Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Laura Ryder and Harry Kingscott: Slow Violence

By | Published on Friday 17 March 2023

Coming to Pleasance Theatre this week is a really interesting piece of work dealing with climate apathy, which is definitely a serious issue, and one of the intriguing things about the show itself is that it’s an absurd comedy.

The company behind it are the Midlands-based B Team, and the creators of the play are Laura Ryder and Harry Kingscott. I spoke to them both to find out more about them and the production.

CM: Can you start by telling us a bit about the content of ‘Slow Violence’? What story does it tell?
LR+HK: ‘Slow Violence’ is an absurd comedy about climate apathy. It is set in the Happy Holiday’s office, which is a travel agency. We meet Peter on his first day with Claire, his enthusiastic co-worker.

It quickly becomes apparent that there is something wrong with the office, the heating is always on and things are slowly falling apart. Problems increase, tensions grow and the pressure to act builds.

CM: What themes are explored through the play?
LR+HK: It explores climate indifference through a playful lens, using the metaphor of an office falling apart to play with the bigger picture of the climate crisis.

CM: What prompted you to create a piece of work using these themes?
LR+HK: B Team as a theatre company exists to tell stories about the environment. Theatre is a communal experience; we all sit together and collectively imagine the world of the play and its characters. There is beauty and joy in that shared experience.

It feels important that we aren’t taken in by the narratives that climate change is an individual’s responsibility. We need communal action, small and large.

Hopefully seeing the show will give audiences a chance to think about climate change in a different way, to not be resigned to a doom and gloom narrative but to feel as if we, as a collective, do have the power to make change.

CM: How easy is it to approach serious and pressing issues via the medium of the comical and absurd? How did you make this combination work?
LR+HK: Originally, we hadn’t intended to make a comedy. We knew we wanted to make a show about climate apathy. We’d read a phrase, coined by Rob Nixon, ‘slow violence’ to describe climate change and knew we wanted to use it as a starting point.

In rehearsals, the more we played with the realities of climate passivity, the more clown-like and absurd it felt – that we’ve known about climate change for years and still seem unable to take action. The show grew into this absurd silly pressure cooker.

CM: Can you tell us more about B Team and what it does?
LR+HK: As we said, B Team is a theatre company that creates entertaining shows about environmental issues – we are based in the Midlands and are associate artists with Derby Theatre.

We exist to tell stories which utilise empathy as a tool in climate communications. We exist to make theatre which finds exciting, physical and interesting ways to explore environmental issues.

We find accessible and entertaining ways to help start and add to conversations and outlooks about the climate crisis. We believe in hope being the space between optimism and pessimism, and see its role as vital in the climate movement.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about yourselves, now? How did you come to be working together?
LR+HK: B Team has grown out of the artist development offer in the East Midlands, and a shared vision to create theatre which explores the current environmental and climate emergency.

We met at youth theatre and then reconnected at a few local theatre workshops later on. We found we both were passionate about making dynamic theatre with lots of movement, and had shared values and visions for the show. 

CM: Did you always want to work in the arts? How did your careers begin?
LR+HK: Laura developed as a theatre maker via In Good Company – the flagship artist, creative and business development programme for the Midlands. She is lead artist for B Team theatre company, which formed in 2017.

Harry is an actor and movement director. Having studied drama at the University Of Exeter, he ran a graduate company in Devon for a few years, High Wall Theatre, making shows driven by physical/dance theatre and ensemble work.

He then went on to train at the École Jacques Lecoq in Paris, specialising in movement performance training. He has worked with various companies in France and the UK, and is now based in the East Midlands.

CM: What have been the highlights of your careers thus far?
LR+HK: We loved bringing ‘Slow Violence’ to audiences in 2021, it was joyful to get the show in front of people after lockdown. It reminded us of the joy of live theatre and how great it is to hear an audience laugh. We are really proud of the show and can’t wait for audiences to see it again.

CM: What hopes and ambitions do you have for the future?
LR+HK: We’ve seen a real rise in the number of theatre shows out there that are exploring the issue of environment and climate change. This feels fantastic, we really believe that art and theatre have a huge role to play, as climate change is the defining issue of our time.

Theatre can be a space for compassion, empathy and imagination, which are so needed to help tackle the climate crisis. We want to keep making work which finds playful ways to explore the climate crisis and environment.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
LR+HK: We’re developing a children’s show at the moment called ‘The Garden In My Living Room’, which is going to tour in the autumn. And then next we’re going to be R&Ding a new musical called ‘The Golden Toad’!

‘Slow Violence’ is on at Pleasance Theatre from 21-25 Mar, see the venue website here for more information and to book tickets.

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