Alumnae, Hayley Riley and Louise Evans, both studied Drama and Theatre Studies at the University before forming the two-woman theatre company, Haylo Theatre. Based in Chester, they write and perform theatre which explores many complex life issues. In particular, they target difficult subjects in the health, social care and education sectors through bespoke theatre performances and workshops.
This month Hayley and Louise are heading to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to perform their play, ‘Over the Garden Fence’. The performance encourages conversations about dementia and highlights the importance of the individual behind the illness. In this week’s blog, Hayley and Louise tell us more…
“It’s January 2013. Louise picks Hayley up from Chester train station; a routine played out daily. It’s raining. A girl walks past them. Her green coat and the squeaky window wipers spark a conversation; a conversation about days gone by and a memory we thought we had forgotten. A memory insignificant to the girl in the green coat and the other wet commuters passing by, but in that car in that moment, that memory opened up a new chapter of our lives. We were going to find a way to share our memories and create stories not easily forgotten. Enter Haylo Theatre. Who would have thought we would be in that same car driving up to Edinburgh four years later to perform our play, ‘Over the Garden Fence’?
“We have been touring ‘Over the Garden Fence’ for around three years. We have performed for various organisations, including multiple universities and councils, Age UK, The Christie, Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia Action Alliance to name just a few. We have also performed at the Dementia Congress for three consecutive years – invited back by popular demand! We love to perform in both theatrical and non-theatrical settings, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is an amazing platform for us to reach new audiences through.
“We wanted to create theatre that others would watch and see something they recognise of themselves or their own lives. Our characters and their stories in ‘Over the Garden Fence’ are an amalgamation of our own grandparents and some of their stories. Something that always sticks in our mind as a beautiful reaction to our play was so simple, we were packing away our set having just finished performing and a man who’d watched approached us and said: “You made me think of my nan, I’m going to call her and ask how her day is going.”
“Professionals, mental health care services, careers and families, have seen our plays as a tool to bring people together and discuss prevalent and complex issues. We communicate through theatre, providing an interactive experience, outside of the conventional theatre space. But we also have had the opportunity to perform the show in traditional theatre spaces to audiences made up of the general public. The response has been overwhelming, the feedback we receive inspires us to continue to use theatre to encourage people to start difficult conversations.
“Inspiration comes from a variety of places; we want Haylo Theatre to reflect our love of both literature and storytelling. The characters are based on our families, friends and people we meet in our daily lives. But our biggest inspiration is our families. We wanted Haylo Theatre to encompass family life, to share quirks, mannerisms and eccentricities. Moreover, we wanted to tell stories about experiences and forgotten memories; we believe this is reflected in the theatre we create.
“We are excited and nervous and humbled all at the same time to be performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, not only because we will be able to perform a show we love but, because we can reach new audiences and use theatre to generate conversations around issues that matter.”
You can see ‘Over the Garden Fence’ at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival at Greenside Venues, Olive Studios nightly at 19.45 from August 14-19. Tickets can be booked here.
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