I am a socially-engaged artist and organiser. I make original theatre performance and social events where people can feel brave, safe, provocative and playful. As a naturally shy person, I’ve often felt like an outsider (like a lot of people do), and that influences all my work; I like to figure out ways to open doors to experience for other people. My toolkit includes theatre directing, telling stories live, facilitation, project coordination, strategising for accessibility, and supporting people who especially need support.
Career wise, here’s where I’ve been, and what I was doing there… (If my life story was an old Irish/Scottish legend, then this section would be called “The Four Ages of Naomi”):
The First Age: Ireland, 2002-2008: Physical theatre training as part of my degree in Drama & Theatre Studies (and Philosophy) at University College Cork, hugely influenced by Michael Chekhov’s psycho-physical training practises and Anne Bogart’s Viewpoints. Worked as professional director and performer, in devised and physical theatre. Won awards!! Yes!! I also started teaching, and invented my dearly beloved Mobile Story Tent, which has been going ever since.
The Second Age: London, 2008-2011: Did an MFA in Theatre Directing at Birkbeck, University of London. On this practical, industry-based training programme, my research focused partly on the use of improvisation to keep text-based performance ‘alive’, inspired by our visiting teachers Mike Leigh and director Mike Alfreds. I was Resident Assistant Director at the Lyric Hammersmith theatre, and did all sorts of cool things: The most challenging and fulfilling was being company director for a national tour of Filter and The Lyric’s Three Sisters. Outside of the weirdly glamorous world of assistant directing main-stage work, at the Lyric and elsewhere, I continued making small-scale, curious-minded theatre, including taking puppet show Norman Shadowboxer on a schools tour in London and to the Edinburgh Fringe. But aside from this and a few other projects, I deeply missed making performance for/with “non-theatre-y” people. I missed a sense of connection with a more broad range of participants and audiences. So…
The Third Age: Scotland, 2011-2015: I joined a grassroots community arts company called The Village Storytelling Centre, became a storyteller, and for 4 years ran a programme to help disadvantaged young people in Glasgow to tell their own stories. I developed a sensitive, reflective practice for working through story and performance with people who might be dealing with stress, disability, trauma or mental illness. I grew as a participatory artist, and also as a projects manager. I led inventive, colourful projects about collecting and sharing the stories of a community, through performance, theatre, film, sound and visual art. I collaborated with performer Ronan McMahon so many times that we’ve now given ourselves a name: Two Detectives.