Thursday 6th October. Opening night of Marat/Sade.

We are all a bit nervous, which is good – it gives you an edge, but we are confident. We have a great play, great music, a wonderful director, and a very strong cast and crew. We trust each other and we believe in what we are doing.

Prior to our warm-up I took a few minutes to ask Kaiya Bartholomew, a member of the ensemble, some questions:

G.C: Kaiya, what is your background?

K.B: That’s actually a fairly complicated question for me. I’m British but have spent large portions of my life travelling because of the way I was brought up. My parents met whilst campaigning against the Criminal Justice Act that was being introduced in the UK in the 90s. I was born in Leicester but only spent about two weeks there before we all bundled back into the converted ambulance that was our home at the time and carried on trundling about the country. I was at the Newbury road protests before I was 6 months old, if I remember the stories correctly.

I grew up in a combination of trucks and squatt’s all over England and was lucky enough to be almost constantly surrounded by hosts of creative and intelligent people and exposed to a fair amount of theatre projects that focused on raising awareness about social and environmental issues.

I started travelling to Spain every year with my mum when I was about six and we eventually moved there full time and became involved with the theatre collective Lux, with whom we toured around Portugal, Spain, Germany and the UK from when I was about eight.

I moved back to England when I was 15 to study.

G.C: What brought you to Sydney?

K.B: I’ve been in Australia for about seven months and away from home for nearly a year. It might be the longest time since I was eight years old that I haven’t been involved in something creative and I was getting itchy. I was living and working in a small town in Queensland but one of my best friends was here and I knew I’d be more likely to find a good project to get stuck into in a big city. I was incredibly lucky to stumble across “Marat/Sade” and I’m so thankful that I was given the opportunity to be involved by the wonderful director Barry French!

G.C: What is your theatrical background?

K.B: My theatre background is quite varied. I have a keen interest in political theatre, and theatre as a tool for social change which probably stems from my early years. Whilst with Lux all the shows were physical theatre based and devised by the whole company and I studied more conventional theatre at Devon Academy of Performing Arts in the South West of England. I went on to spend a year with Fourth Monkey Theatre Company who try to combine the principles of actor training and rep theatre. I performed a London season and a season for the Edinburgh Fringe with them.

G.C: Can you tell me more about the Edinburgh Fringe show?

K.B: It was a devised production of Grimm’s “Hansel and Gretel”. Our director – a bit of a genius called Toby Clarke – was very interested in trying to highlight some of the issues that were being mostly disregarded in Britain at that time, one of which was the problem of asylum seekers and our immigration laws.

Stripped back the story of Hansel and Gretel is in fact the story of people forced from their home by cruelty and, after a terrible journey, being trapped in a place they thought would offer them safety. I did a lot of research at that time into the treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers into the UK and life inside ”immigration detention centers” as they are called. What I found was a horrifying wealth of information that I’d previously known nothing about. I focused in on the affects detention has on children, mainly because Hansel and Gretel are children but also because, as the eldest of three kids I have a caring streak and felt myself becoming the most outraged at the affects incarceration can have on young people.

G.C: What was the effect of being locked up for such a long time on the children?

K.B: In detention centers children are at a very high risk of physiological and developmental problems. They don’t understand as easily the reasons why they are being detained. The power that has been taken away from their parents by their incarceration means that they lack positive parental roles which can result in loss of confidence in those that they previously looked to for care.

There is no education provided in detention centers in the UK so children can go for months or years without educational stimulation.

There is also a huge amount of mental health issues and self harm that they are constantly exposed to and can become affected by. There was a total of 2,957 detainees on suicide watch in one particular center in 2015 and this included children.

G.C: What happens to people whose refugee applications are rejected by the government?

K.B: As far as I’m aware they are sent back to wherever they came from. There’s usually no follow through on weather they are safe once they leave the UK. I know that there are certain charities that try to work with the refugees to make sure they are at least fairly represented but I’m not actually sure what percentage will have that treatment.

G.C: How has your Edinburgh Fringe show experience informed your approach to this production of “Marat/Sade”?

K.B: Having some prior knowledge (and outrage) at the treatment of asylum seekers into first world countries has been a good foundation I think. Barry actually asked me to talk a bit about “Hansel and Gretel” and the research I had done into immigration laws in the UK at the beginning of the “Marat/Sade” process and hopefully that helped the rest of the cast too.

G.C: What has been the most enjoyable or rewarding thing about this production?

K.B: I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to work on this production, and with such a fantastic and talented cast and crew. Barry is a great person to work with as his vision is very strong, but he welcomes input and ideas from his actors. Coming from a collaborative and devised background that was the perfect balance for me. Though it has had parallels in terms of the issues its addressing I’ve never worked on anything like “Marat/Sade” before, and I feel like I’ve learnt a great deal. I’m working with a lot of experienced actors and singers, which is so important for a young actor, but I feel they respect me as equally as I do them, which is in itself both humbling and refreshing. I feel like Sydney has welcomed me with open arms!

G.C: Thanks Kaiya. Chookas for tonight.