During the past couple of weeks, you might have seen one or two videos of people singing, monologuing, or painting by their bathroom sinks, floating around on social media. (No, this isn’t a new, quarantine-bred TikTok trend!) Veritas Theatre Arts are the Wakefield-based theatre company who are taking the arts scene by storm, starting the #bythesink movement in order to keep creativity flowing during the monotonous environment that artists across the country currently find themselves in: their own homes. Declan Kelly makes up one quarter of Veritas‘s creative team, and he told us all there is to know about their last few years, from a two week tour of Japan to their own bathrooms.
Starting at the very beginning, how was Veritas Theatre Arts founded?
Myself and the team started as four friends who performed with Yew Tree Youth Theatre, another company based in Wakefield. As we got older, we would always say “Oh, I really wish we could put this on”, or “How good would it be if we managed to put together a production of this?”, and some cogs started to turn… Maybe, one day, we could collaborate and start our own little theatre company.
I think the breaking point that led us to decide to stop sitting and talking about it, and to finally get it up on its feet, was one of the last times that we worked with the National Youth Theatre. It was really frustrating to watch plays that were written by older generations, talking about the lives of young people and just getting it completely wrong. We all agreed that it should be young people that get to tell our generation’s stories, which, now, is exactly what we do. We are a group of young people, performing work written by young people, for audiences of young people. After sitting in a coffee shop together, we finally came up with a name: Veritas.
What does ‘Veritas’ mean, then? How did you come up with that?
Veritas means ‘truth’ in Latin. After our frustration with the National Youth Theatre, it was obvious that our company’s manifesto should be about making honest theatre that accurately reflects what it means to be a young adult, which is how we got to “Creating work with truth at the heart”.
That seamlessly transitions into my next question! Can you tell me a little bit more about your work that hold “truth at the heart” of it? What kind of theatre have you been creating?
Yes! So, as I’ve said, we strive to tell stories that we have come across as young people. At a local new writing festival, in November, we premiered four new pieces of work. Hannah took a monologue that she had been working on, Helana took a piece of work called ‘She Bangs The Drum’, I took my new play, ‘Match’, and Tom took his new writing, called ‘The Wall’. All of these were our personal take on being a young person. The audience won’t have known, but ‘The Wall’ is actually about me and Tom waiting for an Uber, sat on a wall, and ‘Match’ was about my interactions with social media and girl problems. What we are trying to say is that professional work can be so far from real life that it alienates the audience. We stay as far away from that as possible.
So, let’s back track a little bit. Once you had a name, what happened next?
Properly kicking off took a few weeks. After a lot of emails and phone calls, we got given a slot to perform our production of ‘This House’ at The National Coal Mining Museum, which explored what it was like to work and be a young person during the mining strikes in the 80s. From there, we just tried to secure more and more work, to get out name out there. Now, the four of us are up and down the country at university, constantly working to stay creative and collaborate with our theatre company.
Yes, I saw on social media that you describe yourselves as “Wakefield based”, despite most of you being in other cities for the majority of the year. Why is it important that Wakefield remains at the roots of your company?
Wakefield will always hold a special place in all of our hearts, because it’s our home, where Yew Tree Youth Theatre is based- and we would be nothing without them. We have too many connections (like Hepworth Art Gallery and the National Coal Mining Museum) within Wakefield to ignore it. You know, our company manifesto is all about truth, and it would be daft to say that Wakefield is not a part of our truth!
That’s so lovely. I can see on your social media that, despite the current circumstances, Veritas are managing to stay creative and include a whole range of people in on that. Can you talk me through how you settled on the ‘#bythesink’ videos?
At Yew Tree, we got set some work where we had to perform a monologue whilst washing our hands. I just thought it was a good idea and wanted to bring it to Veritas. It’s during weird times like the Coronavirus outbeak that creativity can be hard to find. ‘#bythesink’ provides people with a simple brief that anyone can get involved with to carry on performing and stay creative. It’s just a really great platform for performative skills that proves that you don’t need flashing lights, a phsyical audience, costume, or set to put on a good show. Our social media engagement has rocketed since we started, but my favourite bit is seeing people, who wouldn’t usually perform, get involved.
What are Veritas Theatre Arts’s next steps? What does the future hold?
We are currently working on two new plays: ‘The Wall’ (an extended version of the original) and ‘The Group Chat’ (a dramatisation of the Warwick University rape chat scandal). We have already held online auditions, which got a good response. At the moment, we are holding rehearsals via Zoom, but once we can do safely, we will try and get them into a physical rehearsal space. I know that ‘The Group Chat’ might be being performed via social media, due to the nature of the piece, but you’ll have to keep an eye out for more about that!
Exciting! Okay, final question: if any of our readers would like to get involved with you guys, what can they do?
Please send over anything creative for ‘#bythesink’! Our direct messages are always open. We have a busy schedule of videos at the moment, but I promise that it will go up. You can follow our social media for more information about our shows, because (in spite of Coronavirus) we will perform them, one way or another. We are always finding ways to include new people, so our social media pages are your best friend if you want to get involved,. Oh, and if you are Wakefield-based, contact us and Yew Tree Youth Theatre; I am sure that both of us would love to have you.
Words by Morgan Hartley.