Exploring the South West with Right of Way’s Beth Bowden

Meet Beth Bowden, the Lead Artist of Right of Way, a captivating new play touring the South West of England. In this blog, you’ll delve into the creative process behind this immersive production, exploring themes of illness, disability, and young caregiving.

Meet Lead Artist Beth

Hello! I am Beth and I am the Lead Artist on Right of Way, which is a 5 star, award-nominated new play touring the South West of England in 2024.

Right of Way was written whilst walking the South West Coast Path. The journey of the piece starts in the bathtub, takes us across the South West landscapes, and ends in the performance space – reflecting on the experience of being a young carer and the experience of chronic illness and disability. It is about seeking, reclaiming, and exploring landscapes and space – in the face of complex emotions, grief and COVID-19 lockdowns. It’s also about mint humbugs, sea swimming, and standing in rainclouds!

Lead Artist is a term which encompasses lots of things – and on Right of Way it means I am the writer, performer, and director of the show. I am joined in making and touring RoW by 6 extremely talented creatives who are a FAB support on the journey. Together, we are headed to 5 venues across Devon, Cornwall, and Somerset, in partnership with the South West Coast Path Association, Arts & Culture Exeter, and Devon Young Carers.

The rehearsal process

Approaching the rehearsal room for our South West tour has been a lot of fun – mostly because we staged the show in 2023 at VAULT Festival as part of Vault 5. This means that the creative bones, structure, and style of the play already exist! So, in the rehearsal room this time we are exploring how we can make it bigger, bolder, and braver.

I love returning to the work over a period. To give you some context, the process for Right of Way began in 2020 during the first lockdown and is infused by all the different versions of me over the last four years – which are now contained in the writing, movement, and projection. It is always useful to return to the writing with a fresh perspective and reflect on the work anew.

If you’ve seen the show before, this might mean that you will notice that the set has changed (thanks to our gorgeous Production Designer) and that there are some new pockets of writing, new pieces of sound design, and updated storytelling and movement.

Rehearsals are mostly about play, provocations, and creative offers. Our space is set up in a collaborative way – where devising and creativity is welcomed from anyone in the room, no matter their role. Collaborative practice was drilled into my work by my fab lecturers at the University of Exeter – and I firmly believe the best work is made in this way. That way, the play becomes fragments of all of our team, of our creativity.

We also eat a lot of biscuits! (Which are essential of course).

What to expect

If you’re coming along to the show, you can expect South West landscapes projected across the space, bodies bathed in these images, and in water, salt, and chalk. When I was walking, I was inspired by natural materials, by views and perspectives, and by the process of walking itself – of pushing myself to the top of a clifftop and hearing my heartbeat in my ears and letting my creative inspiration flow from the experience. We will be playful with all of these elements, and with movement, poetry, and music.

The play and storyline itself give space and voice to the complex emotions felt by carers and young carers. In Devon alone, there are an estimated 75,000+ adult carers and 2 – 3 young carers in every classroom. Right of Way also spotlights the many devastating impacts of COVID-19: from the NHS backlog, the deaths of vulnerable people, the 13,000 children who have lost a parent to COVID, and to the isolation experienced by many clinically vulnerable people and their families.

Ultimately, the play offers a joyful, determined message, and a pathway through these things – like the South West Coast Path did for me. It is not a story of defeat, or sadness, but of healing, and seeking a renewed sense of joy. It is the story of the women in my family, and the shared love we have for walking, talking, and creating – step by step.

If you have a love for the coast, connect with the sea, like swimming, like walking, like exploring space and place, like walking with the women in your life, or have experienced grief, this might be the show for you. Hope to see you there. I’ll be the one onstage in an old pair of walking boots and probably covered in salt and water!

Right of Way comes to Taunton Brewhouse on 22 March. To book tickets, click here.

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