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This episode features Kane Husbands, Sam Hardie, Eddie-Joe Robinson, Ursula Mohan, and Aaron Gordon AKA The PappyShow. They create ensemble-led devised theatre work and perform, create and share roles across their three shows, BOYS, GIRLS and CARE.

They talk to us about their run at the VAULT Festival, their unique approach to theatre-making, the importance of safety, inclusivity and diversity in their work, and how to navigate an industry where creativity isn’t always paid for.

44 minute listen or read the full transcript below.

All episodes of the Spotlight Podcast.

Christina Carè: Hello and welcome to The Spotlight Podcast. My name is Christina Carè, I’m the content manager at Spotlight, and today we’re talking with the ensemble led theatre company, The PappyShow. We’re joined by Kane Husbands, Sam Hardie, Eddie-Joe Robinson, Aaron Gordon, and Ursula Mohan. The PappyShow talked to us about their collaborative and therapeutic method of creating theatre, how they tackled big subjects in their work, and they give a whole host of great advice to other potential theatre-makers. Take a listen.

Christina Carè: Kane, Sam, Eddie, Aaron, Ursula, welcome to The Spotlight Podcast.

Ursula Mohan: Thank you.

Christina Carè: Thank you for coming in. I know you’ve got a wickedly busy schedule right now. You’re preparing not for one, not for two, but for three shows at the VAULT. Can we start with you, Kane? I want to know a little bit about The PappyShow. We’ve obviously featured you guys on the site before, but can you tell us a bit about like what you’re about and how The PappyShow came about?

Kane Husbands: Yes, so we started in 2012 and I went to the Caribbean, which is where one half of my family are from. It was this word that they just kept using ‘pappyshow’ and it means silliness and playfulness. Whilst I was over there I was like, “I’m going to come back to the UK and I’m going to get some friends in a room and maybe we’d just play some games.” We came back and I started that group, and six years later, I can’t even believe that we’re still going. And it just started from about trying to find a room where we could play around and get some joy kind of in the space.

And we run workshops and we really focus in on training and we make shows. And I guess the key thing with the work that we make is we’re only ever playing ourselves. So, it’s you being you, playing games and doing exercises. And I think that’s what makes our work quite captivating.

Christina Carè: Yeah, and really unique kind of style that you’ve got. That’s your ethos that it’s you being you, which I really loved. Because I’ve seen your show, BOYS. So, I got to see that last year at the VAULT and you’re doing it again. You’ve had a couple of runs of this show. Can you talk me through a little bit about where this idea came about? How did you settle on BOYS, and GIRLS, and CARE?

Kane Husbands: BOYS was, I guess it was quite rooted in my own experience of growing up, and also my experience of working with groups of men. I started to feel that there were some things that maybe we learn as young men that carried into our adulthood and maybe that I wasn’t necessarily seeing that expressed in the wider media or on TV or in film or in theatre. And I wanted to know what groups of minority ethnicity men are like and why we’re only seeing kind of one narrative of what they’re like. So, I wanted to show many aspects to them, so we focused on playfulness and joyfulness, and you do see many other shades of what their experience is.

But we put 10 men of colour on stage, and you see how they are with one another. They tell stories and they dance together and they move together. It’s a really beautiful, joyful show. But, really, it just came from my experience of growing up and going what are those things I learned growing up and what were my friends like and why aren’t I seeing that reflected back or represented in the arts at the minute.

So we started with BOYS and we always knew we’d do a BOYS and a GIRLS show. So whilst we’re making BOYS, we’re developing GIRLS. And GIRLS started to be slightly different. And we decided to look for a wider range of life experience. So we’ve got grandmothers, we’ve got mothers in the room, we’ve got grandchildren in the room, and we show the lives of women from many different ages. And you really see nine women up there kind of telling their lived experience but from different generations. And I guess from the research that we’ve been doing, that’s how we’ve learned.

My mum’s surrounded herself with women who were younger and older than her, and that’s how she got taught to be a woman. So I thought, let’s show that. Let’s put that on the stage and let’s see how an intergenerational cast can be with one another. And it’s so rare that I see someone who’s old enough to be my grandma, as the same age as someone who’s young enough to be my daughter, on the stage moving together. I never see that.

