Bath Spa graduate brings creative chaos to the community
Monday, 18 July, 2022
When it comes to turning a passion into a paying job, Bath Spa University MA Creative Producing graduate Matt Emeny has done just that. His project, The Wave, which he wrote, directed and acted in, was recently performed locally as part of Sparkfest 2022 and has just finished a tour of the country.
From writing, to producing and acting, Matt has done it all. He also runs his own production company called Calf 2 Cow, is a creative mentor for Bath Spa’s EMERGE project and is an Employability Coach in the University’s careers team.
With a keen interest in street theatre, Matt believes in bringing performances to an audience and encouraging them to be active participants, rather than passive spectators in uncomfortable theatre seats. He said:
“The general population might not actually engage with live theatre that much, maybe once or twice a year. But what's great about street theatre is that you're going to their space and entertaining them, even if it's for five minutes, and kind of changing their entire day. I get a huge buzz off that, and that's my big passion now. People can walk past and just see a little bit of theatre in a town square. I think that's fantastic.”
It comes in waves
The Wave, featuring three pirates stuck on a ship and slowly losing their sanity, is a great example of what he is aiming for, with its air of chaos, sea shanties, dancing and invitations to “climb the rigging, have water-fights, throw colour bombs, light flares, stamp the floor, sing your heart out and let the mayhem be unleashed!” It started as an idea to do a show on a boat - or more specifically, a massive pirate ship in the middle of town, as Matt described it - and was developed while the country was in lockdown due to the covid pandemic.
“Over lockdown I think lots of people were saying ‘oh, you know its ups and downs, it comes in waves.’ Sort of using this ‘tidal’ description of how they were feeling,” Matt explained. “I noticed we used lots of maritime descriptions for the lockdown, like, ‘oh, we're all in this boat together,’ and then someone would say, ‘well, we're all in boats, but mine's got holes in it and yours is a yacht.’”
What started as an exploration of mental health quickly morphed into an overall comment on how many people felt during lockdown - hysteria, isolation, monotony, the stress of being stuck inside with children and partners, the need for an outlet. Matt said he received a lot of positive feedback from people who felt the performance mirrored their own feelings, and how helpful it was to watch the actors express what was going on in their own heads during the pandemic.
The Wave was produced by Matt’s company, Calf 2 Cow, which he set up in 2018 - there is even a Bath Spa connection with the name. “I was walking across campus at Newton Park and I saw a baby cow stood next to its mum and thought, Calf to Cow, that sounds cool,” he explained.
Created for the community
One of the aims of the company, and Matt’s work in general, is to promote Bath and the South West as a centre for the arts and to make theatre more accessible, particularly for people who might find the traditional theatre scene intimidating or exclusive. In addition to Sparkfest in Bath, the production team took The Wave to the South Side Community Centre in Twerton.
“I think environment is a big barrier [to getting people to come to a performance]. And I think that's what really draws me to immersive work and street theatre. I'm really passionate about taking work to the people,” Matt said. “It's not even about ticket prices and things like that. It's almost always about the barrier of the door going into that space. So I think if you can take the shows into the community centre or into their streets and parks, they're much more likely to engage with it.”
Talking further about the importance of bringing theatre to the audience, Matt recounted a recent performance in Guildhall Square in Southampton. As the crew were setting up, he noticed a group of young people who were skateboarding in the square, watching them. When the performance began, they decided to stick around and see the show. Afterwards, the curious skaters came up and started asking questions: what was this all about, was this their job and could you really get paid for doing it?
“They were sitting there with their skateboards and their beer, and no one was judging them at all,” Matt recalled. “They were absolutely glad to be there. And that's what's great about our theatre - you can attract people who perhaps wouldn't even have considered going. I find that really exciting.”