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EP 5: Ava Hunt

Ava Hunt is a practitioner in theatre for young people and  is as a researcher and Senior Lecturer at University of Derby.

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Ava Hunt is a practitioner in theatre for young people and  is as a researcher and Senior Lecturer at University of Derby.

With a long career in acting in TV, film and the corporate world, she  also works as a director and producer. Ava  was Artistic Programmer for Hull Truck and Associate Director for CAST, was co-founder of Tangere  Arts with David Johnston, and now runs her own production company focussing mainly on theatre with and for refugees. She has worked internationally: Palestine, Sri Lanka, Russia, Czech Republic, Romania, Australia, India, New Zealand, USA, Sweden, Norway, and Austria.

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Bethan:
This is Bethan Soar on the 20th February 2020, recording for Lights Up! at Derby Theatre. Please can you introduce yourself and tell me when and where you were born?

Ava:
My name is Ava Hunt and I was born in Hounslow in Middlesex, in London.

Bethan:
That's lovely. And can you tell me a bit more about what you do?

Ava:
Well, I do lots of different things, as many artists do. So, sometimes I'm acting, and that might be in film and television, or in theatre. Sometimes I'm directing, and that again might be in theatre, a small-scale community theatre or a theatre for young audiences. Sometimes I'm producing, which means I'm raising money and putting teams together to do projects. And then sometimes, I'm also lecturing and working with students, both on undergraduate and postgraduate courses. I'm also doing a PhD at the moment (laughs).

Bethan:
Oh, quite a lot, yeah. What's your connection to the East Midlands?

Ava:
I came to the East Midlands in 1991, I think. Or was it 1990? I can't remember. I was working with the Nottingham Playhouse and I was doing a piece of theatre for young audiences. It was about HIV and AIDS.
In actual fact, the local authority banned the production because, at the time, it was illegal to take a piece of theatre that presented gay relationships as being normal into a school. So, the local authority banned the project and we actually toured it into youth clubs. It was when I first started working with Liam Steel, who's now a very popular and well-regarded choreographer. It was a very interesting piece of work.
So, that was a long time ago now, yes.

Bethan:
Yeah, that sounds really interesting. Who did you live with when you were growing up?

Ava:
When I was growing up, I lived with my mum and my dad and my younger sister, Tracy.

Bethan:
What did your parents do for work?

Ava:
My mum was a mum, actually. Sometimes she would have some part-time work; she did some typing. My dad originally started off at the ticket office on the Underground. That was during the war. Then obviously when I was younger – that was after the war – he was then working for British Gas in one of the administration departments.

Bethan:
Can you tell me a little bit more about your first memory of theatre as a child?

Ava:
My first memory of theatre was at the Richmond Theatre in London. I saw a pantomime and I just thought it was the most magical thing. They threw sweets out to everyone in the audience, and I didn't get one. I was so disappointed (laughs).
But I also had done a performance myself because I did some dance with my friend. So I had actually been on a stage when we used to do these little dance shows. There is a very embarrassing story I could tell you. Shall I tell you that?

Bethan:
Yeah.

Ava:
Okay. So, at the end of one of the performances, each of the performers had to go up and receive a present from the person who was organising it. I was standing right on the end of the line and I wanted to go to the toilet, and because I was quite young – I suppose I was about five or six – I was holding myself (laughs). There was a very nice woman behind the curtain, in the wings, who said, "Do you want to go to the toilet?" and I just looked at went…
So she took me off the stage – I just sort of sidled off – and I was sat on the toilet. Then they called my name out for my present (laughs) and the woman behind the curtain said, "She's on the toilet." Everybody heard, so I was mortified because then I had to wait until the end to have my present. But it was just— Yeah.
But I couldn't concentrate, really. I wasn't disciplined enough. It didn't mean anything to me. But when I was at the theatre – I don't know – suddenly this light went on inside of me, even though we didn't have a theatre near where I lived and no one was connected to theatre. You couldn't do a GCSE in theatre at the time.

Bethan:
What would you say was your main trigger for getting into theatre and acting?

Ava:
My teacher at secondary school, Mr Springall.