Christina Carè: Yeah. That’s really right. And diversity plays a huge part of what you guys do, which I’ll come to in a minute. I want to kind of knot into the process of doing those other two shows, and Sam and Eddie, you guys are also assistant directors on those projects. How did you get to be involved? What does it look like when you actually start a PappyShow show? What is that process?

Eddie-Joe Robinson: It is different, I would say. It’s unusual in the sense that the idea of sitting down with a script on day one is kind of completely alien. And so I think sometimes maybe people turn up and they expect like, “Oh, we’re going to have like a bit of a set narrative and I’m going to have a part,” and blah, blah. It’s kind of not really like that at all. So, it kind of all comes through play and then we really talk about what themes we want to discuss in the play.

So for example with BOYS, we go, okay, well, what are the different aspects of our manhood that we have? And we’ve spoken a lot about colours in the past, so we kind of go okay, what… This aspect of our masculinity, of our manhood. So, for example, anger, what does that look like? What colour do we associate that with? And we go, okay, that is definitely aspects of manhood that we want to see in this show. So we’re going to put it in there somewhere in that set. We might not fully know how that’s going to look and materialise on stage, but we know that we want that feeling and that essence within the piece. And then we kind of patch it together with that really and going what are the different shades that we want to explore, this overall theme that we’ve got here, whether it being masculinity, or femininity, or care within the NHS.

Sam Hardie: Yeah. I would maybe just add that, much like Eddie and Kane have said, about play and actually if you were to enter our rehearsal room, maybe sometimes it wouldn’t look like we’re doing much work. Because there’s so much laughter and joy, and real game playing. So yeah, maybe if you were to enter the rehearsal room, you’d be like, “They actually… What is this…?” Having been in the rehearsal process for GIRLS and CARE, it’s just extraordinary to watch a room that are really relying on and telling their lived experience. You know you’ll really feel as two ensembles, one minute you’re laughing and then the next you’re crying.

Christina Carè: I mean, four of you are performing in these shows as well. What is it that attracts you to that particular kind of process as performers? That way of devising a show?

Ursula Mohan: Well, it’s actually quite freeing in a way to start from your own experiences and take them further and further and develop with other people. And it’s refreshing and exciting. Scary also, but really nice. Because actually, I’m only in GIRLS and I’ve done a couple of workshops with the girls. And it’s so easy, the process which is lovely. It’s brave as well, which makes it… I mean I’ve been around a long time and I’ve done all sorts of things, I really have. And so it’s not unusual for me to have done an improvisational start toward something. But, in this process, it started from fun and interestingly enough from real truth, because everybody is being so honest and there is a security in the room that allows you to tell your stories and not be afraid to, or ashamed of them. And they’re quite interesting, to learn everybody’s story. They’re fascinating.

Aaron Gordon: And the term “you are enough” gets bandied around a lot, but I think in a PappyShow environment rehearsal or workshop, you’d really feel that. Because even though we do that, we have the set structure that this is going to get in the show. But we have another thing called a check-in at the start of every rehearsal or workshop and it’s usually like a big question or a few big questions. And you’d think, I’m just talking about something that happened in my life. And then, like, Kane or Sam or Eddie were like, “Ah, that thing that we mentioned in the check-in is now in the show.” Or even that there was a moment when we were developing CARE where it was just like, I think it was Sam who lost an earring. And it was just like, “Ah, this is not part of the show at all.” This is not us rehearsing. This is just us being in an environment which is part of the show. And moments like that do pop up in all three shows. So, I think that’s an amazing thing.

Kane Husbands: I think it was really important that it’s so rare when I’m in a rehearsal room that I feel like the expert. I always have to go away and do so much research to really go, “Oh god, this angle of politics, I’m not sure I quite know enough about it. Let me go and do loads of extra work.” So, it was important to have the people in the room feel as though they are absolute experts. In BOYS, everybody is an expert in the room at being a man. Or in GIRLS, their lived experience of being a woman is such valid research. And the same with CARE, it’s like what is this? What are all of our interactions with the NHS at the minute? When have you been? Why did you go? And it’s crazy that you ask any person, tell me your NHS story or tell me a hospital story.

Christina Carè: They’ve got one.

Kane Husbands: Every single person has one, and they have an opinion of what the quality of the care they received was. And that’s really been the foundation.

