The VAULT Festival is coming to town! From January 24th to March 18th, over three hundred new shows explode across a festival of festivals in their Waterloo home. With new venues, new bars, new food and plenty of surprises, VAULT 2018 is the biggest, fairest platform in London for artists to present innovative, daring work. Here we catch up with the team behind An Act of Kindness to have a chat about VAULT itself and the inspiration for their play.
When was the last time you spoke to a stranger? What did you say? Most people have had conversations with strangers that have lingered. Whether because of the person’s humour, an unlikely story, a common interest shared or general intoxication, many people have saved a memory of a person they will most likely never see again. Rascal Theatre’s An Act of Kindness by Helena Westerman expands on this. It asks the question, what if you met that stranger again? How would the conversation develop?
Influenced by conversations she had whilst on public transport – albeit late at night, Westerman, a 23 year old Londoner, started writing down dialogue, unconnected but all with the same overarching theme – two strangers talking to each other. Her debut play began to emerge as she pieced together these conversations. The finished result follows the conversations of two young Londoners who repeatedly meet at a bus stop in Brixton. Striking up an unlikely friendship the pair discusses everything from the trivial to the surreal to the personal, giving an unapologetic view of the human spirit and what a little kindness can do.
When it came to staging the play, Helena took her conversations online, posting on the Facebook group ‘Bossy’, a quickly growing female-only space for theatre makers in the UK, for a director. Caroline Simonsen, a recent graduate, responded and four weeks later the play was on at The Lion and Unicorn. Through rehearsing in Helena’s kitchen and fixing lights in freezing fringe theatres the two became fast friends. ‘I really resonated with the themes Helena was writing about’ says Caroline, ‘I think we are living in times of hostility and distrust and it is important to remind ourselves, or perhaps hope, that humans are basically good’. A year on they have taken the show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where they met their Assistant Producer and their flatmates, theatre company Tit4Twat, on Facebook. There the show was named ‘Best Writing’ by Theatre Weekly’s ‘Best of the Fest’ round up.
VAULT Festival itself is built on interactions between strangers, both in person and online, as companies boost one another on Twitter, share technical equipment and negotiate tight changing rooms. Rascal Theatre have gone a step further to promote positive interactions by producing Kindness Cards, small yellow cards with different acts of kindness on them which they leave round London and the Vaults and hand out after shows. ‘The idea is that once the deed is done, you pass on the card to a stranger to do the same. We’re not taking it too seriously but they seem to make people smile’ says Westerman.
Rascal Theatre’s aim is simple; to share stories that reflect the world around us, with a hope for a better world to come. One where we talk, listen and share openly with one another.
An Act of Kindness is at VAULT Festival from 7 – 11 February at 19:45 & 16:45 (Sunday only) and The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham from 28 February – 1 March at 20:00. Tickets and more information can be found here.