Fairfax Festival Blog Six: Coffee with Caitlyn Barclay

by Jane

Today, in a break from watching rehearsals, I sat down with Caitlyn Barclay, up from her current hometown of Melbourne to visit her old hometown of Swan Hill. Barclay is currently studying theatre at Monash University, but before she was there she was a participant in the Fairfax Festival, and, in 2011, their first Young Artist in Residence.

Her first Fairfax Festival was 2009. “We had this three day festival,” she said, “it made us super motivated, and then we didn’t have anything again until it comes around the next year.” So with Fairfax Director Claire Glenn, Barclay set up the Swan Hill Youth Theatre Ensemble, or SHYTE.

Last time I was in Swan Hill, Barclay was with SHYTE on a theatre exchange program in the Czech Republic. Collaborating with a Czech youth theatre company to create a work about birth, life and death, the Australians made the first third, the Czech’s the last, and they collaborated to make the middle.

While they could “all swear fluently” in Czech before they went, one of the biggest concerns Barclay had was the language barrier, and how to construct a play under those circumstances. “I think I learnt so much about communicating and culture,” she says, “how little language can be used, and how irrelevant it can be.”

She excitedly told me about plans to revisit within the next year: “I really want to go back. I think we made some life long friends there.”

The YAR program was established for young artists with a connection to Fairfax who want to go on and have a career in the arts. Amongst other things as the 2011 YAR, Barclay got to work with musical theatre company Magnormos and do a workshop with Noni Hazelhurst at 16th Street.

She was able to work closely with the tutors that worked with that year’s Festival.  “At the end of the residency you become friends with all the tutors and they ask what are you doing,” says Barclay. To puppeteer Penelope Bartlau of Barking Spider, she says, she  “mentioned I was moving off to Melbourne to go and further my career and expand my horizons.” Their relationship has continued, with Barclay working with Bartlau on several works since.

The opportunity to carry on this relationship past the end of the festival, she says, is “really amazing”.

Barclay has also participated in Regional Arts Victoria’s CreativeLeadership Program, before working with them on their Regional Arts Living Expo. “I keep popping my head in there every now and then,” she tells me, “and that really opened a lot of doors as well. They were like ‘any time you need help just call us up, and so I do: I just pop in and sit an talk to everyone.”

And in case that wasn’t enough for her first year in Melbourne – while also studying – she was a participant in St Martin Youth Theatre’s Catapult program, and worked on a show for the Melbourne Fringe.

All of this, says Barclay, stemmed from her time at Fairfax and with their YAR program: “one thing rolled on to another.” Now studying, all of the things that have steamed out of Fairfax and YAR has “kind of set me up too well, in a way,” she laughs.

When we finished our coffees, we wondered up to the local Anglican Church to watch some rehearsals. We spoke about independent theatre, our favourite festivals, and the fun around this Festival. While her last festival as a participant was in 2011, I get the feeling she’ll be making the return trip for many years to come.