This is not a review. I watched a piece of theatre as a paying punter and thoughts were invited at the time and offered post-show on social media. There were no invites. I didn’t even dress up. Just a glass of Cab Sav on the couch after a particularly good homemade Thai Red Tofu Curry. I mention this because our current Covidity has changed the landscape of our industry for now and some say, forever.
Like I say, this isn’t a review. Think of it as a clarion call for the industry. Not simply to look at the way theatre is presented – at home, online, using various different platforms – but also, more importantly, at who is presenting the theatre we are engaged with.
Burn Bright is a company that emerged as a result of a grossly mismanaged and all too familiar story. It is a well-documented series of events. But that was then and it is important to draw the line in the sand because with integrity and sheer fortitude, Burn Bright founders Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley rose from the ashes of erasure to form a company that aims to be a driving force in theatre for artists who identify as women. By addressing the brazen lack of diversity in the industry, Burn Bright’s founders have put their money where their mouths are and launched a collective at what is quite possibly one of the darkest eras in recent theatrical memory.
Better in Person does exactly what it says on the tin: it is a series of conversations happening on Zoom that would be…better in person. Whether they are a parent and child negotiating lockdown or a couple dealing with separation and having space to re-calibrate, the five pieces of Better in Person are all about navigation in lockdown: each other, the heart or the kitchen.
The writers – Charlotte Jones, Sharmila Chauhan, Krystina Nellis, Natasha Brown and Burn Bright’s Henley and Allen-Martin – were given a week and then, under the direction of Abigail Sewell, the cast were also given a week to rehearse. Each piece rose to the challenge beautifully. I particularly enjoyed the all to familiar generational challenges that were sensitively captured in Jones’ The Cardigan and especially the way both cast, writer and director completely embraced the issues and provocations presented by the brief in Nellis’ Recipes. Coordinating cooking and the dynamics of moving around the kitchen whilst in the throes of the early stages of a relationship were all done with such a light touch by both director and cast (Luke Barton and Kat Rose-Martin) that it allowed the humour and heart of Nellis’ script to shine through.
Each piece is bold in its message, brave in its execution and a thrill to watch. There is no doubt that this is the first of many events from the Burn Bright family. A family that has staked it very existence on the fact that we need a seismic shift in the way we create, present and support theatre. To borrow from Chauhan’s I’m Better in Person, “Being with someone is being seen and heard.”
We see you Burn Bright and we hear you.