INTERVIEW: Bus Stop Goths | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Matthew Cooper

It’s late in the evening, you’re walking past a group of youths in dark clothes and black makeup listening to their Lebanon Hannover tracks from the speakers of their phone. Their presence might seem like a stylist legacy of the supernatural obsession of the Victorians, the thoughtful rebellion of post-punk Britain or the techno-infused Hollywood-driven aesthetic of the mid-nineties, but if you look a little deeper you see it represents community and expression of identity, something that is highlighted in Bus Stop Goths – the debut production from Audrey Cook taking place at ARC, Stockton.

Audrey is a Queer, non-binary theatre maker from Teesside, known for their camp and surreal style of storytelling and postmodernist approach to anything ‘cult’ or ‘classic’. They’re an associate artist at ARC, an organisation that Audrey acknowledges has played a significant role in their creative development. “I’m so incredibly lucky to have ARC invest so much in me. Space, expertise, resources, time, opportunities – these are the tools necessary to have theatre and art be your full-time job, but it is a full-time job in and of itself to acquire those things. When a venue is willing to provide those things for you – it’s an absolute game changer.”

if you speak to anyone who lives absolutely anywhere, they would tell you about ‘the spot’ that they knew that was claimed by local alternative youth

Inspired by Bill and Ted, Good Omens and The Young Ones, Bus Stop Goths follows two angels, Viv and Sid, who are tasked to watch over Middlesbrough in the ethereal plane. However, they soon realise that the kids aren’t alright and so go rogue, taking matters into their own hands to fix things. It was inspired by a well-known Teesside hang-out spot, as Audrey explains: “If you walk past Middlesbrough Town Hall, you will find a spot that was anecdotally known as ‘The Green’. From the outside looking in you would see a group of goths – impeccably dressed, cackling at each other, crouching on the steps of the town hall, whilst in the background, the rest of the world would be going on around them – grey, smoggy, brutalist. They had an otherworldly presence to them, and if you speak to anyone who lives absolutely anywhere, they would tell you about ‘the spot’ that they knew that was claimed by local alternative youth.”

The resulting production is a surreal modern folktale which reflects on a young person’s identity and the lack of these sacred outdoor spaces that are essential in its development. “One theme we cover in the show is a young person’s fear around taking up space. Kids aren’t daft, they don’t want to be alienated, so if they don’t learn to be a bit rebellious or a bit playful, they instead learn to shrink themselves, contort themselves to fit into boxes that don’t offend or challenge.”

Paying forward the support ARC have shown to Audrey and reflecting the community of goth culture, an open call was put out for one of the production’s lead roles. “I wanted to have my casting call for Viv to be open, because I didn’t want to gatekeep the opportunity to have another performer experience the joy of working in that way. What also helped was that I got to meet so many performers that I didn’t know, and every single person who auditioned made my heart so happy – now I have so many talented trans performers on my radar, and I got to spend the day with my community talking about art and gender.”

Bus Stop Goths will debut at ARC, Stockton on Thursday 25th and Friday 26th April.

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