On Arriving: starting the sustainable journey

We spoke to Annie Taylor of Searchout Theatre about their VAULT Festival show, On Arriving. As a new theatre company, they are making their first steps towards greener practice, highlighting the importance of climate action in the context of creating a play about refugees.

What is your show about?

On Arriving is a new one-woman play which explores a young refugee’s fight for survival, as her country falls apart before her eyes. It transports the audience back and forth through memories as she shares her journey; from the familiarity of joking with friends and navigating young love, to what it means to lose loved ones and what we call home.

It is presented through a non-linear structure - reflecting the way we recall memories. It's a brave, poetic play which looks at the human moments of one person’s choice to leave their home. 

It is presented by new company Searchout Theatre which is made up of Director Cat Robey, Actress Sophia Eleni, Writer Ivan Faute and Producer Annie Tayler. It will be premiered at the VAULT Festival in February 2020.

Where did the idea come from?

Our writer, Ivan, has worked to assist 1st generation minority students transition to college and also volunteers as a refugee resettlement volunteer. On Arriving started as a short, one scene play, and after several sold out showings of this and consistent positive feedback at scratch nights, Ivan and director Cat Robey worked together to dramaturg and develop a full length script. Sophia Eleni performed the short version so has been involved from the beginning, she brings deep, personal connection to the story of home and war, her own family having been made refugees when fleeing Cyprus in 1974 after the Turkish invasion.

How have you made your show more environmentally sustainable?

Although the story isn't directly about the environment, it is something that is very important to us. Environmental changes and the climate crisis are always going to affect the poorest and most vulnerable communities the worst. Therefore it was important to us to make this show us environmentally sustainable as possible.

This started when I attended the Staging Change workshop to learn some practical tips on how we can change our practice. We are using a sustainable, London-based printer for our flyers and posters and have also ordered a lower quantity than we previously would have - encouraging us to distribute them mindfully! We have also used the Staging Change 'take a photo' and 'recycle me' logos on our flyers. During rehearsals any script changes will be emailed rather than printed, and we have a single use plastic ban in the rehearsal room! Cat cycles everywhere and Sophia and Annie always use public transport. 

What have the highlights and challenges been of developing the show in a sustainable way?

I think the highlight has actually been learning that it's not as hard as you first think it's going to be. And anyway, even if it is hard, or some things cost more when you are doing them sustainably, once you engage with it, it's impossible not to see that this is bigger than us. It's bigger than our little show at the VAULT Festival! This is about our whole planet and it's important to do what we can. 

The main difficulty has been the cost. Having just said how important working sustainably is, we still need to try and make the show balance financially and things aren't really set up to support that. Funding is more and more sparse and hard to secure, and doing things like using sustainable printers does cost more. Having a resource like Staging Change there to advise and lay everything out clearly in their guide really helps and VAULT Festival is fantastic - the whole thing really is designed with artists at the centre of it, so being part of that makes a difference. 

Who should carry the responsibility for making theatre more sustainable?

Everyone! The government really need to take the lead on it, and big businesses won't change at the speed they need to unless legislation forces them to, and they are the ones with the power to make the most impact. Having said that, the little people can force change - Greta has proven that!! And the more people put pressure on government and businesses to make changes, the more they will have to follow. It's only going to make a difference if we all chip in, so we are trying to do our bit. 

How to watch On Arriving

You can see On Arriving at VAULT Festival 4 - 9 February at 6pm with an additional matinee on Saturday 8 at 3pm. You can book a ticket here.

You can them us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @OnArriving.

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