Caro Meets Dance & Physical Interview

Rhiannon Faith: Drowntown Lockdown

By | Published on Friday 3 July 2020

If COVID-19 hadn’t staged an unwelcome intervention, Rhiannon Faith’s newest work ‘Drowntown’ would have been performed this month at the Barbican Centre.

The show’s dates have been rescheduled, so hopefully many of you will be able to see it in person eventually. But in the meantime, Faith and her team (including performer Donald Hutera, pictured) have created a short film about the characters that appear in the stage show.

I spoke to Rhiannon to find out more about the show and the film, which will be launched online this week.

CM: Let’s start with the original production which was supposed to be on tour had lockdown not happened: what is ‘Drowntown’ all about? What story or themes does it tackle?
RF: ‘Drowntown’ is about brokenness. On a beach six strangers explore a societal sickness where some of the symptoms are loneliness, isolation and shame. The show unravels the lives of people who are broken, searching for something or someone to save them.

CM: How would you describe it in terms of a style or genre?
RF: Gritty dance-theatre. I am a dance theatre maker and I am interested in work that tackles social injustice, opens up conversations and contributes to supporting a fairer society. ‘Drowntown’ is pretty dark, but so is our society at the moment. I am searching for our moral-compass and making ‘Drowntown’ has been part of that investigation.

CM: It’s interesting that the themes seem rather fitting for the moment, given the way we’ve all been living these last few months: would you say lockdown has maybe even increased the relevance of the work?
RF: ‘Drowntown’ is unnervingly relevant. The last few months have demonstrated the inequalities in our society. There are marginalised vulnerable groups in our towns that are treated like they have no value, and we need to change that. ‘Drowntown’ looks at what happens when there is a sickness in communities, when people feel broken and let down.

CM: Tell us now about the digital work that you have created. What does it consist of?
RF: ‘Drowntown Lockdown’ mirrors our current crisis, our experiences of isolation and loneliness and our future of uncertainty. It is a digital prologue of the stage show. In this introduction we see the six strangers in their own homes, we visit their private spaces and see each of them before they make the decision to leave and go to the beach where ‘Drowntown’ begins.

CM: So it’s something of a prequel to the stage show?
RF: As I said, we are calling it a prologue. It can’t possibly capture the depth of the show itself, as it took over a year to create ‘Drowntown’ and we have made this film in five days during lockdown, but it offers a window into the emotional lives of the characters who will eventually find themselves on the beach at the beginning of the ‘Drowntown’ stage show.

Created to keep the ‘Drowntown’ team together and to sustain the dynamic of the powerful emotions involved in the piece, this short film aims to offer just a small glimpse of the characters’ worlds, which will come to life in the ‘Drowntown’ stage show.

CM: How soon do you expect to be able to get the tour back up and running? Do you have any sense of when we might be able to see the show?
RF: It’s so sad to think we were meant to be opening at the Barbican Centre today, but yes, the ‘Drowntown’ stage show is currently rescheduled for 2021. We have dates in both spring and autumn. We are just waiting for the green light to announce them, but we are ready to go so keep checking back to our website for updates.

CM: Lots of creatives have been making work available online during lockdown. Do you think it’s a viable method of delivering culture, one that warrants further exploration or development?
RF: I think the dynamic response to the crisis has been really creative and exciting, but it was really tough navigating mediums that are new under time constraints.

I think it’s a really great way to push yourself creatively, to set boundaries and to try new collaborations, but I’m not a film-maker. If I hadn’t had the expertise of Adam Sheldon and Big Egg films I don’t think it would have been possible. That’s a privilege that not every one has access to.

The main purpose was to keep the team connected, be creative and, with emergency funding from Arts Council England, be able to support financially the artists that were expecting to be part of a tour. I miss being in the studio with my dancers, nothing beats that.

CM: Have you been able to make use of your time in lockdown creatively? Have you been able to plan new projects?
RF: Well I’ve just had a baby in lockdown, Dolly Blue, a Quarantina, so my most creative adventure yet! In fact this film has been made mid-maternity leave. I am looking at alternative ways to continue reaching our audiences and research for a new show will begin at the end of my maternity leave, and when it is safe to do so ‘Drowntown’ will be back in theatres.

CM: What hopes do you have for the future?
RF: I hope I, amongst many artists, am able to financially continue to make work. And I hope my work will contribute to the excellent work that many charities do to support the most vulnerable in our society. I hope my shows challenge us see what impact our society is having on members of our communities that need our attention and support. I hope it makes them visible.

‘Drowntown Lockdown’ will signpost audiences to places where they can receive help and it will point the audience’s focus in a place that needs attention. We are also running a community project called #Virusvulnerabilities that supports vulnerable groups and charities. You can find more information about that on my website.

‘Drowntown Lockdown’ will be launched on 9 Jul at 8pm via and, and will be followed by a Q&A with Rhiannon, director Adam Sheldon and selected cast members.

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Photo of Donald Hutera, who appears in the show, by Foteini Christofilopoulou.