LONDON – 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: “Nurses give their soul to help sick people every day: working 14-hour days without eating or drinking because there is no time – not even to use the toilet. Nurses are using food banks. Nurses are homeless. Nurses now have the highest occupational suicide rate. Nurses do not have time to give the kindness, care and compassion that people so desperately need, but they find it anyhow. Compassion is the only thing that can save us – remind us who we are, or at least who we are meant to be. We will all be nursed at some stage in our lives. Every single one of us. We need our nurses.”
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), Tamzin Griffin (Dad’s Army; The ABC Murders), Keziah Joseph (The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Bridge Theatre; Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear, National Theatre), Clive Mendus (Lionboy, Complicité; Othello, RSC) and Harriet Webb (It’s True, It’s True, It’s True; I May Destroy You).
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.