Acclaimed theatre maker Jolie Booth of Kriya Arts, award-winning artistic director Andrea Brooks of Zygo Arts and detailed costume maker Caragh Kelson-Bailey have teamed up to form a new kind of Sisterhood with an incredible team of talented women...
The world stands on a precipice, the patriarchy standing watch – flaming torches aloft – threatening to burn the greatest woman of them all... Mumma Earth. Sisterhood is a call to dis-arm the patriarchy through community, to treat ourselves and each other with the respect, grace and honour that Mumma Earth - the divine feminine - requires, because all feminine aspect are facets of SHE.
All those who identify as women and revere the feminine aspect need to make it safe for each other, not by calling each other out and finger pointing, but by calling each other in. In the 15th and 16th Centuries women were set against one another in the infamous European witch trials; daughters were set against mothers, younger women against older women, friends against friends, neighbours against neighbours, those who 'fitted in' against those seen as loners and misfits… Is it any wonder that the idea of Sisterhood has been left in ashes?
“Women don’t have to agree with each other. They don’t even have to like each other. That’s not the point… To challenge patriarchy, create change and begin to heal the wound of the witch trials, women DO have to support other women who dare to speak their truth. Even if it’s completely different to their own. It takes bloody courage to stand up as a woman owning your power. Ask Joan of Arc.” - Witches by Lisa Lister
How did it all begin?
Sisterhood came about after several interesting conversations involving Jolie and a large number of women, both online and in person. These conversations mainly centred around fertility, motherhood, gender identity and the #MeToo revelations. It became clear that something was happening... Women were waking up and Jolie began to imagine a world wide women's web of community and support, who might - if they grew to feel big enough, strong enough and brave enough - be able to help turn this ship around, pulling humanity away from the precipice of environmental disaster, gross inequality and World War III.
She began thinking about making a show that might help all this and it led to her fantasising about the possibility of working with some of the women in her life who inspire her the most and she dreamt of creating a piece that used female stewardship at its very core, so she invited her long term mentor and close friend Andrea Brooks to work with her on the project... Andrea Brooks was Artistic Director of Zygo Arts, an award-winning theatre and arts company working in the UK and internationally, most recently in Georgia. She trained at the Drama Centre and has worked as a freelance director and business trainer and mentor. She is an Associate Artist at BAC, London and Head of MA Acting at E15 Drama School... Then Jolie also invited Caragh Kelson-Bailey to take part. Caragh is a young woman Jolie has been close friend and mentor to now for many years... Caragh Kelson-Bailey is a young creative who is still defining her career. She made much of the costumes used in Sisterhood and was lucky enough to receive training from professional fashion historians at Kentwell Hall, an award-winning Tudor re-enactment in Long Melford, Suffolk. This is her first show as a performance creator... Thankfully they both agreed to take part and together they helped Jolie create the foundations of the new show.
They then invited a team of women to take part in a research and development weekend. These were...
Alberta Jones, who is an internationally acclaimed production designer based in London. Her work spans design for Film, TV, theatre and events. Sisterhood is her second project working with Kriya Arts, leading from the success of HIP which they created in 2016. She is also an associate artist for Rhum and Clay Theatre Company. Her design for their award-winning show Testosterone has toured globally and was shortlisted for the Golden Panda Culture and Design Awards 2017.
Jess Bernberg, who is a graduate of Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the 2018 Laboratory Associate Lighting Designer at Nuffield Southampton Theatres. She received the Association of Lighting Designer’s Francis Reid Award in 2017 and was long-listed for a 2018 Offie award for Best Lighting Design.
Mish Maudsley, who is a highly creative Graphic Designer, Illustrator and Artist. She is responsible for the Sisterhood’s branding and visual identity. She has spent the last 18 years working across web, brand & print design, for a broad range of exciting clients. Her other life as an artist has seen her paint walls in many places around the world, creating vibrant, colourful artwork that can’t be ignored.
Jamie-Rae Tanner, who is a trainee Public Health Consultant in the West Midlands with extensive experience of analysing health and social care datasets from working as a statistician and an analyst in the NHS.
This team of women headed over to Wilmington for an R&D weekend together. Before they arrived at the space there was no clear idea of what the show was going to be about. There'd been talk of it being like the Vagina Monologues, as a kind of interactive panel show, and there was a desire for it to have a strong lighting and design influence, but other than that there were no firm ideas, although Jolie had just begun reading the works of Lisa Lister and had started thinking about the effects that the infamous witch trials had inflicted upon the female psyche over history.
