Behind See Me Now – Interview with Imogen Brodie and Kirsten Adam

A version of See Me Now was originally performed as part of The Brolly Project in August 2015, a Young Vic Taking Part project. The team worked closely with outreach projects across London to find a company of participants who have, or do work in the sex industry. The aim was to make an original performance created by the company, formed by whatever they chose to share.  The project has been developed over the last 2 years, and is now playing as See Me Now in the YV Maria.

Imogen Brodie , Director of Taking Part, and Kirsten Adam, Two Boroughs & Directors Program Project Manager, talk about the process behind the project below.

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Governess Elizabeth in See Me Now –  Photography by Matt Humphrey

How did the concept for See Me Now come about?

Imogen Brodie (IB): The first thing was that we had been thinking about how to do a project alongside Measure for Measure which was in the Main House a couple of years ago. We did a project with Look Left Look Right at the Maudsley (Hospital), and it came about from conversations we’d had about wanting to make a show with sex workers. And the fact that the representation of sex workers in Measure for Measure, well it’s Shakespearean, so it’s really old and abusive, and quite comical.

Kirsten Adam (KA): And sex workers don’t have a voice in it at all. They’re an integral part of the story but they don’t have a voice, so it was an interesting way to flip that and give them a voice.

See Me Now and Now We Are Here have both been TP community/parallel shows that have been opened up to the public, Why do you think it’s important to share these stories?

IB: I think with both of those plays they’re very marginalised groups of people, that everybody feels they have knowledge of. Particularly with sex workers, and more recently with refugees, people think they know what the story is, but really the stories are much more broad, and rich, and individual.

KA: Sex workers are depicted a lot in fiction, in films and TV and things, but very seldom are those stories developed from real experience, or they’re developed from one experience. One thing we were really keen with for See Me Now in the first place was to go there is not one story, there is not one ‘this is what the life of a sex worker is’, but to look at the range of experiences and opinions.

IB: And also remembering people who are part of a group are just people. They happen to be a refugee or a sex worker but they’re just people with all of the same concerns as people who don’t fall into those categories. We wanted to show that as well, that is was about the humanity of people who happen to work in the sex industry. That we have all of the same life issues like paying bills and sorting out their tax.

KA: A lot of See Me Now is about work that’s actually not specific to sex work. It’s about what it’s like to earn a wage, and a lot of it’s about life. As we went through the process a lot of the stuff that was interesting and that we found most revealing, wasn’t about sex work, it was about people as human beings.

IB: I think we also found out that the group felt there were kind of two stories, it was either Happy Hooker or Trafficked Victim. And that the majority of them didn’t fall into either of those categories and wanted to say that there’s more to it than that. That actually it’s a profession that will be around forever and ever but that you can’t say you’re a sex worker as a valid life choice. That you still have to keep it hidden and a secret, we wanted to expose that.  Also the group are very keen to decriminalise, that’s the only unifying thought amongst them. Like any group they have lots of different opinions, but that one thing about safety and decriminalisation is really important to communicate as well.

How did you go about finding the participants for this kind of project?

KA: We worked with a lot of partner organisations such as SWISH and the Terrance Higgins Trust, Ugly Mugs, Praed Street Project, and we worked with a woman called Emily Elgar who had been an outreach worker at SWISH. So we did lots of work going to sexual health clinics, or support services. Meeting people in those places, so that we were coming to them rather than expecting them to come to us straight away. There was quite a lot of interviewing people in those places, especially the more vulnerable or street based sex workers, who are not living lives where they can come in and do a workshop every Saturday. Imogen went to an outreach service.

IB: It’s this really brilliant service called Open Doors and they particularly look after street sex workers. From 10 o’clock in the evening till 3 o’clock in the morning they drive the streets of Hackney, and they know everyone, so they stop at everyone who’s working and give out condoms, Kit Kats and tea – just things that will keep everyone going. That service has now been cut, the funding has been cut for it, and so has another amazing service called Praed  Street Project, their funding has been cut and also some of SWISH.  It’s one of the hidden things that have happened over the last couple of years, since the Tories have got their claws in, those services are disappearing really fast.

KA: There’s a lot of amalgamating those services with services for those who were trafficked or with alcohol and drug dependencies. And there is a lot of cross over but being a sex worker doesn’t mean you are a drug addict or trafficked. You can be a sex worker and still need the support that those services offered. But it’s just a way to balance the budget really rather than to do what’s best by the people.

IB: Emily was brilliant because she’d done that job herself of supporting people. She already had a level of trust in those services. So it meant that our way into that was based on good faith.