Bethan:
Can you tell me more about it?

Ava:
Oh well, I owe everything to him really because, as I say, you couldn't do a GCSE at school. He was an English teacher and he had a production that he'd written himself, and so he cast me in the lead role. I wasn't part of the gang. There was kind of a gang of girls that were really attractive and intelligent and really good at sport, and I was none of those things (laughs). So when he cast me in the lead role, I was just— I don't know. It just didn't make any sense to me. But it felt so right. It just felt so right to be – I don't know – playing out a character and— Yeah.

Bethan:
Would you say that your teacher was your biggest inspiration, then?

Ava:
He certainly enabled me to find something that I was good at. I wasn't any good at school, and so I left school with two O-levels, or GCSEs, at the age of sixteen.
At the end of the school year, when I did that lead part in that production with Mr Springall, the school gave me an award, and that was the only thing I ever won at school. I kind of kept that in my heart really, but I didn't know that I could be an actor, I didn't know I could be in the theatre, because it just wasn't possible. There weren't any role models. Do you know what I mean? I might just as well have said I wanted to be an astronaut.

Bethan:
Would you say that was the start of your journey into acting, or was there more to it?

Ava:
Well, what happened then was that I got a job working in Boots the Chemist at the age of sixteen. I'd sort of decided to just do bits of work and I started doing typing, like my mum had done. Then at the age of eighteen, basically we decided to chuck everything in and just go and do some travelling. So we did. When we came back – I suppose I was nineteen then – I don't know, I realised that I just didn't want to waste my life doing something that didn't make me feel good.
I started doing some research, basically looking in the Yellow Pages, because that's how you did research (laughs), and I joined an amateur dramatics group. Then I got a job at the BBC, as a production secretary in Radio 4, and I still carried on doing amateur dramatics because I thought, maybe, if I did amateur dramatics and I worked at the BBC, in radio and in drama, that that would be enough. But every time I was in the studio, looking through the glass to the actors who were performing – I don't know – I just realised it wasn't enough. And because my mum died when I was ten, I'd always been acutely aware of how precious life was and that we're here one day and we're gone the next. I just knew I couldn't waste my life doing something that, again, I'd always regret that I hadn't given it a go.
So, I saved up my money, I worked like crazy and I paid for myself to go through drama school and— Yeah.

Bethan:
Here we are.

Ava:
Here we are.

Bethan:
So you mentioned you went travelling. Would you say, in terms of that travelling, it was really effective for you to get in the right mindset for when you came back and went into acting? Would you recommend that break from life?

Ava:
Yeah, I think it helped me to sit back because, again, we had no money. Literally, some days, if we were in really expensive countries, we wouldn't eat anything. We were sleeping on trains. I mean (laughs) it's not the kind of travelling where you have a ticket and you're just jumping on planes and in hotels and things like that. So I guess the thing was that, again, I just really got this sense of how precious life was and that, at the age of nineteen, I just didn't want to do something that didn't excite me, that I didn't feel passionate about.
As I say, I did try to combine it because I still didn't really understand that you could work in the theatre. I didn't really understand that you could be paid and that could be your job. So I thought, again, like I say, if I did it as an amateur and then I had a proper job during the day, that that would be enough.

Bethan:
No, that's really inspiring. Could you tell me a bit more about your acting career, especially in the TV soap side of it?

Ava:
Yes. I've been in Hollyoaks. I was a Detective Inspector. I've done a lot of Emmerdale. I've played a lot of doctors and solicitors and things like that. I was in Coronation Street. There was a guy called Nick Berry, who used to be in EastEnders, and he was in a series called Heartbeat that was set in Yorkshire, so I did an episode of that. A Touch of Frost, with David Jason.
What else? A Channel 4 drama about motor neurone disease. I suppose that's the one that I'm most proud about because I had to meet two women who were at different stages of motor neurone disease. Also, the audition process was incredibly demanding and the director wanted to see if, emotionally, I could really connect with the character.
I remember this one scene where, basically, I say I don't want to live any more because, with motor neurone disease, it's a very debilitating condition. I have a scene where I say to my son, "I want to die, basically, and you've got to get on with your life," and I just connected with it in a very, very deep way. The cameraperson had done a documentary about motor neurone disease and, after this scene that we did, he was crying.
I think sometimes when you're making documentaries, because you're looking through a camera, you're quite distant from things. So I think that whole thing of everybody in the room just kind of— We got to the end of the shot and it was like… (Laughs)

Bethan:
Yeah. Can you tell me a bit more about your big first break?

