One Item Only is told using the small collection of objects one traveller takes with them on their long journey away from home, and across deserts, mountains and seas, in the hope of finding refuge. Writer and performer Margarita Sidirokastriti talked to us about the show ahead of its run at Ovalhouse this half term, from Thursday 1st – Saturday 3rd June.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I was born in Athens, Greece. My early life alternated between the big city and its restrictions in the winter and a very free rural life in the summer. When the free movement within the EU started, I came to England to visit friends, and here I am still! I was taken by the level and value of creativity in the UK and this gave me the opportunity to explore my own: I started in the circus as a trapeze artist, until I decided that having to have a six pack to be creative was not for me, so then I studied Clown and Buffon in Spain! When my daughter was born, I started writing children’s stories and coming up with a new one every night for bedtime. When the time was right I became aware of a new postgraduate degree in theatre for young audiences at Bath Spa University and my mouth watered! I took this as an indication, and here I am now after 3 years, touring One Item Only which was my thesis project. Other than theatre, my other loves are children’s literature, herbs, nature, travelling, music and coming up with ideas.
Why did you want to work in children’s theatre?
I want to work in children’s theatre because of how complex it is! People sometimes think that theatre for children is simple but to be able to present any theme in a way that is inventive, imaginative, non-patronising and speaks to both the young people and the adults that bring them to the theatre, I believe, takes a lot of detective work. It suits my brain!
What can audiences expect from One Item Only?
To feel and to think. One Item Only is a bit like a blank canvas in the sense that it allows space for “filling the gaps”. I believe it is a generous play that you can make yours.
What inspired you to create the show?
I was always stunned by the absurd ways modern humans travel illegally around the world but what really triggered me was the portrayal of immigration in the media during the 2015 election campaign, the EU referendum campaign and result, and, of course, the recent refugee crisis. I felt that I had to replace the words desperate with brave, pity with awe, fate with decisivenesses.
It’s a one-woman show, with you as both performer and writer. What was your creative process?
First I did a lot of research on immigration journeys all around the world and throughout time. I gathered as much material as I could and I isolated all the elements that demonstrated defiance and strength of spirit. I then weaved a story with those elements/stories. In the whole process, I worked closely with my limitations and these limitations in turn informed the process. For example I only use words I can pronounce (apart from one)! Of course panic was the driver and I had to overcome many mental obstacles but I was lucky to have Chris Pirie as mentor, Craig Edwards as director and Kate Cross as a firm supporter. I really am very lucky!
Which other children’s theatre companies or artists do you admire?
I have a massive respect for Kneehigh. Although not a children’s theatre company anymore, their show Tristan and Isolde planted the love for theatre in my heart. This play was like a bridge between the adult and the child in me. Travelling Light showed me what children’s theatre can be like. They are pioneers. I admire Caroline Horton; she is a very honest writer and performer. Shona Reppe: she’s got something of Mary Poppins minus the songs! Kid Carpet because he is uncompromising. Sarah Argent lets you breathe. I like Belgian theatre, they don’t hold back!
What are you working on next?
I have already completed an RnD period for a new play which will be an adaptation of a children’s story I wrote. I will be applying for funding to complete and tour it in 2018. After that I hope I will have developed good enough producing skills to bring all my other ideas off the ground.
Children’s Theatre Reviews exists to help plug the gap in criticism and writing about theatre for young audiences. It is run entirely voluntarily, and needs support to continue covering and supporting the sector. For more information and to help give children’s theatre the voice it deserves, please visit our Patreon page.