Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru continues its run of innovative and exciting remounts this month with its tour of Ie Ie Ie: a Welsh adaptation of Yeah Yeah Yeah, a production exploring consent by New Zealand-based artists Karin McCracken and Elinor Bishop. Ahead of the tour’s kick-off, Hari Berrow speaks to the show’s director Juliette Manon, the leading half of one of Wales’ first non-binary directing teams.
Despite the MeToo movement and many other efforts, consent remains an uncomfortable and touchy subject for many. With Ie Ie Ie, Manon and the team are hoping to get young people talking about and reflecting on what the word means to them, but with actress and comedian Eleri Morgan on the team, they’re also hoping that they can add some much-needed laughter and lightness into the conversation.
“There are loads of elements of comedy in it,” Manon tells me. “Because we’re talking about consent, which can feel heavy, it needed to be a funny show as well, with elements of hope and light in there. Eleri has been brilliant to work with and has been offering so much in the rehearsals, and she’s also really understood the need to create a safe space for an audience.”
A one-woman show with audience participation in the form of both in-person and on-device interaction, the show aims to get young people actively engaging with the topic of consent. Manon and the team have had to navigate keeping the audience comfortable while dealing with uncomfortable ideas.
“The script is carefully crafted to talk about consent. Throughout the show, Eleri asks the audience how they’re feeling, and if they understand things before moving on,” they explain. “I think of that as a negotiation of consent between a performer and an audience: actively making sure they understand what is happening and what we are talking about. There’s also a part of the first speech that Eleri does, that includes a disclosure that if anyone, at any point, needs to leave then that is OK – they’re welcome to do that. It’s not something we get in most theatres – we’ve spent a long time in rehearsals thinking about the audience.”
As well as dealing with consent on-stage, Manon has also been making sure that it’s been factored in during rehearsals. “When you start to talk about consent, you start to notice it everywhere. What I tend to do as a director – if I’m asking someone to do something in the workspace and I don’t get an enthusiastic ‘yes’ response, I’ll check in with them to make sure they’re comfortable. Their body language, their tone of voice – there are so many things that you need to be aware of.
“I check for enthusiastic consent if we are going to do something potentially uncomfortable, like a particularly heavy speech. We also do check-ins and check-outs, where we look at how people feel at the start and end of the day or week.”
Manon is hoping that this will spark conversations that empower young people and allow them to talk openly about this complicated and sometimes taboo subject. “I think one of the main things for me is that the audience feels less alone,” they reflect. “I hope it leaves the audience feeling empowered to have conversations about consent and also what healthy relationships look like. This is something that we don’t see lots of representations of.
“I would really like this to be a show for both young people and adults, and that the show leaves them feeling empowered to have those conversations with each other, and also for themselves. I hope that we can hold a safe space for them to learn about those themes, and then to feel like they have a starting point for new conversations.”
Ie Ie Ie, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, Mon 5-Fri 9 Feb. Touring to Pontio, Bangor (Fri 1 Mar); Neuadd Dwyfor, Pwllheli (Mon 4); Galeri, Caernarfon (Tue 5); Theatr Clwyd, Mold (Wed 6); Theatr Derek Williams, Bala (Thurs 7); Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea (Tue 12); Yr Egin, Carmarthen (Thurs 14); Y Ffwrnes, Llanelli (Fri 15)
Tickets: prices vary per venue. Info: here
words HARI BERROW