Sinéad Brady reflects on her Nest Residency:
I’m a Coventry born actor and writer. I moved back to Coventry last Autumn after graduating from Institute of the Arts Barcelona with an MA Acting, where I co-founded international theatre collective Rule of Three Collective, made up of Irish, German and British theatre makers. We co-wrote the show FREE EU ROAMING, which premiered at the Dublin Fringe Festival 2018. Between leaving for university and now I’ve lived in Bristol, Barcelona, San Sebastián, Madrid and Dublin. My writing is usually a response to social injustices and societal pressures that impact the people I meet in the different cities I’ve lived in. I’m passionate about the use of language in theatre and deconstructing dominant narratives. I feel compelled to tell the stories of people who suffer due to political, historical and sociological injustices, which are often too difficult for an individual to resolve on their own.
When I moved home to Coventry Talking Birds were recommended to me by several local artists as an innovative, exciting theatre company engaged in supporting the work of local artists. When I applied to The Nest Residency, I hoped that Talking Birds would help me think about my project in visually and aurally interesting and accessible ways. I also needed space, time, support and a sounding board to work on an idea that I had been thinking about for a long time, but was unable to focus enough, or even believe in enough, while working on my own at home. A space to ‘hatch’ an idea sounded perfect and I felt reassured that with the support of Talking Birds and the wonderful opportunity of working at the Shop Front Theatre, I would make progress with my project.
On the first day of my residency I arrived at the Shop Front Theatre with notebooks, post-its and a new pencil case – I was very excited to be on my own in a black box. The Shop Front Theatre is such an intriguing space full of plays and books to read and plenty of chairs and sofas to try out, but in attempt to focus, I stuck to one corner. I thought that maybe in such a big space I would jump around too much, in my work and literally (I did bring a yoga mat) but the space was very calming. I was familiar with the Shop Front Theatre through performing at Shoot Festival in 2016, attending a Writing Gym earlier this year, and having seen many performances there, most recently Are We Where We Are. It was really useful to work in a space where I had seen performances – I found that inspiring when it came to imagining my own idea being staged and it also helped me keep the audience in mind.
I knew I wanted to create a piece of theatre exploring pressures around body image, delving deep into the language of ‘self-talk’ and the emphasis on self-care as a way of improving our internal and external worlds. I particularly wanted to focus on the competitive nature of striving to become the best version of ourselves. I had imagined creating a piece of audio that would pull an audience off track, ask them to forget about routine and consistency, to stop trying to improve themselves, to ask the questions: what does it really mean to be the best version of ourselves? How in control are we as individuals of who we are? Personally, I’m tired of being told by the media and social media that I could be working harder physically and mentally. I’m tired of being told anything is possible for everyone because, let’s face it, it’s not. I’m scared that the more we look inwards for the answers, the more we forget about the power of working together.
After three days of creating characters and plotting on post-its, I had a mentoring session with Co-Artistic Director and Composer Derek Nisbet. Derek provided invaluable feedback on my idea. We talked about different ways of recording and staging the performance. I was particularly interested in using the format of audio as a way of disconnecting from familiar, potentially addictive, images to create an intimate conversation with the audience. As I was experimenting with the idea of a character in transit, neither here nor there, it was fascinating to explore ways of using sound to show the presence and absence of people and goals. I also found it a brilliant opportunity to ask questions about how to create accessible performances, which led me to consider incorporating visual elements to the piece.
The Nest Residency was a stimulating creative experience, which I’m very grateful for. It filled me with the confidence to trust my ideas and I made great progress in a short space of time. I will continue working on the project and really look forward to sharing my developments with Talking Birds.