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Firelight Performances Diary by Rina Fatania

Rina Fatania was part of the team at the barns who explored ways of making and performing work with social distancing restrictions. At the end of the R&D the work was shared with an invited audience from the local area. Here she shares her diary from the week with us.

Photos by Steve Tanner.

“We are aware, we are careful. We are creating. We are doing what we do best.”

Monday 21st Sept.


Excited and slightly nervous of coming to work.

Can I still do improv?

Do I have any ideas? It’s been so long.


Walking up to the barns, a familiar working space. I took pictures of the place as I had missed it so much. So many memories of all the wonderful people I have met there, and the shows that we made. My heart was bursting.


Instantly noticed, sanitiser hand gel everywhere. On every table.

Aware of any instruments we touched, to wipe down after use.


Being outside helps.

If we are inside, the doors are open so plenty of air flow. This is usual at the barns anyway.


Toilets were being cleaned all the time.

Tuesday 22nd Sept.


Individuals were carrying on as normal but were making sure they were washing and anti-baccing hands.


We were singing outside, trying on costumes, we socially distanced whilst making masks, all spread out with two meters between us.

Wednesday 23rd Sept.


We did a warm up by walking along the costal path in the morning. We did our physical and vocal warmups looking at the sea. So beautiful. Felt so calm inside. Breathing the sea air. We sang, group singing, there is nothing quite like it!


For lunch and dinners, we had to eat inside due to weather – the main table was split in two with the door open. It gave it a restaurant feel which was fun. We all ate socially distanced with the doors open.


We are all aware we are in a pandemic but the feel of the barns and the people we are with make you forget.

Thursday 24th Sept.


Today was a making day… Clay, masks, papering. Been over 30 years since I have done anything like this. It was therapeutic, made us feel quite zen.


Thinking time in a creative space.

A wonderful day. So grateful to have this time here, allowing us to feel like artists again.


We improvised in groups of three. Dressing up.

Careful not to swap costumes. We played.

It was refreshing to explore characters – it’s been long time!


Felt totally safe all day

We are aware, we are careful. We are creating.

We are doing what we do best.

Friday 25th Sept.


Socially distanced lunch

Cooking outside – testing with fire

Did a recce of the outside space, ensuring two metre rule between actors and for future spectators.


We plotted the movement of the show – A visually enjoyable experience is guaranteed.

Music and singing outside. Ensuring no one facing each other.

Performances: Thursday 1st & Friday 2nd Sept.


It was first strange seeing members for of the public come into our theatre playing space with their masks on. But then it just became invisible to me.


It was a mutual enjoyment. The audience enjoyed the sharings as much as us performers. They enjoyed and revelled in the playing. We shared with the audience what we have been up to. Introducing them to the world of mask work, character building and the world of theatre outside by firelight.


A unique experience for us actors and the audience.


The challenges of performing in different weather conditions was new. We had to adapt some scenes due to some strong winds and rain. Adapting is key, and us actors are good at it. The thrill, the buzz, the play.


It was totally safe. We were in the field, moving from different performing areas, the audience followed us in promenade in their bubbles.


It was so exciting to perform again. To improvise with a small public audience. To share our stories. To sing our songs. To lead them physically around the story.


The two sharings were a special time.

Emotional for all involved. To do what we love. To feel alive again. To feel and know that there is a way to do theatre in this pandemic. It does not need to die.


Kneehigh theatre is one company that can make it happen.

Back to grass roots. In a bigger way. To be inventive. To surprise.


I came away from the whole experience absolutely refuelled. Geared up for making exciting work, no matter what ever conditions/ restrictions are in place.


I feel so lucky to be have asked to be a part of this process. I look forward to more!



The prototype performances project the barns was made possible by The D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust, FEAST, and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation