Lily Driver and Felicity Huxley-Miners co-run Instinct Theatre, whose original play, Tea and Good Intentions, comes to the Kings Head, Islington, for two performances in February. The play, written by Felicity, continues the company’s theme of topical and powerful theatre, with a look at the very first meeting between Adar, a Syrian migrant, and Margaret, a middle-aged housewife who has tentatively opened her home to him.
“Felicity and I met at drama school, Italia Conti, aged 18, on the acting course,” says Lily. “We started Instinct Theatre to create our own work and hoped for exposure, but we were surprised by the vast number of roles we ended up playing within the company. However the business, social, IT, writing and marketing skills that have developed as a product of running Instinct Theatre have been a happy bonus!
“I directed our first play, Sartre’s No Exit, in a small venue in Surrey in mid-2015. Felicity played one of the female leads. We had no budget and no real expectations of how it would go, but it was a sell-out run and we received great reviews. We decided to make Instinct Theatre official, and it bloomed from mostly passion, and trial and error.
“No Exit was set in the round and the idea was to draw the audience in and make for a thought-provoking piece. This idea of wanting to affect the audience is how we reached our ethos of creating powerful and relevant theatre, addressing topics that are featured highly in current media. I don’t believe that the media has the best impact on people’s education on topics such as the Syrian migrant crisis; however this is where the vast majority receive their information. We wanted to create an entertaining, moving and informative play to give a wider view on the topic.”
In light of recent events, this is more important than ever. “Although President Trump’s drastic decision to ban seven nationalities from entering the US has faced a massive backlash from all over the world, there are vast amounts of people that would argue this is the correct decision – and this is due to manipulation by the media,” argues Lily. “However, last year there were 372 mass shootings caused by Americans in the US, killing 475 people. The recent list of nationalities banned from entering the US have caused zero fatal attacks. Two attacks were carried out by individuals with ties to the seven countries: the 2006 UNC SUV attack, and the 2016 Ohio State University attack. Neither of those plots resulted in American deaths.
“You can’t get more current than Tea and Good Intentions. A Syrian refugee is rehoused by a middle aged northern lady in a village in the north of England. It’s a touching and affective comedy that’s been featured in several new writing scratch nights in London, with wonderful reviews and comments such as, ‘All the components are there for a classic comedy.’ The first time a scene from the play was included in a new writing scratch night, the audience found it hilarious and really soaked up the details and characters of the play. And that’s when we realised that even when exploring serious issues, people are most perceptive when being entertained – which is the reason why the play was written in full as a comedy.”
Since the new writing scratch nights, there have been some changes: “We have a whole new experienced cast, and have also had the pleasure of working with a Syrian who came to England as a refugee and will now be performing in Tea and Good Intentions,” says Lily. “We were thrilled when Baraa Halabieh got in contact with us and said he wanted to be involved. Little did we know at this stage, Baraa had been very busy in the acting world since he arrived only nine months ago. And although he had no previous acting experience we learned quickly that he was very talented and an incredible asset to us.
“We’re also very excited to be working with director Adam Morley. Adam is an award-winning film and theatre director who’s worked extensively touring in the UK, on the West End and for Baroque Theatre Company. We met about a year ago at a workshop he was doing for Actor Awareness, and will also be co-producing a Greek comedy, Lysistrata, with him in autumn of this year.”
Book now for Tea and Good Intentions on 11th and 24th February at the King’s Head Theatre.