THE Love Season will soon set hearts pulsing at York Theatre Royal, where the Step 3 reopening will make its mark with Love Bites: a love letter to live performance and a toast to the city’s creative talent.
More than 200 artists from a variety of art forms applied for £1,000 love-letter commissions to be staged on May 17 – the first day that theatres can reopen after restrictions are lifted – and May 18.
The 22 short pieces selected will be performed each night at 8pm under the overall direction of Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster. Each “bite” will take hold for five minutes.
In the fifth in a series of CharlesHutchPress Q&As, Ashleigh J Mills [they/them] has five minutes to discuss their Love Bite, In Progress.
ASHLEIGH [they/them] is a Black, non-binary and unapologetically autistic creator, calling themselves Angry Black Changeling on their Twitter account. Politically and poetically minded, their work seeks to explore and digest their lived experience of life on the margins. They believe that within resistance lies creation. They are a work in progress.
How did you hear about Love Bites, Ashleigh?
“Henry Raby, York’s resident punk poet, tagged me in the call out on Twitter. As someone who dips in and out of York’s poetry scene, he probably recognised that it’d be definitely something I’d be interested in! And I was!”
What is your connection with York?
“I moved to York almost eight years ago now. Initially for university, I’ve attended both York St John and the Uni of York in the past. But really, I’ve made my home there. I’ve got partners and a cat and everything!”
What will feature in your Love Bite, In Progress, and why?
“In Progress is a poem I’ve created as a love letter to words and to the complex and tricksy process of learning who you are and who you’re going to be. I’ve kept a Good Words List for over four years now: a list of words I don’t know, learn and don’t want to forget. Using those words, I’ve created a piece about lockdown-inflicted self-reflections.”
You believe that “within resistance lies creation”. Discuss further…
“We live in a world of oppressive power structures. I’m a person who is Black, queer, trans, autistic, and disabled. As such, my existence will always function as a form of resistance – whether or not I opt into that.
“I think there are a myriad of ways to navigate straddling so many intersections, but for me, poetry and art is my primary outlet and communication tool. It helps me filter and process my own experiences and find similar community, which is an endlesssly important thing when any one of those facets of my identity can implicitly result in isolation. I believe, as Audre Lorde once wrote, “poetry is not a luxury”.
In lockdown, what have you missed most about theatre?
“I’ve been quite privileged in terms of lockdown and theatre. I’m studying a professional acting MA at ALRA North [Academy of Live and Recorded Arts, in Wigan, Manchester]. While lockdown has undoubtedly impacted us, it’s also been sprinkled with times I’ve been able to get into a (Covid-safe) room and create with my small cohort. It’s been a relief, an adventure and a very stressful time all in one!
“I’ve missed being able to explore new places and theatres and see new experimental and exciting ways of working! However, I’m pleased that accessibility within theatre has come into the mainstream awareness and contention.
“I hope the trend for more accessible theatre continues as more venues begin to reopen their doors. Like poetry, theatre and art should not be a luxury! I hope the future holds a new way of doing things that doesn’t negate the widened access lockdown has inspired!”
What’s coming next for you?
“I’m heading into my final seven months of my actor training. So hopefully I’ll finish that and get a certificate to prove it!
“More seriously, I hope to unearth a way of making art that I can access holistically. I often receive feedback that I’m too intellectual or academic. But really, I feel that this is a symptom of existing as I do. When your existence is politicised, people often assume that when you speak from experience, you’re trying to root a social theory or make it accessible. I’m not. I’m just expressing myself as best I know how.
“In summary, I want to work with new people and find new ways of accessing creativity. I want to act. I want to write. I want to continue exploring this new-found joy of play. There’s much I want to do! So we shall see what the future holds when we get to it.”
What would be the best way to spend five minutes if you had a choice?
“My dream five minutes would be being inside on a rainy Sunday afternoon, with my cat, Franklin, on my lap. I’d have a coffee from the local fancy coffee shop, soft music would play in the background, and I’d be able to just sit, and be, and read a book from my books-to-read shelf without thinking about work, or deadlines, or ‘being productive’.”
Tickets cost Pay What You Feel at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk or on 01904 623568.