Festival season is underway in Croydon, with more appearing in the calendar year after year. We certainly are lucky Croydonians to have such an array of events from music, to gin, food, comedy, and theatre, all on our doorstep. Next up is Croydonites Festival of New Theatre, kicking off on the 2 May for three weeks of comedy, drama, song, dance, installation and immersion.
We invited the Croydonites festival director and local resident, Anna Arthur, over for a cuppa and a natter to get the lowdown on this year’s event.
Croydonist: First of all, congratulations on three dazzlingly successful years of Croydonites with your fourth only a matter of weeks away. Is there a theme for this years event?
Anna: I never set out with a theme, but of course themes emerge, so there are some Brexit reminiscences and over all we see performances debate and discuss consumerism, communism and the cycle of life, as well as other things of course. Parabolic’s piece is set in 1979, so although not in present time, there are a lot of parallels to what’s going on now. Sh!t Theatre go to Malta, which is the European capital of culture, and right now, in Malta, immigrants are showing up on the shores and having to be pulled out of the sea, but at the same time you can buy a new passport for 650,000 euros, you don’t even have to live there or contribute to the EU. It’s a massive scandal which Sh!t Theatre kind of talk about in their truly hilarious show. It’s the irony of people wanting to come to Europe, who want to contribute and participate drowning at sea and then people who have never even been to Malta just being able to buy their way in. It’s not really a Brexit show as such, but it does have a kind of a direct comment on it.
Croydonist: How is the festival differing this year?
Anna: The festival still follows the same format, although we’re not at the Spread Eagle this year, but we have The Front Room on St Georges Walk as a new space and will be returning to Matthews Yard and Braithwaite Hall.
Croydonist: We have already bought tickets to shows, one of which is ‘The Elephant in The Room’ with Gill Manley and Joanna Scanlan, who has one of the leading roles in Channel 4’s police procedural drama, No Offence. We’re big fans of Joanna, so how did she become involved in Croydonites?
Anna: Gill met her when they were both on a poetry judging panel. It was a project around poetry and mental health. Joanna actually lives in South Croydon, so she’s a local. Anyway both Gill and Joanna have struggled with their weight over the years and they’ve both had mental health issues, so they just kind of bonded. I don’t know whether the idea for their show came from Gill or if they both came to it together, but it’s certainly about two issues that are very close to their hearts. It’s going to be quite a hard hitting show, but humorous, oh and there’s nudity.
Croydonist: Aside from Joanna and Gill, are there any other locals on the bill?
Anna: Parabolic are local, New Addington, and produce incredible immersive theatre. This years piece at Croydonites is set in a 1970s office space. Vinicius is based in Addiscombe via Brazil and we commissioned a piece for this year’s event which is called Disruptive Narratives. I should also mention that Anita Wadsworth is a local artist creating an installation (Mother) where you can come and sit, knit, write and reflect with this installation of 500 handmade purses. It’s a piece that ultimately asks us to question addiction and affection and how we choose comfort.
Croydonist: We see a number of fantastic performers returning to this years event. Are there any first timers on the bill?
Anna: Paula Varjack with The Cult of K*nzo. For those that don’t know, K*nzo is a japanese designer and he did a collaboration with H&M. Apparently each year they do a collaboration with a different designer and it’s big news. Paula is a bit of a fashionista so the show is about her queuing outside H&M in Westfield, Stratford at like 4am in a bid to get in there. It’s all about fashion, consumerism and what is it exactly that we’re buying into.
Croydonist: We love immersive theatre, so it’s good to see Parabolic back. Are there any details you can share on what we can expect, without giving too much away of course.
Anna: It’s an immersive game by Parabolic who were also the creators of the acclaimed ‘For King & Country’ franchise. That show was in Borough. Absolutely brilliant. Anyway the piece in Croydon is called Crisis? What Crisis. It’s set in 1979 and people are split into groups to find a way to avert disaster. One group is Labour MPs and you’re given missions while the clock’s ticking. I think there’s 15 shows across the 3 weeks of Croydonites actually.
Croydonist: Ok, 4 years in, the planning of the festival is just like clockwork right? Could probably put it together in your sleep?
Anna: No. The hardest job is that I always have to bring in so much equipment as we’re using spaces that simply don’t have any like the Braithwaite Hall. Logistically there’s a lot that goes on which you can’t arrange until you know what artists need, which means you have to find the shows and understand the tech and their expectations and manage that.
Croydonist: Which show are you looking forward to seeing the most?
Anna: Everything of course. I’ve got Swedes, Ellard & Lech, bringing their piece called Döden (Death) to Croydonites. This is another participatory experience where you’re asked to put on a suit, like a contamination suit I guess, and a pair of headphones and there’s about different sets of instructions given to people so it’s almost like you’re choreographing the work yourself really, in a very intense pink light. It’s quite other worldly.
Croydonist: If someone is a writer or performer and they would like to have their work feature in the festival next year, what do they need to do?
Anna: The best thing to do is go to our site and email me with info on what they’re up to. Even better would be if they have something coming up that I can come and see. We’re also running the ‘Croydon Writes’ programme again for aspiring writers. Amazon bestseller and Croydon local, Elizabeth Sheppard is the mentor for the programme. Mentees are invited to attend Croydonites shows for free and write a review which will then be edited by Elizabeth. So they will get the chance to see a lot of work, gain advice on how to review, work with an editor, and also the performers get a review, so it’s a win win for everyone.
The Croydonites Festival of New Theatre runs from the 2 May – 25 May in Croydon. The full list of events is below and you can purchase tickets/get more info here.
2 May Paula Varjack / The Cult of K*NZO – Matthews Yard Theatre
4 May Vinicius Salles / Disruptive Narratives – Braithwaite Hall (6pm)
4 May Two Destination Language / Fallen Fruit – Braithwaite Hall (8pm)
8-25 May Parabolic Theatre Company / Crisis, What Crisis? – Site Specific (Central Croydon)
10 May Sh!t Theatre / Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum with Expats – The Front Room
11 May Vanessa Macauley / Made Not Born – The Front Room
16-17 May Gill Manly & Joanna Scanlan / The Elephant in the Room – Matthews Yard Theatre
18 May Ellard/Lech / Döden – Matthews Yard
23-25 May Anita Wadsworth / Mother – Site Specific (Central Croydon)
Photos courtesy of The Croydonites Festival of New Theatre
Posted by Angela