Opening at Camden People’s Theatre at Sprint Festival tonight at 9pm, 1001 is a ‘desperate plea for rest’.
The team of director Jana Aizupe, and performers/co-creators Caroline O’Mahoney, Nikita-Nina Shanks, Marta Sleiere and Gi Vasey took some time out for busy schedules to tell us more about the show.
What’s the most valuable thing about being part of Sprint Festival?
Caroline: The most valuable thing is having the opportunity to present work created by emerging artists like us. It is obvious that the theatre venues are still recovering from the
effects of pandemic, consequently prioritising commercial, well-known shows with celebrity casts which ensure good ticket sales.
More and more, it feels like there is no space for experimental, devised, and underground theatre. Therefore, we are very thankful for Camden
People’s Theatre and their efforts to include emerging work in their programme.
Nikita: Being a part of Sprint Festival is valuable to me because I have always wanted to be an actor. Performing in London has always been a goal of mine and I cannot wait for that dream to come true.
This is the first professional show I have been in since I graduated from
an acting course in 2018, and what an honour it is to perform a show about something so close to home.
1001 brings together dance, theatre and performance art in a show about work burnout. What should audiences expect?
Gi: Expect to see genuine exhaustion on stage. We are pushing our bodies to their limits.
Also, the show does not follow any textual script. Therefore, what we say and do is sincere and very vulnerable.
Jana: Burnout has become ubiquitous. In one way or another, all of us have felt extreme exhaustion, overwhelm, pressure to be better and to work harder; all whilst maintaining low stress levels, eating three times a day and getting 8h sleep.
1001 does not offer solutions to
the issue, but it brings attention to how our systems of labour are deeply flawed. Whilst being experimental and quite abstract, there are many opportunities for the audience to relate to what is happening on stage.
The show will make you feel something, that is for sure.
In today’s budget, the focus is on getting people to work harder and longer rather than retiring or enjoying a healthy work-life balance. Do you think this is dangerous to those already dealing with issues because of stress/burnout?
Caroline: I do think this is dangerous. Ultimately, people aren’t living life to the fullest because they’re unable to connect deeply with anything due to exhaustion and always thinking ahead.
Jana: When you think about the typical day in the Western world – getting to work at 9am, staying until 5pm, getting home, going to the gym (if the energy is still there), coming back, making dinner and whoops, it is already 10pm and time for bed.
Just in a couple hours, the
alarm is ringing again. Where is the time to think? To even observe how you feel? That is why so many people have work crises later in life. Catching up with the true feelings of
exhaustion might be delayed, but when it happens, the floodgates of unprocessed emotions open with a force, letting it all pour out violently.
The worst is that the system encourages this type of living because this lack of reflection is what keeps us in our place. But what happens when you crash? When the burnout has settled? Is it even possible to
fully recover if the system requires you to go back into the workforce as soon as possible?
Therefore, yes, this cycle of burning out, returning, burning out, and returning is dangerous. How long can we keep going like this?
1001 takes a working-class perspective on jobs such as call centres to highlight how these roles can cause damage to staff. Tell me more about how your personal
experience fits into this.
Gi: I was so burned out I wrecked a romantic relationship and very nearly completely gave up. I was manic. It’s been a very emotional experience drawing on this for the show but also extremely cathartic.
Nikita: Excessive work in customer service not only causes physical damage, but mental damage too. We are constantly being told what to do, how to do it and when to do it.
We are constantly surrounded by other people, absorbing never-ending small-talk and comments, always looking our best, no matter how you feel inside.
More and more, customers treat service staff as part of the building furniture, owning to perform, to serve, to comply. We are being looked down on, belittled because of our job
titles. Something that has stuck to me to this day is a customer once guessing my age and saying that based on my barista job, he would say I was 19. I am 25.
Why does my job determine my age? This has put undeniable pressure on me. I keep asking myself whether I
should be doing more, earning more money; should I have a “proper” job? You would think these doubts would make me push myself more, but in reality it makes me feel glued to the
ground, stuck in one place.
Although I know that life is much more than work, I do not feel like I have the emotional capacity of figuring out what exactly I need to do to feel fulfilled. In fact, there is no physical time for me to figure it out, as I am always at work, serving customers.
I work to serve others, but who is there to help me? I want to live my life to its full potential, I want to do what I love, and I want to do it consistently. Let’s hope that 1001 is a beginning for change.
Caroline: Since graduating, I have spent my life feeling like I am constantly running as fast as I can to ultimately stay in the same place. I am tirelessly sacrificing myself to things in order to earn money, credits, and ‘experience’.
Jana: I have been working in customer service since I was 14. I have also worked two different jobs alongside my full-time university studies, having 16h days, no food because of lack of time, no breaks.
When the first wave of Covid hit, something in my brain snapped. I
was not able to do anything. I spent days playing Crossy Road on my phone, moving one finger up and down. My mind was completely dead. I felt physically numb. It took me more than a year to ‘recover’, to feel better.
However, now, due to not having any parental support or inheritance, I am back to working 16h days, having double shifts whilst trying to fit in time for rehearsals.
I have 5 different zero hour contracts in customer service. I am exhausted, I
feel undervalued and drained. This is not ok. We should not be working this much just to afford living.
Marta: I got burned out whilst trying to serve goals and ambitions that were inherently unachievable. The only resource that was not taken into account was human labour. A surreal feeling that the product costs more than people’s wellbeing.