Christina Carè: I wanted to ask you that because obviously, as you said, everyone is an expert on either BOYS or GIRLS or whatever. There’s going to be a valid experience that you’ve lived but CARE kind of tackles the NHS, which is such a big topic right now. And there are a lot of shows that have tried to tackle that topic. And so obviously very pertinent and on everyone’s minds. I just wondered, did you actually go and do other research or was it very much from the point of your experience with the system? How much research outside of that had to be involved?

Kane Husbands: It’s been a mix of both. We really wanted to focus in on the experience of nurses, the experience of porters, of receptionists, of cleaners, because I feel like the voice that we hear so often is of surgeons or consultants or doctors. And the one thing that we can always say that they really have a skill set in is the quality of care that they offer. And so we approached it through how do we see care. And we’ve met with people who have been patients. I think we’ve all been visitors in hospitals. And then we’ve looked at the professionals who work there. And all you have to do in a weird way is just scratch the surface and everybody goes, “Oh yeah, my mum’s a cleaner.” Or “My aunt works in a hospital.” Or like, for instance, all of my maternal side of the family work in the NHS, so I’ve always grown up being around the hospitals and being around, well, Birmingham City hospitals and all of those that reach out there.

And we got a group of people together who have similar experiences, and that formed the foundation. But throughout that, we’ve been having people come into rehearsals and to talk with us about what it is to care. But I think they always arrive or when I’ve interviewed people and asked them, they always think that we’re coming for like the jargon or the real medical stories and we’re like, “We just want to hear about how you care for people.” And I think that surprises them that we… That’s the story that we really don’t hear that often, of the quality of care that we get and how they’re not only caring for us but for everyone.

I was amazed at the Olympics in 2012, that demonstration of Great Ormond Street Hospital, bouncing on the bed. It was so joyful. And I was like, “I’m not hearing stories like that.” So we were like, “Let’s make one.”

Sam Hardie: And actually, we hear so much, just to let you know, that we hear the NHS and the worries and concerns of where it’s going. But actually, we don’t celebrate, or we don’t appreciate how amazing this thing is that we have. We’ve been reading the manifesto of when it very first started, the NHS, and it says on it, something along the lines of, “we’re not a charity but this is a service that everybody can have.” And we just don’t appreciate how amazing this thing is that we have and actually how much joy and celebration is in hospitals and is in the service.

Kane Husbands: My mum and her family work in a hospital and yet so much of the rhetoric we see about hospitals, I don’t think she can understand. And I was like, this is a service that was built for everyone to access. And then, actually, the way that we hear it talked about, you’re going, “What does that mean?” “So, we’re cutting what? What’s going on?”

Christina Carè: It’s always from a very detached point of view. It’s like on TV, it’s a politician speaking.

Kane Husbands: Yeah, using complex terminology that you’re like, I don’t even know what that means.

Christina Carè: Yeah. Right, exactly.

Kane Husbands: So we were like, let’s make a piece. I was like, if my mum can come and fully get it, we’ve succeeded.

Christina Carè: No, that’s fabulous. I want to ask you about the process more widely. Aaron, you’ve been involved with BOYS for a little while. That show, you’ve now taken it to a couple of different venues. How do you think it’s changed over time?

Aaron Gordon: So, we’re very fortunate to have… We started off with a group of boys, and then we’ve had changed cast. That obviously brings something different to the room. Because everybody’s lived experience affects the work, so it’s like, “Ah, this person is now coming into the fold, how does that then change the process?” But I just think, the way we work and live and every day will always change. So if we do BOYS tomorrow will be different to the way we did it next week, It’ll be different next year because it’s the lived experience of everybody in that room. We’re different every day so I think that difference plays a part on stage.

Christina Carè: Yeah, it’s really interesting. I would love to see the show again now in like a year on, and just see what’s changed. I know you guys also did some development in Iceland. Can you tell me a bit about that experience and how it came about?

Sam Hardie: Yeah. So, we’ve been out twice now to Iceland. It feels like our second home. So, we went out last December and that was the first development stage of GIRLS. And we took a team of about eight out there with us. And it’s incredible, we’ve got this relationship with, it’s called The Freezer, and it literally used to be a fish freezer. So you can imagine it’s huge, this massive rehearsal space in the middle of nowhere, that feels like you’re on the moon. So, it’s really, really incredible just to get out of London and remove yourself from any distractions here. And just really live in the work.