KA: We had quite a gentle beginning. The first thing we did was have a tea party for the people that might be interested, that was back in April 2015, that was a chance for them to meet us, Mimi and Molly and find out what it might be like. Because for anyone, this is not specific to sex workers, anyone who hasn’t worked in theatre before ‘come and do a workshop’ doesn’t mean anything.  What’s a workshop? So we did that and had nice baked goods and then we started the series of workshops.

IB: I don’t think we talked about sex work for about 3 months. Everyone knew that’s why we were together but the stuff we did was much more about getting to know each other, working out what people were interested in in terms of writing, performing or what things they wanted to share with the group. The first version of this show, when it was Brolly Project, had much less about sex work in it than See Me Now does because I think that was the last thing that came out. So all of those relationships were made before the sex work questions happened.

KA: I think a lot of the sex work stuff when it did come up was a lot of us just talking. We did an exercise about ‘What were health and safety instructions for your workplace?’. So that was about the sex industry being their workplace, but it wasn’t about going ‘So tell me about…’. We met someone early on who said the first thing people always asked her was how much she charged. And she said ‘Would you ever ask someone how much they earn the first time you meet them?’. It’s just so rude.  So I think we wanted to get know people and actually see what the show could be coming out of that. It could have been that the first version had nothing about sex work in it. If that’s what they’d wanted to say, that’s what we would have played.

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Peter and company in See Me Now –  Photography by Matt Humphrey

You’d talked about trust and relationships, how did you build those?

IB: It’s about being interested in other people. Making sure that when they come here, the experience they have is comfortable and friendly. That you’ve got all the things that make you feel welcome: food and drink, and an atmosphere that feels like we’re all in one thing together. The breaking down of the hierarchy in that room was really important. Because one group of people in there have a certain experience and another group of people in there have a completely different one. Sharing experiences that we do have in common was really important; being children, being parents, being partners, being all of the things that are unifying. It was a very open space. We did a lot of work particularly with this group about anonymity and about us not sharing it outside the room. I think that made a big difference. I think we just got on very well, it was about it being fun and not asking people to relive trauma. Sometimes that happens, because that’s what people want to talk about but that wasn’t our driving force.

KA:  We did a lot of other stuff around the workshops. Going to see shows here, going to see shows other places, and just keeping people involved in what we were doing. Especially after the Brolly Project had been on, that was on in August 2015 so there’s quite a big gap between then and now. So we’ve all worked really hard to keep in touch.  That might be just having a cup of tea with people or chatting on the phone or walking the dog in Battersea Park.

IB: It’s about being aware if you want people to carry on working with you that you have a responsibility to them. We don’t feel like we’re giving anything to them, we’re in a dialogue and it’s a two way relationship. We’ve done loads of fun things together and I think that really builds a foundation. We went to Latitude together, to do a really early version of Brolly and we went to HighTide last year. It’s about the consistent friendship, which obviously has some boundaries but is very generous on both sides. I think because they’re naturally such a generous group of people it was really easy for us to do that. But certainly needed to be consistent; doing little gatherings, making sure that when they came to the theatre they were always invited together so that it was easy to keep in touch with each other.

KA: And we’ll continue you do that after the show as well. You have such a downer after a show finishes anyway, and I imagine a lot of them will just go back to whatever they were doing before, so you want to feel like it has a legacy rather than just going ‘Thanks guys, see you later’.

IB: Also we started the development for See Me Now really early on. We’ve been working workshops and development sessions since July last year, and since then we’ve met most Saturdays.

And is that a different process to other TP projects?

KA: Not really. Just over a longer period of time, because we’ve had the two incarnations.

IB: But the form and the structure’s the same. I think we really hit a rich vein of storytelling with this group of people. Because of the work they have done, they’re very open minded and good at socialising. They have to be good at making other people feel comfortable, that’s part of the job that they either have done or still do.

KA: And they’ve all been very naturally good performers, which is not that surprising really. When you think about working to make someone else feel comfortable, that’s kind of what they’re doing with an audience.

IB: So it has almost been an easier process.

Is there anything else you want to say about the project?

KA: It’s been really jokes.

IB: Really hilarious, full scale hilarious, the whole way through. So resilient and so fun. Super smart. Anyone who’s had to navigate the sort of experiences they have has to be proper savvy.  They’re all really interesting on a really deep level as people, so it’s just been fascinating and I feel really privileged to have worked on it. It’s been such an incredible experience and we’ve learnt so much about sex and sexuality.

KA: And the span of people’s sexuality. It does make you reassess your own prejudices  – about the clients I would say more than the workers. Even a lot of people who are very open minded about sex workers, still go ‘Oooh clients = bad’.  But actually, they’re so generous about their clients and honest – there are awful people but also people that they are building a relationship with.

