Vault Festival interview: Aamira and Gad

Welcome to another feature from this year’s Vault Festival!

You have one more chance to catch Bee in My Beanie’s immersive experience Aamira and Gad, which invites audiences to step into a border conflict between two nations.

Book for the 7 March 3.20pm performance which takes place in the Cavern. Aamira and Gad is suitable for everyone using puppetry, clowning and new writing to explore what it means to be told that someone is your enemy.

Publicity image for Aamira and Gad

I asked co-directors Tess Agus and Katherine Sturt-Scobie to give a flavour of what their show is about.

Why did you choose to make this show an immersive experience for your audiences?

TA/KS: We thought it was important for people to engage with the story and part of that was understanding that our actions have consequences, both positive and negative.

This idea is at the core of the message which we wanted to present, and to do it we wanted people to not just witness the story but to be active participants in the decision-making process and outcomes.

Having the show be an immersive experience meant that audience members would be making literal choices that affected and guided the story.

The show is tagged as family-friendly and storytelling, but touches on some quite dark and complex issues. How did you navigate this delicate balancing act?

TA/KS; We wanted to explore lived experiences of a border conflict through the eyes of children, through a less jaded perspective not clouded by years of hatred.

Through this perspective we wanted to explore how the narrative of a nation is created, how hatred is fuelled, and how we are taught who we are through the stories we are told.

We therefore choose to make this a family show as we wanted to engage with young audiences and explore the themes in the script through younger lenses. We also wanted to offer young audiences the idea that nothing is ever fixed and everything is changing, and that you can choose to hope.

There has been a lot of discussion around the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in recent months, particularly around whether it is anti-semitic to support the Palestine viewpoint. Do you have a take on this?

TA/KS: The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is an incredibly nuanced situation with discussion seeped in years of conflicting narratives. We believe that any discussion that brings up religious claim as an argument, thus make any criticism taboo, is unhelpful and even harmful for any future resolution.

In Aamira and Gad we try to explore how each nation has its own narratives, how these narratives shape the way people understand their place and their relation to the other side, and how these narratives can feel fixed and unchanging.

In our show we explore the idea that as soon as we realize these narratives are not fixed, and we can change ourselves and the world around us, only then can we have a productive resolution and work together.

Aamira and Gad. Image courtesy Bee in My Beanie

What do you hope audiences will take away from their participation in your show?

TA/KS: We hope that audiences leave with the idea that no story is fixed, we often think of cycles of violence as fixed, never-ending and outside of the reach of human agency.

There are certain narratives in our life, for example religious or political, that are so ingrained in our understanding of ourselves and the world around us that we never question them.

We want people to understand how much these narratives shape our lives, how governments can use these narratives to shape the lives of it’s citizens, and most importantly how these narratives can lead to hatred.

We want people to see the power of their decisions and agency, and to explore the idea that once we choose to believe that the world is dynamic then we create room for hope

Bee in My Beanie looks to be making inroads into the exploration of different cultures and conflicts through play, puppetry and clowning. What’s next on the agenda?

TA/KS: We were very lucky to receive funding from Arts Council England for this project, part of which will go into a series of free theatre workshops in state funded schools in north London exploring themes from the play.

We still have one more show at the VAULT Festival, but this will not be the last time Aamira and Gad is performed. We are currently planning to tour the show around the UK bringing the play to schools, libraries and other exciting non-traditional performance spaces to share this experience with different communities.

Our company’s vision it to one day own a building somewhere in the North of England and create a Bee in my Beanie community centre and theatre which allow like-minded artists to develop their work and will have an outreach programme for local communities and young people.

My thanks to Tess and Katherine for their time.

Aamira and Gad is on again on 7 March.