Akin Theatre is Rachel Lincoln and Anna Beecher. Rachel Lincoln creates visual theatre. Anna Beecher is a writer. Together, they make visual, sensory theatre with text. Over the first few months of 2019, they toured their show NEST with the house network, and have recently become Farnham Maltings’ newest produced artists. We sat down together and got to know them a bit better!
1. Typical first date question… how did you meet?
We met as sixteen year olds at the BRIT School for performing arts. We were both studying theatre. It was such an exciting creative environment and we got to explore many different types of theatre, from Shakespeare, to political activism and performance art to immersive work. We feel really lucky that our friendship and collaboration began there.
2. How did you decide to make work together?
We have been working as ‘Akin’ since 2015. We created the company to make work which fuses our two practices – Rachel’s work as a physical and visual theatre maker and Anna’s as a writer. Together, we make visual sensory theatre with text.
But our collaboration goes back further than akin. As teenagers, we recognised creativity in each other plus a desire to work really hard. We created our first show twelve years ago, in our final term at the BRIT School, with our friend Danny Holme. That piece began as a school project, but the three of us formed a company called FAT CONTENT and kept making work together for many years! Akin is an outgrowth of that company.
3. Can you describe the process of making Nest?
Alongside our practices as artists, we have both worked extensively with babies and young children. For many years we led early years activities, including leading baby sensory classes. Late one night, in Rachel’s kitchen, we had the idea of creating a piece of theatre which drew upon all of the knowledge we had acquired about child development. Nest was born! We pitched the idea to artsdepot in North London awarded us a Creation Space residency to begin developing it. At this stage we brought in our brilliant designer Kirsty Harris to begin creating the tactile, visual world of Nest. That first residency allowed us to present our initial ideas to a group of babies and their parents and carers. We gathered feedback from the adults and closely observed how the babies reacted. That sharing was a really exciting moment in the whole process. The show felt like something special. We continued developing it, with ongoing support from artsdepot and brought in composer/sound designer Max Perryment and lighting designer Joshua Pharo. It took a few years of exploration to turn it
4. You toured Nest with the house network this spring- what did that involve and how was the house model helpful?
house is committed to supporting relationships between venues and companies in the South East and work to improve the range, quality and scale of contemporary theatre presented. Being part of house allowed us to reach new audiences and meet some lovely people. They really supported every aspect of the show and our house tour played to 98% sell out audiences and it was a massive pleasure to start to have conversations with venues and audiences who don’t know our work.
5. Who are your artistic inspirations?
So many! Our theatre inspirations include Geoff Sobelle, Jo Clifford and Romeo Castellucci. We’re also inspired by the visual work of Anna Veronica Janssensand architect Eileen Gray. The world of picture books also feels relevant to our work, for example Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree.
6. What do you think is really valuable about making performance, especially, as with Nest, for young audiences?
Performance can create magical, transformative spaces. We try to create environments which are gentle, and surprising; spaces where audiences can step back from the everyday and notice the granular details of their lives. In a world of distraction, our shows boldly say, be here now. We also feel like making theatre for young audiences can challenge ideas of what theatre is and who it is for. We believe that thrillingly innovative theatre can be part of everyone’s life from birth and that adults should should be intellectually and emotionally engaged by the shows they take their kids to. By including children, our work has the power to reach audiences who ‘never go to the theatre’ (something many audience members who came to Nest told us). We think that’s really exciting!
7. You’ve recently become produced artists at Farnham Maltings, (yay!) what does that involve?
This is huge for us, our work will be able increase in scale and ambition with the brilliant support of Hannah Slimmon, Laura Woodward and the whole team at Farnham.
The team support us with every aspect of producing. Their experience, insight and advice is invaluable to us as a new company. We’ll be making decisions and moving forward in the knowledge that Farnham will have our backs, and that is huge for us as a new company.
8. What are you working on next?
We’re making a new show! It’s called House. It will be another immersive work for families, with a broader age range than Nest. Our vision is an immersive performance set in a house where nothing is quite as it seems. In each room of the house a transformation takes place. The crusts under the kitchen table become a mountain range. A goldfish swims through the bathwater, grows giant and then floats, magnificently through the whole bathroom. Using text, projection, movement and complete engagement of the senses, we want House to explore the joy of home and the wonder of the beyond.