Christina Carè: Yeah, totally. I’m kind of curious though, like did you… I mean, I’m kind of asking you this question because I know a lot of the people who will be listening to this might be wanting to make their own work and develop it. They might be wanting to form a company or are interested to know what they can do not just as performers but as wannabe directors and writers and whatever else. How do you actually go about getting that opportunity? What does that look like, that process?

Sam Hardie: I think just reaching out and finding the resources that are there, that are next to you. I don’t know if you agree. Kane?

Kane Husbands: I fully agree with that. I went to a drama school and so many of my peers were all about really trying to climb the ladder and impress the people who were at the top. And I was just like, I just want to get along with the people in the room. And actually, it’s all of my peer group who are now killing it. They’re doing amazing, and they’re bringing us with them. So, we’ve got this relationship with The Freezer because my friend, who I studied with, who was in my class at Rose Bruford, is Icelandic and runs that theatre now. And he was like, come over we could put you up for a residency. Why don’t you come and join?

But also, I just say that that’s what it’s been about since I’ve left. I don’t think I’ve ever got a job from applying for it. I sent my CV in, and I just don’t get it, but it’s always through recommendations through a friend of a friend bringing you in, and I do the same. So I decided to try and make a company, which surrounds me with all of my friends. And we do keep taking new people and making new friends and bringing them into this fold, but there’s a trust that’s there. And there is a sort of, we have murky relationships in theatre that are personal and professional. And the joy is at times when you can bring those two worlds to collide together.

So I’d say, don’t forget the people who are your biggest like your number one fans already. Sometimes, we’re trying so hard to impress the people who don’t even know us. And actually, we’ve got people who are knocking on the door who have their thumbs up, who think you were amazing already. We should surround ourselves with some of them.

Christina Carè: Totally. I think, as an actor, one thing we hear a lot from our members, in particular, is that it’s easy to feel like you’re not in control of your destiny. You’re waiting for that other person to discover you and give you a job. So I think that ethos is really important. That way of thinking about it is really important, getting stuck in and using the people around you. And the way you guys collaborate, I think, is really distinct and unique.

I have seen you do a workshop with us, Kane, where you talked about how to facilitate workshops. So you obviously find a lot of people through workshops. And one thing that stuck out to me with that was this kind of safety aspect. What would you guys say about that? I mean, is that normally the kind of thing that gets prioritised when you’re making theatre? How does that come about that you create a safe space in which to play?

Ursula Mohan: It’s so variable, depending on who you’re working with and how you’re feeling and what sort of script it is, if there is a script, or if it’s unscripted. If there’s a safety in the room, it’s really nice you, and you’re sort of chameleon-like, you change colour with every movement, which is really nice.

I think every job, every piece of work is different. You can’t be prescriptive. You can’t say this works that way because of this that or the other. It’s also about personalities and work and moulding together. And why I think PappyShow, the company works so well, is that for some reason, Kane has managed to get this wonderful bowl and put really good people in the mix. It’s good though and it really is joyful, because everybody’s got their own strengths as well, which is another thing. I mean, some people are not as far ahead in some things as other people. And the mix works really well.

Christina Carè: Right.

Sam Hardie: I think as well though some processes are really all about the product and all about “We need to have this finished play and we need to kind of get ploughing on through the script” or “ploughing on making” whereas actually, I think for us, our first thing is, how can we build a safe space and that people are really happy to share their lived experience and are really comfortable in playing the games? And getting along with each other, which I think is just really easily forgotten about in a lot of other processes. Actually, that’s kind of rule number one. If you have a safe space, then people will be vulnerable. They will be brave, they will be bold, they will have fun because they feel safe.

Eddie-Joe Robinson: I think as well, in order to create a safe space in the PappyShow specifically, there’s really not much of a hierarchy within the room at all. It feels quite flat in terms of hierarchical structure. So, kind of anyone really has the opportunity to make suggestions or to lead things as well, in fact, which again is kind of slightly unorthodox, I think, in terms of most rehearsal rooms. The ones that I’ve worked in BOYS and CARE, everyone is able to contribute but also kind of pick each other up on stuff and kind of work as one without judgement as much as possible, really.

