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Birdwatching Interview

"can we outrun a patriarchal society that routinely allows and caters for gendered violence and oppression?"

Anarchy Division bring their latest production Birdwatching to the stage. The production written by Miranda Barrett, her first one-act play, will run at The Space in East London later this month as part of The London Horror Festival.

The production will run from 22nd to 24th October at The Space with performances at 6.30pm and a matinee on 24th at 2pm. The evening performance on the 24th will be streamed live. You can book tickets from The Space's website

The piece will star Alfie Noble (Harris), Karen Barredo (Amy), and Arno van Zelst (Pete). It is directed by Lydia Harper, the stage manager is Mia Raven, lighting is by Ella Fitt.

The poster for Birdwatching. Image by Katie Gabriel Allen

With the play in rehearsals, I spoke with producer and Anarchy Division founder Justin Treadwell and director Lydia Harper.

Beyond The Curtain: Can you please tell me about the piece and its origins and inspirations?

Justin Treadwell: The core of Birdwatching is that it’s a play about misogyny – the constant, sometimes slow, grinding hatred and the emotional reactions it provokes. Then this piece takes that and transports it on top of a psychological horror setup – where the fear becomes visceral dread, every perception is questioned, the supernatural threat ends up taking a backseat to the potential interpersonal threat, and so on. It’s a play that gives you physically and, again, viscerally the sense of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of that – all done through the paradigm of horror.

BTC: What's it like bringing something like, something that is aimed at hitting a Horror nerve, this to the stage?

Lydia: It is very exciting – to make someone feel uncomfortable in a context where they are already suspending their disbelief is a huge challenge but an opportunity like no other!

BTC: What do you want the audience to feel when they watch the production?

Lydia: I want the audience to question what it is that they are scared of and why. We are all afraid of a spooky forest and things that go bump in the night, but Birdwatching highlights the everyday dangers and threats that we face, and the real-life fears that are not considered ‘horror’. We have the opportunity to outrun a monster chasing us, but can we outrun a patriarchal society that routinely allows and caters for gendered violence and oppression? 

BTC: What's been the biggest challenge when it comes to staging this production?

Justin: There are a lot of interesting (but fun!) staging challenges – it’s a script that plays around with perception a lot, and we’ve had some really interesting discussions around what’s ‘real’, who hears what, who sees what and so on. Obviously, as a stage piece, we can’t rely on any post-processing, it has to happen right there, in front of you, every night – which is immensely powerful, but can throw up a few difficult questions!

The cast in rehearsals. Photo by Justin Treadwell.

BTC: Is the rehearsal process different for a horror production (ie more intense)?

Lydia: We have been very conscious of the intensity of working in this genre – lots of tea breaks and biscuits. 

Justin: As Lydia says – it can be quite draining to go to those extremes of emotion (and drop back out of them, too), so we’ve been careful to pace ourselves, be open with each other, and keep things safe.

BTC: The show is running as part of the London Horror Festival. What are your favourite horror films/stories?

Justin: I don’t particularly watch much horror, actually! I’m very easily scared… but it’s a really interesting genre to think about the craft of, and I’m hugely enjoying working on it. I think it’s the kind of thing where while I don’t necessarily like being on the audience side, but diving into how you make it, manage the tension, and so on is fascinating.

Lydia: I’m a big fan of the classic Frankenstein – thinking you know who the ‘monster’ is and seeing a villain as other without realising what is right in front of you…..!! And Midsommer – creating horror and fear in a light, bright and optimistic environment really makes me wonder what exactly it is that I am afraid of. 

The cast in rehearsals. Photo by Justin Treadwell.

BTC: The Space is quite an intimate venue does this allow for the audience to be more drawn into the psychological nature of the piece?

Lydia: There is definitely a feeling of isolation in Birdwatching and I think the venue is perfect for that. If the audience can feel that they are drawn into the intimacy of the trio then PERFECT! 

BTC: In 5 words why should somebody book a ticket to see the show (either in person or on the stream)?

Justin: Clever, insightful, impactful, and spooky!

Birdwatching runs at The Space in East London between the 22nd and 24th of October. Book your tickets from

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