Features Published 28 February 2018

Being an Artist, post-Brexit

"Brexit has sent a subconscious 'exodus call'." - European company Little Soldier talk leaving, uncertainty and the impact of the 'yes' vote.
Alice Saville
Derailed at Ovalhouse. Photo: Ben MacIntosh.

Derailed at Ovalhouse. Photo: Ben MacIntosh.

Q: The online description of your show opens by saying “Spanish artists Patricia and Mercè are leaving the UK” – are you really leaving? Why?
This is something that we will attempt to answer during the show but it’s a reality we have been considering since the referendum. Over the last decade we have made this country our home, so Brexit became a reminder of our foreignness, we were suddenly forced to think about our citizenship status and gave us a sense of unknowing over our future. It certainly opened that window of return every expat has at the back of their mind. But you’ll have to see the show to find out!
Bridget: I really hope they aren’t leaving – I love working with Little Soldier. But I know many people who are working here as EU citizens who are having to now consider their futures. It’s agonising waiting to see what happens.

Q: What impact has Brexit had on your lives, personally and/or as artists?
Merce: Professionally, nothing has drastically changed yet. We had a lot of commitments which we were very excited to tackle and those plans have gone ahead as normal. But the main impact has been in our personal lives. We’ve seen friends and colleagues returning back home after having built lives, families and careers in this city and country. Brexit has sent a subconscious ‘exodus call’… it’s quite difficult to express but quite a palpable feeling when talking to other Europeans based here.
Patricia: As artists and citizens we are yet to discover the full implications of this process: it has created a lot of uncertainties for us.
Keir: The only way that Brexit has changed my life so far is vague uncertainties and an absolute lack of other news coming through.
Dan: There is so much uncertainty. As an artist who performs all over Europe, I’m personally concerned about the possible complications and bureaucracy that Brexit will most likely bring with it. Also the perception abroad of the British as arrogant and decisive is something that effects and saddens me.

Q: What makes humour and silliness a good way to explore post-Brexit blues?
Patricia: For us humour is at the heart of all our works and can be found in every situation in life. In recent years political events all over the world have felt more shocking, absurd and silly than ever before… so absolutely, let’s laugh about it: it will enable us to carry on and to keep trying to do something about what’s happening.
Keir: There is an argument that humour is a better tonic to help people see things in a different light than tragedy – humour is not so in your face. It helps people get on board; more po-faced attitudes can get people’s backs up and make them pick sides.
Dan: I believe humour brings people together so it is the ideal way to deal with something as divisive as Brexit.
Bridget: Not everyone feels able to engage politically – I think most of us feel helpless sometimes in the face of world events. Laughing at things is something we can all do. It diffuses anger, brings us together and makes us stronger.

Q: What’s your favourite moment of the show?
Merce: We do a live Skype call to a member of our family back in Spain. It’s always a very exciting moment because it’s both touching and genuinely unpredictable.
Dan: My favourite moment is Patricia wearing a mirror ball helmet. What’s not to love about that!
Keir: I’ve got quite a few. Some of them are hard to explain. I like the gazpacho!
Bridget: I love the invitation to get angry. There is such a combination of serious and very minor causes – sometimes it’s important to let stuff really get you cross and to be able to express that.

Q: A recent interview with David Lan described British theatre as ‘remarkably insular’ and closed off to Europe – would you agree?
Merce: There is definitely a clear style and humour that is very particular to Britain. That is not to say it’s closed off – certainly differentiated. We notice British theatre has a clear focus on narrative, sometimes in detriment to freedom of form and or style. Larger theatres have the tendency to go for the well-known titles so we would love to see more work by female writers, directors and the generalised use of blind casting. Perhaps there is a greater tolerance to the abstract and chaos on the continent. But that can be both a generalisation and not necessarily a criticism.
Patricia: I feel working in Europe, and particularly in Germany for the last year, there’s a sense of freedom and experimentation that is really valued throughout the whole making process and that’s essential to us artists.
As the industry in the UK is quite of a complex machinery for the best and the worst, artists need to meet a lot of expectations from a number of various departments and sections of this machinery before even even the idea is fully formed and this can be quite challenging when we’re devising a new play. There’s a general expectation for a narrative, artists need to come up with a blurb that ticks a few boxes for the venues involved, you need to know the audience you will be targeting and you cannot upset too many critics after the opening or your future work might be compromised.
On the other hand the UK hosts has an incredible amount of talented, exciting and original work, produced here or elsewhere and that’s also undeniable.

Q: Your show opened in Edinburgh in August – how has it changed since then? Has it been changing in response to the evolving political situation?
Merce: The show is continuously changing – we’ve just come out of rehearsals a minute ago and we will keep on doing small changes during this whole run. The debate on Brexit keeps changing too and there is still a lot of uncertainty, so the narrative of the show continues to be as relevant as the day of the referendum. But the show goes beyond that, it talks about our political engagement wherever we come from, that doesn’t only apply to the UK but all over world, wherever you come from and wherever you end up living.
Q: Can theatre change the world?
Patricia: Derailed deliberately plays on the naivety of the clown to say it can – part of the humour of the show is about trying and failing. But we believe it is still important to try, and maybe little by little we can have an affect.
Merce: It can absolutely change aspects of it. Theatre in itself won’t pass a new law against austerity or equal pay but it’s clear to us that it contributes to debate and can activate and change attitudes towards many aspects of our society and culture. That means people willing to make a difference in their area of influence, engaged citizens who will in turn make bigger changes possible.
Keir: Chris Goode says we haven’t got all the results in yet. That’s logically tight, isn’t it.

Patricia Rodriguez is co-director of Little Soldier and performer/deviser
Merce Ribot is co-director of Little Soldier and performer/deviser
Dan Lees is a performer/deviser
Keir Cooper is a musician
Bridget Floyer is producer

Derailed is on at Ovalhouse until March 3rd. Book tickets here.


Alice Saville

Alice is editor of Exeunt, as well as working as a freelance arts journalist for publications including Time Out, Fest and Auditorium magazine. Follow her on Twitter @Raddington_B



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