Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Kaleya Baxe: Patricia Gets Ready (for a date with the man who used to hit her)

By | Published on Friday 13 May 2022

Coming up at Brixton House is the latest run of a show whose development we have been following for a while: we heard about it when it had its first few London dates and it appeared in our Three To See recommendations when it was on in the summer of 2021 in both Edinburgh and London. 

‘Patricia Gets Ready (for a date with the man who used to hit her)’ by Martha Watson Allpress has won much acclaim, and I was excited to see it back in the capital – and also thought it was about time we found out more about the play and the creative team behind it. 

I put some questions to the show’s director Kaleya Baxe ahead of its upcoming dates. 

CM: Can you start by telling us about the narrative of ‘Patricia Gets Ready’? What story does it tell?
KB: ‘Patricia Gets Ready’ is a story about a woman who has been separated from her abusive ex for a year and has done a lot of healing and growth.

However, when we see her bump into her ex at the top of the play, she has somehow agreed to go for dinner with him by the end of the conversation and didn’t manage to say any of the things she would have liked to.

We then spend an hour with Patricia in her bedroom as she decides how to move forward, should she go? Should she – can she? – say everything she has to say at dinner? All while being forced to reflect on the relationship and how she ended up where she is now. 

CM: What themes does the play explore?
KB: I’d say this play is a story about female empowerment, healing, love, abuse and catharsis.

CM: Does the play have a message at all? Who will it speak to?
KB: It’s hard to articulate the message when nothing compares to experiencing Martha’s writing beginning to end.

But, I would say the takeaway is being able to understand the complexity that comes with abusive relationships while falling in love with Patricia: a funny, sexually confident, complicated powerhouse of a woman.

This play actively fights against the stereotypes and weak representations we often see when it comes to the ‘abused woman’.

CM: What made you want to direct this play? What do you like about it?
KB: I’ve worked in the field of domestic violence prevention since I was a teenager, so this topic has always been close to my heart.

When you’re lucky enough to learn about what early warning signs and factors make an unhealthy relationship, you’re able to identify them around you in different areas of your life.

When I first read an extract from ‘Patricia Gets Ready’ I immediately loved it, because I could tell that this play encapsulates the experience accurately, cleverly and emotionally without being a ‘trauma-porn’ play.

It’s respectful to people who’ve been through it, but also doesn’t try to simplify a complicated subject and is at times beautifully honest. If you can’t tell already – I fell in love with this play!

I think when you feel a strong understanding and connection with a text, that’s when you know you’re right to direct it. 

CM: Can you tell us about your directorial approach to it? What did you want to achieve?
KB: As a director, it can be easy to let your ego get in the way – wanting to do lots of showy cool things! But with ‘Patricia’, I felt it was important not to take away from Martha’s words – and also the powerful effect of just seeing a woman tell her story in a world where too often women aren’t given the chance to fully share their side or be believed.

The more we see Patricia as a real person the more powerful her story becomes as we can imagine her as our friend, sister, colleague. 

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the playwright Martha Watson Allpress? Has she been involved in bringing the show to the stage?
KB: Martha is an incredible writer and ‘Patricia’ was actually her first full length play! Recently she also had a new play in development called ‘Kick’ staged at the Lyric Hammersmith.

However, most people don’t know she is also a very talented actress! Her most recent work was ‘I Know I Know I Know’ at Southwark Playhouse, so you can imagine she’s a very busy woman!

As the play was first performed in 2019, by now me and Martha have a great working relationship where she really trusts me to lead the rehearsal room and production in a direction that serves the play best, it’s a great honour! 

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the actor who performs the play?
KB: I met Yasmin Dawes when she performed in another one woman show – ‘May Queen’ by Frankie Meredith –  as part of the Paines Plough Roundabout season, where I assistant directed for the incredible Balisha Karra.

From that point we always said we would want to work together, and when she auditioned for ‘Patricia’ she absolutely blew us away with her emotional depth, humour, and Brummie roots!

She graduated from Rose Bruford in 2019 and the work she’s tackled since is always very politically driven – a thing we have in common! Working with someone who is clearly so passionate about the subject has made the working relationship a beautiful one. 

CM: How does directing a one-person show compare to directing a larger cast?
KB: It’s a much more intimate and personable experience. There aren’t other cast members to support the actor or calm their nerves, so you also step up to that role more.

For me personally, it also allows more room for collaboration, as you’re just creating this piece of art with one person – outside of the creative team – and I think it’s important to give more ownership to them for that reason.

Managing fewer people can be easier, but also can provide other challenges when staging or thinking about how to hold an audience’s attention. Luckily, when working with such brilliant actors, that doesn’t become too much of a problem as their performance is always mesmerising! 

CM: Can we talk about you, now? Did you always want a career in the arts? How did you go about beginning one?
KB: I think I always knew I wanted to be creative, but not necessarily how. During school there was a time when I thought I’d go into radio and I had a new music show on Roundhouse Radio, but I eventually realised it wasn’t my passion.

Funnily enough, it was domestic abuse charity Tender Education And Arts, one of our supporters, that led me onto the path I’m on now.

I thought I wanted to be an actor, but while being on their youth board they told me about the Drama, Applied Theatre And Education course at the Royal Central School of Speech And Drama that focuses on how drama can be used as a social and educational tool.

Here is where I learnt skills in facilitation, directing, and even writing, all of which I consider part of my job description now.

I was also always part of a lot of youth theatre groups, one being the Kiln – formerly known as The Tricycle Theatre. Luckily, my degree was extremely practical and placement focused, so I began assisting youth and community groups throughout my course, so by the time I’d graduated I had enough experience to land my first Assistant Director role.

CM: What have been the highlights of your career thus far?
KB: To be honest I’d definitely have to say ‘Patricia Gets Ready’. It was the first full length play I directed, in 2019, just as I was finishing my degree, and the whole team was made up of firsts. We had no budget and little rehearsal time and it was shown for three nights at the pub theatre The White Bear.

Back then we never would have imagined the far reach it would have and that it would keep returning simply because of how much it touched people and the continued demand to see it.

It’s purely because of the love and passion from the whole team that we’ve been able to find a way to make it work every time so that now the show is on a funded tour and having its week at the incredible venue that is Brixton House. I’m very grateful to this show for all it’s taught me as the first opportunity to showcase my work. 

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
KB: After assistant directing the season last year, I’m very excited to be directing one of the shows in this year’s Roundabout season, ‘Half Empty Glasses’ by sensational writer Dipo Baruwa-Etti.

Roundabout is Paines Plough’s pop up venue, which is essentially a tent that is one of the most beautiful, intimate storytelling spaces in-the-round. Each year they commission new plays specifically for that space, which goes on to be an Edinburgh Fringe venue and then goes on a tour around the country.

Rather than asking people to come to the theatre, it positions itself right in the heart of communities that have less access to the arts, to invite them in at affordable prices to make theatre more accessible.

Dipo’s play is the story of a young black British boy who creates a school within his school to teach his peers about black history, and as someone who was a student activist in my time at drama school its themes sit very closely with my passions. Check the Paines Plough website to see if we’re touring in a place near you!

‘Patricia Gets Ready (for a date with the man that used to hit her)’ is on at Brixton House from 17-22 May. For more information and to book your tickets head to the venue website here.

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Photo: Korey J Ryan