Alisha Bailey – interview
Mouthful by Metta Theatre
When I visit family in Jamaica, it is easy to eat very well. The meat is of a completely different standard to the meat you’d find in supermarkets. Everyone grows fruit and veg in their back gardens and it’s all organic.
Metta Theatre celebrates ten years of innovative drama with a topical new production. Mouthful is a collection of six works exploring the global food crisis. Starring Alisha Bailey, the actress defines the show as “A melody of different perspectives.” The actress will be starring alongside Doña Croll, Robert Hands and Harry Lister Smith in this discursive four hander. In her short career Bailey has played a range of roles, from militant female soldier in The Serpent’s Tooth, to a Venetian heroine in Dr. Who. But this play will be testing the Londoner’s versatility to the limits as Bailey will be performing in five of the six pieces. The actress describes her current venture as: “A challenge, but a fun one. The changes are quick; you get about a minute between each piece so they’re sharp. You have to be concentrated because you don’t want the characters to bleed into each other. Also you’ve got lots of scene changes to do and costume changes, so there’s lots going on but we’re getting to grips with it. The cast is all enthusiastic and because it’s only a small group we’re working closely together and have come to rely on each other quickly.”
Mouthful is the brain child of Metta Theatre’s founder and artistic director, Poppy Burton-Morgan. Designed to provide a realistic and comprehensive view of the global food crisis, the six writers have collaborated with leading scientists to create this work. Bailey explains how the show encompasses international and prospective outlooks.
“Each story that you’ll hear is from a different angle. There’s six different playwrights that have written six different pieces. One of the plays is set in Nigeria, another is set 25 years from now, and another is set between Tunisia and London. One of them comes from an aspect of water running out, another is set in Columbia and is based around a girl who’s brought a piece of land to start cultivating carrots. It really delves into all elements of food production and the concept of supply and demand.”
Food security and sustainability has become an overwhelming concern in recent years. The World Food Programme estimates that across the globe, 795 million people do not have enough to eat. This problem is multifaceted and Mouthful addresses many of the contributing factors, such as food mileage and exploitation of famers. Bailey believes that the show will be an eye opener for many audience members.
“Although people think they know about the food crisis, unless you investigate it, you don’t know the true extent of it. Some of these plays do highlight how prevalent this problem is. It also explores how disassociated we are from the food we eat and how that leads us to make poor choices. For example, one of the plays is by Bola Agbaje and is called Chocolate. When we pick up a bar of chocolate at the supermarket till, we don’t think about how it got to us. The finished product we eat bears no resemblance to the original cocoa beans. It’s so vital and making conscious decisions about how you eat and how you shop is important.”
Mouthful is a great piece of theatre and you see lots of different characters and different emotions. And why not go to see six plays instead of one
Bailey is a wealth of knowledge on this subject and has a deep insight into the intricacy of the problem. She explains how she herself tries to shop conscientiously and has been vegan for the past year. Whilst she berates herself for not buying 100% organic, the Central School of Speech and Drama gradate is far more understanding of other people’s shopping choices.
“Really being conscious about the food you eat is expensive. If you’re buying things that are fairly traded and organic it costs a lot, so you can understand why people would go to big chain supermarkets rather than local greengrocers. Also fast food; it’s so cheap and for people on lower incomes who can’t afford to buy from local producers it’s a possible option. But you have to ask yourself ‘Why is the food so much cheaper?’ The way the food is being cultivated isn’t justifiable, there’s always some damage or suffering at the end of it.”
Coming from a Jamaican heritage, Bailey has visited the country several times. The actress reveals that good quality and affordable food is far more available in this part of the Caribbean.
“When I visit family in Jamaica, it is easy to eat very well. The meat is of a completely different standard to the meat you’d find in supermarkets. Everyone grows fruit and veg in their back gardens and it’s all organic. People are much more involved in the food they eat and because it’s a smaller population there’s not the mass production. The way food is cooked isn’t the best, there’s a lot of frying and there’s a high level of diabetes in Caribbean and African cultures. But as for the food itself, it’s much easier and cheaper to eat well.”
Bailey obviously feels passionately about ethical consumerism and is eager to raise awareness through this show. Despite the demanding nature of her current performance, the actress maintains “There’s nothing worse than not feeling stretched in a role.” An ambitious and astute young actress, Bailey hopes to take on more classical and challenging roles in the future. But before she moves on to her next exciting project, I ask Bailey ‘Why people should come and see Mouthful?’
“If you want an evening of not knowing exactly where you’ll be next, come and see Mouthful. It’s a great piece of theatre and you see lots of different characters and different emotions. And why not go to see six plays instead of one?”
Info: Metta Theatre’s Mouthful was at Trafalgar Studios from 8 Sept to 3 Oct 2015 | See listing