in March 2020, Yvonne Newton was invited to attend the Decolonising Artistic Practice workshop and discussion hosted by Fast Familiar as part of the Work in Progress Project. Here, Yvonne documented her experience of the workshop.
“My role was to participate in the discussion as a theatre maker and produce some form of documentation in response to the workshop. This could take any form I wanted, drawing on inspiration and discussions from the workshop on decolonization and performance practices. Overall, my participation (along with all the other creatives/academics/curators/performers present) would inform Fast Familiar’s future development of a piece.
Little did we know that this was only two weeks before the UK was to enter its first national lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Revisiting my documentation response a year on, I think what we have here is a unique opportunity to reflect, think and produce work during a time of unprecedented change. I believe this lends itself to the work of decolonisation, with many structures being exposed in society over the past year.
Fast Familiar’s workshop was self reflexive in its methods and discussions, as I’ll explain alongside my first response The Principles of 2025 which collects ideas from the group on decolonisation and theatre. My second response is a collage of scripts where I explore decolonisation of the self, stemming from the workshop’s central prompt written at the top of the collection. The video and performance elements of the script provide a third dimension to the response and explore my understanding of decolonisation in practice, developing the script to performance. This is supported by my instagram page where I look at how to document documentation. Part of decolonisation for me personally and for this piece of work, is being transparent about the process, to help the “unpacking” and “unpicking” process. It’s important for me to discover and uncover the product (script, video, performance), rather than trying to imagine it using ideas of what a “good response” is.”
THE PRINCIPLES OF 2025
The Principles of 2025, poster is a visual and interactive summary of takeaways from the session that I jotted down at the time. It combines two elements from Fast Familiar’s workshop:
- At the start of the workshop we, as a group, agreed on principles of the session to decolonise the space, for example “”. Our principles were written on a large poster and stuck to the wall. We were allowed to openly revisit and amend/add principles throughout the session.
- In a different exercise, we individually responded to the prompt “” and wrote our thoughts on post-it notes that we collected and shared with the group.
In creating this poster, I wanted to take the idea of the desired decolonised space – “2025” – and showcase some suggestions from the session that could be potential principles for that year. I’ve contextualised the principles in terms of “UK Theatre” so there’s a clear focus and because it is relevant to my role in the group. I used a poster and post-its to tie it back to the exercises we did in the session, and also to demonstrate the fact that these principles are not set in stone. They can be moved, removed, rewritten and challenged as we evolve and learn, which was also an agreement we had in the session. The yellow post-its, for me, summarise the agreed emotional principles that we felt and learnt during the session.
- “The UK is not the centre of the world” – I learnt that decolonisation can be seen as “moving the centre”.
- “This is personal” – We agree that we all hold responsibilities.
- “White audiences are more often the guest” – We discussed the role of white audiences in theatre and how decolonisation would mean more POC stories not written with white audiences in mind.
- “This is overwhelming” – We agree this is not down to one person to fix.
- “‘Professionalism’, etiquette and assumed knowledge is re-established” – To decolonise theatres, we need to unpack where ‘theatre-goer’ culture comes from and how it is reinforced.
- “Dance and laugh more” – A direct quote from one of the creatives in the room that really resonated. We agreed to remember that decolonisation work will result in happiness and to honour joy.
- “POC trauma is now averaging at 0%” – our goal is to see stories beyond the trauma of marginalised communities, and for us to experience it less.
- “This is work”.
- “The future of theatre and performance practices is ?” – We are comfortable with the unknown, acknowledge the uncomfortable, keep ideas open and embrace change.