Ava:
Well, I'm not sure I know how to answer that question really, because I just sort of feel that it's been just very long and incremental. A career as an actor and director and working in theatre and film, it's not like you do one thing and then you do another thing. I mean, okay, when I look back, I can see that obviously I have acquired a lot of skills and I've met a lot of people, and I think I've always just wanted to do it.
It was a big thing getting into drama school. That was a big thing, and then getting my Equity card also felt like a really big thing. When I left drama school and I got my Equity card, then getting an agent, that felt like a really big thing.
But what was going on alongside that was, in addition to that, this understanding that I wanted to make a difference, particularly with young people and particularly the political context of the work. That started to grow and, I think in the eighties, in the mid to late eighties, I was involved in going to Equity conferences. I even beat Vanessa Redgrave to speak (laughs) and address a conference about this particular motion that was being proposed.
So I became, in the eighties, incredibly politicised, and it was a very political time. You know, Margaret Thatcher was in power and, like I said earlier on, we had Clause 28, it was the miners' strike, it was apartheid in South Africa, and everything that we did in our work felt so important, and I was part of a theatre company.
I mean, I suppose one of the things that I am really proud of and that did make a difference, to answer your question, is that I became part of this theatre company called Avon Touring that had been set up by Tony Robinson, who plays Baldrick – that's what I'm trying to say (laughs) – in Blackadder, and Phil Redmond, who set up Hollyoaks. I was working in this theatre company and it was a permanent job. I had a permanent actor's job. That meant fifty-two weeks of the year I was employed as an actor, and we toured all over the country.
We were touring three shows and we made the decisions about who we commissioned as a writer, we employed the directors, we employed the actors, we did everything and we made all of the decisions. And that, because the work was so political and I learned so much, I think, in a way, that was like going to a university.
In a way, that was my education and that was when I started to realise that everything around us is political. As a young woman coming from a non-theatrical background, yeah, it woke my eyes up. It woke me up (laughs) to the understanding of what kind of work I wanted to make.

Bethan:
Yeah, I completely agree with your view on politics in theatre, but what I'd really like to know is do you agree with the phrase ‘It's not what you know, it's who you know’, especially in your TV work?

Ava:
In TV work, I think it's your agent and I think it's the connections that your agent has with casting directors, and it's the relationships that the casting directors have with the directors. I have worked consistently for a casting director in Emmerdale, and that does make a difference. Getting those agents who have those right connections with casting directors, who have great relationships with directors, who are working on great productions can make a difference.
But I'm not Judi Dench's daughter, so I never have had those advantages. I've never had those kinds of support structures that would just step in. I think the networks that I have now, yes they help to make the work that I want to do, but certainly not in television.

Bethan:
Yeah. Can you describe to me in a bit more detail about what it's like being on set in a main soap?

Ava:
I think this is one of the reasons why, so often, you see the same faces over and over because it is incredibly stressful. First of all it's multi-camera, so you've got two or three cameras that are set up at the same time. So, if you're working in film, you do everything on a single camera and you'll have a two-shot with two people talking to each other and then you do the close-up of one person and then you move the camera and all the lighting and all the sound and then you do the other shot. In Emmerdale and all of the soaps, they have multiple cameras.
So, in this shot, for instance, there'll be two of us talking and then I've got close-ups, and the reverse that are being filmed simultaneously, and they are working so fast. You have to hit the spot, you have to know your lines, you have to give a performance, you've got to do all of these technical things. They call it mechanical media for a good reason, because it is so technical and they haven't got time. If you are stressed out and you can't do it, they haven't got time for it because of the knock-on effect of having all of those people on set and everybody running over time.
I remember once I was doing a series, in a series, and it was right up against the end of the shoot of the day and I had to eat and talk at the same time, which is incredibly difficult because you have to remember exactly when you're putting the croissant to your mouth, on what line, and still act and make it look normal. I don't know, I got one of them muddled up and the director just screamed. She just went, "Keep that camera rolling! Go again!" She was like this and I just— Oh well, it was— Yeah, terrified (laughs).

