SPEECHless: People, Performance, Poetry


I met Francesca Beard when she went to my country, the Philippines, four years ago as part of the British council and Apples & Snakes’s Animating LIterature program.

I would have met her earlier, but the traffic in Manila is horrible.

That’s a joke. Feel free to laugh. I tend to resort to humor when I’m nervous, or uncertain. Or when the rent’s due tomorrow and I’m broke. I’m a poet, so you bet I make lots of these jokes.

Anyway, years later, the same people now brings together 5 artists from Southeast Asia, and 4 UK-based artists in a project called SPEECHless.

Tackling the very timely issue of Freedom of Expression, our show asks questions concerning our concepts of “freedom”, and what that implies in an age of mistrust and global anxiety. Can there ever be such a thing as too much freedom of expression? And if so, when is it excessive? Will we ever be truly free to express ourselves?

For several days, we were locked in The Albany (a performance arts venue in Deptford) to work together on conceptualizing, molding, and shaping the show which you will now see as “Speechless” (Thursday, October 30, 7.45pm, The Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, get yir tickets now!). It was pretty much like being in Big Brother’s house, except for the nudity bit, a situation we ameliorated by playing copious amounts of strip poker. Just kidding. There is no nudity in our show, nor abusive language.

What we have to offer you are different voices, each unique, and all united in a communal spirit of generosity, and a sense of wonder.

Speechless has been a cultural exchange program of sorts for this group of artists from all over the world. From Malika Booker’s red-yellow-green-black Granada and Guyana, to Aoife Mannix‘s return to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, from Jacob Sam-La Rose‘s London through several points in time to Pooja Nansi’s de-exoticized, de-eroticized Singapore, Amidst the Stillness of Da Thao Phuong’s Vietnam, entwined in Liu-Liang Yen’s deconstruction of the Peking Opera and classical Japanese theatre, with the help of Siege Malvar‘s (that’s me) Boys and Their Toys, and Priya K‘s “illegal poetry”. Francesca Beard weaves this United Nation of poetry together through songs and 6,000 languages.

And since Speechless has been on tour the whole month, not only has it been an exchange of culture and ideas amongst the artists, the whole journey itself led to artists from all over the world being introduced to the rich diversity that the United Kingdom has to offer. Whether it’s getting drunk in a church converted to a bar in Liverpool, having karaoke nights in a gay bar in Birmingham, singing 80’s ditties with mountains of luggage on a train to Cardiff, lying languorously in a lovely B&B in Bath, having an untimely picnic in Cheltenham, enjoying the MOST AMAZING FOOD IN THE WORLD EVER in a neglected corner of Stockton, sharing and bonding with students from the Lancaster University and Bath Spa University, or simply trying to get lost in the busy, busy, busy streets of London, the whole Speechless experience has been an adventure that will be etched in our memories forever.

Now, as part of Poetry International 2008, SPEECHless will be on the Purcell Room of the Southbank Centre at 7.45pm. This will be the final performance of SPEECHless, but we hope this is just the beginning of a wonderful state created through breaking boundaries geographical, and imagined, and through creating a space for everyone to co-exist and collaborate through the free exchange of ideas and opinions with people, performances, and, of course, poetry.


SPEECHless is a project of the British Council and Apples & Snakes. It is directed by Mike Kirchner and produced by Rebecca Gould.

Join the SPEECHless Facebook Page Now! Click Here!

Get into SPEECHless deeper through the SPEECHless Blog! The artists would love to hear from you, so feel free to speak your mind, and exercise your freedom of expression by leaving comments! 🙂



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