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Five Reasons Why You Should See Burn My Heart

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Oliver Jones is the director of this production, the first collaboration between Blindeye theatre company and the Trestle Arts Base in St Albans. It tours nationally until 13 November. Blindeye is dedicated to the production of work on national and international human rights issues. It participates in work on these issues through collaboration with various dedicated organisations and works with theatre artists and companies both nationally and internationally to ensue productions are of the highest possible integrity and creativity and to facilitate the expression of those rarely given the chance to have their voices heard.

The company will produce new writing, devised work, and established texts on a variety of human rights issues that are relevant and vital to as wide an audience as possible. It will strive for artistic excellence by combining elements of theatre and performance which are at the cutting edge of theatrical expression. It will fuse text, visual and movement theatre, multi-media, verbatim theatre, and storytelling to create work that is stimulating, vibrant and, above all, connected to the world that we live in today.

Blindeye believes passionately in the collaboration of artists from an early stage, and to experiment with and combine modern technologies with traditional tools of theatre making. It will form a pool of associate artists with specialities in design, lighting, sound, music, writing, new media, performing and other associated disciplines.

The story
Burn my Heart
is above all a spellbinding story. It was this element that first drew me to this project and which is the driving force behind the production. It is both a universal story and a story specific to its culture and time. Two boys’ lives are changed forever by fear, by betrayal, by circumstances out of their control. The story beautifully encapsulates the political landscape of the period – the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya during the 1950s – through the eyes of its’ two young protagonists.

We have made the telling of the story as dynamic, as compelling and as engaging as we possibly can. In doing so, we have created our own theatrical language, that uses physical theatre, storytelling, and text in equal measures. The cast is only five-strong, but they multi-role to startling effect. The result is, we hope, a vivid, visceral and passionate re-telling of Beverley Naidoo’s novel.

The performances from the ensemble cast are as strong as in any production I think you could see on tour at the moment. We have been extremely lucky to assemble this group of actors who have a wealth of experience and are not only actors, but musicians and physical theatre performers as well. At the heart of the show we have Lydiah Gitachu, one of Kenya’s leading actresses, providing an authentic, brooding presence throughout.

Sound and music
I was sure that in the telling of the story I wanted to underscore much of the action with live music and song. Juwon Ogungb, our composer, has taken traditional Kikuyu folk songs and re-arranged them into something very special. Our sound designer Neil Sowerby has added the fine details of sound that bring all of the action together. His research into finding authentic Kenyan sounds, often from the foot of Mount Kenya, is beyond the call of duty!

History/Human rights
I really hope that an audience finds this period in British colonial history as moving, as shocking, and as relevant to today as I do. It is a fascinating time in both Britain’s and Kenya’s past. The Mau Mau conflict is often cited as the first war on terror, and it lead to the birth of a nation. Its legacy still echoes loudly in Kenya, though rather less so in Britain. This is something I would like to change. I passionately believe that it is a story that needs to be told.

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