Andrea encouraged the team to think of the play as already being in the ether, waiting to be told, something Jolie had already felt stirring in her womb space... And slowly but surely the beauty and magic of the historical area they were staying in began working its magic on them, especially because it was Belatane, just at the start of Spring, and once they'd discovered the 1600 year old yew tree growing in the local churchyard of Wilmington, just a few meters up the hill, they were sold. This play had to be historical in setting and had to be about witches.
What did they come up with?
This newly devised multimedia tale introduces audiences to a sisterhood caught between two timelines: the witch trials of the 16th Century and modern-day women facing a world in political and environmental upheaval. Sisterhood transports the audience, in this extra-live performance, to a church cell in Wilmington, where three women, who span the ages of around 20, 40 and 60 years old, await their trial in the morning. Soothing and passionate storytelling interweaves the tales of these three women with vestiges from the performers own lives, to reveal an immediate and clear association. As the analogue world disappears into the mists of time Sisterhood questions what kind of world we are leaving to our daughters of the digital age? And how, like the phoenix, we can resurrect our sisterhood from the ashes of patriarchal rule?
Then what happened?
Thanks to support from the Marlborough Theatre, The Spire Arts Centre and Arts Council England, they have been able to develop the show to being performance ready.
They took on two actress to replace Andrea and Caragh, who were unfortunately unable to come live on the road with Jolie and the show. But with blessings they found...
Jules Craig, who trained as an actor at Rose Bruford College, and a voice coach at Central School of Speech and Drama. Acting work has included: Tours with Arc Ensemble, Theatre Adad, ESC, Pied Piper, M6, Root Experience, and the roles of Rosa in Berlinernacht (Brighton Fringe), Felicity in Genetics for Blondes (Soho Theatre/Assembly Rooms), Caliban in ‘The Tempest’ (Hush Hush Ensemble), Mother in ‘Boy’, (The Wolsey), and Dogberry in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ (BSC). A tour of her one woman show ‘Edith, Elizabeth and I’, inspired by the life of the poet, Edith Sitwell toured nationally in 2016, supported by the Arts Council. She currently teaches at Identity Drama School, and is Head of Voice at A.C.T. in Brighton.
And Coco Maertens, who recently graduated from the MA Acting at East 15 Acting School. She is originally from Germany but has called the UK home for almost 8 years. Most recently she appeared as Mole in Scripts for Supper's wild interpretation of 'The Wind in the Willows'. She is also currently developing the play 'Laundry' with her own company, STARCHED Theatre, as well as continuously writing her own work. In the winter of this year she appeared as the middle of three sisters, Lucia, in 'Beasts' at the Bread and Roses Theatre, a play often described as the Chilean 'Three Sisters'. Before her training, she was part of Temper Theatre's touring show 'Terra Incognita' and 'Dad Dancing' at the Battersea Arts Centre.
They also then found the sublime Sophia Craig-Daffern who is joining the performers on the stage as a musician and who is a Musical Artist at the International Institute of Peace Studies and Global Philosophy. She studied Visual and Performing Arts (Music) at Brighton University. As a classically trained Singer, Composer and Musician, Sophia's soul journey is to combine her passion for Sound Healing with Visual Art to enable vulnerable people to overcome their own insecurities through the freedom of creative expression. 'The moment we truly let go, is the moment we are free to find our true self.’
Working with this awesome team of women they were able to rehearse and continue developing the show ready for two scratch performances held at different times during the Brighton Fringe Festival in May this year, both at the Marlborough Theatre, which were enthusiastically received and even acquired a five star review from Latest Magazine, which was fab.
So what next?
Next up the team have two preview performances at the Omnibus Theatre in Clapham on the 17th & 18th July, before heading up to Edinburgh for a full run from the 1st - 26th August, performing every day as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2018 at the highly esteemed Pleasance Courtyard – one of the top four venues at the festival. This high-profile production expects to reach 2600 audience members and to reach 1.5 million tourists from all over the world through a city wide large outdoor poster display, city wide flyering, brochure print in both the main Fringe brochure and the Pleasance brochure, plus PR from the highly renowned Michael Eppy, previously of Soho Theatre.
Off the back of this amazing showcasing opportunity they are hoping to attract the attention of venues from across the UK and internationally, to come along and see the show and book it for forthcoming touring opportunities throughout 2019. But more importantly the team are hoping that by getting this show out to a large number of audiences, in Edinburgh and beyond, they can play their parts in nourishing and strengthening the bounds of sisterhood, so together we can all rise up and stand as one against a system that is corrupt, destructive, divisive and has been pushing people around for far too long...