IB: It’s shifted all that understanding and that’s what I hope it does for people who watch it. Shifts the understanding of sex, sexuality, relationships and people.

See Me Now  runs 11 Feb – 4 Mar in the Young Vic’s Maria. Tickets for this production are all sold out but you are welcome to join our returns queues from an hour before each performance. Find more information on See Me Now here

 

YV’s arms are open – we are a Theatre of Sanctuary

The Young Vic is proud to be a Theatre of Sanctuary. Our doors are always open to refugees.

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In 2016 we at the YV extended our commitment to raising awareness of the plight of refugees with our Horizons season which will continue this year with Taha in July and The Suppliant Women in November.

Also last year we became the first London Theatre of Sanctuary, as awarded by City of Sanctuary.

David Lan, our Artistic Director, said of Horizons: “We are responding to the world as it is now. People in distress need help and they need to be heard. We want to provide a powerful means for audiences at home and abroad to connect with the political, social and human realities refugees face.”

We hope that being a Theatre of Sanctuary will help us to encourage more of our new neighbours to visit our theatre, making the Young Vic an important part of their new home.

In order to become a Theatre of Sanctuary, the Young Vic had to show written evidence of three key principles: that as a company we had enhanced our knowledge of asylum issues,  that we had embedded a culture of welcome into our professional community and that we had shared our learning with others.

City of Sanctuary is a movement committed to building a culture of hospitality and welcome, especially for refugees seeking sanctuary from war and persecution. Their motto is: “Wherever refugees go, we want them to feel safe and find people who will welcome them.” – an important philosophy in these times.

Find out more about City of Sanctuary and how you can help here.

★★★★ “Stealthy, absorbing” | Reviews for The Nest

The Young Vic’s co-production with the Lyric Theatre, Belfast is a fable about the moral and environmental cost of our materialistic nesting instincts.

Conor McPherson has written a powerful new version of Franz Xaver Kroetz’s German classic.

Read the latest reviews below and find out what our audiences have been saying so far.

★★★★
“Stealthy, absorbing – Ian Rickson’s production throbs with tension and fear”
The Times | Read the full review

★★★★
“A quiet and immensely touching production – Kinlan is tremendous”
Financial Times | Read the full review

“A potent production with a brooding original score by PJ Harvey”
Evening Standard | Read the full review

“Nuanced performances from Caoilfhionn Dunne and Laurence Kinlan”
The Telegraph | Read the full review

“The Nest’s environmental message couldn’t be more topical”
The Guardian | Read the full review

“Immaculately directed by Rickson”
Time Out | Read the full review

Babes in Arms performance

Here at the Young Vic we’re opening our doors to those with little ones on 25 November 11.30am. The actors will be aware that there may be additional noise from the auditorium and the house lights will remain up throughout. Find out more or book now.

The Nest runs at the Young Vic until 26 November. Check out more photos from the production. For tickets and more information head to youngvic.org.

Extra seats just added for A Man of Good Hope!

Good news! Due to popular demand, we’ve just added some extra seats for performances of the otherwise sold-out A Man of Good Hope.

Be quick, A Man of Good Hope only runs at the Young Vic until 12 November. You can book the extra tickets now for just £10.

Now, isn’t that just golden? amogh-giphy

Kofi Annan visits A Man of Good Hope

The Young Vic was honoured to welcome former UN Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Laureate, Kofi Annan, to see A Man of Good Hope. 

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“I very much enjoyed A Man of Good Hope. The acting is wonderful, the music great and the storyline contemporary and timely.”

– Kofi Annan

Kofi is not alone in sharing how this production impacted him. Check out our Storify of audience tweets so far.

A Man of Good Hope runs at the Young Vic until 12 November.

8 ways to be sustainable in the Theatre | How we try to put them into play

As we draw to the end of Sustainable September, we thought it would be ace to highlight some of the ways you can be sustainable in the theatre ALL year round.

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The cast and creative team of La Musica were given a tree in Vauxhall as a present at opening night to commemorate the show being a Classics for a New Climate Production.

 

1. Up-cycling and reusing sets

🌱 So many times at the end of a production, if it’s not of immediate or foreseeable reuse, all that beautiful set goes straight in the skip. Not only wasting perfectly good materials but filling up our landfills. And we’re in an industry that is currently full of budget cuts, what is going on?  The Young Vic works with Scenery Salvage and Set Exchange, who aim to ensure that sets have a long and meaningful life post-production or are dealt with in the most sustainable way possible when they are no longer required. Recent examples include donating the sand from Ah, Wilderness! to a local nursery, the timber from The Trial being re-appropriated for La Musica and the rubber crumb from Yerma coming from a previous production at the Donmar Warehouse, rather than buying new.

