Joygernaut touring project
A unique multi-disciplinary theatre show that leaves the audience more hopeful. One man chases success at increasing cost to his own mental health, until an act of kindness changes everything.
Andy Craven-Griffiths began writing as a poet. He has won poetry slams including Glastonbury, Manchester Lit Fest, and Munichslam, had poetry broadcast on TV and radio (Radio 1, Radio 4, BBC 2), and has published poems in various poetry journals.
With his band, Middleman, he has toured the UK and abroad, played live sessions for Radio 1, 6 Music, and XFM, and had music synchronized widely (NBA2K11, Channel 4, Channel 5).
Andy won a commission to be one of Radio 3s Verb New Voices 2016. This 10 minute radio play was his introduction to drama and theatre. That year, he was part of Curve Theatre’s Writers Lab group. He is currently studying part-time for a PhD in creative writing (University of Leicester, 2020, playwriting).
As an educator, Andy has written a chapter for the Bloomsbury book Making Poetry Happen, and run writing and performance workshops for over 40,000 young people.
Joygernaut is his debut full length theatre piece.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
WHERE IT CAME FROM
The project was born out of a rejection of the idea that we are essentially selfish, all red in tooth and claw. Having grown up in a household with five adopted brothers and sisters, kindness and empathy for others with different experiences was part of my upbringing. This didn’t match the dominant narrative that locates happiness and success in winning over others by having a better job, bigger house, nicer car, better body, and so on. I wanted to find out which view was backed up by science and found that psychology, sociology and especially evolutionary biology suggests we are more naturally kind than our cultural ideas have it.
AMBITIONS OF THE SHOW
Joygernaut would be an attempt to turn what the science had shown into entertainment. Beginning from the enjoyment of the show, the idea was to try to influence people towards happiness, which is better reached through better relationships, which are better developed through kindness, honesty and vulnerability than through competition, toughness and being closed off. The journey of the cynical advertising creative at the centre of Joygernaut makes believable the idea that kindness and connection are both good and natural for us. At minimum, the show should foment the conversation around the damage we do to ourselves through an obsession with material winning and emotional toughness, both traits elevated in traditional (toxic) masculinity. The character’s relationship with the audience transforms from a performance of success to a vulnerable honesty, embodying the closeness possible in other relationships.
The research and development activity achieved much of the above in terms of proving the concept. The Joygernaut Touring Project activity will allow for the final developments of the piece (introducing dance sections, re-working and strengthening existing parts), completing the work ready for touring. It will help fund the tour itself, getting the show out both to regular theatre audiences and to audiences new to theatre, developing audiences whilst developing my own craft. It will also make the outreach possible, which is detailed below.
FEEDBACK FROM RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITY
FROM AUDIENCE MEMBERS OF SCRATCH AND PILOT SHOWS:
“So much more than a one-man show. This is like therapy, psychology, and comedy all in one. Loved it!”
“An extraordinary piece of theatre. By turns funny, brutal, life-affirming, provocative and unifying.”
“Amazing storytelling. Loved how it unfolded and everything interwove.”
“Made me more positive about people. Makes you feel connected.”
“Men need to see this. We all need to feel this. My heart grew.”
From Artistic Director of Nottingham Playhouse after the pilot show:
FROM OTHER WRITERS:
“I have admired Andy’s writing for years. This project should be seen by as many people as possible.”
– Inua Ellams
“Andy will blow you away. He’s exciting and strong. A talent for the page and the stage.”
– Lemn Sissay MBE
“That exciting sense I get only rarely, that here is a performer I trust completely.”
– Steven Camden AKA Polarbear
ABOUT THE OUTREACH
This project will make it a priority to reach out and engage with a wide and diverse audience. In particular, through the shows and workshops already confirmed in mental health settings and local community libraries. Library and theatre workshops are free and accessible to all, mental health workshops are for particular groups already working with Arts and Minds. Live performances in non-theatre settings will be Pay What You Feel, as will the Kala Sangham performance. On top of this, discounted tickets for the theatre dates will be offered to mental health charities and groups such as Mind, Rethink, Andy’s Man Club, and other groups local to each performance.
Workshops use the research on kindness and are in place to help participants to use writing therapeutically, purely for craft knowledge, or both. It speaks to the ideals of ACE’s ten-year strategy, of creating a country where everyone is encouraged to express themselves creatively for the joy, satisfaction and wellbeing that creative life brings.
In recognition of the need to nurture new performing artists, new arts practitioners, and new audiences, shadowing opportunities will be offered both during the workshops and during the creative process of the two weeks spent developing and rehearsing the show. These opportunities will be offered through existing networks such as NAWE, First Story, Story Makers (Leeds Becketts University), and also in open call outs such as through Arts Council England’s News and Jobs emails.
ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE WORK
Joygernaut is the first step in a long-term plan to establish a career as a Yorkshire-based theatre maker creating work with a positive social purpose . The aim is to tour the show to other theatres beyond those already booked, and to bring the show to other non-theatre settings, communities, and audiences.
The industry connections and audiences built during the activity will be invaluable in my development as a theatre maker for subsequent projects.
I will continue to develop and deepen connections to mental health groups, wellness groups, and libraries in order to connect with them in the future as participants, contributors, and audiences.
From Julia Thomas – Associate Director at National Theatre Wales
From Adam Knight – Theatre Director, Crewe Lyceum
Photos from Joygernaut pilot show, Nottingham Playhouse: