A new work for a new performance world – Wayward Productions will open a worldwide premiere in the first week indoor performances are allowed to return. Based on Christie Watson’s bestselling memoir of her twenty years as a nurse, The Language of Kindness is a joy-filled celebration of nurses and front-line healthcare workers which will resonate with audiences everywhere following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Language of Kindness brings to life the realities, the challenges, heartbreaks and incomparable joys of working for the NHS and supporting families as they face their best and worst moments. Wayward Productions has been developing the poignant new dance-theatre piece for two years and now face the challenge, with co-creators Sasha Milavic Davies and James Yeatman, of ensuring a socially distanced production: a bold ensemble piece about the tactile work of nurses where the company never touch.
The Language of Kindness is adapted and directed by Sasha Milavic Davies (Movement Direction: The Antipodes, National Theatre; Berberian Sound Studio, Donmar Warehouse) and James Yeatman (There is a Light that Never Goes Out: Scenes from the Luddite Rebellion, Royal Exchange Theatre; Dinomania, New Diorama Theatre). It will open at Warwick Arts Centre as part of Coventry UK City of Culture in the very first week that live performance is permitted under the government’s roadmap for reopening. On Wednesday 19th May, The Language of Kindness will hold a free open dress rehearsal for NHS workers and secondary school students. It will then tour to Assembly Hall Theatre and Shoreditch Town Hall.
Author Christie Watson comments “Wayward Productions has been working for the last three years trying to translate nursing and exactly what it is that nurses do onto the stage. The challenges have been great. COVID restrictions, testing, illness, grief, loss, a collective numbness of creativity. But by far the biggest challenge for all of us was getting to the thing, the beating heart of nursing, what nurses have to teach us all. Nurses do not want to be stigmatised as handmaidens, as angels, and certainly not as heroes – a term that has become politically convenient, allowing the legitimisation of low pay and worse, inadequate PPE during this Year of Years. Nursing is a language with many different accents, but all nurses want to be represented as they are: as rigorously trained safety critical professionals. But what does nursing mean, exactly? And how do we get it onto the stage? Nursing is all the sciences and all the humanities and all the arts. And we’ve discovered now that nursing is theatre too. Theatre is taking something concrete, and making it abstract, and nursing is taking something abstract and making it concrete. We need that concrete understanding more than ever, to feel solid ground beneath our feet.”
Co-creator Sasha Milavic Davies adds “Going back into a rehearsal room after the year we’ve all had will be a combination of wildly exciting and terrifyingly daunting. Luckily, at the crossroads of those two huge passions is where theatre-makers create their best work. We are making work in a new world, which we are still trying to define and understand – which is what art is for. So, while I’m nervous and excited at the same time, I know there is no better time to be making live work for an audience than now.”
The Language of Kindness sees sound design by Gareth Fry (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child; The Encounter, Complicité) and set and costume by Zoë Hurwitz (Living Newspaper, Royal Court Theatre; We Anchor in Hope, Bunker Theatre). Lighting design is by Jess Bernberg (Overflow, Bush Theatre; [BLANK], Donmar Theatre) with video design by Hayley Egan (Dead Man Walking, Welsh National Opera; I’ll Take You to Mrs Cole, Complicité and Polka Theatre).
The ensemble cast includes Tina Chiang (Rocks; Chimerica), Etta Fusi (Cannibals, Royal Exchange Theatre; Carnival of Souls, HOME MCR), Rina Fatania (The Man in the White Suit, Wyndham’s Theatre; Dead Dog in a Suitcase, Kneehigh), Janet Etuk (Reasons to Stay Alive, tour; LOVE, National Theatre), Keziah Joseph (The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Bridge Theatre; Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear, National Theatre) and Clive Mendus (Lionboy, Complicité; Othello, RSC).
The Language of Kindness’s original run in 2020 was cancelled when COVID-19 hit. Wayward Productions channelled the energy and the spirit of the piece into commemorating the historic moment by conducting interviews with frontline health workers, recording testimony throughout Covid-19. This was initially developed into the BBC Culture in Quarantine Radio 3 commission Shifts. Wayward will continue to expand the audio library.
The Language of Kindness is presented by Wayward Productions in a co-production with Assembly Hall Theatre Tunbridge Wells, Complicité and Warwick Arts Centre in association with Shoreditch Town Hall and Guy Chapman.
The Language of Kindness is supported by Arts Council England.
This blog post was edited on 5th May 2021 to update the names of the new performers in The Language of Kindness.