Empower Her Voice Theatre Collective introduces…
‘Spotlight: Female-Identifying and Non-Binary Voices in Theatre’
This is a new series of interviews, released monthly, to broadcast the emerging and established voices of female-identifying and non-binary creatives within theatre.
Introducing Caitlin Evans
I’m founder and director of ShyBairn Theatre, making live performance for social change.
I make theatre about what it's like to live in the UK today, exploring social and environmental issues in playful, accessible ways to spark conversations and instigate change.
I'm interested in live performance which champions marginalised voices and is rooted in communities. I'm excited by the power of theatre to create social change and interested in making work alongside campaigns for justice.
Graduate of MFA Advanced Theatre Practice at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and BA Philosophy at King's College London.
What was your first experience watching theatre?
Probably the panto at The Customs House in South Shields. We went every year as a family and I remember being like 5 years old seeing the girls dancing and being like ‘mam I want to do that!’
What was the first play to make you want to direct?
I think I kind of fell into directing when doing drama GCSE, I felt like I ended up taking the lead of every devised production we did. I enjoyed watching Frantic Assembly and devising performance in a group - I think that’s what sparked a determination in me to keep making work at uni, to see what I could come up with. I HATED Shakespeare and that was a big motivation for me to do anything that just wasn’t that.
Why theatre for you? Why is it the right form for you?
I love theatre for the process of making work with a group of artists, sharing ideas, playing games, being silly, and creating different worlds that don’t have to have the same capitalist, hierarchical structures that the real world has. It’s an escapism that brings out the kid in us all. Sure, the final play is important too, but this process of making is what excites me the most. The liveness of a performance to an audience, knowing it could all go wrong, playing with the role of the audience and makers, and how we are all pretending for a while to be someone else, or be swept away in someone else’s story. There's a beauty in that which isn’t seen in many other places in society.
What influences the writing you choose to direct? Is there something you look for in particular?
I work with writers to create something together and what excites me is writing which is equal in importance to the design, to the movement, and other elements of the piece. I like writing which is aware of the performers in the space playing a character, but I also do love a good story... I guess I’m still working this out!
What advice would you give to a woman wanting to work and direct in theatre, but without obvious access streams?
Just start making whatever you can, in whatever form you can achieve. Start writing random thoughts. People watching. Drawing. Imagining ideas up in your head, and if you can get some people together to make something, go for it. Practically, follow theatre venues near you for opportunities, get involved whenever you can and reach out to them if you can’t find a formal way of getting involved, as you never know what they could offer. Shy bairns get nowt is my motto - blag your way into situations and then make the best of them!
Access into theatre is a serious problem though, especially for people from lower-socio economic backgrounds and if you don’t live near London or a big city. There needs to be more space for people of all ages who want to work in theatre to have a go without the financial risk and cultural knowledge it relies on. This is the job of theatre buildings, industry leaders and the Arts Council, I hope as we come out of the pandemic this is a huge focus for how buildings are run again.
Have you directed in other forms?
I’m currently developing a plan to turn my first play with ShyBairn, TALK PROPA, into an installation that can tour across the North of England, which is a new form that’s an exciting challenge. I make work for social change, and I’m currently learning more about art and activism and the possibilities of creating work to support campaigns for justice - which could lead to all sorts of creative work in different forms which I’d love. I love the work of Fevered Sleep who make art in different forms depending on the project.
What are your top tips for emerging female directors who have not had formal training?
I went to Central School of Speech and Drama so I did have training in theatre making, but to be honest I don’t feel like the skills, knowledge and experiences I had there have changed the drive and passion I have for making at all (if anything it made me want to give up more at times). I think making work that you want to make is really important, and finding people that you can trust and enjoy creating with. One bonus of this past year in lockdown is the rise in opportunities online, there’s so many workshops now which is a great way to learn skills, develop ideas and meet new people. The Young Vic has great workshops, as well as groups like Part Of The Main.
If you could go back to the beginning of your interest/career in theatre, what would you tell yourself?
You do have a place here. If you make something a bit shit it doesn’t matter. Lots of theatre people are awful and there’s not much you can do about it; don’t take it to heart, just crack on.
What are you working on next?
‘Burnout’ by ShyBairn is being developed at Live Theatre Newcastle in May 2021, with a livestream sharing on 14th May. Check out www.shybairntheatre.co.uk for more info!