Folio Theatre Company works with emerging writers to develop new plays with real issues at their heart. Folio works with partner charities in order to engage with those whose stories we tell, and to ensure that the issues dealt with in our productions are truthfully and sensitively portrayed. Unearthed was Folio‘s debut production and playwright Alys Metcalf’s first full-length play. We worked with Alys for several months to come up with the story and to develop the script. Unearthed tells the story of twins Ben and Eliza who, once close, are driven apart by the implications of caring for their father in the years after he has a Stroke. Both Alys and I have had family members affected by Stroke and were interested in exploring the way that it can impact not only the person, but also on those who love them.

We first toured Unearthed in 2015 to critical acclaim, and were humbled that it was listed in The Guardian as one of their readers’ favourite stage shows of 2015. We are touring the show again this March/April to venues across the country, generously supported by Arts Council England, The John Thaw Foundation and The Sackler Trust.

We have been working with our partner charities The Stroke Association and Carers Trust since the play was in its infancy. Both charities have been brilliant to work with. They’ve helped us in several ways including giving feedback on drafts, helping us to promote the show and most importantly to connect us to their networks. They’ve also sent representatives to shows to talk to audience members affected by the issues in the play. We’ve been honoured to be able to help in raising awareness and taking collections for these brilliant charities and are excited to continue to do so on a wider scale.

Amy Spencer from the Stroke Association said:

“With around 152,000 strokes a year in the UK – that’s around one every three and a half minutes – it is vital that we have people who can raise awareness of stroke. We’re incredibly grateful to Folio and the cast of ‘Unearthed’ for taking on this subject matter in their new production.”

Something that has really struck us since starting work on Unearthed is how much brilliant work carers do, and how this often goes unreported. We were overwhelmed by the responses of the young carers who saw the show, so much so that it has inspired us to create a workshop for young carers who are interested in a career in theatre but unable to pursue it through formal training methods due to their caring commitments. We will trial these workshops throughout our 2016 tour with groups in the areas we tour to, with a view to rolling out the programme longer term in future.

For me, new writing is what theatre is all about, and we are so proud to have produced a piece that connects so deeply with the people whose story it represents. We hope that our audiences will also go away with more awareness about carers, and in particular young carers, and how selfless they are.

Before Folio, I had only ever been involved with productions on the performance side, which is extremely rewarding but for me there’s something amazing about being involved in a production from the seed of an idea and helping it grow. Having a theatre company enables me to make work that I really believe in, and gives me a sense of purpose and fulfilment that I’ve not had before. To anyone thinking of making their own work, I would definitely say go for it! It’s a big commitment and takes a lot of hard graft but it’s 100% worth it – I’ve never looked back!

Unearthed tours to Trowbridge Arts (18 March) Salisbury Playhouse (22 March) Cheltenham Everyman (24 – 26 March) St James Theatre (29 March) & Hull Truck (1 – 2 April) supported by Arts Council England, The John Thaw Foundation & The Sackler Trust.