Vault Festival 2018: Joyous Gard on why women take the lead in their three plays

David Ellis

About this time last year, as the Vault Festival started up again, the Standard sat down with Joe and Beth Eyre, a brother and sister duo who were launching their own theatre company, Joyous Gard.

It’s a tough gig; most things in theatre are. Actors don’t earn what they did, government funding for the arts appears to have all gone towards one big magic trick – a disappearing act – and start-up production companies rarely make it past the first printed posters, the opening shows to friends and family, the quiet desertion of Twitter.

Joyous Gard have made it further. Rather a lot further, actually, returning this to this year’s Vault with three shows, two of which open tonight (February 14). First there is Tiger, at the Network Theatre until February 18; I Have A Mouth And I Will Scream at Cavern on Leake St, also until the 18 and finally Timothy, at the Studio on Leake St, which opens on March 14 and closes four nights later.

The Standard briefly chatted to Joe and Beth to see what they’d learned in a year, what it's like to be back with three shows and what's next.

How is it being back at Vault?

Beth: I enjoy the quirks of Vault. Of course there are a lot of shows to compete with and with a week long slot there isn't long to build momentum, but it's great to be surrounded by so many creative people. Vault has become an essential part of London's theatre scene. It’s twice as long as Edinburgh and is showcasing an extraordinary amount of vibrant new work.

Joe: I think Vault creates a sense of camaraderie; the entire team place a very high premium on treating people well. You know that you can try things that are creatively adventurous with an audience hungry for something different, and well, it cheers up London in winter.

What have you learned since we last spoke?

Beth: Last year it meant a huge amount to us that people came to Crocodile. We raised the money, people seemed to enjoy it, we got an award from Vault. This year, with three shows, we've taken on more.

Joe: It's been quite a challenging year in terms of finding the balance: trying to grow Joyous Gard but being involved in other work. This feels like starting the new year with a bang.

Beth: I think the challenges we face are the same as any emerging company – how do we expand and keep selling our shows, how do we raise money? How can we grow? Still, it feels great to be coming back to Vault, where we began.

How did you end up working on three pieces at once?

Beth: Honestly, we couldn't just pick one. Obviously Joe wrote Tiger and a couple of years ago I appeared in a production of Timothy for two nights. Ever since then I've been looking to bring it to a wider audience. It's a fast, funny and, most importantly for me, it’s a female-led dark comedy that keeps you guessing. The writing, by David K. Barnes and Michael Milne is a joy to perform.

Joe: I love David K. Barnes's writing.

Beth: Our co-producer Frankie Parham first brought I Have A Mouth and I Will Scream to us we both read an early draft of Abi Zakarian's script and thought it was very exciting. It's about being a woman today; there’s a lot to say.

Funny, mysterious and sad: Tiger

What was the idea behind Tiger?

Joe: I had this image of a guy in a tiger suit. It seemed funny and mysterious and very sad all at the same time. Who would do that? Why? I wanted to write about a play about an intelligent, complicated, big-hearted female character going through something very difficult, that hopefully touched on the subjects of grief, and depression and how they make life feel very strange.

These are such ordinary things but they are still so difficult to talk about. I wanted the play to tell an honest story that touched on these themes, but it had to be funny. So I put the two ideas together and gradually the three characters started talking to each other. Lots of it is to do with love and the difficulties of love, but there's also a lot of proper silliness in the play. The central image of the whole story is utterly ridiculous, as much as it’s a play about quite tough things. Oh, and there’s an all-Bowie soundtrack.

Does it feel different working with other writers?

Joe: It's inspiring to think you're part of a mini-season of new writing. The three plays are wildly different but they're all funny, quite brutally honest in different ways, and they have female characters driving the action. Abi Zakarian and David K. Barnes are both brilliant, and they've both been very supportive of Tiger.

For more information, visit joyousgardtheatre.com and vaultfestival.com.

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