In collaboration with National Theatre Wales, we chatted to Bronwen Wilson Rashad - on being the wellbeing coordinator for Joseph K and The Cost of Living alongside Anthony Matsena and Kel Matsena in their roles as Co-Directors
Bronwen Wilson Rashad in Rehearsals. Photo: Kirsten McTernan
The Cost of Living is about our rights and the many attacks upon them. It’s about how we might resist together.
We have a real desire to share real-life and authentic stories, but how do we make sure we look after people when sometimes these stories are painfully relatable? How do we make sure that care and consideration is central to creation? And how can we make sure our audiences feel that in the room?
We asked Bronwen to share her thoughts, and grabbed Kel and Anthony for five to tell us what it’s like working with a wellbeing coordinator…
Kel Matsena and Lorne Campbell during rehearsals for Joseph K and The Cost of Living. Photo: Kirsten McTernan, courtesy NTW
Let’s start at the top - what is a Wellbeing Coordinator?
That’s a pretty good question, because it’s such a new thing in theatre and film. The way I understand it and am approaching it, is that pretty much anything is wellbeing - physical and mental health and all the things that impact these - pay, housing, protected characteristics, respect, hierarchy, working in a boundary-pushing industry.
So some of the work is about knowing and holding the knowledge of what to do in emergencies or when procedure needs to be followed, but more of it is about establishing a culture in a production that looks after and protects everyone involved so we don’t get to a point of crisis. This could be working with the team to create a group agreement of expected behaviour and what to do if this isn’t being adhered to. It could be noticing things happening in the room before the participants do and helping to resolve that potential problem before it becomes one. It could be offering to advocate for someone when they feel unable to. The way I like to think of it is a bit like being a doula at a birth - the artistic team are the midwife labouring to bring this new creation into the world and I’m there, slightly on the outside, but also trusted, only stepping in when I’m needed and when it’s called for, giving confidence to and advocating for everyone in the room, no matter who they are.
What led you to getting into this field?
Sometimes my ‘career’ path has confused me as much as anyone else! But I have worked in social justice and mental health and theatre for almost 20 years now. I was often that person that people who come to about a problem and I’ve never been that worried about speaking up, especially for others. Over the years that annoying trait became more formalised with me working for a large youth mental health service in Bristol where I worked directly with 5000 teenagers and trained 2000 professionals who work in youth services. I do not have a therapeutic qualification, preferring to see myself as a lay expert in mental health and I am firmly of the belief that we have a false distinction between physical and mental health. All health is biological, social, and psychological. We only have to look at the entire purpose behind this production - the conditions people live in affect their whole lives. Also, I trained as a dancer and work with theatre companies doing movement work, as well as with the Perinatal Mental Health Team in Aneurin Bevan - for me bringing some physical aspects into wellbeing is really key. But I would say that as a dancer!
Anthony Matsena during rehearsals for Joseph K and The Cost of Living. Photo: Kirsten McTernan, courtesy NTW