Bethan:
Yeah, I can imagine. Would you say that working on TV lived up to your expectations?

Ava:
Oh dear, I don't know what my expectations were really. I think watching yourself on television, when it's being broadcast, is incredibly painful. (Laughs) Sometimes I've just got a pillow in front of me, or something. As I say, the one piece that I was really proud of was the motor neurone disease piece because— Yeah.
I think the difficulty with working in a lot of soaps is that you are essentially playing characters that are supporting the main characters and their narratives. So you're parachuting in, basically. So you're kind of, as I say, serving the main characters' stories and, therefore, sometimes it can feel very unsatisfying. Which is why, actually, I really like working with young, student filmmakers who are much more interested in making something experimental, something slightly different, and where you've got the opportunity to make much more of a contribution to the film.

Bethan:
When do you think that theatre officially became your career?

Ava:
I suppose in my thirties. I really wanted to direct and it took me quite a while to find the people that I wanted to work with and to raise the funding for what I wanted to do.
The first show that I did was working with a group of young people directing a Youth Theatre show for a company called Shared Experience, which was set up by Mike Alfreds many, many years ago. I was already working on a project and then they said, "Okay, we're going to do this." Anyway, that's another long story.
But I think when I became a director and a producer, that's when you realise that, actually, I gave up all those other jobs. A lot of people, when they're starting out, when they leave drama school, work in a bar or work in a restaurant, and I'd always gone back to typing. It was in my early thirties that I stopped working for agencies as a temp, and I've never gone back. (Laughs) So I guess that was when. Yes, in my early thirties.

Bethan:
Yeah, especially since you've been interested in theatre from a young child, obviously you've had connections to the industry for quite a while. So what would you say has been your biggest setback in your career?

Ava:
Well, I think life, relationships, that can get in the way. You know, how we feel about ourselves, our mental health, can drastically impact on our self-esteem. Believing in yourself is really difficult, and self-doubt is something that—
I mean, I talk to my son now about it and I say, "Look, self-doubt is really important. It means that we're thinking about things and we're questioning ourselves, and that's important." But, sometimes, I think that if those questions become too loud and too big, it can immobilise us and we think ‘I'm not any good. I don't know why I'm doing this. I'm wasting my time. I should just give up’. So I think dealing with those concerns, those doubts because, inside, I know where I came from. I'm just that little girl from Hounslow.

Bethan:
So if you've had a bad day or you're kind of struggling with the self-doubt stuff, how do you cope with that? How do you bounce back and go back into the industry with it?

Ava:
I talk to my friends, who I trust and love. By talking to other people, I understand that they also have the same doubts and fears, and that, actually, it's completely normal.

Bethan:
Can you tell me more about your time with the Yorkshire Women Theatre?

Ava:
The Yorkshire Women Theatre Company was set up by Kay Mellor, whose done a lot of TV and film and whatnot, and it was a women's theatre collective. We made work around issues that impacted on women's lives. So, that might be eating disorders, it might be domestic violence, alcohol misuse, heart attack, lots and lots of different shows. But, originally, it was set up so that it would tour to community and women's groups.
So, around International Women's Day, we were always incredibly busy and we were touring around community centres and women's groups. Then when I joined the company, we extended that so that the company started to work with young people and we started to work in schools and in youth clubs. It was a wonderful opportunity, again, to find my director's feet and to start to really develop my understanding of producing and raising funding for projects that I wanted to work on.

Bethan:
That's really interesting. So, talking from the director/producer perspective, what kind of theatre do you like to make?

