’re not even trying to tick the boxes anymore. It’s become about something else; it’s become about how we exist in this world with all of these things over our head and still try and have a positive impact.
What message do you want to leave the audience with?
M: Some might leave feeling uncomfortable, some might feel happy, amazed, you know?
H: Some might feel uplifted, some might feel depressed. We don’t need to tell them how to feel about it and the whole point is that we are sharing our feelings without pretending to know better. There is a very good reason for putting this on the stage and I think it’s because it’s a very common experience at the moment to feel completely overwhelmed by the world. There is this central question of ‘What is the world going to look like if we can’t figure out a way to talk to each other’, and to not see each other as stereotypes and to see each other human beings. I think that’s the thing I want people to leave reflecting on. When do you stop being attentive to someone else’s humanity?
M: You tend to forget a lot that someone else is also human. We all do.
Union House Theatre’s production of Things We Should Talk About runs from the 24th-26th of May at the Guild Theatre.