Ursula Mohan: And also, with the sort of respect for each other as well, which is I love that.

Eddie-Joe Robinson: Yeah, of course. Which is what it’s built on. Yes, it’s not this thing of “Right, I’m the director, I’m the assistant director. I’m telling you what to do and you’re going to listen and, unfortunately, whether you like it or not, that’s what we do.” Here, it’s kind of not really that thing at all. There is really an opportunity for a performer to come back and say, “Hold on. Why do we have to say this? I’m not sure of if I agree with this.” Which has happened, like, “Why are we doing this a bit here?” And then we talk about it and we go, “Actually, you’re right.” Or maybe that person is then persuaded and convinced that this is a good thing to be doing. So there’s a real kind of dialogue and discussion.

But I admit, to create that, it is difficult. It can be quite hard to create that in a room but I guess it kind of links back into the fact that Kane likes to bring in friends, and that’s kind of how he’s formed this company. Everyone kind of has this initial friendship and gets on really well, so you kind of feel that you can be quite open and vulnerable and honest with your opinions and your feelings about the work. So, it kind of goes hand in hand, really.

Aaron Gordon: And also, there’s a thing of doing things together. So, it’s not a lot of processes and a lot of rooms. It’s not ”Cool, you’re the actors, you are going to do this, and we’re the creative team, so we’re going to be over here.” Whereas for PappyShow, we all warm up together. We all play games together. And no matter if you’re a director, assistant director, actor, if you’re planning to be a stage manager, if you’re a friend of The PappyShow that wants to come and see the work and visit, you’re like thrown into the work and thrown into the check-ins. I’ve never been in the space where you who will have somebody who just comes in and we’re like, “Ah, we’re going to stop work for two seconds now, and just welcome this person into the space.” I’ve never been in a room which feels so welcome.

Christina Carè: Yeah. From everything you’re saying, it sounds like a little ideal bubble sounds like happy theatre-making.

But I kind of want to ask you guys. Obviously, a lot of performers are going to be listening to this and maybe they are in a happy ideal bubble of theatre-making just now. Do you have any advice that you would give them in terms of just navigating what’s out there?

Kane Husbands: I guess some of our work always goes about looking to yourself first. We have quite a therapeutic approach to making, so we always… Every interaction you have, it’s half me and it’s half you and I have to own my half of it. So before I’m ever going to start blaming, I’m always going to look at what am I doing that is causing this difficulty? And this is what we have to do regularly, is we have to have the difficult conversations and we have to talk about our feelings and we have to say, “I don’t know if you meant this but I’ve received it in this way. It kind of hurt me today and I didn’t feel like I was able to fully be myself. Can we rumble on this and can we talk it through? And hope that tomorrow we could have an easier day.”

But too often we often skim over those difficult conversations and things lie dormant, and then a week later, you’ve got a toxic room where nobody’s really speaking. So, it’s about, for us, really identifying that we all have a responsibility to make this room the best it can. It’s not my job as the director, it’s all of us. And if we can all hold on to that. And we’re all responsible for fixing it when it goes sideways.

Sam Hardie: I think it’s really easy as well as a performer to get stuck in the headspace of “Oh, I’ve not heard from my agent,” or “I’ve had however many auditions this year and not got any,” then really feels like you’re banging your head against the wall. And this sounds really wanky, you are enough! You’ve got all the tools within you to try and write a play or go and do a dance class or try singing. Forget about any judgement you’ve heard on you or on your tools.

We’ve been doing some free writing in the room recently and one of the performers said they’d really enjoyed it because they didn’t think they were good at writing. And actually, it’s like we could get so easily caught up in, as I said, the auditions or agent or any of that. But actually, get a pen and a bit of paper and just sit and write or draw. We’re all creatives. That’s why we’re in this.

Ursula Mohan: The work is the most important, isn’t it? That kind of takes you through, and it really does. Commitment to the work that’s going on. And that’s the other thing about our rehearsals at the moment, everybody is working so hard. Although it’s huge fun and everything, everybody is working. I mean last night, we finished at something like 10.15pm, having done an evening, but we haven’t stopped. We stopped for a cup of tea but that was just 15 seconds, and then we rolled back because everybody was involved. Do you know what I mean? So, I think if people are committed and 100% committed, you’ll get over any other problems and you just give. And then you always get it back.

