Made in Gloucestershire

We have been working with Vinnie Heaven for the last few years and their show She’s A Good Boy began its development through a residency at Hawkwood.

The show, about non-binary gender, was a reminder of the power of theatre. Young people were able to see someone like them on stage and went from thinking they were alone to finding their tribe. Parents, grandparents and teachers messaged with thanks to say they finally understood. People who weren’t able to attend the show asked to see it somehow and watched through a Facebook live stream. The show has also led on to other things for Vinnie, and we’ve got our money on them becoming a household name. So before they do, they’ve kindly shared with us what their journey has been and how they’re not planning to forget Gloucestershire any time soon…

Vinnie is an associate artist of Strike A Light and with their support made and toured (nationally) She’s A Good Boy. Vinnie has also performed The Little Bookshop Boy, Passpawt, Half The World Away and Charmane at Strike A Light. Vinnie now lives between Gloucestershire and London having toured with Emma Rice’s Wise Children last year and this year is filming a new series, to air in 2021.

All of the above biography is important to me because it’s a summary of where I began and was nurtured and evidences what I was able to go on to having had that foundation. All of the above credits are equal to me whether others agree or not. I was made and trained in Gloucestershire and I am resolutely proud of that.

I didn’t get in to drama school. I tried. So instead, I trained with Jenny Wren, on the job. Blood sweat and tears went in to outdoor summer shows, studio shows and the occasional tour. It was at the end of this graft that Strike A Light found me. I was a rough around the edges maker with a hundred ideas and the energy to match.

Fast forward a few shows later and I’m at Hawkwood, on a residency. Having sat down a few weeks before with EJ and Sarah and been asked – Have you got a show in you? What do you need from us? 

Pause here for a moment – the biggest thing to admit here is that I had to let them help me, I had to admit I had no contacts for directors, designers, producers, organisations to put on my funding app, theatres to ask for in kind support, none of it, and for this particular piece I needed a specific team and specific spaces. Step forward Christina, who did have ALL these things and would sit time and time again with me to talk me through the options and help me phrase emails, at no point appearing worn or drained by having to essentially teach me, always just a kind smile and a lot of snacks. Now lets un-pause and return to Hawkwood. 

Your first exploration and draft is raw, its messy, frustrating, painful at times. At Hawkwood you get three meals a day at set times that force you out of your head and away from your words and allow you designated time to chat to other artists and makers. The food is phenomenal, that’s just a fact. The head space meals provide is integral. That’s a fact too.  You can sleep there! I didn’t – I had lived ten minutes down the road for years – but you can, you can completely escape life and have a week in picturesque gardens and light studios to just – make!

My residency began my solo show, She’s A Good Boy,  produced by Strike A Light – which went down a storm at The Gloucester Guildhall, we sold it out. This then gave me the footage of the show to send to venues. Christina brought on board Battersea Arts Centre and together we met Pegasus Theatre until we had enough support to apply to fund a tour – and we sold that out too!

That show got me an agent – which I had never needed in Gloucestershire, that’s the beauty of my home, we all have each others backs. That agent took me from national solo show tour to a casting in Soho Theatre in London. In that show a casting agent for Wise Children saw me and put me in Malory Towers and from there I am sitting in a hotel room sifting through a filming schedule that shoots until later in the year…but it began in a room, in Stroud, with big bright windows and an old piano, across from an artist called Ruby who painted with chemical reactions and shared a salad with us on the breaks….

I chose London. I moved there when my personal life in Gloucestershire crumbled around me. I chose to sign with the agent who asked me and I chose to ride the success I have now having not gone to drama school and having worked tirelessly for years in my home town to learn my craft. 

I still choose Gloucester. It is the home I make my work in. It is the team who know me, with all my flaws and needs, who hold me and encourage me, with honesty and with drive. I will choose Gloucester when a new idea scratches at my feet to be released, when I turn up at Strike A Light with a stack of paper filled with scruffy notes and searching for a list of creative names to match the squiggles – with no expectation but to make and for people to see.

We make our own success in a way that only each one of us can. But we succeed by lifting others and in turn by letting ourselves be lifted.