Jack Goodison, Sidal Kekilli and Valia Katsi were brought together under unusual circumstances. They were all participants in the NSDF Lab scheme. “We were all put in a group, and NSDF told us ‘Go ahead and create anything that you want to create’,” Sidal explained to me when the three team members spoke to me earlier this week, “Then we realised that us three shared a passion for diversity. Jack had the music. Me and Luwa [Adebanjo, co-creator] had the writing and the creative ideas behind it. So we thought ‘Look, why don’t we create a theatre company where we can continue doing things like this, even after NSDF is over?’”
The result of this process is Rum & Coke. The team are all cautious not to give too much away. “It follows four friends,” Valia explained, “It starts off with a night out. Something happens. And then it follows those four characters on their journey to understanding what that was. And in a sense, it’s also about their relationships and their friendships, and what comes out of this whole situation.”
For the team, the diversity of the four characters is significant to the narrative. “Instead of focusing on it from one character’s perspective we tried to add in the self-identity of the other characters and how they reacted to that specific situation,” Sidal elaborated, “That’s what the unique approach is: how each different character looks at it from their own perspective.”
Initially, it was Jack, Sidal, and Luwa who began the devising process. Jack was very keen to go down the gig theatre route: “I absolutely adore gig theatre. Like Middle Child are always in my brain as the people I want to [emulate]. It’s a form that I want all of my work from now on to be.” Meanwhile, Sidal and Luwa were interested in working with monologue and spoken word, and wanted to break away from the normal structure of theatre, so were intrigued by the possibilities of gig theatre. “It fit perfectly,” says Sidal, “because we get to break away from the normal dialogue and then find snapshots into the mind of each character.” The gig theatre format proved useful when developing the play, especially for the writers, like Valia: “When I was writing my own monologue, the music really did inform what I was writing. There was a conversation in the process of it.”
Last year Jack had attended a workshop on accessibility run by Nicki Miles-Wilden and Chloë Clarke. “The biggest thing I learnt from that was your ideas need to be accessible from the very get-go,” he says, “You shouldn’t be altering them at the end – you should be making accessibility the very core of your work. There’s very creative ways of doing things, which I thought was very interesting.”
The company were given an access budget from NSDF and worked with Chloë to integrate audio description and captioning into the show. The language within the script is particularly descriptive, and they make use of sound design to evoke different locations, alongside other accessibility features.
It’s wonderful to me the extent to which the company have gone to ensure this play speaks to as many peoples’ experiences as possible. “It’s all about friendship at the end of the day,” concluded Jack, “Showing that you become a family at university, and you all become such close friends – that’s a massive part of it. It’s just a lovely warming feeling that you get when you think about that, and we want to bring that feeling to people in such a shitty time.”