Christina Carè: Yeah. I want to ask you not to take away from this loveliness but just to kind of come back to reality for a second. We’ve had a lot of people asking us lately about how you navigate the fact that at some point you’ve got to get paid. And at some point, you’ve got to get stuff done. It’s really hard for an actor. I am not an actor myself, I’m a writer, but when I see how actors are, I think, oh my god, it’s such a hard job. You’ve got to be vulnerable. You’ve got to be tough as steel at the same time. You’ve got to somehow be ultra-flexible in your schedule and yet also make a living. How do you guys navigate that? Do you have a good answer? If you don’t, it’s cool.

Kane Husbands: It’s really challenging. I think, personally, I teach at universities. That’s kind of what the other half of my job is. And I work as a movement director on shows. So when I’m not doing PappyShow stuff, I’m either facilitating or I’m doing that work.

And so, I made a decision at the start of last year that I would take an assistant with me on every job I do, and I would subsidise, I would pay them from my wages otherwise, so that… It was a big thing in BOYS to try and get men of colour in leadership roles and for them to be seen, so I was like I’m going to actively make that choice. And we’ve committed to doing that for the full year. So, in a way, we were like we need to start investing in the people who have invested in us and this is one way of them getting seen, not only in our company but in other establishments and companies and institutions.

We received our Arts Council funding today. That is like the best news that everybody on this project like 100% knows that they’re getting paid for this, but it is such a challenge and there’s not enough money out there. For The PappyShow, we put in a model that is, we will run workshops in movement training that is very cheap but that helps subsidise our shows so that now we can start to pay the actors from the money that our workshops bring in.

Sam Hardie: I would say as well, like, as actors or as performers, it’s hardcore. It really is. As you said, Christina, one minute you’re carrying out dinner plates, and the next minute, you’re the waiter in the scene. And so I think it’s about really finding what else are you good at, what else are your skills. I went to drama school and they bang on the whole time about, I keep saying agents or auditions or doing this, but actually what they don’t teach you is about what’s your other job going to be and what makes you happy. Because for a good chunk of the year, you’re most probably going to be out of work. So, like, are you really into fitness and could you be maybe a personal trainer? Or do you enjoy working with young people? Could you facilitate workshops? Or do you quite enjoy writing, directing? A painter and decorator. Like, what’re your skills? That’s what I would say in a way.

Eddie-Joe Robinson: I would only really be able to echo that, to be honest, and just say, lean into whatever else you’re good at. It doesn’t have to be related to performing at all. It actually is sometimes quite healthy not too, personally, I think that anyway, just because if you’re constantly trying to make something happen, make it happen, whatever it is if you wanted to be a performer and all your energy is invested in that, then it’ll just consume you and you kind of don’t get headspace from it. And then anything that doesn’t happen or doesn’t pay off will just seem that much more of a loss if you’re totally invested in it. And so, personally, I try and lean into all the other stuff that I’m good at which is totally not related to performing. And yeah, try and find some enjoyment in that, to be honest.

Aaron Gordon: Not to go off on a bit of a tangent but I think you meet so many actors when you can tell by the look on their face whether they’ve had a good week of auditions or not. And, again, speaking from personal experience, I was in that sort of cycle. I was like, “What are you doing, Aaron?” And then I found a hobby, which was completely separate from acting. So that to echo what Eddie said, it might not be necessary employment but something that is not acting I think is so healthy for like your mind. Find something that you’re like “Cool, It’s not what I want to be doing in ideal, but at least I can go home and pat myself in the back and said I did alright.”

Sam Hardie: And don’t be ashamed by that either. Don’t be ashamed if you’re a painter and decorator in the day and learning your lines at night. How amazing is that? You’re to paint and decorate in the day and you get to be an actor at night.

Kane Husbands: I fully agree. I don’t even think it’s about what you’re good at, I think it’s about where are you getting your joy from. And actually, I think trying to pursue joy is a really radical decision for your life in the current climate that we’re in.

So it’s not about being like the lead in this. It’s what makes you happy and do that. Do more of that because you will have a much richer, fuller life surrounded by people who mean something to you than just pursuing success. Success can only get you so far, but joy can carry you for your whole life.