Ava:
I want to make theatre that makes people think, that questions the world in which we live in, that hopefully is a provocation so that when people leave the theatre, they're continuing to think about those questions. There might be an image or a moment or a dilemma that a character has and for the audience to take that out and to continue to question the performance and the world in which we live in, that's what I want. Then, also, maybe from that questioning and thinking in a different way, to do something differently.
I think that so much of the theatre that we create is for a particular kind of audience, that essentially maintains the status quo, and for people that, for many, many thousands of years, have been making theatre that keep the status quo, that keep us in our place. I'm passionate about social change and I'm passionate about actually creating theatre that resonates with all people, not a particular kind of audience that are maintaining that status quo.

Bethan:
You said that you're really passionate about social change and aspects like that, but obviously you've got practitioners like Brecht who are in the industry and stuff. Do you follow their kind of style? Do you have a certain style yourself and how you go about having that reflection from the audience?

Ava:
Well, I suppose a lot of my work has been influenced by practitioners like Augusto Boal. So, Brecht would make a piece of theatre where he wanted the audience to leave their brains – sorry (laughs), not brains – their hats and coats at the door but bring their brains into the theatre and to be woken up, whereas Augusto Boal wanted people to wake up but he also wanted them to rehearse for life. He wanted them to rehearse the differences that they were going to make. So, quite a lot of the theatre that I've made has got a participatory element to it, which is about empowering people to make that rehearsal.

Bethan:
Yeah, I agree with that as well. Can you tell me a bit more about your current production company?

Ava:
Yes. So, last year, I was making a piece of theatre called Journeys of Destiny, which was about a young Syrian refugee called Saad Al-Kassab who escaped Syria and he now lives in Melbourne, in Australia. So I've become very interested in telling real stories and about making those real stories accessible and interesting and empowering for young people.
Now, this year, I'm making a piece of theatre with young, unaccompanied asylum seekers who live in Derbyshire and finding ways where we can tell their stories that empower them but also encourages audiences to think differently about a dominant rhetoric that we have at the moment, which is about pulling up the drawbridges and preventing people from seeking sanctuary in this country.

Bethan:
That sounds really inspiring. Can you also tell me a bit more about your work with Theatre Centre?

Ava:
Yes. So, Theatre Centre was a company that was set up by Brian Way, and when David Johnston took over in the late-seventies, he was really kind of instrumental in making theatre that told different stories, that told stories about women, strong women who had been written out of history, that put Black and Asian stories centre stage, and also told stories from a different perspective in terms of sexual orientation. So he was really kind of key in questioning about how we make theatre. So, making sure that we worked with writers and directors that represented that diversity.
So I worked with that company in 1985, with writers like Bryony Lavery and Nona Sheppard and Noël Greig and Philip Osment, really highly skilled writers. The first time, in fact, I actually came to Derbyshire was with Theatre Centre, in 1985, and it was a piece about young women.

Bethan:
That's really lovely. So obviously your roles [are extremely diverse 0:30:35] in theatre, but what do you enjoy most about your job?

Ava:
I love the fact that every day is completely different. I love creating work and being creative. I love seeing a spark happen in someone's eyes where I see that they come alive, because that's what I felt as young person. Basically, I went through a machine of education and came out with nothing, or very little, apart from Mr Springall. So I'm interested in the days when it feels really special to me, when I see the light go on in someone's face, which is interesting that this is called Lights Up (laughs).

Bethan:
(Laughs) On the other side of that, what do you find more negative about your role?

Ava:
I think that working as an artist in this country is incredibly difficult. It's very painstaking in terms of raising funding. I think you have to be very resilient to accept rejection and going up for auditions over and over and over again and not getting jobs. You have to be able to ride the waves. Equally, as a director, you have to ride the waves of criticism. Not everyone is going to like your work.

Bethan:
Yeah, that must be very challenging.

Ava:
And also, as a director in a room, you've got actors for whom some may be incredibly vulnerable, some may not agree, and you've got a real diverse group of people that you have to take care of and you have to support them to take these artistic and creative risks. That takes a lot of courage as well from the director to really see what's going on for someone and to understand how to support them for that light to go on to make that performance.

Bethan:
I'd also like to talk to you about the changes in the industry for women. Have you noticed anything throughout your career?