2. LED lighting in the theatre

🌱 LED lighting is the way of the future because quite simply they use a fraction of the power of a normal light bulb…. meaning LOW POWER CONSUMPTION. Woop. Our production of La Musica was a Classics for a New Climate production – and included an LED light box. Capital Refurbishment Projects have also seen us introduce LED lighting into the YV get-round and public toilets.

3. Working to create a living roof garden to support an urban garden ecosystem

🌱 Green roofs (roofs with a vegetated surface and substrate) provide ecosystem services in urban areas, including improved storm-water management, better regulation of building temperatures, reduced urban heat-island effects, and increased urban wildlife habitat.1 Now in its second year, our gardening club works with Kew Gardens ‘Grow Wild’ Campaign. Check out our roof top below.

We’re also in love with our wormery – any appropriate food waste is place in the wormery, digested, and turned into compost. Go green!

4. Give away your surplus playtexts.

🌱 Why not give away any surplus playtexts to those who could use them? Definitely better than having these fantastic pieces of work lie around the office or in storage. All unused and surplus playtexts at the Young Vic are given away to local secondary schools.

5. Encourage your audiences to travel via public transport.

🌱 Actively encourage your audiences to hit the tube, bus, bike or their two feet in order to make to-ing and fro-ing from the theatre have less impact on the environment. Added bonus of not worrying about parking.

On top of trying to promote this practice to our audience, the Young Vic give away 10% of all its tickets away for free to local young people, schools and colleges, residents and community groups. Meaning that we know that at least 10% of our audience comes from the local area, and thus have a minimal carbon footprint in associated travel.

6. Get your in-house theatre bars and restaurants on board.

🌱 Local and organic is best! Just think about the how much wasted energy and carbon output you can cut down on if you stick to locally sourced produce. Also sticking with organic, you know not only exactly where it’s coming from, but what’s in it.

The Cut Bar does some fantastic work: food is seasonal, and comes from ethical, organic and free-range suppliers. There are also number of vegan and vegetarian options, the beer comes from a local brewery in Bermondsey, the wine comes from a biodynamic vineyard, and our takeaway cups are fully recyclable (unlike in coffee-chain shops).

7. Use eco-friendly suppliers within your companies/offices/organizations.

🌱 This one’s for all industries out there. Go green in your stationary and office supplies, why not?  For more information on the impact simple changes such as the paper you use can have, check out our supplier Wiles Greenworld‘s site. Some of their services include 100% recycled plastic pens, products that have not been freighted from overseas and Fairtrade tea and coffee. We love them and you can too!

8. Be recycle and waste concious.

🌱 A 2008 report from the Mayor of London’s office found that the annual carbon footprint of the theatre industry in London is equivalent to driving around the M25 1.5 million times. And it is estimated that around 600 million tonnes of products and materials enter the UK economy each year, with only 115 million tonnes of this getting recycled. There’s only one answer to this people, be recycle and waste concious aware.2

The Young Vic works with First Mile, who ensure that nothing they collect goes to landfill. All waste collected from the theatre is either recycled or incinerated for energy recovery or anaerobic digestion.

If you’d like to read more about how the Young Vic commits itself to helping the environment you can do so here

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Young Vic Wormery

1 BioScience Oxford Journals
2 WRAP

Babes in Arms Performance for The Nest | 25 Nov 11.30am

We are pleased to announce our first ever Babes in Arms performance!

Here at the Young Vic we’re opening our doors to those with little ones. On Friday 25 November at 11.30am we’ve added a special performance of Ian Rickson’s production of Conor McPherson’s new translation of The Nest.

If you’re a parent or a carer with a baby under eighteen months we have an extra performance just for you. The actors will be aware that there may be additional noise from the auditorium and the house lights will remain up throughout. You’ll be welcome to move about the space should you need to settle your baby.

There will be space for buggies to be parked. Baby changing and milk-warming facilities will be available.

This performance is open to everyone but is specifically designed for audiences with babes in arms.

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The Nest

Parents-to-be Kurt and Martha just want the best for their baby. They’re not afraid of hard work – the latest buggy doesn’t come cheap. But when Kurt’s boss offers him a chance to make some easy money with a mysterious side job, his rashness catches up with him.

Conor McPherson has written a powerful new version of the German classic.

A fable about the moral and environmental cost of our materialistic nesting instincts, directed by Ian Rickson.

The Nest runs in The Maria at the YV from 28 October – 26 November. More information and how to book tickets here