Ursula Mohan: I mean I started my career when I was 15 and I’m incredibly old. I really am. I have worked a lot and I’m really, really, really privileged. When I started, of course, there was a lot more work, a huge amount, but I always made the decision I was going to marry and have a family and I have children, I have grandchildren. And I still work, I work a lot, but it’s mostly people that know you, you go forward with them. And you have good years and you have bad years, but you have to be resilient. You have to be like a bouncing ball.

There was a period where I was teaching quite a bit in drama schools which was very good because they always let you go to do work when it came up, which was also joyful. But I think the name of the game is resilience and commitment, and “the play’s the thing” as Shakespeare said. I mean, it’s important. If it’s important to you, it’s important to everyone.

Christina Carè: Yeah. Did you take time away when you had your children?

Ursula Mohan: No. That was dreadful, dreadful. When I got pregnant with my daughter, I didn’t start to show until I was about five months and I was in a run. And then, I was so lucky because I got a 26-part radio series playing an Indian little boy. So I was doing this little boy, who was a very naughty little Indian boy, and I was absolutely huge. And then after my daughter was born, I was back after six weeks.

Christina Carè: Wow.

Ursula Mohan: But I’ve got this kind of hunger. I think it’s the only word I can say. But I know family is really important. If there was anything important, I was there. It was nothing. And I have a good partner who accepts all that. If you want to do it, you do it. Don’t you really… I mean, you know…

Christina Carè: The wonderful thing about acting is that you can really do it with any life experience and any kind of thing that you’re bringing to it, which is really fabulous. Which kind of I guess neatly brings us to my next question which is about the diversity aspect of what you do. And with GIRLS, you mentioned, Kane, before, you tried to bring in a lot bigger range of kinds of people next to each other. Why is that an important part of The PappyShow?

Kane Husbands: I guess it’s from the experience I’ve heard. It’s like, when I look around my friendship group, they look a lot more like London. And I go, why am I not seeing that on stages or why am I not seeing it in film or in TV? And I’m going, but I see it in real life, but I’m not seeing it anywhere else. Maybe it’s because I grew up in… My dad’s Caribbean and my mum’s white, so I was always in this kind of working myself out, which side do I belong to, kind of these big identity questions. And that made me surround myself with different people. And I think to be representative of the place that you live is a responsibility for us as artists, and the only control I can have is to do it in the company that I run. So I was like, I’m going to do it here first and hope that it starts to project out to all the other companies that I work for.

Christina Carè: Yeah, totally. If you could give someone who wants to start their own company, like your number one bit of advice, is it find the right people? Or what is it?

Kane Husbands: Yeah. I’d say find the right people. Surround yourself with the people who lift you and who make you feel like you’re at your best. And that, for me, that will make the environment that the work can grow its best,

Christina Carè: Well, you’re back at the VAULT. What is it about the VAULT Festival that you think is such a good place to do your work? To perform your work?

Kane Husbands: It’s a venue that feels open to bringing in new audiences. It fully reaches out to people who would potentially never go to a theatre. And that really excites me because I think there’s such a power in what we can learn from theatre. And yet, if it’s only for one specific type of audience, I don’t know what the point of making the work is for. So we want to make work that reaches those audiences and this is an easy way for us to do that. And also, they make their programming so accessible. They really open an application that makes it easy for you to submit your idea and they read them all. And then they come back to you. So there’s not really a festival that’s quite like it, I think, in London at least that brings in such diverse artists and has a commitment to wanting to do that in non-theatre spaces.

Sam Hardie: Yes. I’d say it’s just like the Edinburgh Fringe but not as huge and mad. No, but it’s like, this like hidden hub that feels so electric when you go in, and that’s because there’s just such a diverse audience in there. And they’re not all theatre goers and theatre makers, but they really have come from here, there, and everywhere.

Christina Carè: It seems a lot more affordable than the Fringe as well.

Sam Hardie: Yeah.

Christina Carè: Just quietly.

Ursula Mohan: Yeah.

Eddie-Joe Robinson: Also, in terms of it being a platform as well, we know from first-hand experience how good it is for that because with it being kind of Central London, right in the heart of it. From the show last year, we got the Bush and the Lyric to come along and then they really supported us for the rest of the year. So it can be a great platform for both your show and your company as well. It’s really kind of respected. It’s like a place for exciting new shows, not just theatre but cabaret, comedy, all of it. It’s kind of a real hub of all of that stuff, to be honest.

