Silent Faces are an emerging integrated company and their physical theatre show Follow Suit has been awarded the iF Bursary at this year’s Brighton Fringe. Stopgap’s Lou Rogers caught up with them as they prepare for the debut performance on 9 May at the Sallis Benney Theatre, following the iF Not Now When? Part 2 event
Silent Faces came together in their final year of the Drama and Theatre Arts BA at Goldsmith's College and are comprised of performers Jen Wakely, Josie Underwood, Cordelia Stevenson, Megan Smyth and Adam Deane.
They bonded over a desire to talk about serious issues using humour and physical comedy - historically, clowning has often been used to parody and satirise current events, to encourage boundaries to be examined and reassessed. This fits in perfectly with the ethos of an integrated company.
Lou Rogers: Why did you choose to work together? What makes the company work?
Silent Faces: It's not a terribly romantic beginning, as we were actually placed together by our tutor, Cass Fleming, because of our shared interests in clowns, comedy and a desire to play with non-verbal communication! However, once we came together, we discovered we were all really into using theatre to discuss social issues and also that we had a damn good time working together.
We believe that the most important factor in our ability to work together is mutual respect and understanding − as individuals, each of us have our own schedules and interests, as well as our own personal experiences with disability and mental health problems. The fact that we're able to navigate this together and ensure that we're all remaining healthy and happy is truly vital.
Jen Wakely: I know I, personally, feel incredibly lucky to work with people who aren't just brilliant theatremakers, but are also empathic, supportive and always there to encourage me to push myself
LR: What are your future plans?
SF: First and foremost, we want to get Follow Suit seen by as many people as possible − we're incredibly proud of the piece and think it carries an important message about corporate responsibility and the many companies out there who are placing profit before people.
With no use of language, the piece is universal, so we’d love to eventually take it all over the world and see what international audiences take away from it!
LR: What did getting the bursary mean for the company?
SF: As a young company, we need funding to get our work out there, but winning the bursary went far, far beyond that for us. To have our work recognised and supported by an amazing established companies like Stopgap, Disability Arts Online and The Point is incredibly validating and has really given us a boost to work all the harder.
LR: What to you hope to take away from Brighton Fringe?
SF: We hope people who watch Follow Suit will walk away as more thoughtful, responsible consumers and in the future think about taking their business elsewhere. We also hope they'll take something away from the experience of seeing an integrated theatre company and open their minds to theatre that deviates from the 'norm'.
We're really excited to hear what Brighton audiences have to say about the piece − by its very nature as a devised piece, we consider it a constant work-in-progress and are always open to feedback from audience members. We're also really looking forward to getting to see lots of exciting new theatre in between shows and to meeting people at the ‘iF Not Now When?’ event!