This week at York Theatre Royal, Takeover Festival is taking place at York Theatre Royal. Run by 12 to 26-year-olds, Takeover is returning to the Theatre itself after is renovation and reopening this year, and features performances by several up-and-coming theatre companies such as The Wardrobe Ensemble, On the Run, and Human Zoo – and, performing in the main house on Friday, Edinburgh Fringe heavyweights Theatre Ad Infinitum.
“It was a no-brainer really,” Nir Paldi, Co-Artistic Director of Theatre Ad Infinitum, tells me when I ask him about performing at the festival. “I’ve heard about the festival in the past but I actually haven’t been to York. So we got the invitation and I was like, ‘There’s an opportunity!’”
Theatre Ad Infinitum will be performing their new show Bucket List, which is previewing at Takeover and various other locations this month before it opens at the Edinburgh Fringe in August. The show follows a young Mexican girl, Milagros, whose mother, an activist fighting for the rights of women working in Western sweatshops operating in Mexico. “The Mexican government allow them to operate without enforcing any environmental and labour regulations,” Paldi explains, “so the workers end up suffering very, very badly.” After Milagros’ mother is killed for her activism, she finds a list of people her mother deemed responsible for the situation in her country, and decides to get justice for her mother.
Paldi points out that there is more to the show than just its plot. “It deals with themes of social mobility, how to achieve change through violent and non-violent activism, the different between being a freedom fighter and being a terrorist, it deals with political assassination – so very big themes.”
The show deals with some very difficult topics, and Paldi is convinced that theatre is a great way to come to terms with them. “Part of our mission as a company is to open space for these complex themes in a theatrical way. Because part of the strength of theatre in my view is that a group of people are not watching it separately on their screens at home – something is happening live and we sit together, and it’s a group of people going through an experience.. Our shows are very sensory, they are very provocative on many different levels, they normally don’t leave you indifferent.”
That is not to say, however, that Theatre Ad Infinitum’s shows can be described with one broad brush stroke. On the contrary, the company manages to create something different every time – whether that is the wordless Light, exploring the leaking of confidential information using only handheld torches, or The Ballad of the Burning Star, a cabaret exploring the conflict in Israel. “Sometimes people ask what is the best way of defining the kind of work Theatre Ad Infinitum do. The first thing we say is that every production is completely different from the previous one. We really like surprising our audiences,” Paldi explains.
Bucket List should prove to surprise audiences once more. The piece came out of a collaboration between Paldi and Vicky Araico Casas, who will be performing as leading Bucket List’s all-female ensemble. “The play is very much about women, and it just seemed natural,” Paldi tells me, when I ask him about the show’s cast. “It’s about women coming together to defend themselves and survive in a difficult situation. I’m hoping that when people see the piece it will be very clear why it is an all-female ensemble.”
Audiences watching the show at Takeover should be excited – they become part of the collaborative devising process in which the show is created. Paldi tells me that Theatre Ad Infinitum “really like bringing the audience into our making process. The making process for us is something that’s very important, as part of what we do, so it’s not separate to the performance. We bring the audience in.” These sort of previews are hugely important for the company, then, as they allow the artists to get feedback from their audiences from “big discussions afterwards about the show”, which means audiences are integral in shaping the company’s shows, and allowing them to discover what does and doesn’t work before the show opens in Edinburgh later this month.
The show is perfect for somewhere like Takeover, Paldi explains, as the work of Theatre Ad Infinitum “suits the temper” of young people. “There is an element that is very thrilling and relentless in the work,” he continues, “so I think it’s very good for young audiences. It’s very bold, and strong, and engaging and thrilling.”
With two weeks of development after the previews of Bucket List, the Edinburgh Fringe, and a trip to China with Light, Takeover Festival can only be adding to the increasing momentum and success of the company. The rehearsal period of Bucket List in total has been long, around 11 weeks, and Paldi notes that “now it is like everything is coming together.” It seems that the company will be hugely busy for the foreseeable future – because, as Paldi notes, “You know: the work doesn’t stop.”