Nathanial lifts and spins Susan in Tiny Treasures
James (Nathaniel Hanula-James) and Susan (Gwendolyn Collins) in Kevin Dyer's Tiny Treasures

MTYP announces new exploratory work with UK writer Kevin Dyer

British Council, Canada Council for the Arts, Farnham Maltings, and the High Commission of Canada in the UK recently announced the next round of its New Conversations program. This round, the third, will invest in 22 new creative collaborations between UK and Canadian performing arts companies and artists.

As part of this program, Manitoba Theatre for Young People (Manitoba, Canada) and Kevin Dyer (Wales, UK) have begun working on exploratory research for a project tentatively titled Touch. In light of the current restrictions on international travel due to the ongoing pandemic, and in response to the climate emergency, this latest round takes place in a radically different context with a new program focusing on creative responses to remote exchanges.

“With new play development, it’s important to sow as many seeds as possible,” says MTYP Artistic Director Pablo Felices-Luna says. “The goal of this exploration is not necessarily to produce a new play. It’s to explore a new process, that transcends traditional text-driven dramaturgy.”

“Think of this as a creative retreat,” added Felices-Luna. “Rather than expecting a new play to develop, this is a chance for us to create a new creative process.”

Felices-Luna and Dyer are just beginning this work and have discussed using a non-text driven approach. Their imaginings became centred around touch, and they are currently doing research on the science of touch. Soon, they will be mailing each other touch kits that allow them to explore textures ingrained in familiar and unfamiliar objects, followed by touch geo quests.

“As artists whose work focuses on young people, we quickly became curious about how children and youth were adjusting to the limitations of touch during the pandemic. Kevin wondered how teens were coping at a time in their lives when they would be exploring intimacy and physical contact with each other,” says Felices-Luna.

“As the father of a highly social child with a profound intellectual disability who relies on stimming (self-stimulating behaviours) for self-soothing, the first step in Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) therapy is to physically connect with the child to help them transition to a new activity, and Kevin reflected on instances in his own life where knowledge of these interventions would have been impactful.”

The two artists will continue to work together, transatlantically, into the summer.

Initially launched in 2018 as a two-year pilot, New Conversations has invested over £200,000/$350,000 to increase collaborations between Canadian and British artists with an emphasis on new partnerships and – before the pandemic – on physical exchange and artist mobility. MTYP audiences may remember Kevin Dyer’s play, Tiny Treasures, which was seen on our mainstage in 2019/20 and toured to high school audiences that season.

New Conversations is funded by British Council, Canada Council for the Arts, Farnham Maltings, and the High Commission of Canada in the UK. Farnham Maltings’ involvement in made possible by support from Arts Council England.