By Kat Joyce, Co-Artistic Director of theatre ensemble Tangled Feet Darwin’s law of natural selection, ‘survival of the fittest’ is often misinterpreted, particularly by the capitalist system to mean ‘survival of the best competitor’. But an equally valid interpretation is ‘survival of the best nurtured’.
In our society, the work of caring is not valued, at least not economically. People who care professionally – for children, old people, the sick – are often the lowest-paid. Profit-driven businesses and caring responsibilities often seem incompatible. The carer on a zero-hours contract, trying to look after a housebound elderly person in a 15-minute allocated home visit, epitomises how the dignity of the human drive to connect with others can be fundamentally undermined by the requirement to deliver a healthy profit margin.
The importance of ‘care’ in our society, and the often-unheard stories of the people doing the caring, are at the heart of Tangled Feet’s work in 2015. As we step back inside theatre auditoriums (after a spell of making work in public spaces) it seems fitting to focus our attention on the close-up, intimate acts of caring and being cared for that happen in our homes and our hospitals.
In ‘Need a Little Help‘ a show for 3-7yr olds, we explored the world of young carers, inspired by the young people we’ve worked with in recent years who carry the responsibility of caring for a parent or sibling. In that production (which happened at the Half Moon in January) we experienced the beautiful phenomenon of even the smallest children in the audience bursting with a desire to reach out and help our protagonist, Ella, as she struggles to juggle her caring responsibilities with a desire to play. We are all hard-wired to care for others. (You can see a wonderfully detailed review of the production here).
In ‘Kicking and Screaming’ we continue a strand of investigation that we began with ‘Push’ looking at what it’s like caring for a small baby. No-one wants to admit that they are struggling – or worse, failing – as a parent, but many wrestle with these concerns all the time, while simultaneously trying to present a veneer of having it all under control. There’s very little theatrical work about the domestic world of child-rearing, perhaps because so much of it happens behind closed doors and is considered mundane and of little importance. In Kicking and Screaming, Tangled Feet shine a light on the 3am netherworld of new parenthood, examining the pressures on relationships as we try to adapt to our new lives and new responsibilities. Read the 4 star review here.
Our headline show of the ‘Care’ season, a co-production with Watford Palace Theatre in June, examines the pressures faced by the NHS as the Health and Social Care Act comes into play. We’ll be making the show as the General Election happening, where it is predicted that the future of the NHS will be a make-or-break issue for many voters. What will the NHS’s future be come May?
As an ensemble, caring relationships are right at the heart of Tangled Feet. We know that the ‘value’ in our company comes from the trust, investment, excitement and commitment of the people who spend time working on, watching or taking part in our projects.
The ‘creative industries’ can often feel quite cut-throat, with individual artists lauded or discarded on the basis of their current hype level. But as an ensemble committed to a long-term artistic journey together, we are invested not only in each other’s creative development but also in each other’s wellbeing. We try really hard to create a working situation together which enables and inspires people to deliver their best performance, but also accommodates them when they are not on top form or need some flexibility – when they have just had a baby, or are recovering from injury, or a bereavement. This may not necessarily make us the ‘best competitor’, and it certainly doesn’t help us drive a profit. But sharing these joys and sorrows together – being part of something that we nurture and that we hope also nurtures others – makes the work, and our experience of it, infinitely richer.
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You can book tickets to Tangled Feet’s new show “Care” at Watford Palace Theatre here.