While we prepare for the next stage of Dysbiosis, our journey through queer ecology and environmental justice at Queens Theatre Hornchurch, we’re introducing some of the amazing artists we’re privileged to work with on the project. First up is Kathryn Webb.
Tell us about yourself and your creative practice.
Hi! My name is Kathryn and I’m a queer, neurodivergent, working-class creative from Cranham. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been into ‘making things’. In primary school, me and my bestie used to shoot our own version of Doctor Who, complete with ketchup blood, on a camcorder in his back garden. Nowadays my creative output spans theatre, film, poetry and anything in between. I’ve been mentored by Sky Arts, Creative England, Rianne Pictures, and made a short film for the BBC100 Project. My work stems from an interest in marginalised voices, folklore, and queerness. Previous theatre work has been staged at Theatre503, Arcola, Golden Goose, Pleasance, and Omnibus.
What does queer ecology mean to you?
To me, queer ecology is about questioning what we take for granted when we think of nature, science and reproduction. Unpacking the colonialism and white supremacy of the ‘truths’ we’ve been given and expanding our horizons to see beyond binaries. Nature is brimming with examples of queerness – it’s no joke that we’ve always been here and always will. Through this process, I’ve been empowered to challenge the notion that we exist to procreate.
Could you explain to those who don’t work in theatre what an R&D week is?
R&D stands for research and development. I like to think of it as time set aside for experimentation. Here, it’s okay to fail, it’s a safe environment that values risk and rewards collaboration.
If this is your first time doing an R&D, what did you expect coming in, and were those expectations met?
This wasn’t my first time in an R&D setting. However, I hadn’t devised a project in this way before. I was hoping for a challenge, something that would allow me to connect with exciting minds and stretch my skill set. Dysbiosis rewarded me with an insight into a new way of working that at first took some getting used to but once I shook off the trappings of ‘traditional’ structure, I found myself opening up to the project’s limitless possibilities. Typically, R&D work can be time-sensitive and very outcome-focused but Dysbiosis felt like a project informed by the method of making it. Queer ecology’s freedom and queerness were baked into the collaborative assembly process and the experience was made all the more richer for it.
As a freelancer working in the arts, what do you wish you had known before you started?
There’s no right or wrong way to make work. Everyone’s freestyling, nearly all the time, and that’s cool – there’s joy to be found in the uncertainty.
What were the benefits for you as a creative to have a paid R&D week with other creatives?
Typically, I spend hours online searching for creative jobs so I understand how rare it is to find a high quality, paid opportunity like Dysbiosis, let alone how rare it is to secure. Being supported financially during this R&D was brilliant! The part of my brain normally reserved for money worries could take a week off and focus on the joys of creativity for once! But the benefits weren’t just financial: each day I felt more and more empowered and valued. All those late nights writing in my bedroom and here I was in a rehearsal room at my local theatre surrounded by exceptionally talented people who valued each other, inspired each other and understood the complexities of queer creativity.
Initially what interested you about the themes of the project?
I was initially interested in the overlap of nature and queerness. Nature underpins both my creative work and personal life; from bird watching on the bus to researching nature-rooted folklore for writing projects, this R&D seemed right up my street! Plus, I’ve long been fascinated by the wild and untameable force that exists in the natural realm – there’s strikingly queer parallels to be found within nature’s strength, resilience and beauty.
What does it mean to you working in your logical area?
It meant a lot to me to do this kind of work so close to home. Opportunities like Dysbiosis typically take place in the city so I haven’t had much experience of working creatively in my local area. It was interesting to both draw on and challenge my existing connection with the land. There were also mental health benefits of commuting to my first local job that wasn’t retail; I would have a wonderfully inspiring day in the rehearsal room and an equally nourishing 4 mile walk home which allowed me to digest and reflect on the day’s work.
Could you share with us a piece of work that has stayed with you from your research into queer ecology?
A spoken word piece written after the first day of the R&D.
Sitting in Langtons at 6pm
My skin felt thin from one too many eyes,
So, no surprise, I sought escape
and, my, am I so pleased I came
Here, where the water glistens like fish scales,
Here, where dog walkers listen to swan’s gossip
Here I can drop the mask
Here I don’t have to hide
Here where the sun shine blinds and bathes
The light a blaze of gold lamé
Cloaking slinking across the grass like a drag queen’s train
Here the frog in my throat hops back to its home
And the sky thrives with song
Here the birds fly and throng by lakes and streams.
Here I can just
I can breathe
Here I can fade into trees
Hide amongst leaves,
for an hour
This dream of pink, purple and green
For plants and trees and childhood screams of joyful play
Or fear of bees
Here in the home of geese
I find my moment
Tell us about a project you are working on at the moment that excites you.
At the moment I’m developing several exciting theatre projects! One of them uses nature and folklore to explore generational trauma, while the other is a one-woman-show about the highs and lows of a working-class rockstar navigating the music industry.