Christina Carè: Yeah, that’s a really good thing to mention, I think. I’m going to let you guys go in a bit. But I want to ask you, and these are the kind of questions I’d like to ask everyone that I talked to. Who is inspiring you right now, and what would you like to do next?

Kane Husbands: I’m inspired by this artist named Casey Gerald, he’s an American writer. He just handles conversations around race, diversity, sexuality, gender, really interestingly. And he grew up as a gay Black man in the American South, and I just am so fascinated by how he’s the exact same age as me and he’s like a mini-Obama and I’m just wowed by him all the time. So I’m reading his book at the moment.

And next, I really want to make a piece about faith. I really want to look at people of many different faiths and bringing them into a space and looking at how we start that conversation. Because I think we hear too often of the differences, and I am just so sure that there are some similarities there. And I think the conversation is happening, we’re just not hearing about it enough. That’s what I’d love to do next.

Ursula Mohan: We had this conversation yesterday actually about who inspired us. Grotowski. I always think Jerzy Grotowski as brilliant and always have. Really, really extraordinary. And I’m doing my own show as well.

Christina Carè: That’s exciting.

Ursula Mohan: And I’ve got lots of bookings this year. So it’s wonderful. It’s called Florence Smith – Now and Then, and it’s about a real woman who lived, who was born in the Boer War, and was a cleaner at the Whittington Hospital interestingly enough, and lived through the First War, World War II, abject poverty before NHS. Incredible. You know, the salt of the earth. Wonderful and very funny. And it’s her real work, it’s all her from her heart, you know, real stuff because it was recorded while she was alive. And, yeah, we’ve done this in quite a few places and it’s gone very well. And we’ve got lots of bookings. That’s what I’m doing alongside GIRLS.

Christina Carè: Sounds fabulous.

Eddie-Joe Robinson: All I would say in terms of inspiring and this does sound wanky, but just the people in the room, really. And we touched on it earlier but how open and vulnerable everyone is in the room. And actually, being an assistant director on BOYS and kind of watching people get up there and being very vulnerable and going, can you just show that again, can you just say that story and blah, blah, blah, and thinking, oh, this is easy. And then getting into being a performer in CARE and having to actually do it myself and go up there and be vulnerable and say stories. Like yesterday, I was just in floods of tears and then I kind of realised this is really hard. So, I would say that everyone in the room is just really inspiring at the moment to be honest.

Sam Hardie: And then in terms of what’s next for GIRLS and CARE, or for BOYS, GIRLS, and CARE. And so, BOYS and GIRLS is going to the North Wall, in Oxford. We were really lucky to be selected as one of their associate companies, and they are having us at the beginning of March. And then, GIRLS is going to be a part of the Incoming Festival, that the New Diorama Theatre run. So, it’s going to be on at the New Diorama and then up at Home in Manchester. And then GIRLS is also going to Latitude Festival in July, and CARE‘s been booked for a festival in September, at Home in Manchester as well. It’s really exciting.

Kane Husbands: We’re taking BOYS to Brighton Festival.

Sam Hardie: And BOYS to Brighton.

Kane Husbands: So you can catch them all now, so come!

Christina Carè: That’s right. That’s a good note to end on. Where can people see you? If they want to see you right now and get tickets, what should they do?

Sam Hardie: So if they go on the VAULT’s website, they can book on for all of the shows. And I recommend come see them all. You can book on there and we’re on from the 13th to the 17th of February [2019], across various times. But if you want to catch the trilogy, that’s on Saturday the 16th [2019] you can see all three shows, and the one day.

Christina Carè: Amazing.

Kane Husbands: Yeah, and we’re coming back with our workshops. They’re going to be up on our website. So, go to www.thepappyshow.co.uk and you can book to come and work with us on there. They’re cheap. They’re affordable and they’re very silly and fun.

Christina Carè: Fantastic. Thank you so much guys for joining us.

Sam Hardie: Thank you.

Kane Husbands: Thanks, Christina.

Christina Carè: Thanks for listening to the Spotlight podcast. If you’ve got any questions or anyone you’d like us to talk to in a future podcast, you can email us at questions@spotlight.com, or let us know on Twitter @SpotlightUK.