Ava:
Unfortunately, no (laughs). Well, I don't think there's enough change and I think – I'm getting on my little hobbyhorse now – particularly for older women, there are less exiting and interesting roles for older women, particularly in film and television. I think when you get to a certain age and you're regarded as non-sexual, you're not interesting and, if you're not interesting, you don't carry a story. If you think of the franchise of 007, they can just carry on and on and on and it doesn't seem to make any difference.
So I think making and creating roles for strong, older women is really important for all of us. I'm sixty-one this year and I think that we need to see exciting roles for women in their sixties and seventies who— Anyway, that's what I feel.
I also think that nothing much has changed. You know, we still haven't had a woman Artistic Director of the National Theatre, or the Royal Shakespeare Company. The opportunities for women are still limited. I think, again, in terms of representation from Black and Asian women directors, only one woman has ever won an Oscar for being a director, and that is appalling. Utterly, utterly appalling.

Bethan:
I definitely agree with you on that.

Ava:
(Laughs)

Bethan:
What would you say are the main advantages of being a woman in your role?

Ava:
I think that because we are normally juggling lots of different things in our lives, I think we are incredibly empathetic and understanding and we can empower people. And, hopefully, we can be role models for the next generation.

Bethan:
Could you also tell me a bit more about the specific disadvantages, maybe, that you've encountered in your role as a woman?

Ava:
I think the disadvantages are that, well, where I came from in Hounslow, there are no theatres. So, not having those role models, not having those connections in the industry, I think were a barrier.
I haven't ever really been able to lose my accent. I can't speak terribly, terribly poshly. I just can't and I'm not bloody interested, to be honest (laughs). So I think the whole thing about class and I think, yes, being a woman is a disadvantage inasmuch as there are less men that want to do it and there are more parts. There are more women that want to do it and there are less parts. So, statistically, there's a huge imbalance.

Bethan:
Well, if you had a magic wand and you could change only one thing about the industry, what would that be?

Ava:
I'd be changing the representation of women, all women. I think the over-sexualisation and representation of women needs to be challenged. I would like women to be seen as passionate and intelligent, that can make a difference in the world, rather than being seen as a sexual object. I think if we get that one thing done, then (laughs) things might start to level out.

Bethan:
Would you say that your passion about changing the representation of women, that kind of sparks you wanting social change in theatre? Would you say that reflects quite strongly?

Ava:
Yes. Yes. I don't know. There are so many things that I feel strongly about. I mean, for instance, in Acting Alone and I'm No Hero, which were two solo shows that I did a few years ago, they were about the Israeli Palestinian conflict, and I think the challenge that we have as artists in terms of how we respond to climate change and the environmental challenges, I think it's just much more diverse.
I've worked with young people and people who have been offenders and, for those young people, being seen as something other than that label, again, is so important, and taking that work to young people in schools and thinking about the consequences of criminal activity and taking risks. I've worked on so many different projects and every single one of them (laughs) I don't feel that we've got to that point where we can go, oh right, we've ticked that box now.

Bethan:
Well, obviously this might be a difficult question because you've done so much stuff in this industry, but would you be able to pinpoint your greatest achievement?

Ava:
I think what is an achievement is that I have continued to work as an artist for as long as I have. That actually in itself is an achievement, to keep going and to have that resilience to be able to ride the waves of life. That is an achievement and I hope that for some of the people that I've worked with, it has made a difference to them.

Bethan:
Yeah, absolutely. So could you explain to me more about why your role has been so diverse?

