Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Rob Drummer: How To Save The Planet When You’re A Young Carer And Broke

By | Published on Friday 5 November 2021

I was immediately interested in the latest show from Boundless Theatre, a mobile and sustainably made new production exploring themes of being a young carer, class and climate change action, which tours a number of London venues this month.

The play, written by award-winning playwright and screenwriter Nessah Muthy, responds directly to conversations with Boundless Theatre’s advisory group and community of 15 to 25 year olds, and this work – in common with all of the company’s output – is very much for and about that youthful demographic.

To find out more about the show, and the company, I spoke to artistic director Rob Drummer.

CM: Can you start by telling us about the narrative of ‘How To Save The Planet When You’re A Young Carer And Broke’? Obviously, there are some clues in the title, there, but can you elaborate a bit?
RD: The title definitely gives you a lot of clues but the story centres around Lavisha, a teenager who has recently moved schools and, as primary carer for her mum, is juggling everything: from making new friends and getting the weekly food shop done to… well, trying to save the planet from climate catastrophe.

This really is a celebration of all the incredible teenagers who take on a lot of responsibilities and also want to join the incredible activism they see their peers participating in. The story riffs on high school politics, how class and money intersect with the climate movement, and through real joy – there are a lot of songs – tells the story of the power of collective action, compassion and doing your best.

CM: What themes are explored through the play?
RD: Climate activism is definitely a major theme, but this is looked at through a lens of working class identity. There’s a lot in the show about how intersections around race, being a carer and class are not addressed in the climate movement. Not everyone can afford – or has the time – to switch their diet, ditch plastic and attend marches.

When the first people to be arrested at protests are often people of colour, and putting food on the table is weighed up against heating your home through the winter, there is so much we need to discuss when it comes to who gets to be active in political change.

CM: What was the inspiration for this show? Why did you want to work on a show on this subject matter? And how did it come together?
RD: Writer Nessah Muthy and I had been meeting to discuss new ideas for shows that speak honestly to 15 to 25 year olds, and very quickly a conversation around class and climate activism started to emerge. The show’s director, Stef O’Driscoll, joined those conversations and has been a driving force since.

We knew that COP26 was going to be a defining moment and that the Boundless Advisory Group of teenagers and young adults were urging us to make work that spoke authentically about climate change. So all of this came together in the form of a commission to Nessah and then over phases of artistic development the production began to emerge.

CM: Who is the show aimed at? Who do you hope to reach?
RD: Like every Boundless show, we’re aiming for as many 15 to 25 year olds as possible. People who don’t feel welcomed elsewhere – because theatre doesn’t look like them, isn’t a good night out, or feels a bit posh and with too many rules – are exactly who we aim to reach.

We know from experience that there is an amazing diverse audience of young adults and all of our work is focused on being for them. Obviously we’re not turning anyone else away, the more the merrier. With this production we’re also working to reach climate activists and visiting estates, youth and community spaces, schools and some theatres too.

It’s also really important that the show is accessible and we’ve introduced pay-what-you-decide tickets from £1 to ensure that price doesn’t become a barrier for anyone wanting to see the show. You’ll get vegan pizza and pre-show live music as well!

CM: Can you tell us about the writer, Nessah Muthy? How did you decide to work together?
RD: Nessah is an incredibly inspiring writer, who has always written with beautiful honesty and authenticity about working class experiences. I’ve known her since she was working at the Bush Theatre and had always wanted to commission a new play from her.

Nessah has previously made work for the National Youth Theatre, The Kiln and Almeida Theatre, as well as work for TV, including upcoming Channel 4 show ‘Cradled’ and as part of the writing team for ‘Coronation Street’.

CM: Can you tell us about Boundless Theatre? How did the company come together and what are its aims and ethos?
RD: Boundless was founded in 2001 and has since then always commissioned new work, worked internationally and created space for early career artists.

The company focuses on work inspired by youth culture and aims to develop an audience of young adults – aged fifteen to 25 – who are still under-represented at all theatres. Proud to innovate and take risks, our sold out shows such as ‘Confidence’ in 2018 and ‘Natives’ in 2016 have put the lives of young people on stage to start big conversations about the state of the world.

Our values are: empowering, creativity, collaboration, inclusivity and integrity, and alongside our 20 advisors – who are from across the UK and all aged 15 to 25 – we believe in co-creating and placing no limits on creativity.

CM: It’s been a difficult time for the arts during lockdown – how did Boundless Theatre come through it?
RD: We’re definitely a bit bruised and the team have been tireless in delivering new ways to work and connect with our community. Ultimately we’re still standing and with a new sense of duty to everyone we aim to support.

We’ve had to get really creative with how we do what we do, and like many other theatre companies have had to cancel and postpone shows, but now with ‘How To Save The Planet…’ it feels like we’re emerging on the other side and are becoming more optimistic about the future.

CM: What ambitions does the company have for the future?
RD: COVID-19 has definitely made us look closely at our priorities and so right now we’re putting plans in place for a physical home – that can move – for the company and new ways to scale our work.

There are lots of challenges to overcome but we’ve got a strong sense of purpose and are ensuring we create new ways for young people to connect around cultural experiences. We’re also putting the finishing touches to our 2022 production, coming next summer, and getting ready to launch a new creative network for early career theatre makers.

CM: What’s coming up next for the company after this?
RD: Our next show will be on stage in summer 2022, so lots of development on that, as well as planning the next five years, which is exciting but always a little daunting. We’ve got some really big commissions underway and I can’t wait to see what our audiences make of them when we get to share them in the coming years.

‘How To Save The Planet When You’re A Young Carer And Broke’ tours London venues throughout the month, calling at Bermondsey Campus Community Centre on 9 Nov, Theatre Peckham from 10-11 Nov, Hackney Showroom on 13 Nov, Somerstown Community Centre on 17 Nov, Fitzrovia Youth In Action on 18 Nov, and Roundhouse 19-20 Nov. Click on the venue links to book tickets.

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