The Romany Theatre Company
Writing about web page http://www.romanytheatrecompany.com/index.htm
Late last week I travelled down to Devon to read at The Arvon Foundation. I was a guest of the Romany Theatre Company, a remarkable organisation whose excellent work can be discovered at the website above.
Lively, intelligent and incredibly talented, the company and the course's participants – all travellers – were welcoming and challenging, in the best kind of way. I haven’t felt so home among people, apart from my own family, for some years. In terms of manners, enthusiasm and honesty they refreshed my currently eclipsed spirits.
Never have I been better tested in questions following a reading, nor better rewarded in songs and music afterwards. Yet we were all in bed by midnight and up for a read-through next day in the barn of all my new circus poems, a series of dramatic monologues finished very recently.
As the persona passed from one voice to another, rooks started landing on the slate roof in numbers, clattering and cawing so hard you almost couldn’t hear the poem above the natural summoning.
It reminded me of a moment in a poem of mine called ‘Skeleton Bride’ (in a recent Poetry Review) in which the teller of the tale is interrupted by the ‘gossip’ of the trees. The fact that the teller of the tale is finally revealed to be a campfire might provide a reason for the interruptions by these Ent-like elms and oaks. This is a short excerpt:
Light up, phabaràv, kindle the kind wood
for the rose of the moon is opened; the camp
nested in darkness; our dogs snore in their heap.
Prala, you are chilled. Seal your eyes when you will.
Those lamenting tents might then fall silent.
Our women are waiting on your rule of sleep.
Here, take my blanket stitched with flame.
Weave what warmth you can from what I say.
Keep listening, more like overhearing I know.
Don’t heed the wind’s gossip in the trees. Those elms
lie. Oaks over-elaborate. I have coppiced them all
for my word fires. Here is an ember to light you.
I very strongly recommend the work of the Romany Theatre Company. The photograph above is of the writer Dan Allum (in the barn at Arvon) who hosted me. He’d be the first to also state that the company is a collective venture and adventure. Certainly I’d jump at the chance to work with them again.
From their website:
The Romany Theatre Company creates rich, powerful and inspirational theatre and radio productions. RTC's work is rooted in Romany people, their culture and the centuries-old struggle for equality, with a strong emphasis on challenging negative views of Romany people and the lives they lead.
Through the accredited learning programmes, RTC are equally committed to empowering young Romany people by involving them in theatre and radio performance, increasing their knowledge and awareness of their own culture, so creating pride in their heritage and a willingness to celebrate their identity. RTC is working towards setting up a production company with a Media & Arts Academy linked to it.
RTC's aim is to encourage Romany people to reach out and break down the barriers of ignorance and fear by engaging and educating the general public, and moving towards a positive relationship of confidence, trust and community cohesion.
History of the Company from their website:
RTC are the only Romany theatre company in the UK.
- Set up in 2002 by Romany people and is run by Romany people.
- Became a registered charity in April 2003.
- RTC works with Romany people, non-Romanies and other ethnic minorities.
- Produced a video, Best Days Of Our Lives in November 2003.
- Won a national award of excellence 2003.
- Video/seminar. A Gypsy's Wish (video) opened at UGC cinema in Ipswich, Suffolk to a packed house and headlined at ten high profile seminars. Short-listed for Institute of Public Relations award 2004.
- First theatrical production, The Boy's Grave ran at the Sir John Mills Theatre in Ipswich IpArt festival in July 2004.
- A new show, Our Big Land went on a mini tour in 2005 and was received with wide acclaim. A soundtrack CD of the show was also produced.
- Killimengro (meaning 'dancer' in Romani), a show featuring music, drama and dance and partly performed in Romani language, toured East Anglia in June 2006 and went national to Leeds, Wales, Cornwall and Doncaster in 2006-2007.
- Romano Drom was a documentary about the changing lives Romany people in East Anglia over the years and ran as radio series 2007. It may be nominated for an award in 2008.
- A company member will join the Channel 4’s diversity programme September 2008.
- Atching Tan – BBC radio drama series begins broadcasting in October 2008 on eight local radio stations in the East with two follow up series in 2009-2010
RTC will bring a whole new audience to theatre, that is Romany people.