By Patrick Kealey – artistic director of Theatre Nation 

What does a rapidly emerging Hastings theatre company do when Covid stops it dead in its tracks? Forced, last Spring, to cancel an Arts Council funded tour of Waiting for Godot days before opening at the White Rock theatre, we did what any self-respecting creative organisation would do: took a deep breath, took stock and reinvented ourselves.

So last Summer we moved Leigh Dyer’s magnificent Godot tree sculpture out into the woods for a weekend of Butoh movement then created a moment with the Bloom Britannia choir in Barefoot Opera’s garden, successfully brought new play, Caravan of Love, to the Brighton Fringe and, most exciting of all, invited internationally renowned theatre master David Glass to bring his creative practice workshop to Hastings, hosted by the Stables Theatre and attended by over twenty creative practitioners. Even under strict Covid rules it proved an intense and electrifying week.

Patrick Kealey in Archy 
PICTURE: Peter Mould

A Re-imagined Godot

Out of adversity comes opportunity. Next Spring David Glass will direct a re-imagined Godot at the Stables Theatre in his own inimitable style – part of a three-year collaboration between ourselves and his ensemble.

And this year? Theatre Nation are racing ahead and back in business. First in the ring is my solo show The Life and Rhymes of Archy and Mehitabel at the Stables Theatre on Thursday May 27th and Friday May 28th at 7.30. Adapted from Don Marquis’ famous hilarious cult poems, it concerns the adventures of Archy, an unfortunate bad free verse poet, now reincarnated as a cockroach, and his wildly temperamental best friend Mehitabel, who claims to be a reincarnation of Cleopatra. Brilliant witty and satirical, Don Marquis’ poems, written at the height of New York’s jazz age, skewer all manner of human folly from an insect’s point of view. After the year we’ve all been through it seemed the perfect time to bring Archy back to life. The performance has also been filmed and will be streamed by the prestigious Prague Fringe Festival. 

Art on Fire

Then for one night only on 2nd June, the Stables will host a remarkable pop-up event, a collaboration between Theatre Nation, film maker Sam Sharples and director Frances Viner. Provocatively entitled Art on Fire, it came about as a spontaneous response to our government’s announcement of savage cuts to arts provision in education. A variety of creative practitioners will be interviewed and filmed about their art. The subsequent film will be screened that night followed by a Q and A and an open forum to ask, “What is the future for the arts in this country?” It promises to be a lively evening.

This will be the perfect introduction to The Lost Child Project in early June. Theatre Nation is one of just six UK companies chosen by the David Glass Ensemble for a remarkable initiative developed over 22 years in 23 countries. It’s a creative process giving voice to marginalised and vulnerable children everywhere. Theatre Nation will become a UK hub to evolve opportunities to work with young people in Hastings. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a theatre company rises from the ashes in a year of crisis.

For further details about The Lost Child project contact: [email protected]

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