Ava:
Yes, because, essentially, it's very difficult to get work in one field all the time. So what has happened is that I have kind of diversified. So, if it was acting, it might be a voiceover, it might be a commercial, it might be TV, film, theatre. If I'm a director, it might be with young people, it might be in a school, it might be on tour, it might be in a building.
I've also worked, using my skills as an actor, in role-play and in facilitating workshops and things with senior managers in companies, corporate companies. So you're still using your theatre and your drama skills to enable people to learn and, yeah, as I say, that might be, again, in a prison setting, or it might be with a three-year-old at a nursery, or it might be in a residential home, with someone with dementia.
I do feel really privileged that the area that I work in has so many applications and that I can be so diverse, and that's what I love. I think at school, I really struggled with attention. I didn't know I was dyslexic when I was at school, but I was, and I think that whole thing about being able to concentrate on something… you know, I get bored (laughs). So it's just fantastic for me that I get to do lots of different things, and I love learning.
I hated learning when I was at school because it didn't mean anything, but now I know why I'm learning and, suddenly— I went to the library last week and they said, "Oh, we've got some books for you," and I went, "Oh, how exciting! Books!" I just thought, oh my God, I can't ever imagine ever saying that (laughs) if I thought back to being a child, ‘Books!’.
So I think when you find your passion and that's fuelling it, I just can't seem to find a way of stopping because it just seems to keep expanding and expanding. I love learning new disciplines. I love, yeah, just being able to do so many different things. And as I say, from a way of sustaining yourself as an artist, I think we have to have a portfolio of skills, and that is what sustains a career.

Bethan:
Yeah, it is extremely useful as well. What would you say your dream role is in the industry?

Ava:
I think I'm doing it. Yeah, I love what I'm doing, and I also love working with young people who also want to be in this profession. So that sense of contributing to the next generation of practitioners is really, really exciting.
In the last five/ten years, I've had the opportunity to travel internationally as well, and what I realised is that, whether it's someone in New Zealand or Australia or America or across Europe – I'm working on this big project across Europe at the moment, ten different countries – it's just so exciting. It feels like this family of people extends over the whole world and we're all using the same skills.
I'm in Delhi and I'm watching practitioners use Augusto Boal's Forum Theatre with young people to challenge mental health issues and bullying. Being in Palestine, in the West Bank, and seeing Palestinian actors and directors using theatre with young people who are in refugee camps. Using my skills to work with young people in the jungle in Calais before that refugee camp was dismantled. The application of this work internationally is just— Yeah, for me, that's where it all starts to join up and it just gets bigger and bigger and bigger. And to working with different practitioners and directors and academics as well, we're all speaking the same language, the language of theatre and drama to make a difference.

Bethan:
Yeah, well, clearly you're very, very passionate about what you do, but how do you suggest a young person gets into the industry as well?

Ava:
Well, it depends what area they want to be in. So for instance, I think if they want to get into acting, then I think having those opportunities to be not only participating in school but also looking for those opportunities to work in Youth Theatre, to work in amateur dramatics, to look at those opportunities to go to drama school. I know it's really expensive – it was relatively as expensive for me when I went to drama school – but I think if you know why you're doing something, nothing will get in your way. Nothing will get in your way.
So, for my dad to say, "I'm not going to lend you the money. You can waste your own money, Ava, but you're not wasting mine," actually, that made me stronger because I thought, don't you tell me, don't you dare tell me what I can do with my life. So I think that passion and that vision that you have, that's what's going to help you to overcome whatever challenges there are in your life.
But taking up any opportunity that you have to get experience, to meet people, to talk to people, that's what guides you and that's what will make a difference. I think when you're committed to it and you're working really hard at it, that tree will bear fruit. It will, because that determination will see you through.

Bethan:
Well, obviously your journey in theatre has been so interesting to listen to, but what advice would you give to your younger self?

Ava:
Believe in yourself, I think. Love yourself, take care of yourself, and your friends are the most important people.

Bethan:
And finally, is there anything else you'd like to talk about that I haven't asked you?

Ava:
Well, I will say just one other thing, which is that, particularly in the last ten years, if I look back, ten years ago I didn't know that I would be doing what I'm doing, and I think that there has been an organic kind of development of my work. So, I've become interested in this and then that leads onto something else, and that's why I'm doing the show that I was doing yesterday with those young people. That all came from an idea that I had ten years ago.
So I just think that there is something about keep asking questions and keep being open to possibility and things come to you. Because sometimes I get to the end of a project and I'm so tired I'm just like a zombie, but I just think, I don't know what— But that opportunity to then step back, something kind of comes to you and then you find the idea, the next creative kernel for something to drive you forward to the next project. Just keep listening, keep taking care of yourself and— Yeah.

Bethan:
Well, it's been an amazing opportunity to talk to you, and thank you very much for answering my questions.

Ava:
Thank you.

Bethan:
You're welcome.