AMY GOLDING: In 2009 Gez and I worked with Paul James (Associate Director, Education & Participation at Live Theatre) on a verbatim theatre production From Home to Newcastle with Live’s Youth Theatre, then created a similar verbatim piece at Live Theatre: Here Come The Girls, with writers Carol McGuigan and Beth Coverdale, exploring what it means to be a young woman growing up on Tyneside.
The young women involved were from very diverse backgrounds; some born and bred in the North East, some who had arrived as refugees and asylum seekers. The women played themselves onstage and the play was warmly received by diverse audiences but for me, it was the process of creating it that was so incredibly powerful and illuminating. The women in the cast learned so much about each other’s lives; they were able to challenge prevailing orthodoxies and celebrate the universals of being a young woman no matter what your background.
During the same year I was invited by Swallows Foundation to take part in an arts and culture delegation to the Eastern Cape in South Africa where I interviewed many women about their thoughts and opinions on being a woman in SA. I created a short film with the Here Come the Girls cast in which we included extracts from some of these interviews.
GEZ CASEY: At Newcastle Live we had been involved with the Swallows Foundation for ten years and had developed a relationship with the Market Theatre in Johannesburg; Peter Stark started Swallows in Newcastle to link artists in the North East of England with Eastern Cape artists. It became obvious there was a perfect match between Market and Live, particularly in developing new writers. Market’s team came over to establish links and we developed links between our education and participation department with youth theatres in the Eastern Cape. As a result of some of the verbatim work we’d done with asylum seekers that Amy mentions above, we talked to Swallows who set up a month long residency in January 2011 in Port Elizabeth before going on a road trip around the Eastern Cape.
AMY GOLDING: It was an amazing trip; I was fascinated by South Africa and the incredible people I met and wanted to see how the process we had developed at Live would work in the Eastern Cape, verbatim theatre being something most people I met had never heard of. We linked up with the South African writer Ziphozakhe Hlobo and recruited the cast through open workshops which attracted hundreds of young women from all over the province. Via skype and social media we then linked them up with the cast from Here Come the Girls who shared short films made for the Mamela cast about the process they had gone through creating Here Come The Girls.
GEZ CASEY: We recorded a lot of conversations with the young women we’d chosen and from that source material we did a show then refined it into a play: Mamela. Mamela premiered at the National Arts Festival in 2013 and won the Standard Bank Ovation Award. Jan Ryan, Afrovibes and UK Arts International producer Jan Ryan saw it and decided to bring it to the UK as part of Afrovibes.
Amy’s company Curious Monkey, the theatre production company based in Newcastle, worked with Live Theatre to help to bring the project over with the help of Afrovibes. Amy started a Kickstarter campaign to help augment the grants for the arts bid and raised £5,000 in one month; the funds came from 145 generous supporters, mostly in the Newcastle area.
AMY GOLDING: I am absolutely delighted Mamela is coming to Newcastle, which was always the long-term goal. The stories told in Mamela are urgent and powerful and I always believed should be heard by an international audience.
GEZ CASEY: The seven cast members are fantastic and are looking forward to visiting the UK for the first time. Mamela is part of diversifying the work that we do at Live Theatre, looking at new ways of working new partnerships and bringing in new audiences. Via Afrovibes we’re working with local groups we’ve never worked with before and Amy’s working with local young women’s groups for workshops to run before the performances. It’s going to be a treat for all.